let’s talk about the pantheon

I can’t believe I have only a week left in Rome. After that, I’m off to Sicily with my family for a few days, then back to Rome for a couple days to finish packing and then…home. But Rome is home too, and the thought of leaving makes me way too sad, so let’s stop talking about it.

The real issue is that I have only a week left to figure out how to bring the Pantheon home with me. I figure I can disassemble it, pack it, and reassemble it in my backyard (Mom, would that be cool?). Because although I can (barely) live without the pizza and the pasta and the pidgeons, I’m not sure how to go back to living in a place where I cannot see the Pantheon at least once a week.

Rome is not exactly short on beautiful monuments and sights. In fact, one of the things I love most about this city is that all of its beauty and history is laid out in the city itself, no museums required. But out of everything, all the fountains and piazzas and churches, my favorite sight by far is this one.

The name “Pantheon” comes from the Greeks, and means “to every god”. The building was commissioned in the year 126 A.D. by Marcus Agrippa as a temple to the ancient Roman gods. The writing on the front, M-AGRIPPA-L-F-COS-TERTIUM-FECIT, translates to “Marcus Agrippa, son of Lucius, consul for the third time, built it.”

What we actually see today is not Agrippa’s Pantheon, but Hadrian’s. Hadrian rebuilt the structure on the site of Agrippa’s original temple, but retained Agrippa’s original inscription on the front.

Since the Renaissance, the Pantheon has been used as a tomb, housing renowned individuals such as the painter Raphael. The building is still used as a church, however, and masses are still held inside.

Its dome still holds the record for the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome, and if you are lucky enough to be there on a rainy day, you can go inside and watch the rain fall through the oculus – it’s magical.

But let’s be real. It rains all the time in Rome, so getting to see the Pantheon in the rain is awesome, but not at all impossible. You know what hasn’t happened in Rome in the past 26 years? A significant snowfall. Not just a little flurry that is over in 30 seconds, but big fat snowflakes that blanket the cobblestones and cause the Romans to behave as though the Apocalypse is imminent.

That happened last Friday. I woke up to the aforementioned big, fat snowflakes, grabbed my friends, and ran to the Piazza della Rotunda to check out the Pantheon in all its snow-covered finery. Amazing.

One of the reasons I love this building so much is because it is simultaneously imposing and unassuming. Unlike the Colosseum, or St. Peter’s, there is no grand thoroughfare leading up to it, announcing its presence. It is more than happy to be tucked into its little neighborhood, thus allowing people to simply stumble upon it and stare in awe. Words just don’t do it justice.

As if this place wasn’t magical enough, the other night I was waiting to meet some friends in the piazza, and saw a lone cellist sitting in the only pool of light between the columns, filling the whole place with music. I’m. Not. Leaving.