THE PANTHEON IN ROME (September 10, 2010)
The piazza was a busy sight—what with the construction taking place at the Pantheon’s portico, the horses and their carriages ambling about the cobbled courtyard, and the mob of tourists contemplating the facade of what is considered one of Rome’s best preserved buildings. It began to drizzle, and so I rushed past the Fontana del Pantheon, between the portico’s massive columns and into the cylindrical structure, which was a temple dedicated to the gods of ancient Rome, and is now a church consecrated to the holy virgin Mary and all the martyrs.
The Pantheon itself was no less busy. While it was curiously silent inside, throngs of people advanced from niche to niche marveling at the rotunda’s many frescoes and statues, its rich architectural detail, and the tombs of painter Raphael and kings Victor Emmanuel II and Umberto I, all housed inside.
But clearly the most awesome view in this historic landmark is the one facing the Pantheon’s dome. Gaze upward and everything else vanishes; you are alone in awe of the ceiling’s overwhelming size, its painted recessed panels, and the open oculus—the church’s main source of light—staring back at you from heaven. Raindrops were finding their way through the dome’s eye when I stood there, and I thought that was such a peaceful sight.