The challenge this week is to look up. It would be very difficult to visit the Pantheon in Rome without doing that as the natural light that floods into the rotunda is provided by the oculus at the top of the dome and your eyes are drawn to it.
The dome of the Pantheon is the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome, and if it were to be flipped upside down it would fit exactly inside the rotunda. It is an engineering marvel, supported on a series of intersecting arches, and the details of how it was constructed are extraordinary, with heavier materials and thicker walls used at the base of the dome gradually getting lighter and thinner all the way to the 27 ft diameter oculus at the top.
The oculus is open to the elements and when it rains the water falls onto the slightly curved floor and drains through the discreet drain holes and into the still functioning ancient Roman drainpipes beneath.
The Pantheon was built nearly 2000 years ago originally as a temple to all the pagan gods of Rome, which is how it got its name – Pan meaning everything, or all, and theion meaning divine or holy. In AD 606 it was given by the Emperor to Pope Boniface IV and has been used as a church ever since, in fact the building has been in constant use since it was constructed.
Approaching the building from the back, it doesn’t look particularly exciting at all, and doesn’t give any hint as to the wonders of the inside, but you can see the arches built into the design to give it strength.
At the front there is a grand pillared entrance.
Unfortunately I forgot to take a photo of the whole building but I found this great aerial view.