Atop of the Pantheon sits the oldest dome that is also the largest unreinforced-concrete dome in the world. To this day, it is still debated as to just how the dome was put in place without the use of steel rods or other such structural base.
What is most unusual about the dome of the Pantheon is its Oculus – the open hole, or ‘eye’ at the top.
During his period of rule (27 BC-14 AD), Augustus had Marcus Agrippa built the original Pantheon, however Emperor Hadrian then modified it in 27AD. Unfortunately this then burnt down early in the following century, before Domitian rebuilt it 3 decades later. Alas, this too also burnt down.
Whilst it was eventually rebuilt, it is much debated what alterations were made with each rebuilding. It is believed, for instance, that the portico may have been moved and the interior completely redesigned, possibly various times over.
Another aspect that has changed is the gods to whom the structure is dedicated. A Roman pagan, Agrippa had the Pantheon constructed as a private chapel. In the 600s however it became a Roman Catholic church. Thus it is quite fitting that the term ‘Pantheon’ has its roots in the Greek for ‘common to all gods’.
Inside the Pantheon is quite a vast, open space. The walls are lined with the tombs of some of Italy’s most important historical figures, including King Vittorio Emanuele II, King Umberto I and his wife, Queen Margherita. Artist Raphael is also entombed here, lying eternally by the side of fiancée who passed away just prior to their nuptials.
Masses and other services are still held inside the Pantheon to this day.