The Pantheon in Rome: Who Lies Beneath its Dome?
The Pantheon, a marvel of ancient Roman architecture, stands as a testament to the grandeur of the Roman Empire. With its magnificent dome, massive columns, and the oculus opening at its center, it has attracted millions of visitors for almost two millennia. But beyond its architectural splendor, the Pantheon also houses tombs of several illustrious figures. Let’s explore the significance of this iconic building and delve into the stories of those interred within its walls.
A Brief Overview of the Pantheon
The Pantheon was commissioned by Marcus Agrippa during the reign of Augustus (27 BC – 14 AD) and rebuilt by Emperor Hadrian around 126 AD after a fire. The name “Pantheon” is derived from the Ancient Greek words “pan” (all) and “theion” (divine). Originally, it was a temple dedicated to all the gods of ancient Rome. However, in the 7th century, it was consecrated as a Christian church, which significantly contributed to its preservation.
A Sanctuary for the Illustrious
The Pantheon is not just a historical or architectural landmark; it is also the final resting place for a number of renowned figures. Here are some of the most notable:
- Raphael (Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino):
- Who Was He? A Renaissance artist known for his frescoes in the Vatican and his Madonnas.
- His Tomb: His remains lie next to those of his fiancée, Maria Bibbiena. An inscription reads: “Here lies Raphael, by whom nature feared to be outdone while he lived, and when he died, feared herself to die.”
- Kings Vittorio Emanuele II and Umberto I:
- Who Were They? Vittorio Emanuele II was the first king of a unified Italy. His son, Umberto I, succeeded him.
- Their Tombs: Vittorio Emanuele II’s tomb is watched over by the statue of the goddess Roma, while Umberto I’s tomb is flanked by statues representing Strength and Prudence.
- Queen Margherita:
- Who Was She? The first queen of unified Italy and the wife of Umberto I.
- Her Tomb: Margherita, after whom the Margherita pizza is rumored to have been named, rests beside her husband, Umberto I.
- Baldassare Peruzzi:
- Who Was He? An architect and painter of the Renaissance period.
- His Tomb: Peruzzi’s tomb might not be as grand as some of the others, but the simple inscription speaks volumes about the respect he commanded in his time.
- Annibale Carracci:
- Who Was He? A leading painter of the Baroque period.
- His Tomb: Carracci, often considered one of the pioneers of Baroque painting, was laid to rest in the Pantheon, cementing its reputation as a resting place for artists of note.
- Medardo Rosso:
- Who Was He? An innovative Italian sculptor.
- His Tomb: While Rosso was primarily active in Paris, his remains were transferred to the Pantheon in the 1920s, decades after his death.
The Pantheon: A Living Monument
While many ancient structures suffer the ravages of time, the Pantheon remains not only structurally sound but also continues to function as a place of worship. Its dual role as both an architectural wonder and a sacred space has kept it alive in the heart of Rome.
The presence of tombs within the Pantheon adds another layer to its historical and cultural significance. By serving as the resting place for both royalty and artists, it underscores the reverence that the Romans had for the arts and the crucial role that both art and governance played in shaping the empire’s legacy.
The Pantheon is not just a magnificent ancient structure; it’s a bridge connecting eras, ideologies, and, most notably, people who shaped the course of Italian history and art. Those interred within its walls were not just individuals but symbols of epochs, movements, and ideas. As we wander through its vast interior, it’s essential to remember that beneath its grand dome lie stories of genius, leadership, love, and legacy. In understanding their tales, we gain a deeper appreciation of this extraordinary edifice and its place in history.