Pantheon. AD 118-125
architect was possibly Emperor Hadrian Rome,
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Form, Formal, Physical
The Pantheon is noted as one of the best-preserved monuments because of the building and landscape renovations that have been done throughout the centuries. It is surrounded by some of the original baths built by Agrippa as well as a few smaller temples by Hadrian and a long courtyard that leads to a church at the far end. According to William Mac Donald, the author of The Pantheon: design, meaning and progeny, the Pantheon has three major parts to its structure - the porch, the structural niches and the domed rotunda. The front of the building is the large porch with a series of columns that act as support and design. The columns throughout the monument were constructed of carved granite using the Corinthian order that was originally developed but the Greeks for interior use but soon afterward also used for the exterior of temples and other monuments. The outer perimeter walls of the entirety are 20 feet thick that raise nearly 75 feet high. These walls were put together using concrete and wood materials so that the architect and design crew could cover a large amount of interior space and create vast apparent ceilings. The dome rotunda is 143 feet in diameter and 143 feet in height supported by a circular wall known as the drum. The drum is deigned with block coffers that service as both esthetic and structural purposes. Structurally the coffers are used as a compression system: the building is stabilized by unabsorbed weight that is properly placed. There are a total of 143 coffers in 28 rows. The dome consists of 9/10th concrete that has been poured over an immersed hemispherical wooden form. Both the interior and exterior walls are believed to be finished with alabaster porphyry or marble for esthetic purposes. Coffers also give the human eye an illusion of the dome being lightweight and having depth. To show the richness and importance of this culture here are a few other examples of the materials used to create such a masterpiece. The floors were covered with a wide range of colored marble designed in geometric shapes, the doorframes were made of bronzed metal and the original roof was glided gold plates that were eventually replaced with lead plating.
Icon, Iconography, Symbol
The true iconography of the Pantheon is still questioned today but we do know that it is represented as a great spiritual building. When Hadrian created the building it was a house for all gods, which meant it was a non-religious monument. It housed the twelve major gods and goddesses: Jupiter, Juno, Neptune, Minerva, Apollo, Diana, Mars, Venus, Vulcan, Vesta, Mercury and Ceres who all represent something of good/bad nature in the world (Ebscohost). These gods are houses in the dome rotunda, which presents the visitor with a sense of emptiness and apotheosis, a feeling one could float upward to escape and commune with the gods. The circular design of the monument originally descends from two sources: religious buildings and tombs. They were never intended for internal visitor use, only external viewing because they questioned the safety of the structure and it was a sacred place that only priest could enter.
Context, Social, Historical
According to the Columbia Encyclopedia, the cities had public squares that were surrounded by buildings such as the Pantheon. The Roman’s built these to accommodate the vast expansion of the Roman Empire. When designing the Pantheon they were highly influenced by the Greek and Etruscan construction using arches and post and lintel; however the dome rotunda was primarily a Roman invention (Ebscohost). The argument still stands on who the buildings architect and creator really was - was it Marcus Agrippa or Hadrian? Before the Pantheon was built an earlier temple (in honor of the Anthony and Cleopatra defeat) accompanied the site which was built by Agrippa in 27 BC and burnt down in 110 BC. Then between 125 –128 CE Hadrian and still an unknown architect built the Pantheon. Historians do believe there was an actual architect that helped him because at that time Hadrian was just an amateur at what he did. Why then is the creator unknown? It is not clear whether or not Hadrian kept the originally porch and roof or if he recreated the original which says the following, "M`AGRIPPA`L`F`COS`TERTIVM`FECIT –Marcus Agrippa the son of Lucius, three times consul, built this (Mac Donald, pg.13)." Though it is clear that Hadrian constructed the monumental dome rotunda that makes the building so grand. When the Pantheon, a temple for all gods, was finished it was used to house the twelve Olympian gods but in 609 CE Pope Boniface IV dedicated it as the Christian church of St. Mary and the Martyrs. From that point in history that event brought the destruction of all of pagan temples to this day.
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