Monday, December 18, 2017

PANTHEON (first part)

The original Pantheon, rectangular, smaller and corresponding to the site of the porch was built in the years 27/25 BC at the behest of MARCUS VIPSANIUS AGRIPPA, Augustus' son-in-law
It was restored after the fire of the year 80 AD by Domitian (81/96) and again by Trajan (98/117)
According to ancient Roman tradition it was the Palus Caprae, the place where the apotheosis of Romulus happened, that is, his ascent to heaven carried by an eagle
The name comes from the Greek and it means all the gods, indicating the kind of worship that used to be carried out here
It was completely rebuilt in the years 118/125 by Hadrian (117/138), who perhaps was directly involved in the architectural design and revisited the original inscription confusing the dating for archeologists until the excavations in 1892
On that year the French architect Georges Chedanne found out that all the bricks, including the ones in the basement, have marks pinpointing the dating between 120 and 125 AD
The works were completed in the period of Antoninus Pius (138/161)
In 202 Septimius Severus (193/211) and his son Caracalla carried out restorations mentioned in the small relief of the pediment under the main one
Many scholars since the fifteenth century consider the Pantheon as the starting point and the most important work of all western architecture
“Notwithstanding the interpretation of the building as a sort of covered Forum where Adriano was holding court, the sacredness of the Pantheon seems unquestionable if the great oculus at the top of the vault has the function, typical of a templum, to maintain the relationship between heaven and earth. The interpretation of the building as a kind of microcosm on earth, in whose conception the Chaldean astrologer Dionysius of Miletus would have had part alongside Hadrian, has as its corollary the repeated and even authoritative modern attempts to interpret individual elements of the structure in an astral way: 7 exedras = 7 planets, 28 pilasters = 28 days of the lunar phases; 5 rows in the coffered vault = 5 planets except the sun and moon and so on” (Francesca de Caprariis and Fausto Zevi)
'The Pantheon is primarily a dynastic shrine with a cosmic vocation. Dio Cassius says that Adrian loved to administrate justice in it, so that it also had the palatial function of a Royal Hall. It is the largest covered space without intermediate supports that have been implemented before the invention of reinforced concrete” (Andrea Carandini)
Among the STATUES OF GODS there was the famous “Diana of Nemi” with a crown adorned with twenty-topaz, eighty other precious stones, a tiara, nine earrings, eight necklaces, and bracelets with beryl and other gems of which there is a written catalog
The statues in here would have been of course painted with bright colors, just like most of the statues in antiquity originally were
The Pantheon after the Fall of the Western Roman Empire
In 608 it was given by the Emperor Phocas to Pope Boniface IV (608/615) and in 609 it was dedicated to the Virgin Mary and all the martyrs as S. Maria ad Martyres (St. Mary near the Martyrs)
It is said that on this occasion Pope Boniface IV brought from the catacombs twenty-eight wagons full of bones of martyrs that were buried in the altar area
The emperor of the Byzantium, Constantius II (641/668), in 663 stripped it of the gilded bronze covering of the roof which was redone in lead at the behest of Gregory III (731/741) in 735
It ended up becoming a palace with additional buildings around it and it was even used as a papal residence by Anastasius IV (1153/54)
In 1625 Pope Urban VIII Barberini (1623/44) took the bronze coating the beams of the porch (about 200 long tons - about 220 short tons) to make 80 cannons for Castel Sant'Angelo and the columns of the canopy of S. Peter's Basilica
He also had the column on the left corner replaced and had Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598/1680) build in 1626/27 two bell-towers known as “donkey ears” who were destroyed in 1882
The removal of the bronze by Urban VIII resulted in the famous lampoon written on the “talking statue” Pasquino: “In Rome, what the barbarians didn't do, the Barberini did”
Alexander VII Chigi (1655/67) replaced other two columns on the left side and had the level of the square lowered. It is the lowest point of Rome, 13.40 m (44 feet) above sea level
Clement IX Rospigliosi (1667/69) in 1668 surrounded the porch with a fence to keep out the market that took place on the square
Pius VII Chiaramonti (1800/23) began restorations and Pius IX Mastai-Ferretti (1846/78) continued the job renewing part of the interior floor
In 1870 it became the sanctuary of the kings of Italy
In the years 1881/83 it was restored by removing the fence, isolating the sides, digging around it and demolishing the two bell-towers
In 1906 the square was paved with wood from Argentina trees donated by the Italian emigrants “to surround with religious silence the venerated tombs of the first kings of Italy” Naturally, the wooden floor did not last long
The Pantheon was for centuries the scene of actual staged events in the days of religious celebration of the Assumption of Mary and the Ascension of Christ: statues of Mary and Christ were raised to the sky through the large hole in the dome, creating an evocative dramatic effect
During the celebration of Pentecost, an impressive ceremony is still celebrated nowadays during which rose petals are thrown inside through the hole of the dome with the symbolic meaning of the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the faithful
At the beginning of the seventeenth century a butcher shop run by a couple used to sell very successfully sausages of incredible and peculiar quality in Piazza della Rotonda
Investigators of Urban VIII discovered that the incredible and peculiar quality was due to the fact that the sausages were made of human flesh: the couple used to draw the victims in the basement of their shop and there they would kill them and turn into sausages. They were sentenced to death and executed in 1638

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