Monday, December 18, 2017

PANTHEON (second part)

33 x 16 m (108 x 52 feet) with “Sixteen monolithic columns in Egyptian granite gray and pink” 13 m (43 feet) high
The Egyptian origin of these huge columns would immediately be recognized in antiquity by the inhabitants of the Roman Empire, unlike now, accustomed as we are to so many different types of materials
Marble of this type does not exist in Italy or in Europe and the mere fact of having been able to bring the columns to Rome on barges all the way from Egyptian quarries that are even distant from the Nile, was a statement and a display of enormous power on the part of the Roman government
The columns are surmounted by a pediment on which there was a bronze relief representing an enormous crowned eagle, the eagle of the apotheosis of Romulus, the true symbol of Rome
The big inscription reads: Marcus Agrippa, son of Lucius did this during his third consulship
The small inscription reads: Emperor Caesar Septimius Severus and Emperor Caesar Marcus Aurelius Antoninus restored with great care the Pantheon ruined by ancientness
The porch (pronaos) was preceded by a staircase which has recently been found and buried again. The illusion of being in front of a classic Greek style temple was also due to the fact that the dome could not be seen from the large square surrounded by a portico in front of the Pantheon
Therefore Hadrian had obviously wanted to surprise those who would enter the building and find themselves surrounded by a spherical and modern interior
The doors were restored at the time of Pius IV Medici (1559/65) but the structure is most likely the original, perhaps that of Augustus, kept as a sort of relic in the reconstruction of Hadrian
They are huge: 7.53 x 4.45 m (24.7 x 14.6 feet)
On the sides of the doors there are two niches where there were maybe statues of Augustus and Agrippa
They have the incredible thickness of 6.2 m (20.4 feet) and are marked by niches and arches to lighten the structure
Internal diameter of 43.30 m (142.06 feet) of height from the floor to the top
The perfect proportions give the impression of walking into a huge ball
It was raised using a single extraordinary wooden hemisphere centering filled with a jet of conglomerate containing volcanic pumice to lighten it up
The Romans invented concrete the use of which disappeared after the fall of the Roman Empire. It was rediscovered only a thousand years later and it began to be used extensively, as the Romans did, only from the end of the eighteenth century onward
This dome is one of the most extraordinary examples in the world of the capacity of human ingenuity
The hole (oculus) has a diameter of about 9 m (29.52 feet) and is trimmed with bronze
It is still the dome with the largest diameter in Italy:
The dome of the Basilica of St. Peter, albeit higher, has a diameter of 42.52 m (139.50 feet), the dome of Florence Cathedral has a real diameter of 41.47 m (136.05 feet), although the major diagonal of the octagon is 44.97 m (147.53)
Outside Italy, the Capitol Dome in Washington has a diameter of 29.26 m (96 feet) and the Cathedral of St. Paul's in London has a diameter of 31 m (102.10 feet)
A greater dome without internal supports was only built in 1881 in England as part of the Devonshire Royal Hospital building: 44.20 m (145.01 feet)
Now the largest dome in the world is that of the Cowboys Stadium finished in 2009 and located in Arlington, Texas with a diameter of 275 m (902 feet)
The Pantheon is oriented with the façade to the north and it was built in such a way that, on every April 21st, the birthday of Rome, at noon, the light rays passing through the hole in the dome would strike precisely on the big doors
“It is significant that the Pantheon is located exactly opposite the Mausoleum of Augustus, 500 steps (740 meters - 2,428 feet) away and maybe it used to be visually connected to the Mausoleum itself with a path that would open the view of the two obelisks at the sides. Now this correspondence, if it really existed, must have dated back to the Augustan system, because in the second century other buildings arose obstructing the view. So the world of cosmic references involved the whole system consisting of Pantheon, Mausoleum, Sundial and Ara Pacis: if we accept the identity of the site of the Pantheon and the Palus Caprae, the place of the apotheosis of Romulus, there is a clear correspondence between the apotheosis of the founder of Rome and that of Augustus” (Francesca de Caprariis and Fausto Zevi)
FOURTEEN MONOLITHIC FLUTED COLUMNS 8.9 m (29 feet) high in ancient yellow marble from Tunisia and pavonazzetto marble from Turkey
Rebuilt in 1747 by Paolo Posi (1708/76) for Benedict XIV Lambertini (1740/58)
A restoration in 1930 has revived, over the last niche on the right, the original decoration with polychrome marble derived from Renaissance drawings
The FLOOR also made of polychrome marble, including porphyry from Egypt, is largely original
Aediculae and Chapels
Altarpiece “Madonna of the Girdle and St Nicholas of Bari” 1686 by an anonymous seventeenth-century artist
At the center:
“Annunciation” maybe by Melozzo degli Ambrosi aka Melozzo da Forlì (1438/94)
On the sides:
On the right “Incredulity of St. Thomas” by Pietro Paolo Bonzi aka the Hunchback of Carracci (about 1576/1636)
On the left “Ss. Lorenzo and Agnes” by Clemente Maioli (1634/73) from Ferrara, a painter influenced by Pietro da Cortona and close to the style of Giovanni Francesco Romanelli
On the sides there are also “Four marble busts of prelates” and “Two angels in marble” 1696 of Bernini school
Fragmentary fresco “Coronation of the Virgin Mary” of the fourteenth century
“Tomb of Victor Emmanuel II” 1878 by Manfredo Manfredi (1859/1627) sculpted by Adolfo Laurenti (1856/1944)
“The execution of the work (...) did not correspond precisely to the design of Manfredi, who had planned the placement of an altar of porphyry, never made, and a richer decoration of the frame of the large bronze plaque. The project, which effectively makes use of the most essential elements of the classical language, is well weighted according to the monumentality and the prestige of the architectural context” (Raffaella Catini - Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani Treccani)
The golden lamp hanging in front of the tomb is a symbolic reminder of Victor Emmanuel III who died in exile in Alexandria, Egypt in 1947
Statue “St. Anne and the Virgin Mary” 1715/16 by Lorenzo Ottoni (1648/1736)
Fresco “Madonna and Sts. Francis and John the Baptist” XV sec. by an artist from Umbria or Lazio regions. It is known as Our Lady of Mercy or of the Gate because it was located until 1837 in a niche of the pronaos protected by a gate
On the right canvas “Consecration of the Pantheon” 1750
Statue “S. Rasio martyr” in 1725 by Bernardino Cametti (1669/1736)
Rearranged at the beginning of the eighteenth century by Alessandro Specchi (1668/1729)
Copy of the Roman-Byzantine “Madonna and Child” of the seventh century coated in silver that had been placed on the altar during the consecration of the Pantheon to the Virgin Mary in the year 609. It replaced the original in the early twentieth century
During the refurbishment of Alessandro Specchi the relics of the saints Rasio and Anastasio were found and were put in a medieval bronze box which is shown to the faithful during the most important celebrations
Clement XI Albani (1700/21), who had wanted to carry out the work, commissioned then the statues of the two saints located in the aediculae to the right and to the left of the altar
He also commissioned the MOSAIC MADE OUT OF GOLD AND LAPIS LAZULI, which replaced a sixteenth century fresco by Giovanni Guerra
“Wooden Choir” 1840 by Luigi Poletti (1792/1869)

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