The original building was already in use by the time Jesus of Nazareth was born. Shortly after the first of the gospels was completed, the renovations, including the dome we see today were in place. Better preserved than any of the buildings of ancient Rome, the Pantheon is arguably the best preserved piece of Ancient Roman Architecture in the world. Its size is as impressive as its preservation.
The Romans built their “Pantheon” (Every God) as a monument to all of the gods celebrated by their empire. Interestingly enough, it was the parishioners of the God they supposedly killed that are likely most responsible for its amazing preservation. In the year 609, nearly 500 years after it was renovated by Hadrian’s regime, the Pantheon became a catholic church. Kept in use during the medieval period when many of Rome’s Ancient wonders crumbled, the Pantheon lived on, raped of its bronze, and changed for the auspices of the church (Pope Urban VIII ordered the bronze removed and used in St Peter’s basilica in 1623) it’s structure was kept intact, and it’s walls preserved.
Today, millions of people every year flock to the Pantheon and dream of the people who have, for 20 centuries stared at its walls with amazement and awe. For to be sure, when the Romans built that magnificent edifice, they would have been (and rightly so) proud of their accomplishment. Every generation since then, and now stands in awe of the architectural integrity of this 2000 year old monument to all of the gods of ancient Rome. May your next visit to Rome include a visit to the most preserved, and beautiful of all of the ruins of what once was.
As you stand in that magnificent rotunda, look up and know that those free countries that now celebrate a separation between church and state, owe at least part of their freedom to a people long since passed who once dared to allow people to believe in all of the gods they chose. Happy travelling!