Friday, June 26 - Rome
The first sight we really saw was the Pantheon. We passed hatfuls of ruins getting there — the Largo Argentina, the Theater of Marcellus, the Circus Maximus, the Portico of Octavia (which sprouted from the sidewalk beside our lunch restaurant) — but this was the first structure (other than our hotel) we entered. It was my first experience with the monumental scale of worship in the ancient world — the interior space would just contain a sphere 142 feet in diameter. It was converted into a Christian church in the 7th century, which saved it from the fate of the Colosseum and other structures — although much of the marble facing was reused at one time or another, and Pope Urban VIII melted down the massive bronze pedimental sculpture for cannon, which led one anonymous wag to say, "What the barbarians didn't do, the Barberinis did."
See the teensy peoples?
This is a shot taken under the portico, pointed straight up.
The Pantheon is still impressive from behind. Fragments of the Basilica of Neptune are stuck to its hinder, like tape residue:
The Emperor Pigeoninus keeps watch over his temple.
Back in ancient Rome, fanged duck-fishes were a real problem.
Inside, the only light comes from the open doors and the 30-foot oculus in the ceiling. The coffered dome is still the largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world.
You have to be big beans to be buried in the Pantheon. Here's the tomb of Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of united Italy. Next is the tomb of Raphael, his "ossa et cineres" (bones and ashes):
(Sorry about the reflections.) I hadn't yet seen the Stanze of Raphael in the Vatican, so didn't feel the weight of his sepulchre the way I would now. He died at 37, three months younger than I am now.
We wanted to revisit the Pantheon on our last day in Italy, but apparently the president of China, in town for the G8, had the same idea:
The roads were blocked off for blocks around, and vans of Chinese press trundled along in the motorcade's wake.
My complete set of Pantheon photos is up on Flickr, and as I add new sets they will go into my Italy 2009 collection.