The Pantheon (meaning 'temple of every god') is a former Roman temple, now a church, on the site of an earlier temple commissioned by Marcus Agrippa during the reign of Augustus (27 BC-14 AD). The present building was completed by the emperor Hadrian and probably dedicated about 126 AD. He retained Agrippa's original inscription, which has confused its date of construction as the original Pantheon burnt down so it is not certain when the present one was built.
The building is circular with a portico of large granite Corinthian columns under a pediment. A rectangular vestibule links the porch to the rotunda, which is under a coffered concrete dome, with a central opening (oculus) to the sky. Almost two thousand years after it was built, the Pantheon's dome is still the world's largest unreinforced concrete dome. The height to the oculus and the diameter of the interior circle are the same, 43.3 metres.
Pantheon is one of the best-preserved of all Ancient Roman buildings. The Pantheon's large circular domed cella, with a conventional temple portico front, is 'unique' in Roman architecture. Nevertheless, it became a standard exemplar when classical styles were revived, and has been copied many times by modern architects.
Pantheon was converted into the church of St. Mary of the Martyrs in 608 CE. In 1270 a bell tower was added to the porch roof and later removed. Also, at some time in the Middle Ages the left side of the porch was damaged which necessitated the replacement of three columns. The first came from Domitian's villa at Castelgandolfo and was added in 1626. The other two columns came from the Baths of Nero and were added in 1666. However, these additions were rose-pink in colour whilst originally the front eight columns of the porch were all grey and only the internal four were pink Aswan. Also in 1626 Pope Urban VIII removed all of the bronze girders from the porch roof and recast the metal into 80 canons for the city's Castel Sant'Angelo. The presence of these girders suggests that the porch roof originally had heavy marble tiles.
Despite these changes the Pantheon is one of the best preserved ancient monuments in the world and it still has an important function and status today as within it are the tombs of the Italian monarchy from 1870-1946 and another notable tomb is that of Raphael (1483-1520 CE).
Pantheon is visited by over 6 million people annually. It is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Historic Centre of Rome.References:
The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood is one of the main sights of St. Petersburg. The church was built on the site where Tsar Alexander II was assassinated and was dedicated in his memory. Construction began in 1883 under Alexander III, as a memorial to his father, Alexander II. Work progressed slowly and was finally completed during the reign of Nicholas II in 1907. Funding was provided by the Imperial family with the support of many private donors.
Architecturally, the Cathedral differs from St. Petersburg's other structures. The city's architecture is predominantly Baroque and Neoclassical, but the Savior on Blood harks back to medieval Russian architecture in the spirit of romantic nationalism. It intentionally resembles the 17th-century Yaroslavl churches and the celebrated St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow.
The Church contains over 7500 square metres of mosaics — according to its restorers, more than any other church in the world. The interior was designed by some of the most celebrated Russian artists of the day — including Viktor Vasnetsov, Mikhail Nesterov and Mikhail Vrubel — but the church's chief architect, Alfred Alexandrovich Parland, was relatively little-known (born in St. Petersburg in 1842 in a Baltic-German Lutheran family). Perhaps not surprisingly, the Church's construction ran well over budget, having been estimated at 3.6 million roubles but ending up costing over 4.6 million. The walls and ceilings inside the Church are completely covered in intricately detailed mosaics — the main pictures being biblical scenes or figures — but with very fine patterned borders setting off each picture.
In the aftermath of the Russian Revolution, the church was ransacked and looted, badly damaging its interior. The Soviet government closed the church in the early 1930s. During the Second World War when many people were starving due to the Siege of Leningrad by Nazi German military forces, the church was used as a temporary morgue for those who died in combat and from starvation and illness. The church suffered significant damage. After the war, it was used as a warehouse for vegetables, leading to the sardonic name of Saviour on Potatoes.
In July 1970, management of the Church passed to Saint Isaac's Cathedral (then used as a highly profitable museum) and proceeds from the Cathedral were funneled back into restoring the Church. It was reopened in August 1997, after 27 years of restoration, but has not been reconsecrated and does not function as a full-time place of worship; it is a Museum of Mosaics. Even before the Revolution it never functioned as a public place of worship; having been dedicated exclusively to the memory of the assassinated tsar, the only services were panikhidas (memorial services). The Church is now one of the main tourist attractions in St. Petersburg.