The Pantheon is one of the top monuments to see in Rome. It’s one of Rome’s best ancient monuments as well as one of the top churches to see. Originally the temple of all gods, it transformed into a church by the early Christians in the early 7th century. Its continuous use as a church has made it Rome’s best-preserved ancient monument.
It’s said that the Pantheon was originally built in 27BC by Agrippa, an important political figure under Emperor Augustus. Unfortunately it was burned, rebuilt, then hit by lightning. The current Pantheon dates from 120AD, built under Emperor Hadrian.
Perfect cylindrical proportions make it a harmonious structure – the diameter of the dome is equal to the height of the building. Until the 15th century when the dome of Florence’s cathedral was constructed, its dome was the largest ever built. Its portico has 16 massive Corinthian columns.
Visitors are amazed at the vastness of the interior. Around the walls are paintings, frescoes, and statues, primarily from the 15th – 19th centuries. One of the oldest artifacts is a 7th-century Byzantine icon of the Virgin and Child above the high altar.
Tombs in the Pantheon provide the final resting for a number of important people including the painter Rafael. There is an elaborate tomb for King Victor Emmanuel III, although he died in exile so his body isn’t inside.
On the square in front of the Pantheon are a large 16th century fountain and the obelisk of Ramses II. Ringing the square are cafes and restaurants, making it a great place to sit outside and enjoy the view. My favorite restaurant in the area is Armando al Pantheon on a side street, Salita de’ Crescenzi.
Admission is free as of time of writing in 2017.
See more of Rome’s top sights in our Rome Classics Itinerary.