A two thousand-year old wedding venue
As a disclaimer: These photos were taken during a visit in April 2016, so this post may not be representative of this site today.
As I mentioned in my previous post, I arrived in Rome having only gotten approximately 2 hours of sleep (plus whatever shut-eye one can get on a turbulent two-and-a-half-hour flight) and found Rome overcast and balmy. Not my favorite type of weather to walk around in, I’ll admit, but when in Rome…
See what I mean about just walking around and coming across bits of ancient ruins as one goes? The Fori Imperiali are a series of small squares that were built during Roman times, fragments of which still survive today. They served, when extant, as centers of religion, politics, and economy for the Roman Empire.
Victor Emmanuel II Monument
You may also see this monument referred to as Altare della Patria, or Altar of the Fatherland, but in truth this only applies to a small part of the building, which began first as an altar to the Goddess Rome and later as shrine of the Italian Unknown Soldier. The monument as a whole, however, is called the Monumento a Vittorio Emanuele II, sometimes known simply as the Vittoriano. It was built to honor Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of the unified Italy, who ruled from 1861 to 1878.
Originating from a Greek word meaning “of all gods” — Pantheion — the name of this building may well not even have been its original name at all. At the very least, it’s possible that it never actually served as a temple dedicated to all the gods. Whatever its original purpose, we know that the building was constructed by order of Marcus Agrippa, a Roman general, statesman, and architect, in the aftermath of the Battle of Actum — which resulted in the deaths of Marcus Antonius (known in the English-speaking world as Mark Anthony) and Cleopatra — in 31 BCE.
While it was only one building in the complex commissioned by Agrippa, which also included the Baths of Agrippa and the Basilica of Neptune, the Pantheon likely served as a private structure, which might explain how its original name and purpose have been lost.
Archaeological evidence shows that all of it, save the façade, was eventually destroyed after two fires ravaged it. It is believed that the present structure was constructed in 114 CE under Emperor Trajan.
In 609, by the time the Roman Empire had evolved into the Byzantine one, Emperor Phocas gave it to Pope Boniface IV, who turned it into a church consecrated to Saint Mary and the Martyrs. Having been turned into a Christian Church, it was spared from the worst of the despoiling that characterized the period of the transition from Paganism into Christianity, though not all. Much of the marble that decorated the exterior has been pulled down (some capitals are currently in the British Museum in London) and the coffered ceiling, formerly decorated with gold, was stripped.
During the Renaissance, the building was a never-ending source of inspiration for architects everywhere. Filippo Brunelleschi, architect of the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, looked to the Pantheon for inspiration for his own famous dome.
The building later became the resting place of great personages, such as Raphael and Annibale Carracci. Victor Emmanuel II was later also buried here. Today, the building continues to be used as a Catholic Church where Mass is celebrated every Sunday — and you can even get married here!