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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Pantheon Revisited

Photo by Jim Lane
As I pointed out originally, the Pantheon is notoriously difficult to photograph at street level. Add to that vehicular and pedestrian traffic and the task grows even harder. This is a composite of four photos stitched together as best as my meager photo editing skills will allow.
As the name of this blog suggests, it is as much about art now as about art "then." Back in March I did a lengthy discourse on the Pantheon "then" (03-24-13). This sequel is about the Pantheon now.

Photo by Jim Lane
Though in remarkably
good condition for its age,
the Pantheon's towering
Corinthian columns tend
to show its age.
June 18, 2013, was a hot day in Rome with temperatures approaching 90 degrees Fahrenheit (roughly 32 Celsius). Rome is a great place to visit on a hot day. The streets are narrow, providing shade, the fountains are plentiful if you're daring enough to indulge, and you need not apologize to yourself or anyone else for excessive consumption of gelato (wonderfully flavorful Italian ice cream). However, such a hot day is not ideal for a 67-year-old man to take a three-and-a-half-mile trek across the city behind a fleet-footed (though wondrously patient) guide less than half my age. But, if you want to "experience" Rome as opposed to merely "seeing" it, walking is the best way (perhaps the only way). Laden down with a video camera, a "still" camera, souvenirs, sunglasses, hat, and the obligatory water bottle, I felt like I was heading into combat rather than on a tourist jaunt.

Photo by Jim Lane
One of four huge, arched niches.

The Pantheon was the second stop, after the Trevi Fountain (more on that sometime in the future). In a city full of old buildings where nothing ever gets torn down, the Pantheon is not just old, it's ancient. Massive and ancient, those are the two first impressions upon approaching and entering the one time Roman temple, now called Santa Maria della Rotonda. The modest (for Rome, at least) plaza fronting the temple/church is known as Plaza della Rotonda. Like virtually every other self-respecting plaza in Rome, it sports it's own obelisk. I can't remember if this one is authentically Egyptian or just a two-thousand-year-old Roman copy. In any case the Italians ought to double the plaza's size, given the enormous mass and importance of this ancient Roman landmark.

Photo by Jim Lane
The glare of the sun through the oculus in the darkened chamber makes for bad photography, but underscores the visual power of this predictable lighting device.
Inside, the one-time temple has been thinly disguised as a church. Because of this, the interior is more pristine than the rough-hewn exterior, having withstood the ravages of the centuries. Inside, the impression is merely "old"--one of classical beauty (if not restraint). I was surprised to find the Pantheon to be the final resting place of the painter, Raphael Sanszio. A couple Italian kings and a queen are also buried there. Despite the polyglot press of fellow tourists, ones eyes cannot help but drift upward to the famous concrete coffered dome with its equally famous oculus. On a bright, sunny day, as when I visited, this 33-foot "hole in the roof" casts an impressive natural spotlight within the otherwise relatively dark interior, moving about the circular chamber with the rotation of the earth. Visiting the Pantheon is somewhat the same as visiting the Sistine Chapel. Your mind struggles to absorb it all while your feet and legs cry out in agony. Then your guide steps in to mediate this conflict, leading her motley crew on to a date with Castel San Angelo clear over on the other side of the Tiber. Whew... Hey! Wait for me!

Photo by Jim Lane
The tempting, civilized way to see Rome, silhouetted against the jumbled,
touristy plaza crowding in on the ancient Roman landmark.

 Click here for the video version of this day.

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