Thanks to Thomas Peters at American Papist, here is a great video of a Mass held last year at a church in Rome. But this is not just any church, and not just any occasion. This is a Solemn High Mass celebrated in the Pantheon of Rome to celebrate the 1400th anniversary of its consecration as a Catholic Church in 609AD. Wikipedia reports that “In 609 the Byzantine emperor Phocas gave the building to Pope Boniface IV, who converted it into a Christian church and consecrated it to Santa Maria ad Martyres, now known as Santa Maria dei Martiri.”
609 AD is 908 years before Martin Luther nailed up his 95 Theses, 924 years before Henry VIII broke with the Church because of Anne Boleyn, and 1221 years before Joseph Smith founded the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The Roman Pantheon is the largest unreinforced solid concrete dome in the world. The Pantheon’s dome is the largest surviving dome from antiquity; it was also the largest dome in the world until Brunelleschi built the dome of the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, the Cathedral (Duomo) of Florence in 1436.
Agrippa, the son-in-law of the Roman Emperor Augustus, built the first Pantheon in 27 B.C. The words “M. AGRIPPA L. F. COS. TERTIUM FECIT” which is translated, “Marcus Agrippa, son of Lucius, in his third consulate, made it.”, are carved in stone above the entrance. The original Pantheon burned in the great Roman fire of 80 AD, and was rebuilt by Emperor Domitian. In 110 AD it was struck by lightning, burned down, and was rebuilt by order of the Emperor Hadrian. About 100 years later, it was refurbished for the first time.
The floor plan (above) is a rotunda fronted by a pillared portico. The pillars are hewn from Egyptian granite. Because the height of the rotunda from the floor to the top of its dome matches its diameter, the internal geometry of the rotunda makes a perfect sphere. The builders used the heaviest concrete at the base, and lighter concrete made with pumice at the top. The concrete was packed into form, giving the inside of the dome the look it has today. The Roman concrete recipe called for much less water than modern mixes. This difference is one reason scholars suggest for the longevity of the building.
Over the years, the Pantheon has directly or indirectly inspired many notable buildings: the US Capitol in Washington D.C.; Holy Trinity Church in Karlskrona Sweden; The Assumption Church in Puławy, Poland; Monticello in Charlottesville, Virginia; and the Great Dome of Killian Court at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts. As a church for over 1400 year, the Pantheon/Church of St. Mary and the Martyrs has inspired many more.
Sources and Resources:
1. Great Buildings – The Pantheon
2. Wikipedia – The Pantheon
3. Monolithic – The Pantheon:
4. RomanConcrete – The Pantheon (has a great photos section):
UPDATE: See more of the Architecture 101 topics here:
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