The Pantheon and Trevi Fountain should be on everyone’s itinerary when visiting Rome. Conveniently, both lie deep in the historic centre of the Italian capital and are only a 5-minute walk away from each other. The Pantheon is one of Rome’s best preserved buildings of Ancient Rome, whereas the Trevi Fountain is a masterpiece of Baroque design.
The original Pantheon was built between 27 and 25BC by Marcus Agrippa, who was the Prefect of Emperor Augustus. It was a small temple which was dedicated to all the gods of Ancient Rome; the word Pantheon in fact comes from the two Greek words “pan” meaning “everything” and “teon” meaning “divine”.
After several fires thereafter, the Pantheon was rebuilt in its current form in circa 126AD by Emperor Hadrian and it remained a functioning temple for two more centuries. Inspiring statues of the gods filled the niches and animals were sacrificed and burned in the centre, where the smoke was able to escape through the building’s only means of light, namely the oculus.
In 609AD, it was the first pagan temple in Rome to become a church, when it was given over to Pope Boniface IV by Emperor Phocas. The Pantheon was dedicated to the Virgin Mary and all the Martyrs and today remains one of the best preserved Roman monuments and is still a place of worship, as well as an important tourist attraction.
There is no doubt that the Pantheon is an impressive feat of architecture. It stands 43 metres wide and 43 metres high and comprises of a perfect sphere comfortably resting on a cylinder. At its time of completion, the Pantheon’s dome was the largest built in the world, with a span of over 43 metres. It was not until the early 15th century that it was superseded in size by Brunelleschi dome which he built for Florence’s Duomo.
The Trevi Fountain
The Trevi Fountain is the largest Baroque fountain in Rome, standing 25.9 metres high and almost 20 metres wide. The fountain’s location marks the terminal point of the revived Aqua Virgo, which was one of the ancient aqueducts that supplied water to Ancient Rome.
In 1629, the then Pope, Pope Urban VIII, decided that the current fountain was too plain and not very impressive and therefore asked one of Italy’s best loved artists, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, to design a more dramatic and ornate fountain. Unfortunately, the project was scrapped for nearly 100 years after the Pope’s death.
It was not until 1730 that the idea was revived, when Pope Clement XII held a competition for a new design. Initially, the competition was won by Florentine Alessandro Galilei. But there was an outcry by the locals as he was not Roman and in the end the commissioning was given to Nicola Salvi and work on the fountain began in 1732.
Several of Bernini’s original plans remained in the end design and the fountain was finally completed in 1762 by Giuseppe Pannini, 11 years after Salvi passed away. Over the centuries the Trevi Fountain has become one of Rome’s most popular tourist attractions and if you do want an assured return visit to Rome, the saying goes that you need to throw a coin in the fountain!