Pleasures of the Pantheon

by mitchellgallery




I wrote the following letter for a very different kind of audience. One could call it more academic, though I wouldn’t claim that. But I thought the question of please was deserving of a blog like this.

A work of architecture can be thought of as the creation of an artificial space within a natural space—with very large works of architecture this is more easily seen. The architect chooses a location, a part of the city, and that space, once formed by nature, is then reformed for the architect’s vision. In the Pantheon, this vision forms a representation of the natural space as seen through the intellect of man. The first sign that we are viewing some representation of the heavens is from the immensity of the dome which makes up the pantheon—like the night sky it is impossible to take all of it in at once. One must move their eyes constantly to see the whole thing. The second sign is the oculus, it’s design, that let’s the light in with precision so that every year on a specific day and hour the sun will strike some one of the coffers; and on the spring equinox the light shines through the doors into the portico. Standing inside the pantheon, there is a playfulness which can be felt when we see these two signs mixed into the architecture. The architect would model the heavens in his rotunda, yet show that one may understand the motion and appearance even when one cannot see all at once. This seems, on a personal note, to be the origin of the beauty of the Pantheon: the mixture between the vastness of construction, and signifying of accuracy in the representation of the heavens.

On a side-note, which I have not tried to fit into the paragraph:

I call this mixture “intellectual” mainly in contrast to the Primavera Bedroom we saw at the Palazzo Massimo. There the representation and aesthetic style is rooted in the accuracy of technique to create an illusionistic painting, I assume the goal being to make nature and that painting indistinguishable.


—Will Harrington, SJC Student (A20)