Pantheon of Rome. The Egyptian challenge

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The Pantheon, Rome. At its front sixteen Corinthian columns ‘made in Egypt’ and transported hundreds of miles to Rome, ancient Rome …


The original Pantheon of Rome was built 27-25 BC by the consul Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa. According to Roman mythology it stands on the spot, where Romulus was carried away by an eagle after he died. The original building was however destroyed by fire in 80 AD. It was the emperor Hadrian, who reconstructed the Pantheon in 118-125 AD giving it a new design. Historians say, he was so obsessed with the new interior design that he punished by death the principle architect after a dispute over some technicalities.

After the reconstruction, only the original portico with sixteen Corinthian columns was preserved. As a tribute to  the consul Agrippa an inscription was added at the top saying: M.AGRIPPA.L.F.COS.TERTIUM.FECIT, otherwise: “M[arcus] Agrippa L[ucii] f[ilius] co[n]s[ul] tertium fecit”. It means: “Marcus Agrippa son of Lucius consul for the 3rd time built this”.

The massive Corinthian columns supporting the portico are each 12 m tall and 1.5 m in diameter. The column shafts are of granite monoliths that were excavated from two Egyptian quarries. The eight original light grey columns of the front row came from the imperial quarry at Mons Claudianus. The pink column shafts (called pink Aswan) of the middle and back rows came from the Assuan region. They were first dragged many kilometers from the quarries to the Nile river on wooden sledges. Afterwards they were floated by barge down the river when the water level was high enough during the spring floods. Finally they were brought by ship from Egypt to the Roman port of Ostia and further pulled up the Tiber river to Rome on barges. Quite a challenge having in mind that each of the columns weights around sixty tonnes.

As you may however notice on the photo, not all columns in the front row are light grey. In the Middle Ages the left side of the portico was damaged. Three columns had to be replaced. Another challenge. Finally, one replacement came from Villa of Domitian at Castel Gandolfo (its remains belong today to the Papal estate) in 1626 AD. The other two came from the Baths of Nero (Rome, no longer existent) in 1666 AD.


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The Panthéon

The Panthéon

The Panthéon in Paris (not to be confused with the Pantheon in Rome) is one of the places on a must-see list in Paris. The building is relatively new, as it was built in the late XVIII century.

Originally it was thought to be a church devoted to St. Genevieve, commissioned by Louis XV (the great grand son of Luis XIV) as a votive offering for saving him from illness. It replaced the old church of St. Genevieve. The construction works lasted from 1764 to 1789 and ended just at the outburst of the French Revolution (to be exact, its first wave marked by the demolition of the Bastille). As commonly known, the French Revolution promoted civil and secular society. Thus, in 1791, the National Constituent Assembly (at this time a sort of revolutionary government in France) decided to convert the newly constructed church into a burial site, a kind of a civil temple (a pantheon), for the ‘the great men of the epoch of French liberty’.

Although from this time on, the building was indeed serving as the Panthéon, its secular status was not preserved for long. Till 1885, alongside with political changes in the revolutionary France (Republic vs. Empire >>>) it regained twice its sacred status.

Although in its construction structure the building resembles a church (it has a cross pattern), and the very impressive frescoes depicting scenes of St. Genevieve life are still well preserved, the Panthéon is a fully secular building now. As you enter and look straight at the spot where in a church you would find an altar you will see a monument devoted to the National Convention (the first French assembly elected in 1792 by a suffrage without distinctions of class) and behind it a fresco called Towards Glory depicting the Napoleonic wars >>> (that followed after the First French Republic was converted into the French Empire by Napoleon Bonaparte). In the interiors you will find some other sculptures depicting scenes of the revolutionary France. The actual pantheon, the burial site of famous French, is located below the building in the crypt. The crypt is kept very simple. Most of burial sites are located in small cells with up to five tombs. Only selected ones are additionally decorated.

Below some photo impression of this impressive building and its interiors.

The exterior, with the impressive Corinthian columns.

The Pantheon, Paris, France. Continue reading

Vers la Gloire

You enter a famous building, enjoy the architecture, shoot the art pieces that are inside, but because of time constraint (there are so many places to visit) you do not put attention to details. But making photographs has the advantage that you can come back to them later and study.

JMA_Pantheon_Paris_05Yesterday I was reviewing photos I made in the Pantheon of Paris >>>. As I entered the building I remember I noticed a monument in front of me in the very back of the interior. Naturally a bit later I came closer to it to make some shots. But following our guide to the door of the crypt on the left hand side of the monument I noticed a fresco of a battle just behind the sculpture. I am used to frescoes of earlier ages showing mythology or religious scenes. But a horse charge painted directly on a wall was a bit unusual. So, quickly I made some shots. I almost lost our guide’s voice in my earpiece, so not giving too much thought to it all I hurried downstairs to the crypts to join the others. (On the photo a general view onto the Pantheon interior. Look straight forward onto the wall behind the monument.)

The fresco, a triptyque, is called Vers la Gloire (towards glory), and was painted by Jean Baptiste Édouard Detaille, a French painter known for his detailed military paintings. Having designed his paintings he utilised original military uniforms and accessories of the epoque. The Wikipedia says that it was painted 1902-1905. However, in the resources of Library of Congress I found two photos dated 1890 showing this fresco, one with a statue of Jeanne d’Arc ahead of it. (Seemingly the statue was replaced later with the monument).

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Making the photo I was not thinking of close-ups. But still making cut-outs was possible on the computer.

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I was not able to find any information, whether this mural reflects any specific battle. Still, it is showing a horse charge in times of Napoleonic wars (>>>).

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