- By Kevin
- On Aug 21, 2017
- Travel Tips
Look through the Hole in the Pantheon's Roof
Your kids might not expect to get rained on in the center of such an impressive and solid looking building, but there's a big hole right in the center of the Pantheon's roof. It's been there for about 2,000 years. While they're wondering why it has a hole in the roof, it might be a good time to tell them that this is the most complete and best preserved ancient Roman building in Rome, built in 27 BC by the Emperor Hadrian. What's more, its dome is more than 42 meters across and hangs there without any supports except those inside the walls.
Now about that hole: Because the walls are busy hiding the supports for the dome, there was no place for windows. So that 3.6 meter circle is the only source of light. Recent research suggests it may have had another purpose, too. The building is aligned so that on April 21, the day ancients celebrated the founding of Rome, when the Emperor entered the Pantheon at noon, the sun shone directly onto the doorway. As he walked through, he would have appeared wreathed in light as though by magic. If you go on a rainy day, you'll find a big puddle under the center of the dome.
Find a Giant Foot
While you're at the Pantheon, walk behind it to the Piazza della Minerva (where you'll find an obelisk on an elephant's back, by Bernini) and beyond to the tiny Via del Pie' di Marmo, which means Marble Foot Street. Sure enough, there's a marble foot there, almost as big as a small car and wearing a sandal. It's all that's left of a huge statue of the Egyptian goddess Isis, whose cult was popular in ancient Rome. The statue was one of several large monuments in a temple to Isis and Serapis near here. Given the size of the foot, the statue must have been about 7.6 meters tall.
This isn't the only disembodied giant foot your kids can find in Rome, so you might suggest they see what others they can spot. Hint: there's one in the Vatican Museum wearing a complete sandal, and a barefoot one in the Capitoline Museum.