Thursday, September 18, 2008
A Roman Holiday
Departing from the Vatican, we followed a walking tour set out in my increasingly battered copy of Lonely Planet Italy. The tour was set up to follow the events of the film Roman Holiday, and covered just about every major landmark the city offers.
While neither of us had seen the film, we figured that being in Rome was more important than any Hollywood background material.
Strolling around Rome in July really made me appreciate going on holiday in the winter. Cities like Paris and London are relatively underpopulated in December, so while you may miss Christmas, you don't have to worry about hordes of tourists. The Trevi fountain was besieged by tourists! Despite this, seeing all the famous and gorgeous landmarks was still pretty amazing.
Our last stop on the tour was the Pantheon of Rome, the best preserved Roman building left in the city. Constructed in 125 AD as part of a rebuilding plan of Emperor Hadrian, the exact purpose of the building remains a mystery. It is surmised from the name that the Pantheon was a temple to all the gods.
In 609 AD the building was given to the Church, and became a house of Christian worship dedicated to Mary and the martyrs. This act is primarily responsible for the current preservation, as the Pantheon was protected and maintained by the Catholic Church, while much else that was left over from ancient Rome was actively demolished by Church heirarchy.
And of course the structure is one of my four great domes, the oldest and in some ways the grandest of them all. While it is not as towering as the Duomo, nor as ornate as St. Peters, the Pantheon, with its endurance and age, speaks to the achievements of the ancients. The achievement is enhanced by the simplicity of the structure and the fact that the only light source is the oculous that pierces the apex of the dome, drawing all eyes upwards.
We took time for a brief, and well earned, rest, pausing at a cafe for some lemonade and a beer. I took the time to frame an adjacent table's wine glasses with my zoom lens. Then, we were off for some late afternoon museum viewing, at the extensive collections of the Vatican.