Tag Archives: Pantheon

Out and about in Rome

On day 2 of Rome we had the whole day on our own so with fellow travellers from the tour, we took a map and went on a journey to explore Rome, the capital of Italy, by ourselves.

I have read Kathmandu described as city of temples but I didn’t know that Rome is a city of churches. Everywhere we went there were churches, all equally magnificent and beautiful.

Castle San Angelo

I always wanted to see this castle as I saw it in the move Angles & Demons so I was really happy to see the beautiful castle. The castle looked like some of the forts I have seen in India. It is located right by the Tiber River and was originally built as a mausoleum for Emperor Hadrian in 139 AD.

In front of the castle there is a beautiful bridge called Ponte Saint Angelo with 5 angles on either side of it. This is how the castle got its name. The bridge is faced with travertine marble and spans the Tiber with three arches.

On one side of the castle, there was a market that sold souvenirs and food. Also, there was a man dressed as a devil asking money from tourists to take photos with him.


The Pantheon, one of the most fascinating, and mysterious, buildings in Italy. It is a Christian church where they conduct mass every Sunday. The interior of Pantheon is really striking, with its dome a perfect hemisphere and an oculus which is believed to symbolize the all-seeing eye of heaven. At about 142 feet in diameter, the Pantheon’s dome is bigger even than the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica.

It is one of the best-preserved of all Roman buildings. It has been in continuous use throughout its history, and since the 7th century, the Pantheon has been used as a Roman Catholic Church dedicated to “St. Mary and the Martyrs” but informally known as “Santa Maria della Rotonda.” The square in front of the Pantheon is called Piazza della Rotonda.

The Piazza della Rotonda was filled with tourists taking pictures and people resting on the steps of the fountain. Along the edges of the piazza there were restaurants and coffee shops.

Raphael, the famous Renaissance painter, is buried inside the Pantheon with his fiancée Maria Bibbiena as well as Vittorio Emanuele II, Italy’s first king.

Piazza del popolo

This is one of the most beautiful piazzas in Rome and the effect of the twin churches is amazing. My guide mentioned that the two baroque churches of Santa Maria dei Miracoli and Santa Maria in Montesanto are not exactly alike, but they do look alike on a first sight and the impression one gets is of something unforgettable.

The piazza was created by Latino Giovenale Manetti in 1538 for Pope Paul III and the twin churches were added in the 17th century. The present symmetry was given by the neoclassical architect Giuseppe Valadier in the early 1800’s. In the middle of the square lies a 3000 years old obelisk framed by four small fountains with lions. The piazza is closed to automotive traffic so you can stroll at your own pace and enjoy the sights.

Trajan’s Column (Colonna di Traiano)

Trajan’s column was built to commemorate military campaigns in Dacia (which is now Romania). The column is a beautiful piece of Roman sculptural art; around the column winds a spiral frieze with over 2500 figures in relief illustrating the battles that took place during Trajan’s military campaigns in Dacia (101-102 and 105-106). At the top the statue of Saint Peter replaced in 1588 a statue of Trajan. The ashes of the emperor and his wife were places in a golden urn in a vault below the column. The column stands in what was once Foro di Traiano (Forum of Trajan) with a huge semicircular market building.

Piazza Navona

Piazza Navona was built over the site of the 1st century Stadium of Domitian and still preserves the elliptical form of the Roman circus. Medieval jousts, 17-century carnivals, open-air sports and historic festivals took place here; the piazza was also used as market place from mid 15th century to mid 19th century. Today this place attracts tourists and Romans alike, and the cafes and restaurants lining the piazza have tables outside most of the year.

Three beautiful fountains decorate the piazza out of which the most famous is the central Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (The Fountain of the Four Rivers) by Bernini. Behind this fountain is the church Sant’Agnese in Agone a remarkable example of Baroque architecture.

On one of the days we were in Rome, we sat down and had our dinner there.

Piazza Augusto Imperatore

As part of his massive restructuring of Rome and in celebration of the 2000th anniversary of Augustus’ birth, Mussolini created the Piazza Augusto Imperatore with the Mausoleum of Augustus at its center. He had the densely populated neighbourhoods surrounding the Mausoleum destroyed and new buildings constructed on the 4 sides of the Piazza. Only the churches were allowed to remain. The story of this radical transformation is superbly told in Kostoff, 1978.

Office buildings were constructed on 2 sides and a college on a 3rd. On the 4th side, the new pavilion to house the relocated and reconstructed Ara Pacis was built between the Mausoleum and the major avenue beside the Tiber embankment. Within this pavilion, Mussolini had the Ara Pacis itself reconstructed not at the level of the Via di Ripetta, the ground level of buildings in the area, where it might have retained closer relationship to the Mausoleum. Instead, for added visibility and prestige, he had the Ara Pacis reconstructed at the level of the Lungotevere in Augusta, the top level of the ealry 20th century embankment along the Tiber River.


Designed by the Perugia architect Guglielmo Calderini and built between 1888 and 1910, the Palace of Justice is considered one of the grandest of the new buildings which followed the proclamation of Rome as the capital city of the Kingdom of Italy.

The building’s unusually large size, astonishing decorations, and long period of construction created the suspicion of corruption. In April 1912 a parliamentary commission was appointed to inquire into the matter and it presented its findings the following year. The affair gave rise to the building’s popular nickname of Palazzaccio.

Inspired by late Renaissance and Baroque architecture, the building is 170 meters by 155 in size and is completely covered with Travertine limestone. Above the façade looking towards the River Tiber it is surmounted by a great bronze quadriga, set there in 1926, the work of the sculptor Ettore Ximenes from Palermo. Ten large statues of notable jurists adorn the ramps before the main façade and the internal courtyard. The upper part of the façade looking onto the Piazza Cavour is ornamented with a bronze coat of arms of the House of Savoy. Inside the Hall of the Supreme Court, also known as the Great Hall (or on Calderini’s plans as the Aula Maxima) are several frescoes, begun by Cesare Maccari (1840–1919), who became paralysed in 1909 while the work was unfinished. It was continued until 1918 by Maccari’s former student Paride Pascucci (1866–1954)

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St Peters Basilica : Vatican

We went to St Peter’s Basilica on Vatican city tour.  One must wear proper cloth that covers shoulders and legs in order to go into the Basilica.

St Peter’s Basilica is the largest Christian church in the world. It is the symbolic “Mother church” of the Catholic Church and is regarded as one of the holiest Christian sites.

Stepping inside St. Peter’s Basilica, you can see and feel the grandness of the church.  The place is so huge and beautiful that it must have cost a fortune to construct something so amazing. The church roof was really high and the letters on the wall just below the roof were actually over 6 feet tall even though they looked so small from the floor of the church. We could see people on the gallery near the roof and they were the same size as the letters.

The big altar, the decorated ceilings, the sun shining through the stained glass windows of the basilica were just awesome and the main altar was about 10 stories high. The details on every pole were just awesome and we could have easily spent hours admiring the work of great architects and sculptures. The natural light coming from above illuminates the church and spreads subdued radiance all around.

The Papal Altar and rising above it is the Baldacchino

The altar in St. Peter’s is made of bronze, just the way the requestor wanted it to be.  The designer at the time, however, was unable to find enough bronze in all of Rome to make it.  So, the requestor told the designer to use the bronze in the Pantheon.  So, the designer went and drilled numerous holes in the Pantheon, taking out the bronze he needed to finish his work.

The whole church is filled with renaissance monuments, statues, trimmings, and sculptures in meticulous motifs/details and maintained in utmost attention. In there, we also saw the famous Renaissance masterpiece that was sculpted by Michelangelo called Pietà.


The structure is pyramidal, and the vertex coincides with Virgin Mary’s head. The statue widens progressively down the drapery of Mary’s dress, to the base, the rock of Golgotha. The figures are quite out of proportion, owing to the difficulty of depicting a fully grown man cradled full-length in a woman’s lap. Much of Mary’s body is concealed by her monumental drapery, and the relationship of the figures appears quite natural. Michelangelo’s interpretation of the Pieta was far different from those previously created by other artists, as he sculpted a young and beautiful Mary rather than an older woman around 50 years of age.

Here is an interesting story behind the Pieta.

Created by Michelangelo before he was famous, Michelangelo never put his name on his works.  No matter what the work is, you can’t find his name anywhere.  There is an exception, of course.  Shortly after Michelangelo made it, another sculptor of the time began to claim that the Pieta was his work.  This was of course quickly disproven, but Michelangelo got fed up with it.  He snuck into St. Peter’s late one night, and carved this across the sash running across Mary’s breast:  MICHAELA[N]GELUS BONAROTUS FLORENTIN[US] FACIEBA[T] (Michelangelo Buonarroti, Florentine, made it).  There is one more important piece of information about the Pieta.

It sits today behind thick bullet-proof glass.

Next was the chapel of the tomb of Pope John Paul II, whose remains were placed beneath the altar.

We also saw a statue of St. Peter with the foot extremely worn down from all of the people touching it. It is believed that if you touch his foot, your wishes will be fulfilled.

The bronze statue of Saint Peter

We also had a chance to go down the grottoes, beneath the basilica, where there are many tombs. Although surrounded by tombs, it did not have an eerie feeling.

Here are few photos from the Basilica. Even though our guide told us what each of the statues and altars were about, I couldn’t recall them when I looked at the photos after coming back to Australia. Thanks to internet, I managed to identify most of them.

Altar of Falsehood

Altar of St Jerome

Michelangelo’s dome

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