To much of my surprise my favorite place in Rome is the Phanteon. In the 3 days I spent in that beautiful (however freezing cold) city, I would manage to pass through that building everyday, sometimes more than once a day…
With over 2000 years old, The Phanteon was built, burned, rebuilt, during Ancient Rome, and spoiled over the centuries of the roof, the external marble, some pilasters (that ended up in the British Museum), 2 columns for medieval churches, the bronze ceiling of the portico, and the external sculptures which adorned the pediment above Agrippa’s inscription.
Probably it only survived complete destruction that most buildings suffered in early Medieval period, due to the offer of the former “Temple of All Gods” by Byzantine Emperor Phocas to Pope Boniface IV in the 7th century, when it was rename Santa Maria die Martiri.
Yet, none of this matters, because, like all master pieces, it’s the inner essence that gives character to the building not its decor. So I guess in this case, we should all be grateful to Emperor Phocas, because its offer allowed this building to resist the passage of time, political, religious and social revolutions to tell us a story of a long gone culture that dare the “Gods and the Heavens” with a never seen dome, never repeated again.
It seems quite simple: a single space covered by a dome that finishes in a central oculus. But, like all of us find out, sooner or later in life, it is the simplest things that are more difficult to achieve and also the more impressive.
Everything is ambivalent in this building from its noble facade – defying time and human ignorance – and the other spoiled exterior walls, naked, robbed of their noble vests but still, standing proud; to its interior, sacred and profane, contained and endless at the same time.
The curved walls give you the feeling of continuous walking thru, even if you are aware that you have already pass that area, sometimes you just keep going, is the nature of the circle messing with your head – it’s endless.
The same happens with the vertical plane: your eyes follow the dome coffers up until…the oculus appears and suddenly, the limited and heavy constructed space becomes infinite, having the sky as its limit.
I could spend hours looking to that oculus, waiting for a bird to fly by, the clouds to pass…it’s like a window to another dimension, the God’s world.
So when it started to snow (like apparently it didn’t for 20 years in Rome) despite freezing and soaking wet, I couldn’t keep away from my mind, the idea of passing once more through the Phanteon, just to see the snow falling inside the building.
What a spectacular feeling to watch the snow disappearing in front of our eyes, transformed into water, and then into the floor – its like magic.
The drainage system that Romans invented to collect the water is so sleek and elegant – even today you don’t see such effective solutions in buildings around you.