Basilica di Santa Maria ad Martyres (The Pantheon)
Here we consider another ancient building, the Pantheon in Rome, which was dedicated in 126 a.d. and has been in continuous use since that time. Between the fourth and seventh centuries, it was owned by the Byzantine emperor, but in 609, Emperor Phocas deeded it to Pope Boniface IV and it became the Basilica di Santa Maria ad Martyres, St. Mary and the Martyrs.
What can account for such longevity? Let us look for clues in its construction, its geometry, the nature of its space, its symbolic significance, and its relatively seamless transition from an imperial and cosmological temple into a place for the Christian liturgy.
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Mary Elizabeth Podles is the retired curator of Renaissance and Baroque art at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. She and her husband Leon, a Touchstone senior editor, have six children and live in Baltimore, Maryland.
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