Consecration by Pope Boniface IV (the name ‘Boniface’ meaning approximately ‘one who does good’) saved the Pantheon from the worst of the pillage and plunder in medieval times, “after the pagan filth was removed” of course.
Easily one of the more spectacular and complete historical buildings in Rome, the Pantheon’s dome is a work of art in itself, being unreinforced as it is, and just so damn large. Up above, the oculus (with a diameter of around 8 metres) let the sky pour inside; and on a sunny day like the ones we had, would leave a scorch-mark of white on the walls.
The crowds were quieter here and we were able to move around comfortably, for a while following a guy wearing a Witness Relocation Program shirt and his giant camera. The attendants were not wearing the frowns or glazed eyes of boredom or defeat that seem to come from putting up with tourists all day every day, they seemed in good cheer – which at times, seemed a little in short supply. No wonder, perhaps, with the recent austerity measures cutting pay for public sectors.
The Pantheon Fountain stood outside, directly before its namesake, but as it was undergoing repairs, the music of water was absent. The ever-shifting crowds and horse-drawn carriages bypassed it, except when someone paused to drop a coin into a busker’s guitar case. While we chose a place to eat (and there were at least half a dozen places to eat in the piazza) I listened for a minute. He had a great voice, and possessed the showman’s earnestness of many buskers, but he really was doing a fantastic version of George Michael’s Careless Whisper. Stripped back as an acoustic ballad, it worked. Dropping the cheesy (if signature) sax helped too, it was one of the best covers I’ve heard and I found myself disappointed that he wasn’t there when we went back.