Photos of The Pantheon and Il Vittoriano in Rome: Transcendental Illumination and a Show of Power

23.8.12

Entering The PantheonThe Pantheon and the ray of divine lightInside The PantheonThe eye of GodThe Pantheon inside and outThe tomb of King Vittorio Emanuele II
Looking out from The Pantheon, RomePiazza Della Rotonda, RomeColourful apartments in RomePretty apartments in RomeA heavenly church ceilingCourtyard of the Doria Pamphilj Gallery, Rome
Il Vittoriano, RomeLooking east from Il VittorianoGuarding the Tomb of the Unknown SoldierThe statue of King Vittorio Emanuele IIThe Colosseum and the Roman Forum from the top of Il VittorianoLooking north from the top of Il Vittoriano
Statue on the top of Il Vittoriano, RomeViewing churches from the top of Il VittorianoThe Colosseum from the top of Il VittorianoThe Theatre of Marcellus from the top of Il VittorianoThe Roman Forum from the top of Il VittorianoCapitoline Museums from the top of Il Vittoriano

The Pantheon and Il Vittoriano in Rome: Transcendental Illumination and a Show of Power, a set on Flickr.

I’m nearing the end of my two-week family holiday in Italy, and have been in Abruzzo province, near the town of Sulmona, since Sunday August 19. For the first week my family and I were in Rome, and I posted my photos from the first three days of that wonderful week here, here and here.

Our time in Abruzzo has also been wonderful, in this little known area of Italy, with its mountains and lakes, its vertiginous roads, its excellent food, and its old-fashioned hospitality with a laid-back vibe. However, we have been so busy travelling around that I have been unable to find the time to post more photos of Rome — until now.

This fourth set (out of seven in total) focuses on two of the elements of Roman culture that recur from the time of Ancient Rome through to the unification of Italy and its unfortunate militarism in the first half of the 20th century, and which are also a hallmark of the Vatican’s presence as an empire-within-an-empire — namely, an obsession with raising buildings on a colossal scale, and also with demonstrations of power. In this photo set, these tendencies are demonstrated through two buildings, and with glimpses of others. The first of the two is The Pantheon, the ancient Roman temple built on the orders of the Emperor Hadrian, with its vast oculus, a round hole 8.7 metres wide at the top of its dome, which is itself the largest unsupported concrete dome in the world. Through the oculus, light shines down on those in the temple, dwarfing them, and creating the impression that they are literally in the presence of God — or the gods. The Pantheon was taken over by the Catholic Church, of course, which may have spared it from being destroyed over the centuries, but its power remains that of Ancient Rome, and it is remarkable that the oculus has not been replicated elsewhere.

If The Pantheon’s power is fundamentally subtle, humbling those who visit it through a spectacularly simple light show, ll Vittoriano — also known as the Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II (National Monument to Victor Emmanuel II) or Altare della Patria (Altar of the Fatherland) — which was designed in 1885, inaugurated in 1911 and completed in 1935, is a big show-off of a building, a giant pile of marble, dedicated to showing the ambition of Italy after its unification, and also honouring King Vittorio Emanuele II, the first king of the unified country, as well as providing an eternal flame and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Forecasting fascism, it is obviously a deeply unsubtle building, aping the buildings of Ancient Rome that are its neighbours, and, in particular, the Colosseum, another blunt show of strength that also reeks of blood and brutality.

Photos of our visits to these sites will follow soon, but for now I hope you enjoy this fourth instalment of photos from Rome, as I endeavoured to capture something of the transcendent nature of The Pantheon, and, as I also took advantage of a modern addition to Il Vittoriano — a glass lift to a viewing platform on the very top of the building, 230 feet above Piazza Venezia beneath — to take photos that give ordinary people the kind of views of Rome that, given its history, would in the past have been reserved for those of power and influence.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed — and I can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Flickr (my photos) and YouTube. Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in April 2012, “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” a 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, and details about the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, and available on DVD here — or here for the US). Also see my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and please also consider joining the new “Close Guantánamo campaign,” and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

23 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    On Facebook, Richard Osbourne wrote:

    Beautiful photos Andy.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Abbe Kitty wrote:

    what a wonderful trip — thank you for sharing your images

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for the supportive words, Richard and Abbe. I am delighted to be able to share the photos with you. It’s a part of my creativity that I neglected for too long – particularly after I began assiduously chronicling the US crimes at Guantanamo in 2006 – and it’s wonderful to be taking photos again. I now never leave the house without a pen, paper and my camera!

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    On Facebook, I also posted one of the photos of The Pantheon: http://www.flickr.com/photos/andyworthington/7846706928/in/photostream
    and Dejanka Bryant wrote:

    Yes, they are fabulous. Also, you have a very good quality camera . Even tiny details are visible.

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Ann Alexander wrote:

    Thanks for sharing all your amazing photos, Andy. You will be home in time for a new series on BB4 “The Treasures of Ancient Rome”. You will be able to say “I saw that”.

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Richard Osbourne wrote:

    The Pantheon just gets to you doesn’t it Andy. Can’t quite describe it myself, but I sort of fell in love with it!

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Richard Osbourne wrote:

    Beautiful photo btw – captures the mystery of the place.

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    Heather Davidson wrote:

    Wow!!

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    Patricia Sheerin-Richman wrote:

    Just stop will you – you’re making me envious. I’ll be lucky if I get to Broadstairs this year!

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    Mary Edwards wrote:

    Thx for lending us your eyes…compensates for not being there ourselves.

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    Thank you, my friends, for the supportive words. My photography is becoming more and more important to me. As I have explained before, after six years and several million words about Guantanamo, as well as illness and stress and bereavement, getting out and about with a camera – and particularly, as in my ongoing project to photograph London, getting out and about on a bike – has been very good for my health, and telling stories with pictures as well as words gives me more headspace and a different way of looking at the world, which seems pretty necessary right now!
    Richard, you were absolutely right about The Pantheon. Thank you for your enthusiasm in advance of my visit.
    And Patricia, don’t worry. It’ll be over soon, and I’ll be back to photographing boarded-up shops in London and building sites for new flats that no one can afford …! How I have not missed the Tories, and their demented plans to destroy my country.

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    George Kenneth Berger wrote:

    I just shared this, Andy. The light is amazing.

  13. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, George. And amazing to think that, on every sunny day for the last 1,900 years, the oculus has been performing its magic. I’m fully aware of the power of light through glass, regularly used to great effect in cathedrals and churches, but this is so much simpler and even more effective. Truly remarkable.

  14. Andy Worthington says...

    Virginia Deoccupy Homelessness Simson wrote:

    At least the Roman empires circuses/spectacles tended to last. Much more impressive than a laser Phoenix for FASCISTS, eh?

  15. Andy Worthington says...

    Time will tell what remains our “cultures” will leave, Virginia, that’s for sure. I reckon most of our buildings are too flimsy to make the grade. I think what made the biggest impression on me was how central war is and always has been to the kind of psychopaths drawn to high office, and, at the Colosseum, how appealing to citizens’ basest impulses has also served governments well. That was the most chilling realisation of all, actually – that targeting bogeymen and scapegoats and licensing violence exert a powerful influence on far too many people: think war, the “war on terror,” the death penalty, the mass incarceration of African Americans in the US domestic prison system. Photos here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/andyworthington/sets/72157631262720900/

  16. Andy Worthington says...

    Virginia Deoccupy Homelessness Simson wrote:

    Flimsy excuses, flimsy art, flimsy CULTure .. ever read about SCAPEGOATING in The Golden Bough? This SHITE is so SUBconscious – and SO outdated!

  17. Andy Worthington says...

    D J Sanchez Montebello wrote:

    Vultures will survive cultures.

  18. Andy Worthington says...

    Virginia Deoccupy Homelessness Simson wrote:

    One last joke: I went to Rome to do yoga, big deal for me. But I REFUSED to go to the Vatican at all. Just too much evil .. so I never saw the Sistine Chapel even! Too full of resentment! (but yeah, I did the HORRORS tour, same as you and ate 28 gelati in three days .. LOL) I am glad you went, and I am gratified you took such fine photos. It seems your health is SO much better now and I am chuffed about THAT.

  19. Andy Worthington says...

    Virginia Deoccupy Homelessness Simson wrote:

    No, one more last joke. I am fond of calling Obummer Pope Julius II. Some don’t “get it” but it is pretty funny.

  20. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks again, Virginia – and also DJ Sanchez. Good line! So I completely understand, Virginia. I felt I had to visit the Vatican – essentially because I wanted to see the current version of the blood-soaked Roman empire – but it wasn’t the easiest thing to do, because of the Catholic Church’s horrendous position on birth control, and its paedophile cover-ups. I’ll be posting photos of visits to the Vatican Museum and St. Peter’s soon, with, hopefully, some suitable acerbic commentary.
    As for my health, I am indeed very well, and very happy about that! Six years of obsessively researching and writing about Guantanamo couldn’t quite finish me off!

  21. Andy Worthington says...

    So what’s the Pope Julius II analogy about, Virginia? I get it that he was a wily political operator and a warmonger, but he was also a patron of the arts, wasn’t he? Nowadays our warrior-leaders don’t even support the arts at all, do they?

  22. Andy Worthington says...

    Virginia Deoccupy Homelessness Simson wrote:

    I am referring to the level of tricky ruthlessness .. doing the art itself, the partronage, is just ANOTHER Political ploy to promote spectacle, that thing that Chris Hedges talks about. Stadiums, fusion centers/DHS/TSA offices, HUGE embassies (Iraq) … He isn’t into the same type of “rarified” art that we are. He likes ARMS stashes, fallout shelters, Guantanamo! I think Pope Julius II was one of the most despicable people ever .. hence the comparison. It’s just that the “religion” now is Profit$ entirely. Not much room left for the Old Gods .. (and saviours)

  23. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, thanks for clarifying, Virginia. Good analysis. Hopefully people will continue to wake up – slowly – to the knowledge that our supposed leaders have all been bought by business and bankers.

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