Taxonomy: Oculus

For any window lover, there is a must-see window, and that is the Pantheon of Rome. It is a feat of engineering, built 63 years BEFORE Christ, the first by Agrippa, completed in 12 B.C. but destroyed in a fire. In 188 AD Emperor Adriano had it rebuilt to today’s version using the same principles and engineering techniques of the time.

The entire church is spherical, height the same as width – 43,44cm. It is a homage to the excellence that is the sphere. How to keep it illuminated by the sun, dry from the rain, aligned with the stars, safe from collapse, and strong to last thousands of years, is the question still being answered. 

The centerpiece of the whole building is the Oculus window, meant to amaze everyone who entered. How can a sphere have a hole and not deflate? Everything had to be designed around this one feature in ways that had never been done.

The Oculus was also the only light to enter inside all the temple of all Gods. In Latin it means the eye. It is 9 meters in diameter, the perfect number. It has no covering nor shading, but it allows the movement of the sun to illuminate each corner of the interior. It was light from the almighty above.

“My intention,” said Adrian, “is that this sanctuary to all the Gods reproduces the round spherical shape of the Earth and the sphere of all the planets. The cupola must reveal the earth through a large central opening, alternately showing light and shadow.”

The principles of Egyptian engineering and astronomy were studied by the project team. Obelisks first and how the sun would light objects at such great heights. The pyramids, ingenious, were only liveable for the dead, and they were building a church, so they had to think of how to bring the living. (Who knew if they had intended for it to be visited thousands of years later?) What worked? They looked through the hole: if the earth, and the planets, and the moons were all spheres, then a sphere is how we also must live, deep inside instead of on the surface. The center of the church was the Equator, and it began to build upward and downward. We were going into the center of the Earth, and thus was born the Pantheon.


On most days, the sun turns and enters the building around midday. On April 21st every year, the birthdate of Rome – 2775 years old today – the sun angles with the Oculus perfectly at noon. and illuminates the front door fully. Emperors from the time of Caesar and beyond would stand at the door and bathe in the light coming above from the Gods.

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