Preserving the Pantheon
The Institute is committed to preserving Rome's past and successfully communicating the web of interrelated topics- history, heritage preservation, architecture, conservation, accessibility. When the Villa of Hadrian was threatened with the construction of a landfill nearby we collaborated with colleagues successfully to stop that disastrous plan. When the Macrinus "gladiator tomb" site was threatened with reburial, we stepped in and voiced concerns that ultimately were part of a constructive outcry to find new solutions to allow excavation to continue and the preservation of the site begin; that heritage enterprise continues, productively and with great promise. Read more about our preservation initiatives.
Recently, on January 11, 2017, the Italian Minister of Culture Franceschini declared that soon the Pantheon, which is open free of charge daily, will soon be accessible for a small fee, possibly 3 euros. This idea had been circulating in the past few years; it was inevitable, I had been told, due to the massive amounts of tourists (over 7 million) that enter, and in high season overwhelm, the site and the rampant costs for maintaining the best preserved temple from the Roman world which boasts the largest unreinforced concrete dome until the 20th century.
The public has begun to weigh in. La Repubblica opened a poll, with 66% of over 13,000 voters in favor of an entrance fee. Both sides have been argued, as well, for the pros and cons. Corrado Augias argues for payment, and Tommaso Montanari argues against. To complicate matters, this is not just an archaeological site, it is also a church, that has remained in use. Other Italian cities, strapped for cash and exasperated by tourists, have taken to charge for admission; Florence and Venice are notable examples, but they are the exception to the rule. Rome has remained outside of this discussion, until now. To further complicate maters, the Pantheon is, admittedly, the best funded, well-maintained monument in Rome, if not Italy. This structure is an architectural masterpiece that has resisted so many forces (including time, gravity, earthquakes, fires); it has also been well cared for in the modern era, due to ample funding and attention. This is the key to any successful site management plan- properly implemented funding and constant, daily oversight. It is a model for the rest of Italy to imitate and emulate!
As a Rome local and an archaeologist, I've never passed up an opportunity to enter, on any occasion, and I've never failed to be impressed and amazed by this architectural wonder. Just look at some of my frequent live streaming of the site and other videos with colleagues.
- Pantheon: Periscope 360 video
- Pantheon FB Live
- Pantheon Periscope
- Pantheon (Huffington Post)
- Pantheon: history of site (Ancient Rome Live video)
Now, I'm looking at it in a slightly different light, and I recently took to some of my social media channels to ask others what they thought. The reactions and ideas were gratifying and impressive. Here are two relevant threads:
Many have provided alternate solutions, including discreet sponsorship support (Who wouldn't want to contribute to the Pantheon?) and obvious placement of donation bins (successfully implemented in museums like the British Museum and the MET). There is a lot more discussion needed, I believe, to create other scenarios and circumstances that would alleviate the need for charging tourists from paying a fee. Why? I suppose it's because it's something that I have deeply appreciated from a didactic and aesthetic point of view over the years. If the needed funds can be alternatively raised, shouldn't they be considered as well? I fear that starting with the Pantheon, it may be the tip of the iceberg, for a new wave of "justified" ticket sales in sites that have never requested them, perverting the "Rome the open museum" into another entity all together. There needs to be more consideration, and I'd like to hear more conversation on the matter! There are more stakeholders that need to voice their opinions before Rome joins the ranks of Florence and Venice, arguably devoid of a "flourishing local culture" that the Eternal City still enjoys!
I do invite you, too, to weigh in on my and the Institute's social media channels. I'll gladly share them with the director the Pantheon as well as the Ministry of Culture. Thank you for your time! I think that we - the public at large- can continue to weigh in and provide a thoughtful discussion that will add to others' on the matter. The Pantheon is an important world heritage site that is part of the legacy of the Roman empire, as well as the legacy of the Catholic Church, that converted the structure into a church in AD 609, the city of Rome, and Italy as a whole, through its preservation of and access to such precious historical monuments for benefit of the entire world.