John Sandell photography
The Pantheon, Rome

The Pantheon, Rome. When I arrived at the Pantheon it was closed for the Sunday service, so I joined the large crowd outside and we all waited fairly patiently. The huge doors were partly open, and I could see and smell the incense inside. It was past 12:00 when the doors were opened fully and we all surged in.

The Pantheon was rebuilt by Hadrian in about 125AD. It's circular in plan, with a huge dome: 43 metres diameter and 43 metres high. There are no supporting arches or vaults. Incredible! At the top of the dome is a 9m diameter hole, which lets in the sunlight to give a beautiful soft light inside. It also lets in the rain, and the floor slopes slightly towards the centre to drain out the water. What I hadn’t realised before my visit is how finely decorated the building is inside: it's stunningly beautiful.

At midday in the middle of Summer the strong sunlight was streaming almost straight down through the dome to create a beam in the remains of the incense hanging in the air. In competition a judge decided that I had added the beam after the event, because it's not shining directly at the bright area of the wall. In fact the illumination on the wall, on the underside of the relief, is reflected light from the polished marble floor! I took all my photos with the Nikon 12-24mm lens.

Technical: NIKON D300, f=18.0 mm, ISO1600, 1/250 sec @ f6.3

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