Jefferson Memorial and the Pantheon
The Jefferson Memorial is a testimonial to the past, present, and future of the United States. Its architecture, like most neo-Classical buildings, gives a sense of permanence. This permanence has a history far older than many would suspect. Centuries ago and thousands of miles away a building was erected that would later become the model for which many other buildings, including the Jefferson Memorial, are based upon. This building is the Roman Pantheon. Though the Jefferson Memorial borrows the basic form and elements from the Pantheon, the Memorial has distinctive differences from its predecessor.
The Memorial is located in Washington, DC in an area of the city known as "The Mall" (Weeks, AIA Guide to the Architecture of Washington DC, pg.61). It is dedicated to America's third president, Thomas Jefferson.. Jefferson was a man of many talents, in addition to being president Jefferson was once a statesman, architect, drafter of the Declaration of Independence, adviser on the Constitution, and founder of the University of Virginia (Pamela Scott and Antoinette Lee, Buildings of the District of Columbia, pg. 102). The Memorial was officially dedicated in April 1943, on Jefferson's 200th birthday, by FDR. The Jefferson Memorial is surrounded by other national monuments, some of which are the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The chief architect responsible for designing and building the Jefferson Memorial was John Russell Pope in 1939 to 1943. Pope was a neoclassicist who was inspired by the Roman Pantheon. The Memorial's basic form is a domed rotunda fronted by a Greek portico, or entrance porch, and surrounded by Ionic columns. At first glance it may seem like an exact replica of the Pantheon, especially when viewed from the entrance. So similar is it that some have called the Memorial a "neo-Pantheon" . It is a grave mistake though, to believe that the Memorial is only a copy of the Roman model. No, the Jefferson Memorial is quite unique, and has distinctive differences from the Pantheon.
The Pantheon was built in Rome under the patronage of Emperor Hadrian between 125 and 128 CE. It was originally raised on a podium but that has long been covered up by centuries of dirt and debris (Stokstad, Art History, pg. 263). Its facade was made to resemble a typical Greek or Roman temple but behind this porch lies a giant rotunda, or circular building. " It has 20 foot thick walls that raise 75 feet high . . . and support a huge, round, bowl-shaped dome, 143 feet in diameter and 143 feet from the floor at its summit" (Stokstad, pg263-264). Like most Roman buildings, the Pantheon's surface consists of marble. Beneath the marble veneer lies internal brick arches and concrete that support the dome. The walls form a structural drum that holds up the dome. These structural elements are disguised by "a wealth of architectural detail-columns, exedrae, pilasters and...