Tuesday, December 26, 2017

The Pantheon: Part 2

Today's photos:

1. The tomb of Victor Emanuel II in the Pantheon.

2. The Victor Emanuel Monument in Piazza Venezia.

3. A close-up of the equestrian statue.

4. Dinner is served!

5. Umberto I followed his father as king.

6. A painting depicts the assassination of Umberto.

7. The tombs of King Umberto and Queen Margherita.

8. The plaque in pizzeria Brandi in Naples.

Of the many historic monuments in Rome, my personal favorite is the Pantheon, the best preserved of all the ancient sites in the Eternal City. One of the reasons for my preference is that there are several very important people buried in the building. My research reveals a total of nine tombs in this architectural marvel, but there may even be more. In this post I would like to tell you about three of them, as well as some very interesting facts about the persons buried in the tombs. A third one will be discussed in Part 3 of this series of posts on the Pantheon.

A curiosity

If I am going to tell you about four people buried in the Pantheon, you may be curious to know who the other five are whom my research has been able to "dig up", so to speak.

Baldassarre Peruzzi (1481-1536) – architect

Perin del Vega (1501-1547) – painter

Taddeo Zuccari (1529-1566) – painter

Annibale Carracci (1560-1609) – painter

Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1713) – composer

The father of his country

In the center niche on your right side as you enter the building is the imposing tomb of Victor Emanuel II (photo 1), the first Head of State of the modern country of Italy. Many people do not know that Italy, as we know it today, did not become a political entity until 1861. Before that time the peninsula was divided into several small, independent States. One by one these States fell, or willingly ceded themselves, to the Italian forces of unification. The last of the independent States to fall was the largest one, the Papal State in 1861, even though its capital, the city of Rome, held out until 1870.

Victor Emanuel had been the king of Sardinia/Piedmont. When his State joined the unification movement, he was invited to stay on as Head of State of the new Kingdom of Italy. He is to the Italians what George Washington is to Americans: Padre della Patria (Father of his country), as is inscribed on his tomb.

A curiosity

If Victor Emanuel was the first Head of State, why is he called Victor Emanuel II? The fact is that his father, Victor Emanuel I had preceded him as the king of Sardinia/Piedmont. When his son was asked to be the Head of State of the Kingdom of Italy, there was a question of whether he should be called Victor Emanuel I or Victor Emanuel II. Many thought he should be called Victor Emanuel I since he was indeed the first one. However, he himself chose to retain the name Victor Emanuel II out of respect for his deceased father.

There is probably not a city or town in Italy which does not have some kind of memorial dedicated to Victor Emanuel II. The city of Rome certainly can boast the most spectacular reminder of him: the Victor Emanuel Monument (photo 2) with its colossal equestrian statue (photo 3) of the king in Piazza Venezia and, of course, the tomb itself in the Pantheon.

A curiosity

Take a good look at the horse of Victor Emanuel. Just how big is it? Well, consider that when the monument was dedicated in 1911 they wanted to do something really spectacular to commemorate the event. So they chose 21 workers to represent all who had labored on this project over the years, and they served them a meal (photo 4) inside the belly of the horse which is said to be sixteen times life size!

The king is dead. Long live the king!

When Victor Emanuel II died in 1878 he was, of course, given a hero's burial in the Pantheon after a solemn funeral procession through the streets of Rome. It is known that the king had expressed a wish to be buried in Torino, the capital of Piedmont, but his son and successor, Umberto I (photo 5) accepted the request of the city government of Rome that his father should be buried in the capital of Italy, and indeed, in the Pantheon itself.

The assassination

Umberto I, at the death of his father in 1887, automatically became king. He ruled until 1900 when he was assassinated, shot to death as he road in his carriage in Monza, Italy, a short distance from Milan, on July 29,1900 (photo 6). His assassin was a thirty-year-old Italian-American anarchist, Gaetano Bresci, who shot the king four times.

A curiosity

The American anarchist Leon Czolgosz stated that the assassination of Umberto I inspired him to assassinate the American president William McKinley in 1901.

Bresci was immediately arrested and saved from being lynched by onlookers. He was given an unusually speedy trial and sentenced to life (ergastolo) on August 29, 1900. The official version of the assassin's death is that he hanged himself in his cell on May 22, 1901. However, many believe this version to be false because his death was not made public until after his body was so decomposed that it was impossible to determine the exact cause of death.

The royal widow

In any case, Umberto was given a hero's burial in the Pantheon in the center niche on your left as you enter the building, just opposite the tomb of his father. Umberto's wife, Margherita, lived on for another 26 years. When she died in 1926 she was also allowed to be buried in the Pantheon, in the wall just below the tomb of her husband (photo 7).

Notice the purple structure which stands in front of the two tombs. This shade of purple or dark red, called porphory, is often used on the tombs of royalty or of people held in great honor for one reason or another. This particular one is in the form of an ancient Roman altar, appropriate since the Pantheon was once a Roman temple.

A curiosity

In 1889 Umberto and Margherita went on an informal, unofficial trip to Naples where they had dinner in a modest Neapolitan pizzeria called Brandi. The owners of the restaurant decided to serve a special pizza to the king and queen. They topped the pizza dough with red tomato sauce, white mozzarella and green basil leaves, calling it their patriotic pizza since it had the colors of the Italian flag. The queen, Margherita, was so pleased by this unusual culinary concoction that it was decided, with her permission, to name the pizza after her. And that is why we have, to this day, the famous pizza Margherita!

The pizzeria Brandi still exists today, and in 1989 a plaque was displayed in the restaurant recalling the 100th anniversary, not so much of the royal visit, but of the birth of the pizza Margherita (photo 8)! The inscription is in Italian; the translation is as follows:

Here 100 years ago

was born the Pizza Margherita

1889 – 1989


Part 3 of this four part series will be dedicated to another famous person who rests in the Pantheon: Raphael. I think he deserves a post all to himself!


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