The one beautiful thing about Rome is the many traditions and festivals which have endured since time immemorial and do not change despite the passing of time and fashion.
Rose petals are dropped from the open oculus of the Pantheon on Sunday to celebrate the Pentecost. The tradition is very ancient, possibly dating back to 609 AD. During the Pentecostal mass, rose petals are dropped from the oculus onto the faithful to symbolize the descent of the Holy Spirit. At noon on Sunday, the Vigili del Fuoco (firefighters) of Rome, after climbing on top of the Pantheon’s dome (almost 44 meters high), drop thousands of rose petals as the choir chant the sequence of Veni Sancte Spiritus.
The Pantheon was originally commissioned by Marcus Agrippa a close family friend and right hand man of Emperor Augustus during his reign (27 BC – 14 AD) and rebuilt by Emperor Hadrian about 126 AD.
The building is circular with a portico of large granite Corinthian columns (eight in the first rank and two groups of four behind) under a pediment. A rectangular vestibule links the porch to the rotunda, which is under a coffered concrete dome, with a central opening (oculus) to the sky. Almost two thousand years after it was built, the Pantheon’s dome is still the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome. The height to the oculus and the diameter of the interior circle are the same, 43.3 metres (142 ft).
It is one of the best-preserved of all Ancient Roman buildings. It has been in continuous use throughout its history, and since the 7th century, the Pantheon has been used as a church dedicated to “St. Mary and the Martyrs” (Latin: Santa Maria ad Martyres) but informally known as “Santa Maria Rotonda”. The square in front of the Pantheon is called Piazza della Rotonda.