There are many "Pendule de Foucault" around the world but this is the original* pendulum of Jean Bernard Léon Foucault as installed in 1851 in the Pantheon.
A 28 kg sphere was attached by a 67 meter long steel wire to the dome. The 1,4 mm diameter wire is said to be a piano steel cord supplied by Pleyel!
The deviation per hour of the plane of the pendulum was 11°. After launching the pendulum would balance during 6 hours. The period of oscillation is 16,5 seconds and the distance 6 m.
The Foucault's pendulum was installed again in 1995 at the Pantheon and was each day demonstrating the Earth's daily rotation for the pleasure of the tourists (the oscillations were kept going by an electromagnetic device I presume).
In April 2013 the pendulum was DISMANTLED for RESTORATION work over 3 years!
*Actually the original pendulum used by Foucault in 1851 was kept at the Musée des Arts et Métiers of Paris where daily demonstrations were made in the choir of the former church of St Martin des Champs.
On 6/04/2010 the cable at the museum snapped and the sphere was damaged so that presently only copies of the spheres are used for the demonstrations. The Pantheon remains nevertheless the original place of the experiment.
Open: 10 - 18.30 h from 1/04 till 30/09; 10 - 18 h from 1/10 till 31/03.
Closed: 1/01, 1/05 & 25/12.
Price (2013): 7,50 €; reduced 4,50 €
Free: less than 18 or 18 -25 from the EU.
Every time I ride past the Panthéon in Paris I am reminded of a man I met in Berkeley, California when I was living there in 1967.
I was working at that time as News Director of a non-commercial radio station. I always walked to work in the mornings, and one day when I arrived some colleagues came running out to meet me and asked if I could speak French. “A little,” I said, and they ushered me into studio A.
There at the big table was one of our regular weekly political commentators, Professor Marshall Windmiller, and sitting across from Marshall was a man I recognized immediately as François Mitterrand.
At this time Mitterrand was not yet the President of France because he had lost to Charles de Gaulle in a run-off election two years before.
Mitterrand could understand English quite well, but he was unwilling to speak it on the radio because he thought it would sound undignified if he made mistakes and had to search for words. So the plan was that Marshall would ask the questions in English, Mitterrand would answer in French and I would translate his answers into English. I agreed to this on the condition that Mitterrand would correct me if I got anything wrong, which in fact he did several times in a very polite and friendly manner.
After recording the interview we sat around and chatted for another half hour, and I was duly impressed by this cultivated and erudite French socialist.
The interview lasted 48 minutes. It was recorded in the morning and broadcast the same evening. I didn’t listen to the broadcast and in fact have never listened to the recording, though it evidently still exists in the Pacifica Archives. (Hard to find because they misspelled Mitterrand’s name.)
A few days after the broadcast I received a letter from someone at the French department of Stanford University, praising my translation and saying I had clearly exposed the shallowness of Mitterrand’s remarks –- which was not at all my intention! Perhaps my off-the-cuff translation was even worse than I had thought.
Mitterrand ran for president again in 1974 and was defeated by a very narrow margin. But on his third try in 1981 he was finally elected and became the first socialist President of France under the Fifth Republic.
He was inaugurated as President on May 21, 1981. I wasn’t in Paris on that day, but I watched the inauguration on television. After all the usual ceremonies (reception at Elysée Palace, wreath-laying at the Arc de Triomphe, speeches at Paris City Hall, etc.), Mitterrand was driven up Boulevard Saint Michel in the Latin Quarter. At Rue Soufflot he got out of his car and walked the three blocks up to the Panthéon, followed by thousands of supporters. At the Panthéon an orchestra and chorus under the direction of Daniel Barenboim performed parts of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, including Schiller’s Ode to Joy (sung in French, I believe).
Finally Mitterrand walked into the Panthéon "alone" -- there were obviously dozens of cameramen and technicians stationed throughout the building, but Mitterrand was the only person visible. He strode solemnly through the building and then down into the crypt, stopping to bow at the grave of the Resistance leader Jean Moulin (1899-1943) and then laying red roses on the graves of Jean Jaurès (1859-1914) and Victor Schoelcher (1804-1893).
I must admit that despite my admiration for Mitterrand I found his televised walk through the Panthéon a bit contrived, but for the French it was evidently the right mixture of piety and patriotism.
Second photo: Inside the Panthéon.
Third photo: The grave of Jean Jaurès (1859-1914), a prominent French socialist leader, where Mitterrand deposited one of his red roses during his inauguration in 1981.
Fourth photo: The graves of the authors Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas and Émile Zola. When Victor Hugo died in 1885 at age 83 an estimated two million people took part in his funeral procession from the Arc de Triomphe to the Panthéon. The ironic thing about this is that Victor Hugo didn’t even like the Panthéon, at least not when he was younger. In his early blockbuster novel Notre-Dame de Paris he described the Panthéon as "Saint Peter’s of Rome badly copied".
Fifth photo: In the basement of the Panthéon there is a large photo showing the view you would get from the dome if you walked up the stairs to get there. (I didn’t go up because I was there on a somewhat dark and drizzly day; but maybe next time.)
Next review from September 2011: Buildings around the Panthéon
When I came out of the Pantheon I wondered if it would be imaginable to build such a monument-mausoleum nowadays.
The fact is that the Panteon shows a monumental but elegant exterior and a very luminous interior, decorated with works of art like historical paintings and sculptures belonging to the national symbols.
If the Pantheon was intended (1764) by king Louis XV and the architect Soufflot to be a church dedicated to St Genevieve, the delays in construction - it was feared that the dome would collapse - made that the church was completed in 1790 at the start of the French Revolution.
The National Constituent Assembly - you can see the imposing sculpture - ordered it to be changed from a church to a mausoleum.
Under Napoleon I and then Restoration with kings Louis XVIII and Charles X the upper part became again a church and the crypt remained as mausoleum.
Later Louis-Philippe I made a Pantheon of the church, not for long because Napoleon III made again a church of the building. It was only at the burial of Victor Hugo en 1885 that the church was definitively transformed in a Pantheon.
This back and forth between church and pantheon had a marked influence on the decor.
At the place of the high altar stands the monumental sculpture of the "Convention nationale" but on the walls one sees a number of religious paintings about St Genevieve, Saint Louis, Jeanne d'Arc. The political debates have influenced the decor which is a mix of Christian, republican, patriotic and philosophical elements.
This variety makes the Pantheon so special.
Open: 10 - 18.30 h from 1/04 till 30/09; 10 - 18 h from 1/10 till 31/03.
Closed: 1/01, 1/05 & 25/12.
Price (2012): 8,50 €; reduced 5,50 €
Price 2013: 7,50 €, reduced 4,50 €. A reduction of price because the Pendule de Foucault is not working anymore. 3 years of renovation!
Free: less than 18 or 18 -25 from the EU.
The exterior, resembling San Pietro in Rome, is rather stern and forbidding, and the interior, appropriately vast and very solemn. Hushed tones of visitors and their footsteps echo through lofty halls of murals and statuary and along subterranean corridors of silent tombs. Émile Zola, Alexandre Dumas Sr. and Victor Hugo keep company in one of the niches. Scientists Marie Curie and husband, Pierre, rest together in another. Louis Braille, Jean Rousseau, René Cassin and Voltaire are some of the others honored with a place in this temple of courage, patriotism and illustrious achievement.
One note: the free brochure we picked up at the entrance said that "Joan of Arc and Saint Louis, King of France are the other famous Christian heroes from the history of France who lie here." This is an awkward wording referencing the subject matter of several of the murals and not burial location.
Entrance was included with the Paris Museum Pass. See the website below for hours, entrance fees and details.
The Pantheon strikes me as the symbol of French secularism and republicanism and, in fact, the booklet on it that is sold in the Pantheon is sub-titled “Temple of the Nation.” It was originally the Church of Sainte-Genevieve and still has the feel of a church, but the central statue at where one would expect an altar honors Le Convention Nationale which held sway for a few years in the 1790’s and abolished he monarchy. The building is, architecturally, of very classical feel and is full of wonderful statuary and frescoes honoring a host of French secular “saints.”
I recently read a book entitled “Descartes Bones” which was a good biographical survey of Descartes’ life filtered through the twisting story of the burials of Descartes. I thought that he was buried in the Pantheon, but there are numerous theories and stories about where his remains actually ended up and I concluded that no one really knows. Pretty generally accepted is the theory that his skull is in the Musée de l'Homme in Paris. There are gruesome stories about where the rest of him ended up after he was originally buried in the unconsecrated ground of a church in Stockholm and then moved to Paris. Some say there were few remains in the box and some that his bones were used to make jewelry, some that his heart was buried in the Church of Sainte-Genevieve which became the Pantheon after the French Revolution. Some theories hold that his remains, or at least his heart, is buried here along with a number of French martyrs and notables, including Marie Curie.
A central feature of the Pantheon is a replica of Foucault’s Pendulum which was built in 1851 to demonstrate the rotation of the earth. It was originally in the Pantheon but moved to the Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers. The wire broke there and the exhibit was severely damaged so the replica is now housed, once again in the Pantheon.
Located on the Left Bank of the River Siene in the 6th Arr. (the Latin Quarter), the Pantheon was first built to replace the semi-ruined church of the Abbey of Ste. Genevieve on the highest point of the Left Bank. It later became the resting place of great men who died in the period of French liberty. Voltaire and Rousseau are burid here, as were Mirabeau and Marat for a short time.
Louis XV recovered from illness in 1744, he was so grateful he had a church built dedicated to Saint Genevieve. Jacques-Germain Soufflot was the architect. Work began on the magnificent church in 1764 and it was completed in 1790. Unfortunately Soufflot had died ten years before the church was finished. When the revolution happened the church was turned into a Pantheon where tombs of Paris’s great notable people were buried. In 1806 Napoleon turned it back into a church. In 1865 the church was made a civic building.
The Panthéon is surrounded by very substantial stone buildings from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
The one in the first photo is the Faculty of Law. The building was designed by the same architect who designed the Panthéon, Jacques-Germain Soufflot, and was built from 1771 to 1774.
Second photo: Across the street, the City Hall of the 5th arrondissment was built three quarters of a century later in a very similar style, to create a symmetrical ensemble facing the Panthéon.
Third photo: The Ste.-Genevieve Library is said to be one of the “greatest cultural buildings of the nineteenth century to use iron in a prominent, visible way”. It was designed by an architect named Henri Labrouste and built from 1842 to 1850.
Fourth photo: On the north side of the Panthéon is this statue of the seventeenth century French dramatist Pierre Corneille (1606-1684). In the background is the church of Saint-Étienne-du-Mont.
Fifth photo: A woman cycling past the Panthéon.
Next review from September 2011: Standing room at the Opéra Bastille
On the hill of Sainte Genevieve Lui XV constructed in 1789 the church of Sainte Genevieve in honour of the healing from heavy illness. But it operated not for long time. During the revolution the church was transformed into the Pantheon - a burial place of great people. Sainte Genevieve is the patroness of the city who in IV century saved Paris from the invasion of gunnes. Only paints illustrating stages from her life remind Sainte Genevieve.
Bypassing the Pantheon it is interesting to observe, how picturesque style of neoclassicism is gradually transformed to a modernist style. Ashes of many well-known Frenchmen are kept in a crypt.
Under a dome of the Pantheon the copy of a pendulum of Foucault by means of which the great physicist has evidently shown hangs, that the Earth spins. The dome is designed on the sample of a dome Sacred Paul in London. 425 steps conduct upward, the panorama to Paris opens from the gallery.
The Panthenon is worth a visit to enjoy the quiet of the place in the middle of busy Paris.
The building itself is spectacular as are some of the sculpture situated inside.
Don't miss going down into the crypt to see the tombs of the famous.
There is a small entrance fee, but well worth it.
The history of the Pantéon goes back to 1744 when King Louis XV promised to replace the ruines of the St Genevieve abbey by a church dedicated to the patron saint of Paris.
Construction of the Panthéon after a design of Jacques-Germain Soufflot started in 1757. Soufflet died during the construction and was replaced by Jean-Baptiste Rondelet.
The building was finalized in 190, about when the French Revolution started.
The National Constituent Assembly ordered that the Panthéon had to be changed into a mausoleum for the interment of great Frenchmen.
In the Panthéon subterranean crypt the final resting place of many of these great men like Voltaire, Rousseau, Victor Hugo, Marat, Emile Zola, Jean Moulin, Soufflot, Louis Braille and Marie Curie can be found.
The dimens of the building are: 110 meters long, 84 meters wide and 83 meters high.
Entrance: Euro 7,-- (adult)
Opening hours: Daily 10AM - 6PM.
Although I have been to paris many times - this was my first visit to The Panthéon. I was not sure what to expect, so could not have been disappointed. The monument and the crypt were excellent places to visit.
There was certainly an air of impressiveness and history.
They have a reasonable shop too - they do not sell stamps even though they do sell postcards.
Last visit July 2011
The idea for the Pantheon was hatched by Louis XV while he was gravely ill who vowed if he recovered that he'd build a new basilica to replace the abbey of St Genevieve. Soufflot was the architect entrusted with the project who allegedly died over the stress caused by this monumental project.
The Pantheon was completed in 1790, 26 years after the first stone was laid. Although the building was intended to be a church, in 1791 it was converted to a Pantheon to honor its great men. It reverted back to a church a couple of times and finally in 1885 Victor Hugo's funeral sealed the building's destiny as the Pantheon of France's great men (and at least one woman).
On our last visit, we finally got to go to the top for an amazing view of Paris, access to the top is closed November-March. The sign said that access was limited to 50 people because it was Bastille Day and that the tour would be 45 minutes, they led us up in a group and you had to wait for everyone to finish taking photos before the tour resumed. There was no commentary on the tour, just someone watching after us to make sure we didn't wander off.
Included on the museum pass
The Pantheon is a huge church erected in 1758 (and finished in 1789). Since that was right at the beginning of the French Revolution, it was changed from a church to a mausoleum (and has been changed back and forth twice since then!)
It now holds the remains of many important French men and women, such as Mme Curie, Victor Hugo, Voltaire and many more.
We did not go inside because we thought the entrance fee was very high, but that was a very personal decision!
"Vous êtes invités à venir voir la terre tourner..." You are invited to come in and see the world turning. Those were the words, Jean Bernard Leon Foucault used to present his pendule. And indeed, by watching the pendule for some time, you notice, that the world is turning indeed. Great.