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.
Whilst hardly 'off the beaten path' the Pantheon rarely features high on the list of must sees in Paris (as much to do with the fact there are SO many things to see!). Which is a pity and this stunning and grandiose 'secular temple' is well worth seeing.
It was originally commissioned by Louis XV as a church for the city's patron, St Genevieve, but, post-revolution, it became that secular temple for 'the great men of France'. Interned in the crypt include the remains of Voltaire, Rousseau, Hugo, Zola and Resistance leader Jean Moulin. Next door is the more modest, but much more humane, Eglise St Etienne du Mont - where the remains of St Genevieve are now to be found - and the church has the only surviving rood screen in Paris.
Both are to be found in the Place de Pantheon, behind the Sorbonne in the Latin Quarter with its dome easily seen from the Seine near to the rear of Notre Dame.
The entrance of the crypt is in the back of the Pantheon, on the right, by a monumental staircase.
The broad dimensions surprise because the crypt covers the entire surface of the Pantheon building. There are four galleries, each one under an arm of the nave joined by a central room. There is room for 300 tombs; there are only 73 today.
To be admitted here one has to be considered a National Hero by a parliamentary act.
When looking at the names I must say that today a number of these "national heroes" are less illustrious than others. Some are just forgotten even by the French not to speak of foreign visitors. Not many are still illustrious in this 21th c.
Still famous are mostly writers and philosophers such as Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas, Émile Zola, André Malraux, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Voltaire or scientists such as Pierre Curie and Marie Curie, Braille, Berthelot, Lagrange and the explorator Bougainville.
Jean Moulin head of the Resistance during WW II is also well known. A few politicians are still known like Jaures - probably because he was murdered just before WWI - and Jean Monnet a founder of the European Union. For many others "sic transit gloria mundi" is not inappropriate!
What intrigued me are those personalities buried in the Pantheon who were subsequently excluded. Mirabeau, Lepelletier and Marat, actors of the French Revolution, are among them.
The inscription above the entrance reads AUX GRANDS HOMMES LA PATRIE RECONNAISSANTE (lit. "To the great men, the homeland [is] grateful"). By burying its great men in the Panthéon, the country acknowledges the honour it received from them. As such, interment in the Pantheon is severely restricted and is allowed only by a parliamentary act for "National Heroes".
As you enter the subterranean chamber, you will first see the crypts of Voltaire and Rousseau (the 2 famous French philosophers), as well as the architect of the Pantheon, Soufflot.
Other famous people who were interred at the crypt include:
Victor Hugo ("Les Misérables" and "The Hunchback of Notre-Dame")
Louis Braille (who invented the Braille system for the visually handicapped)
Marie Curie (Scientist and Nobel Prize winner, first woman to be interred in the Pantheon)
The last person to be interred here is Alexandre Dumas ("The Three Musketeers"). On 30 November 2002, six Republican Guards carried his coffin of Alexandre Dumas to the Pantheon. Draped in a blue-velvet cloth inscribed with the Musketeers' motto: "Un pour tous, tous pour un" ("One for all, all for one"), his remains were transported from their original interment site in the Cimetière de Villers-Cotterêts in Aisne, France. In his speech, President Jacques Chirac stated that an injustice was being corrected with the proper honoring of one of France's greatest authors.
The Little Prince (Le Petit Prince) is one of my all-time favourite books, and its author, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, is commemorated with a plaque in the Pantheon.
Besides writing, Saint-Exupéry was also an aviator. He disappeared on a reconnaissance flight over the Mediterranean in July 1944. His plane had allegedly crashed, and his body was never found (though it is speculated that an unidentifiable body wearing French colors which was found several days after the crash at the east of the Islands of Frioul, south of Marseille, belonged to him).
This plaque at the Pantheon is dedicated to him.
In 1851, Leon Foucault (physicist) demonstrated the rotation of the Earth by his experiment conducted in the Panthéon. He constructed a 67 m pendulum beneath the central dome.
Back in those days, it was well known that Earth rotated: in addition to the passage of the sun and stars, scientific evidence included Earth's measured polar flattening and equatorial bulge. However, Foucault's pendulum was the first simple proof of the rotation in an easy-to-see experiment, and it created a sensation in the academic world and society at large.
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