It’s impossible to miss the Panthéon in the 5th Arondissement, with its towering spire and ancient Roman pillars providing a stunning change of scenery amidst the Parisian buildings. With strong ties to Paris’ tumultuous history and France’s greatest icons, its intricate halls are always filled with tourists looking for a glimpse into the past. Here’s some facts about the Panthéon below.
A burial in the Panthéon was a way to celebrate the lives of prominent French figures, however this list was limited initially only to men. It wasn’t until 1995 that the Panthéon broke with tradition and entombed physicist and chemist Marie Curie in its hallowed halls for her contributions to the study of radioactivity. Her husband, a physicist named Pierre Curie, is also buried in the Panthéon.
France’s love of the art and culture clearly carries over to the ghostly residents of the Panthéon, with many writers, philosophers and filmmakers laid to rest within its walls. These include Victor Hugo of Les Miserables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame fame, Alexandre Dumas, Jean Jacques Rousseau, Voltaire and Emilé Zola.
Approach one of the Panthéon’s guides and ask to climb up to its impressive dome, which boasts an incredible view over the city of lights. Bring your camera and leave the heels at home – it’s a steep climb.
The Panthéon is a stunning structure and its neoclassical facade is completely at odds with the French skyline, calling to mind visions of ancient Rome rather than grand French sensibilities. The most notable difference between the two is that French architects have added a gigantic spired dome to it.
When the Panthéon was designed, it was intended to be a church built to honour St. Genevieve, a saint who is said to have saved Paris through mass prayer, and her remaining artefacts. It was commissioned by King Louis XV to replace a previously ruined church.
As a project of King Louis XV, the Panthéon was a symbol of the monarchy. After the French revolution, the new government transformed it into a place to honour those that had passed away fighting for the new chapter of French history and the greatest French men.
Architects Jacques-German Soufflot undertook an ambitious project with the Panthéon. Its neoclassical exteriors are inspired by ancient Roman architecture, whereas its impressive and dramatic interiors are undeniably French Gothic. While it’s not entirely true to Soufflot’s vision, who passed away before its completion, it still draws heavily on his initial designs.
The French inscription reads ‘AUX GRANDS HOMMES LA PATRIE RECONNAISANTE’, which is translated to ‘To great men, the grateful homeland’.
Foucault conducted an experiment in 1851 to prove that the world rotates on its axis by building a gigantic iron pendulum in the Panthéon. After its success, it was moved to the National Conservatory of Arts and Crafts but a replica remains on display at the Panthéon.
With painted frescoes, mosaics and paintings depicting Saint Genevieve, key moments of French history and scenes from the revolution, the Panthéon has a stunning art collection that could put some museums to shame.
July 24, 2019 by Suz Pathmanathan
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