Jan
15
2009

What is the Pantheon (Paris)?

Foucault's pendulum and the cat guarding it, Pantheon, Paris - courtesy caspermoller - CC-BY

Foucault's pendulum and the cat guarding it, Pantheon, Paris - courtesy caspermoller - CC-BY

In 1744, King Louis XV promised that if he were to recover from a mysterious illness he would replace the ruined church of Sainte-Geneviève with a building worthy of Paris’ patron saint.

The foundation was laid in 1758. It was completed at the start of the French Revolution and the new Revolutionary government ordered it to be changed from a church to a mausoleum for the burial of great Frenchmen. Since then it has reverted to being a church, then once again become a temple to the great men of France.  Today it includes liturgical functions with its role as a famous burial place.

This was also the place physicist Léon Foucault demonstrated the rotation of the Earth  by constructing a 67-meter Foucault’s pendulum beneath the central dome.

The building is an early example of Neoclassicism, with a Greek-cross plan and a front of Corinthian columns.

The inscription above the entrance reads “AUX GRANDS HOMMES LA PATRIE RECONNAISSANTE” (“For great men the grateful Nation”). Those buried in the Pantheon’s crypts include Voltaire, Rousseau, Marat, Victor Hugo, and Marie Curie (the only woman to be so honored), René Descartes, Louis Braille and Soufflot, its architect.

From the colonnade around the building’s dome, you have an excellent view over Paris.

For more information about the city of Paris

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