One of the most beautiful buildings in Paris, if not in all of France, is the Panthéon. Its’ history is as rich and varied as the neoclassical design it reflects.
In the late 18th century, King Louis XV vowed to replace the ruins of the Abbey of Sainte-Genevieve (the patron saint of Paris), if he recovered from his mysterious, life-threatening illness. When that miraculous recovery happened, Jacques-Germain Soufflot was commissioned to design the church.
Completed in the midst of the French Revolution, the Assembly of the Revolution ultimately decreed the church be transformed into a temple to hold the remains of great men and women of France.
Through the years, the “population” of honored residents has grown to include Victor Hugo and Emile Zola, Pierre and Marie Curie (the first woman in Europe to earn her doctorate, twice awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics and in Chemistry), Louis Braille (the inventor of the reading system for the blind), Voltaire and other distinguished military heroes, philosophers, scientists, writers and resistance leaders.
Today, the Pantheon is poised on the Montagne Sainte-Geneviève, overlooking the 5th arrondisement and, all of Paris. You are greeted (and dwarfed) by a massive portico of Corinthian columns, before entering the cross-shaped building. Visual highlights include Soufflot’s triple dome, intricate mosaics and breathtaking frescoes; where the stories of Sainte-Genevieve, Joan of Arc and King Clover are depicted.
After a number of years on display at the Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers, the Foucault Pendulum is back on display in the main chamber of the Pantheon. Also, be sure to take the guided ascent to the dome; where you will enjoy exceptional views of Paris. Perhaps, you will even spot the perfect café to visit, enjoy a pichet of wine and reflect on your fascinating day.
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