As you climb Saint Genevieve’s mountain in the heart of the Latin Quarter, don’t miss a visit to the Pantheon, an incarnation of the national values here in France that’s sure to appeal to history buffs.
You may know of the Pantheon as the final resting place of some of France’s most illustrious thinkers. But at its origin, this sanctuary was actually built in honor of saint Genevieve, one of the patron saints of Paris.
It all began on the deathbed of king Louis the 15th. As a last resort, he prayed and promised to build a church if he lived. God must have heard him! Though the king might not have followed through on his promise if he knew what was in store for the building he had planned.
Begun in 1764 and finished in 1790, the building didn’t have time to be consecrated in honor of the saint; it was immediately transformed into a pantheon, a necropolis for illustrious men, honored by the newly born Republic. Over the course of the 19th century, the purpose of the building would alternate between religious and secular, until the burial of Victor Hugo in 1885, which would cement its definitive purpose. Now, Emile Zola, Rousseau, Voltaire, Jean Moulin, and Pierre and Marie Curie call the Pantheon their final resting place, among many other important French men and women.
This neoclassical marvel was designed by architect Soufflot. The building is striking, with its high, vaulted arches and its impressive volumes of space. Have fun searching for elements of religious and republican décor, inscriptions and symbols, both inside and out.
These serve as evidence of the aforementioned changes in the Pantheon’s purpose throughout the years. You can discover the murals of Puvis de Chavannes, which decorate the southern wall of the nave. Underneath the center dome, Foucault’s pendulum, built in 1851, remains as the first simple and physical proof of the Earth’s rotation.
In the crypt, you’ll find the tombs, which vary in appearance from simple funeral stones to sculpted works. You’ll be captivated by the perspective and solemnity of this place.
Try to visit the Pantheon between April and October, so you can access the dome and take advantage of the view offered from the exterior colonnade over the Latin Quarter below!
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