The Panthéon

The Panthéon is a building in Paris, France, in the 5ème arrondissement. It was originally built as a church but is now a famous burial place. Its façade is modelled on the Pantheon in Rome.

Panthéon in Paris, France.

King Louis XV vowed in 1744 that if he recovered from an illness he would replace the ruined church of the Sainte-Geneviève Abbey with an edifice to the glory of the patron saint of Paris, Geneviève. The Marquis of Marigny was entrusted with the fulfillment of the vow after the king regained his health. Marigny's protégé Soufflot was charged with the plans and the construction of the Panthéon began.

Situated on the Montagne Sainte-Geneviève, it had a commanding view of the city. The overall design was that of a Greek cross with a massive portico of Corinthian columns. Its ambitious lines called for a vast buidling 110 metres long by 84 metres wide, and 83 metres high. No less vast was its crypt.

The foundations were laid in 1758, but due to financial difficulties, it was only completed after Soufflot's death (1780) by his pupil, Rondelet, in 1789. Completed at the height of the French Revolution, the new Revolutionary government ordered it to be changed from a church to a mausoleum for the interment of great Frenchmen.

Twice since then it has reverted to being a church, only to become again a temple to the great men of France. Among those buried in its necropolis are Voltaire, Rousseau, Honoré Mirabeau, Marat, Victor Hugo, Émile Zola, Jean Moulin, Marie Curie, Rene Descartes, Louis Braille and Soufflot its architect.

In 1851 physicist Jean Foucault proved the rotation of the Earth by his experiment conducted in the Panthéon.

On November 30, 2002, in an elaborate but solemn procession, six Republican Guardss carried the coffin of Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870), the mulatto author of The Three Musketeers, to the Panthéon. Draped in a blue-velvet cloth inscribed with the Musketeers' motto: "Un pour tous, tous pour un" ("One for all, all for one,") the remains had been transported from its original internment 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.

Two notable Frenchmen are not in the Pantheon. Napoleon and Charles de Gaulle are both regarded as being superior to it.

From the top of Mt. Sainte-Geneviève, the Panthéon looks out over all Paris.

See also: List of other famous cemeteries


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