Pantheon (Paris, France)

The Pantheon

The Pantheon

After mass and tour of Notre Dame Cathedral and our first lunch in Paris at La Bucherie, we proceeded, on foot for 1 km. via Rue St. Jacques, to the nearby Pantheon in the 5th arrondissement on the Montagne Sainte-Geneviève.  The Panthéon (from  the Greek word  meaning “Every god”),  a building in the Latin Quarter was originally built as a abbey church, dedicated to St. Genevieve  (the patron saint of Paris), that would house the reliquary châsse containing her relics.

The interior of the Pantheon

The interior of the Pantheon

However, after many changes, it now functions as a secular mausoleum containing the remains of distinguished French citizens. By burying its great people in the Panthéon, France acknowledges the honor it received from them. As such, interment here is severely restricted and is allowed only by a parliamentary act for “National Heroes.”

The underground crypt

The underground crypt

An early example of Neo-Classicism, it was designed by Jacques-Germain Soufflot and combines the lightness and brightness of the Gothic cathedral with Classical principles.  With an imposing peristyle modeled on the Pantheon in Rome, it is surmounted by a dome that owes some of its character to Bramante‘s “Tempietto”. However, its later role as a mausoleum required that its 40 great Gothic windows be blocked. The Panthéon looks out over all of Paris.

Entrance to the underground crypt

Stairs leading to the entrance to the underground crypt

Started in 1758, its construction proceeded slowly. Soufflot died in 1780 and he was replaced by Jean-Baptiste Rondelet, his student. The church was finally completed in 1790.  Upon the death Honoré Gabriel Riqueti, comte de Mirabeau on April 2, 1791, the National Constituent Assembly (whose president had been Mirabeau) ordered that the building be changed from a church to a mausoleum for the interment of great Frenchmen.

Portico of Corinthian columns

Portico of Corinthian columns

Architect Quatremère de Quincy  oversaw the project, reducing the height of the towers, took off the cross which capped the dome, closed most openings of the dome and changed the pediment. Mirabeau was interred there on April 4, 1791, the first person to be so honored (his remains, however, were disinterred on November 25, 1794, buried in an anonymous grave and are yet to be recovered).

DSC00799

In 1806 Napoleon I re-converted the Pantheon into a church, changed the pediment and replaced the cross. In 1830, Louis-Philippe decided that should be a Pantheon again, having a new pediment built and stripping the building of any religious feature. However, in 1850, Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte re-converted it into a church, again installing a new pediment and replacing the cross on the dome where it has since remained. During the current major restoration project, the cross of the dome, retained in compromise, is again visible. In 1885, the building was finally returned to secular use and converted into a Pantheon. Victor Hugo‘s ashes were the first to be transferred to the Pantheon.

One of 3 bronze doors

One of 3 bronze doors

This vast 110 m. (352 ft.) long, 84 m. wide and 83 m. (272 ft.) high building has a Greek cross plan, 4 naves and is raised 11m above pavement level. It has a massive portico of twenty-two 20 m. high Corinthian columns. The three bronze doors are topped with marble sculptures representing respectively the Baptism of Clovis, Sainte-Geneviève and the Hun Attila.

Tomb of Voltaire

Tomb of Voltaire

Tomb of Jean-Jacques Rosseau

Tomb of Jean-Jacques Rosseau

Its crypt , no less vast, follows the cross shape of the building and is composed of a large vestibule where we saw the graves of the philosophers Voltaire and Jean-Jacques Rousseau.. At the entrance to the vestibule is the heart of Léon Gambetta (1838-1882) the founder of the Third Republic, placed in an urn on November 11, 1920.

Urn with heart of Leon Gambetta

Urn with heart of Leon Gambetta

The 4 side vaults follow the layout of the arms of the cross. The western vault, the longest and largest, is divided in two corridors. The right hand side contains the remains of 41 important figures of the Empire. The southern vault has no grave. 

The frescoed ceiling

The frescoed ceiling

Soufflot’s masterstroke, concealed from casual view, is the impressive triple dome, each shell fitted within the others.  Permitting a view through the oculus of the coffered  inner dome of the second dome, it is frescoed by Antoine Gros with The Apotheosis of Saint Genevieve. The outermost dome, built with stone bound together with iron cramps, is covered with lead sheathing  rather than the common French period practice of carpentry construction. The massive weight of the triple construction is passed the outwards by concealed  flying buttresses  to the portico columns.

The pediment

The triangular pediment with sculptural group of David d’Angers

The triangular pediment once had a sculptural group called “The Fatherland Crowning the Heroic and Civic Virtues,” created by Jean Guillaume Moitte  but, upon the Bourbon Restoration, was replaced with one sculpted by David d’Angers in 1837.  The philosophers Voltaire and Rosseau are represented, seated on the left hand side of the sculpture. The inscription above the entrance reads Aux Grands Hommes La Patrie Reconnaissante (“To great men, the grateful homeland”). Inside, there are no benches, chairs or altar, just gigantic murals; Corinthian columns and sculptures bathed by light pouring in from the dome’s opening.

La Convention National

“La Convention National” of Sicard

The interior of the building has sculptural groups, representing scenes from the French Revolution, all placed in front of the gigantic columns supporting the dome.  The sculptural group La Convention Nationales, sculpted by Sicard in the early 1920’s, dominates.

Monument to Diderot

Monument to Diderot

Monument to Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Monument to Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Valmy 1782

Valmy 1782

Mural scenes, done by Puvis de Chavannes and Jean-Paul Laurens, were commissioned In the 1870’s by the Marquis of Chennevières (the Director of Fine Arts).  They revolve around the beginnings of Christianity in France and the French monarchy through the life of St.Denis (the first bishop and patron saint of Paris) as well as the life (her childhood, miracles) of St. Geneviève (the other patron saint of the city), the siege of Paris by Attila and his Hun warriors, the Emperor Charlemagne, the baptism of King Clovis, and the life Joan of Arc and King St. Louis.

Mural of The Baptism of Clovis

Mural of The Baptism of Clovis

Among the famous and great intellectuals (writers, poets, scientists, politicians, inventors, explorers, etc.) of France buried in its necropolis include VoltaireJean-Jacques RousseauVictor HugoÉmile ZolaJean MoulinAlexandre Dumas, Louis BrailleJean Jaurès and Soufflot, its architect.

Tomb of Napoleonic Marshall Jean Lannes

Tomb of Napoleonic Marshall Jean Lannes

Tomb of Emile Zola

Tomb of Emile Zola

In 1907 Marcellin Berthelot was buried with his wife Mme Sophie Berthelot, the first woman to be interred but Marie Curie was the first woman interred based on her own merits. Geneviève de Gaulle-Anthonioz  (symbolic internment) and Germaine Tillion, heroines of the French resistance, were interred here in 2015.

L-R: Jandy, Grace, the author, Cheska and Kyle

L-R: Jandy, Grace, the author, Cheska and Kyle

Pantheon: Place du Panthéon, 75005 Paris, France. Tel: +33 1 44 32 18 00. Website: www.pantheonparis.com.

One thought on “Pantheon (Paris, France)

  1. I discovered your Pantheon (Paris, France) – B.L.A.S.T. – Live Life to the Fullest ……… Don’t Stay Put page and noticed you could have a lot more traffic. I have found that the key to running a website is making sure the visitors you are getting are interested in your subject matter. We can send you targeted traffic and we let you try it for free. Get over 1,000 targeted visitors per day to your website. Check it out here: http://stpicks.com/2rusd Unsubscribe here: http://stpicks.com/2ruse

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*