Panthéon (Paris)

The Panthéon (Latin "Pantheon", [Rarely "Pantheum". This rare usage appears in Pliny's "Natural History" (XXXVI.38) in describing this edifice: "Agrippae Pantheum decoravit Diogenes Atheniensis; in columnis templi eius Caryatides probantur inter pauca operum, sicut in fastigio posita signa, sed propter altitudinem loci minus celebrata."] from Greek "Pantheon," meaning "All the gods") is a building in the Latin Quarter in Paris, France. It was originally built as a church dedicated to St. Genevieve, but after many changes now combines liturgical functions with its role as a famous burial place. It is an early example of Neoclassicism, with a façade modelled on the Pantheon in Rome, surmounted by a small dome that owes some of its character to Bramante's "Tempietto". Located in the 5th arrondissement on the Montagne Sainte-Geneviève, the Panthéon looks out over all of Paris. Its architect, Jacques-Germain Soufflot, had the intention of combining the lightness and brightness of the gothic cathedral with classical principles. Soufflot died before his work was achieved, and his plans were not entirely followed. The transparency he had planned for his masterpiece was not attained. Nevertheless, it is one of the most important architectural achievements of its time and the first great neoclassical monument.


King Louis XV vowed in 1744 that if he recovered from an illness he would replace the ruined church of Sainte-Geneviève (see entry Genevieve) with an edifice worthy of the patron saint of Paris. The Marquis of Marigny was entrusted with the work. He had sponsored the architect Soufflot, whom he chose for the construction of the new Église Sainte-Geneviève (today the "Panthéon"), a major work in the neoclassical style. The overall design was that of a Greek cross with massive portico of Corinthian columns. Its ambitious lines called for a vast building 110 meters long by 84 meters wide, and 83 meters 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 by his pupil, Jean-Baptiste Rondelet, in 1789. As it was completed at the start 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 intellectuals of France.

In 1851, physicist Léon Foucault demonstrated the rotation of the Earth by his experiment conducted in the Panthéon, by constructing a 67 meter Foucault pendulum beneath the central dome. The original iron sphere from the pendulum was returned to the Panthéon in 1946 from the Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers.

In 2006, Ernesto Neto, a Brazilian artist, installed "Léviathan Thot", an anthropomorphic installation inspired by the biblical monster. The art installation was in the Pantheon from September 15, 2006, until October 31 for Paris' Autumn Festival.

In late 2006, a "cultural guerilla movement" calling itself Untergunther completed a year-long project where they covertly repaired the Panthéon's antique clockworks.]

Burial place

The inscription above the entrance reads "AUX GRANDS HOMMES LA PATRIE RECONNAISSANTE" ("To the great men the grateful homeland"). The absence of a verb in French emphasizes that the implicit notion of honour is given "from" the homeland "to" the great men. By burying its great men in the Pantheon, the Nation wants to acknowledge the honour it received from them. As such its entrance is severely restricted and is allowed only by a parliamentary act for "National Heroes". Similar high honours exist in Les Invalides for historical military leaders such as Napoléon, Turenne and Vauban.

Among those buried in its necropolis are Voltaire, Rousseau, Victor Hugo, Émile Zola, Jean Moulin, Marie Skłodowska-Curie, Louis Braille, Jean Jaurès and Soufflot, its architect.

A widely-repeated story that the remains of Voltaire were stolen by religious fanatics in 1814 and thrown into a garbage heap is false. Such rumours resulted in the coffin being opened in 1897, which confirmed that his remains were still present.

On 30 November 2002, in an elaborate but solemn procession, six Republican Guards carried the coffin of Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870), the 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 their original interment 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.

In January 2007, President Jacques Chirac unveiled a plaque in the Pantheon to more than 2600 people recognized as "Righteous" by the Yad Vashem memorial in Israel for saving the lives of Jews who would otherwise have been deported to concentration camps. The tribute in the Pantheon underlines the fact that around three quarters of the country's Jewish population survived the war, often thanks to ordinary people who provided help at the risk of their own life.This plaque says :

"Sous la chape de haine et de nuit tombée sur la France dans les années d'occupation, des lumières, par milliers, refusèrent de s'éteindre. Nommés "Juste parmi les Nations" ou restés anonymes, des femmes et des hommes, de toutes origines et de toutes conditions, ont sauvé des juifs des persécutions antisémites et des camps d'extermination. Bravant les risques encourus, ils ont incarné l'honneur de la France, ses valeurs de justice, de tolérance et d'humanité."
Which can be translated as follows :
Under the cloak of hate and darkness that spread over France during the years of [Nazi] occupation, thousands of lights refused to be extinguished. Named as "Righteous among the Nations" or remaining anonymous, women and men, of all backgrounds and social classes, saved Jews from anti-Semitic persecution and the extermination camps. Braving the risks involved, they incarnated the honour of France, and its values of justice, tolerance and humanity.

Full list of people interred

See also

* List of famous cemeteries
* Pantheon, Rome
* Panteón Nacional, Caracas


External links

* [ Panthéon] - current photographs and of the years 1900
* [ 38 recent photos of the Panthéon]

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  • panthéon — [ pɑ̃teɔ̃ ] n. m. • 1491; lat. Pantheon; gr. Pantheion, de pan et theos « dieu » 1 ♦ Antiq. Temple consacré à tous les dieux. ♢ Ensemble des divinités d une mythologie, d une religion polythéiste. 2 ♦ Monument consacré à la mémoire des grands… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

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