Panthéon 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 afacade modelled after the Pantheon in Rome surmounted by a dome that owes some of its character to Bramante's 'Tempietto'. Among those buried in its necropolis are Voltaire, Rousseau, Victor Hugo, Émile Zola, Jean Moulin, Louis Braille, Jean Jaurès and Soufflot, its architect. Marie Curie is the only woman interred based on her own merits.

King Louis XV vowed in 1744 that if he recovered from an illness he would replace the ruined church of Sainte-Geneviève 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, 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, with a pediment of The Fatherland crowning the heroic and civic virtues by Jean Guillaume Moitte (replaced on the Bourbon Restoration with one by David d'Angers).

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. From 1906 to 1922 this was the site of the famous sculpture The Thinker.

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Founded: 1758-1790
Category: Palaces, manors and town halls in France

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User Reviews

Penelope Elphinstone (18 months ago)
Very atmospheric. Strange to think that this magnificent building started off as a Christian basilica and was so soon changed to a Temple to honour the great men of the National. Many of the windows were bricked up making the interior sepulchral.
Andrea Cornaglia (18 months ago)
A very historical and important place. The exterior and interiors are beautiful, but the interior wasn't very exciting in my option. Worth the time and wait in line if you have time (also 9 euros!)
Sentimental N (19 months ago)
Incredible building. You have to time your visit though because the hours are strange. Be sure you have enough time to wander around and see all the tombs of the famous people. There's a Rick Steve's audio tour of the pantheon that's free to download and is great info so you know what you're looking at. The dome is magnificent! It gets very crowded in there but the lines to enter moves quickly
Haritha Jayagopi (19 months ago)
Must visit sight when you are in Paris. This building has an incredible architecture and looks beautiful in photos. Highly recommended to go inside, filled with amazing artworks and statues. Area and the inside of the building is clean and well maintained.
P B (19 months ago)
one of the many architectural pleasures of this city. Worth a view at night as the lights illuminate the structure in a very picturesque way. I definitely prefer the city at night, and this location is one of the main reasons why.
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