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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Details

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

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4.5/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Penelope Elphinstone (3 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 (3 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 (4 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 (4 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 (4 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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Porta Nigra

The Porta Nigra (Latin for black gate) is the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps. It is designated as part of the Roman Monuments, Cathedral of St. Peter and Church of Our Lady in Trier UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name Porta Nigra originated in the Middle Ages due to the darkened colour of its stone; the original Roman name has not been preserved. Locals commonly refer to the Porta Nigra simply as Porta.

The Porta Nigra was built in grey sandstone between 186 and 200 AD. The original gate consisted of two four-storied towers, projecting as near semicircles on the outer side. A narrow courtyard separated the two gate openings on either side. For unknown reasons, however, the construction of the gate remained unfinished. For example, the stones at the northern (outer) side of the gate were never abraded, and the protruding stones would have made it impossible to install movable gates. Nonetheless, the gate was used for several centuries until the end of the Roman era in Trier.

In Roman times, the Porta Nigra was part of a system of four city gates, one of which stood at each side of the roughly rectangular Roman city. The Porta Nigra guarded the northern entry to the Roman city, while the Porta Alba (White Gate) was built in the east, the Porta Media (Middle Gate) in the south, and the Porta Inclyta (Famous Gate) in the west, next to the Roman bridge across the Moselle. The gates stood at the ends of the two main streets of the Roman Trier, one of which led north-south and the other east-west. Of these gates, only the Porta Nigra still exists today.

In the early Middle Ages the Roman city gates were no longer used for their original function and their stones were taken and reused for other buildings. Also iron and lead braces were broken out of the walls of the Porta Nigra for reuse. Traces of this destruction are still clearly visible on the north side of the gate.

After 1028, the Greek monk Simeon lived as a hermit in the ruins of the Porta Nigra. After his death (1035) and sanctification, the Simeonstift monastery was built next to the Porta Nigra to honor him. Saving it from further destruction, the Porta Nigra was transformed into a church: The inner court of the gate was roofed and intermediate ceilings were inserted. The two middle storeys of the former gate were converted into church naves: the upper storey being for the monks and the lower storey for the general public. The ground floor with the large gates was sealed, and a large outside staircase was constructed alongside the south side (the town side) of the gate, up to the lower storey of the church. A small staircase led further up to the upper storey. The church rooms were accessible through former windows of the western tower of the Porta Nigra that were enlarged to become entrance doors (still visible today). The top floor of the western tower was used as church tower, the eastern tower was leveled, and an apse added at its east side. An additional gate - the much smaller Simeon Gate - was built adjacent to the East side of the Porta Nigra and served as a city gate in medieval times.

In 1802 Napoleon Bonaparte dissolved the church in the Porta Nigra and the monastery beside it, along with the vast majority of Trier"s numerous churches and monasteries. On his visit to Trier in 1804, Napoleon ordered that the Porta Nigra be converted back to its Roman form. Only the apse was kept; but the eastern tower was not rebuilt to its original height. Local legend has it that Napoleon originally wanted to completely tear down the church, but locals convinced him that the church had actually been a Gaulish festival hall before being turned into a church. Another version of the story is that they told him about its Roman origins, persuading him to convert the gate back to its original form.

In 1986 the Porta Nigra was designated a World Heritage Site, along with other Roman monuments in Trier and its surroundings. The modern appearance of the Porta Nigra goes back almost unchanged to the reconstruction ordered by Napoleon. At the south side of the Porta Nigra, remains of Roman columns line the last 100 m of the street leading to the gate. Positioned where they had stood in Roman times, they give a slight impression of the aspect of the original Roman street that was lined with colonnades. The Porta Nigra, including the upper floors, is open to visitors.