Paris Pantheon | The First Ever Monument Built in Paris

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Breathtaking architecture that is a mélange of grandeur and elegance and a history that fascinates beyond words makes the Paris Pantheon an iconic monument and attraction. The allure of this landmark is its rich past. Read some interesting facts and stories about the Paris Pantheon, its history, and what makes it so popular.

What is the Paris Pantheon?

Paris Pantheon

What is inside the Paris Pantheon?

  • Paris Pantheon is most loved for its architectural finesse, complete with lofty arches, columns, and lavish frescos. 
  • It boasts of several elaborate mosaics and masterful paintings that depict scenes from French history, many the creations of the prominent painter Puvis de Chavannes.
  • View marble sculptures by Pierre-Jean David d’Angers of post-Revolutionary patriots.
  • View the Earth rotating with Foucault’s pendulum.
  • Visit the Crypt to witness the graves of historically famous writers, poets, scientists, and politicians.
  • After touring the Paris Pantheon, head towards the piecé de resistance —the Pantheon Dome view of Paris to enjoy an unmatched panoramic view of the city.

History of the Paris Pantheon

Paris Pantheon History

The Pantheon

Built on Mount Sainte-Geneviève during the mid-1700s, the Pantheon was meant to be a church dedicated to St. Genevieve. King Louis XV, who fell seriously ill in 1744, vowed to replace the older abbey and build a grander church if he ever recovered. The foundation was laid in 1758 but due to financial strains, the Pantheon was not completed till 1789. By then, the French Revolution was at hand, and a new revolutionary government was in place. The Paris Pantheon was ordered to be changed from a church to a mausoleum.

Paris Pantheon Construction

The Construction

The Paris Pantheon was first designed by Jacques Germain Soufflot, who wished to combine the simplicity of gothic architecture with classical Greek structure. However, he passed away in 1780 before this could be achieved. Jean Baptiste Rondelet took over as the architect and the construction of the new church was completed in 1790, during the French Revolution. Later, after the church was transformed into a mausoleum, architectural changes were made by Quatremère de Quincy so that the interior would appear darker and more solemn. 

Paris Pantheon French Revolution

The French Revolution

When the French Revolution began in 1789, only the interior decoration of the Church of Saint Genevieve was left to be completed. In 1790, the Marquis de Villette proposed that it be made a temple devoted to liberty, like the Pantheon in Rome. In 1791, after the death of The Comte de Mirabeau, the President of the National Constituent Assembly, the idea was adopted; the church became a temple of the nation. The ashes of Voltaire, martyred revolutionaries such as Jean-Paul Marat, philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau, and many other were placed in the Pantheon.

Paris Pantheon Temple

Church To Temple

Napolean Bonaparte had the Pantheon restored to a church during his reign. After his fall in 1816, Louis XVIII of France restored the entire Pantheon, including the crypt to the Catholic Church. In the years that followed, with each new government, the status of the Pantheon changed. It took on the designation of 'The Temple of Humanity' in 1848, under the elected government of the Second French Republic and that of the 'National Basilica' under Louis Napolean. Ultimately, in 1881, a decree was passed to transform the Church of Saint Genevieve into a mausoleum again. 

The "Other" Pantheon of Europe

The Pantheon in Rome is arguably the more famous of the two Pantheons, which has led to the Paris Pantheon being dubbed as the "other" Pantheon of Europe. It is easy to mix up the two because they bear a few similarities. Both monuments started out as religious establishments and went on to become major tourist attractions. The architecture and design of the Pantheons are almost alike — featuring columns, a dome, and a triangular pediment. This is because the Paris Pantheon was fashioned after the original in Rome; the latter dates back to the 2nd century, while the former, is a modern structure built in the 1700s.

Highlights of the Paris Pantheon

Paris Pantheon Architecture

Neoclassical Design

Architect Jacques-Germain Soufflot envisioned the Paris Pantheon as a modern monument with traditional elements, which is made evident by its neoclassical style. The architectural grandeur of the Pantheon is exemplified by the colossal Dome, a combination of three domes set within each other; the rich Façade that features Corinthian columns and sculptures and figurines of eminent philosophers, scientists, and statesmen and the astonishing Art Naves.

Paris Pantheon Art

Mosaics and Paintings

The Paris Pantheon's vast interiors boast of gothic magnificence and neoclassic style. The countless mosaics and paintings of scenes from French history are a sight to behold. Most of the frescos here were executed by Puvis de Chavannes. The most notable of them all is the cycle that depicts the life of Saint Geneviève de Puvis. The cycles telling stories of Joan of Arc’s life, the beginnings of Christianity, and the monarchy in France are not to be missed either. 

Paris Pantheon Pendulum

Foucault's Pendulum

In 1851, physicist Léon Foucault suspended a metal ball in the center of the dome, surrounded by a round acrylic “sand fence”. When moved, the stiletto of the sphere makes a mark on the thin layer of sand, and with each passage that line gets longer, proving the movement of the earth. Today, a replica of Eddy’s pendulum, bathed in real gold stands in its spot. The original pendulum is displayed at the Musée des Arts et Métiers. 

Paris Pantheon Crypt

The Crypt

The Crypt at the Paris Pantheon is the final resting place for many illustrious French personalities. Their tombs are located in an underground basement. You enter the Crypt by going down one of the two side stairs to reach a round of chambers that leads to a system of corridors. Here, the countless chapels of where these people of great prominence lay begin. You will easily recognize names, thanks to the panels and terminals with briefs on the life and work of each personality.

Who is buried at the Paris Pantheon?

The crypt of the Pantheon Paris houses the tombs of the eminent French personalities — 73 men and 5 women. Here are some graves you must visit:

  • Victor Hugo: Poet and novelist, Hugo’s remains were placed in the crypt in 1885. This was the first entombment in over fifty years, following the many changes in the Pantheon’s status.
  • Marie Curie: Known for her pioneering research on radioactivity, Madam Curie was the first woman to be buried at the Paris Pantheon. Her husband, Pierre, is buried here as well.
  • Voltaire: Popular writer and philosopher, Voltaire was one among the first to be buried here. Following the rumors that the remains of Voltaire were stolen by religious fanatics in 1814, the coffin was opened in 1897, which confirmed that his remains were still present. 
  • Louis Braille: Inventor of the system of reading and writing for the visually impaired, Braille’s body was moved to the Pantheon on the centenary of his death.
  • Simone Veil: Holocaust survivor, politician, and women’s rights activist, is best remembered for advancing women’s legal rights in France. She is one of the few women to be buried in the Pantheon. 
  • Jacques-Germain Soufflot: The chief architect of the Paris Pantheon, Soufflot was buried in the Pantheon next to Voltaire, after his death in 1780.

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All Your Questions Answered About Paris Pantheon

Q. What is the Paris Pantheon?

A. The Paris Pantheon, initially built as a church, is a mausoleum that houses the remains of great French citizens.

Q. When was the Paris Pantheon built?

A. The Paris Pantheon was built between 1764 and 1790

Q. Is the Pantheon in Rome or Paris?

A. The Paris Pantheon is located in Paris, France. However, the first-ever Pantheon was built in Rome, between 126-128 AD.

Q. What is the Paris Pantheon famous for?

A. The Paris Pantheon is famous for its revolutionary architectural style and its interiors. But most importantly, it is famous for being a repository for the remains of historically great French personalities.

Q. What is the architectural style of the Paris Pantheon?

A. The Paris Pantheon is built in the neoclassical style of architecture.

Q. Who designed the Paris Pantheon?

A. The primary architect of Paris Pantheon was Jacques-Germain Soufflot. It was completed by Jean Baptiste Rondelet. After the church was transformed into a mausoleum, architectural changes were made by Quatremère de Quincy.

Q. What is inside the Pantheon Paris?

A. Inside, the Paris Pantheon you will find a 83-meter high Dome, Corinthian columns, mosaics and paintings of scenes from French history, Foucault's Pendulum, the Naves, and the Crypt.

Q. Who is buried at the Paris Pantheon?

A. Several eminent French personalities are buried at the Paris Pantheon the likes of whom include Madame Curie, Louis Braille, Voltaire, Simone Veil, Alexandre Dumas, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and many others.

Q. Why was the Paris Pantheon built?

A. The Paris Pantheon was built as a church to honor Sainte-Genevieve, the patron saint of Paris after King Louis XV recovered from an illness.

Q. What is Foucault’s Pendulum?

A. The Foucault Pendulum was a revolutionary device named after its creator, French astronomer and physicist, Léon Foucault. It was conceived as an experiment to demonstrate the Earth's rotation.

Q. What is the crypt at the Paris Pantheon?

A. The Crypt, located underground in the subterranean chamber of the Paris Pantheon, is the final resting place of many famous French poets, writers, scientists, and statesmen.

Q. What is the Paris Pantheon used for today?

A. Today, the colossal Paris Pantheon is regarded as a secularized repository or mausoleum that houses the remains and tombs of many illustrious French personalities.

Q. How much does it cost to visit the Pantheon in Paris?

A. Ticket prices for Paris Pantheon start at € 11.50.

Q. Is the Paris Pantheon still used as a church?

A. The Pantheon Paris still functions as a church and masses are held for the community. Visitors can visit the mass every Sunday at 10:30 AM and on Saturday at 5 PM.

Q. Can you take photos inside the Panthéon?

A. Photography for personal purposes is allowed. Taking photos to sell or make a profit is strictly prohibited.

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