The Pantheon, architectural marvel of the 5th arrondissement, perched on St. Geneviève Hill, is one of Paris’ most prestigious monuments. It was originally commissioned by the king Louis XV in 1755 and built as a church dedicated to St. Geneviève, fervent Christian from the 5th century who fought against the invasion of Attila in Paris (she is today the patron saint of Paris). The hidden desire of the king was also to rival with Rome and therefore to build an edifice as sumptuous as the St. Peter’s Basilica…
“Aux grands hommes, la patrie reconnaissante”, (To the great men, the grateful homeland).
This maxim that you will find at the entrance announces clearly what you will find inside. In 1791, the basilica is transformed in a temple (Pantheon in Greek means “to every god”) and destined to house the remains of France’s great men. In the beginning however the “dead” were placed there according to the regime (Mirabeau for instance has been buried there, and then exhumed, as was Marat) and it isn’t before the end of the 19th century that renowned French people have been honoured there for good.
Statesmen, writers, scientists, Resistance fighters, advocates of the republican values and of the homeland, tribute is paid to the greatest French spirits as Victor Hugo, Voltaire, Rousseau, Pierre et Marie Curie, Jean Jaurès, Aimé Césaire, and others!
Other than the sepulchres housed in the Pantheon (in the basement, access is given in the back of the church), the decoration and architecture of the monument are also worse to be seen. The walls are covered with paintings from the 19th century and the ceilings are well decorated.
The one in the little hall representing the Pantheon in small is by the way one of our favorites. In the centre, take the time to discover and read the explanations about Foucaults pendulum. It is a major discovery of our civilisation: the proof of the Earth’s rotation (pendulum you can also see at the Museum of Arts & Crafts) !
April through October, don’t forget that from the top of the exterior colonnade you can appreciate a wide panorama of the city. You will however have to wait for a group to go up as it is a guided tour.