The Panthéon, originally built as a church, is the national memorial and burial-place of France's great men. In 1756 Louis XV commissioned the architect Jacques-Germain Soufflot (1713-80) to build a magnificent new church on the site of a ruined abbey of Sainte Geneviève (patron saint of Paris; see Saint-Etienne-du-Mont). The church was completed in 1790, 10 years after Soufflot's death.
19 Place de Panthéon, F-75005 Paris, France
Apr 1 to Sep 30: 10am-6:30pmOct 1 to Mar 31: 10am-6pm
Always closed on: New Year's Day (Jan 1), May Day / Labor Day (May 1), Christmas - Christian (Dec 25)
Entrance fee in EUR:
Adult €7.50, Group of 20 or more €5.70, Youth 25 & under €4.80, Child 17 & under FREE
Useful tips: Last admission 45 minutes before closing.
Guides: Interpretive sessions sometimes available.
Transit: Metro: Jussieu, Cardinal Lemoine; RER: Luxembourg; Buses: 84, 89.
In 1791 the National Assembly resolved to convert it into a French Pantheon (a pantheon in classical Greece being a temple dedicated to the country's gods). Some 42 of the church's windows were walled up, giving the building the appearance of a mausoleum, with its cold outer aspect and dark interior.
The architecture of the Panthéon marks a clear break with the playful Roccoco of the Louis XV style, as seen for example in the Hôtel de Soubise in the Marais, which in turn was a reaction against the clear, "classical" French Baroque of Louis XIV's reign. The Panthéon was the first building in Paris in the neo-classical style which sought to return to the architectural simplicity and monumentality of classical antiquity. It set the standard for the period before and after Napoleon, as is shown by such massive structures as the Arc de Triomphe, the Madeleine and the Bourse.
Although Soufflot took St Paul's Cathedral in London as his model, he sought to put his own stamp on the building. Accordingly he gave it a portico projecting some considerable distance in front of the facade, so that an observer could not see the base of the dome, which would thus appear to hover above the building. On the triangular pediment borne on 18 Corinthian columns are the inscription "Aux grands hommes la Patrie reconnaissante" ("To great men, their grateful country") and a relief by David d'Anger showing France presenting laurels to her great men (among them Mirabeau, Voltaire and Rousseau to the left and Napoleon and his generals to the right).
The interior was designed by Soufflot to achieve visibility and clarity, with numerous windows and slender columns - even those supporting the dome. However constructional defects made it necessary to use massive piers, and the conversion of the building to serve as a mausoleum involved sacrificing many of the windows. While the Panthéon was in use as a church for a brief period during the reign of Napoleon the dome was decorated with a fresco, "Assumption of St Genevieve" (1811). On the side walls are frescoes by Puvis de Chavannes depicting the life of the saint, while others show Charlemagne, Louis IX and Joan of Arc.
Among the great men buried in the Panthéon, in addition to the philosophers already mentioned, are the writers Victor Hugo and Emile Zola, the great mathematician Gaspard Monge and the Resistance fighter Jean Moulin, whose remains were transferred from the Père-Lachaise cemetery to the Panthéon in 1964.