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Architecture and History of Pantheon Paris

The Panthéon de Paris is a monument in the 5th arrondissement of Paris, France.

It stands in the Latin Quarter, atop the Montagne Sainte-Geneviève, in the center of the Place du Panthéon.

It was built between 1758 and 1790 from designs by Jacques-Germain Soufflot at the behest of King Louis XV of France.

The Pantheon Paris is a symbol of historical and architectural significance.

Read further to know more about the architecture and history of Pantheon Paris.

History of Paris Pantheon

The site of the Panthéon had great significance in Paris’s history and was occupied by a series of monuments. 

It was on Mount Lucotitius, a height on the Left Bank, where the forum of the Roman town of Lutetia was located. 

It was also the original burial site of Saint Genevieve, who had led the resistance to the Huns when they threatened Paris in 451. 

In 508, Clovis, King of the Franks, constructed a church there, where he and his wife were later buried in 511 and 545. 

The church, originally dedicated to Saints Peter and Paul, was rededicated to Saint Genevieve, who became the patron saint of Paris.

In the 12th century, the church was rebuilt in the Gothic style. 

It was a popular pilgrimage site and Saint Genevieve relics were said to have miraculous powers. 

The church was destroyed by a fire in 1756 and King Louis XV commissioned Jacques-Germain Soufflot to design a new church on the site.

Soufflot’s Design

The Pantheon inspired Soufflot’s design for the Panthéon in Rome. 

The building is a cruciform structure with a high dome over the crossing and lower saucer-shaped domes over the four arms. 

The facade is decorated with Corinthian columns and a pediment with sculptures by Pierre-Jean David d’Angers.

The interior of the Panthéon is decorated with mosaics and paintings of scenes from French history, some of which were executed by Puvis de Chavannes.

The crypt contains the tombs of many famous French citizens, including Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Victor Hugo, Èmile Zola and Marie Curie.

The Panthéon During the French Revolution

The Panthéon was still under construction when the French Revolution began in 1789. 

The revolutionaries saw the building as a symbol of the monarchy, desecrated the church and removed the relics of Saint Genevieve.

1791, the Panthéon was secularized and renamed the Temple of the Great Men.

The first person to be buried in the Panthéon was Mirabeau, a leading figure in the French Revolution. 

Mirabeau was followed by Voltaire, Rousseau and other prominent revolutionaries. 

After the fall of Robespierre in 1794, the Panthéon was renamed the Church of Sainte-Geneviève, but it remained a secular building.

The Panthéon in the 19th and 20th Centuries

The Panthéon continued to be used as a church and a necropolis throughout the 19th century. 

In 1885, the remains of Victor Hugo were interred in the Panthéon and the building was definitively secularized.

In the 20th century, the Panthéon continued to be used as a necropolis for famous French citizens. 

Some of the people who were buried in the Panthéon during this period include:

  • Jean Moulin (1964)
  • André Malraux (1996)
  • Jean Monnet (1987)
  • Pierre Curie (1995)
  • Marie Curie (1995)
  • Aimé Césaire (2011)
  • Germaine Tillion (2015)
  • Simone Veil (2018)

The Panthéon as a symbol

The Panthéon as a symbol
Image: Jonatas Goncalves from Getty Images (Canva)

The Panthéon has been a symbol of many different things throughout its history. 

It was initially built as a church dedicated to Saint Genevieve, but it was secularized during the French Revolution and became a cemetery for famous French citizens. 

The Panthéon has also been used to symbolize French nationalism and republicanism.

The Panthéon is also a reminder of French history’s complex and often contradictory nature. 

Different regimes have used the building to serve different purposes and have been the site of both great triumphs and tragedies.

The Panthéon in the 21st century

The Panthéon continues to be used as a necropolis for famous French citizens in the 21st century. 

In 2011, the remains of the poet and politician Aimé Césaire were interred in the Panthéon. 

In 2015, the remains of the resistance fighter Germaine Tillion were interred in the Panthéon. 

And in 2018, the remains of the politician Simone Veil were interred in the Panthéon.

The Panthéon is now used for various cultural events, including concerts, exhibitions and conferences. 

The Panthéon is a living monument that plays a vital role in French society today.

Pantheon Paris Architecture

The Panthéon is a masterpiece of architecture and has been praised by critics and architects alike for its beauty, harmony and technical brilliance. 

The building is a cruciform structure with a high dome over the crossing and lower saucer-shaped domes over the four arms. 

The facade is decorated with Corinthian columns and a pediment with sculptures by Pierre-Jean David d’Angers.

The interior of the Panthéon is decorated with mosaics and paintings of scenes from French history, some of which were executed by Puvis de Chavannes. 

The crypt contains the tombs of many famous French citizens, including Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Victor Hugo, Èmile Zola and Marie Curie.

Architectural Features of the Panthéon

The Panthéon is characterized by some key architectural features:

The Dome:

The Dome
Image: Gwengoat from Getty Images Signature (Canva)

The dome of the Panthéon is one of its most distinctive features. 

It is a massive concrete dome supported by a ring of columns. 

The dome is pierced by an oculus at the top, which lets in natural light.

The Oculus: 

The oculus is a large opening at the top of the dome of the Panthéon. 

It lets in natural light and provides ventilation for the building. 

The oculus is also a symbol of the Pantheon’s dedication to all the gods.

The Portico: 

The Panthéon has a portico with eight Corinthian columns. 

The portico is the main entrance to the building.

The Rotunda: 

The rotunda is the main interior space of the Panthéon. 

It is a circular space with a high dome. 

The rotunda is decorated with mosaics and paintings of scenes from French history.

The Crypt: 

The crypt is a large underground chamber that contains the tombs of many famous French citizens.

Neoclassical Architecture

The Panthéon is a prime example of Neoclassical architecture. 

Neoclassical architecture is a style of architecture that emerged in the mid-18th century. 

It was inspired by the classical architecture of ancient Greece and Rome. 

Neoclassical architecture is characterized by its symmetry, its balance and its use of classical elements such as columns, pediments and domes.

The Panthéon is a perfect example of Neoclassical architecture. 

It is a symmetrical building with a balanced facade. 

The facade is decorated with Corinthian columns and a pediment with sculptures by Pierre-Jean David d’Angers.

The Panthéon also has a high dome, a characteristic feature of Neoclassical architecture.

Technical Innovations

The Panthéon is also a marvel of engineering and construction. 

Soufflot used several innovative techniques in the construction of the Panthéon. 

For example, he used iron trusses to reinforce the dome. He also used a system of double walls to support the dome’s weight.

Soufflot’s innovations were necessary because the Panthéon is a vast and heavy building. 

The dome of the Panthéon is the second largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world. 

This makes the Panthéon one of the tallest buildings in Paris.

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