When Louis XV fell ill in 1744, he vowed to replace the ruined church of the Abbey of St. Genevieve if he would recover. He did, and construction began two years later. By the time the church was completed in 1790 (due to financial troubles), France was in the midst of the Revolution. The National Assembly ordered the church turned into a mausoleum for French heroes. After the revolution it reverted back to a church, and eventually became a meeting place for France’s intellectual community. It has continued to serve as the final resting place for many martyrs and famous Frenchmen.
In 1851, the Pantheon was the location of Foucault’s pendulum experiment, which proved once and for all that the Earth rotated. A replica of the pendulum still stands today. Another highlight is the crypt. Famous people interred in the Pantheon include Marie Curie, one of just two women, Voltaire, Victor Hugo, and Alexandre Dumas, the most recent addition.
The building itself is magnificent too. It’s modeled on the Pantheon in Rome and an early example of neoclassical architecture. Architect Jacques-Germain Soufflot wanted to combine the openness of the Gothic cathedral with classical doctrine. The portico is adorned with Corinthian columns. The interior features frescoes and statues. The dome has one of the best views of Paris. The Pantheon shouldn’t be at the top of your list of places to visit in Paris, but if you have time or are in the neighborhood it’s a fascinating building. It’s not the most popular attraction, so crowds are generally small.
Address: Place du Pantheon, Paris, France
Telephone: +33 01 44 32 18 00
Metro: Luxembourg (RER B), Cardinal Lemoine (10)
Hours: Daily 10:00-18:00
Free under 17.