The Pantheon, Paris

The Pantheon in Paris, named after the one in Rome, has gone through so many identity changes over the centuries that it’s hard to keep track. You can read about that elsewhere. However, it’s the perfect domed church-like structure to examine in the history of architecture right after the domed chapel of the Invalides, which we saw yesterday.

Originally begun under the monarchy as a church dedicated to St. Magdalene, the Revolution saw its purpose change to a temple dedicated to illustrious French men, and yes, it’s still mostly men, though a few women have been allowed to be honored here and not just as wives.

The dome is based off the Tempietto by Bramante in Rome, the latter considered to be the first great architectural masterpieces of the High Renaissance in that city. The Paris Pantheon is also one of the first excellent examples of Neo-Classicism, that rebirth of Classicism begun by Poussin in France, as can be further witnessed by the severe side elevations and the monumental front pediment.

The interior is a beautiful space, and the decorations reflect the flip flopping of the building as it went back and forth from being a temple of illustrious men to church and back again. Of course, after Napoleon was overthrown, France saw the Bourbons return to power and the building become a church again. Long story…

More trash propaganda below. That hand gesture of the guys on the left sure hasn’t aged well over the course of the Twentieth Century. The National Convention sent tens of thousands of innocent people to their deaths in sham trials during the French Revolution. Oh yeah, they also gave human rights to people, too.

There’s a pendulum swinging over the mirrored floor in the middle of the rotunda. I took this photograph looking down into the mirrow.

There are also four coffered domes in the corners of the building.

Downstairs are the tombs or cenotaphs of illustrious Frenchmen and a few women. Below is Voltaire, one of my favorite writers.

Below is Rousseau’s tomb; both his and Voltaire’s were two of the first placed in the Pantheon.

St. Louis should be proud to know that a native daughter, Josephine Baker, has a cenotaph in the Pantheon. She is one of the few women, and one of the few foreign born people to be honored in the catacombs of the Pantheon. She is not buried here, but the box contains dirt from different places she lived, including St. Louis.

A side note: Marie Curie is buried here, but due to her body being irradiated, she is placed in a thick lead coffin to protect visitors.

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