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Panthéon (Paris)

The Panthéon (Latin Pantheon, from Greek Pantheon, meaning "All the gods") is a building in the Latin Quarter in Paris, France. It was originally built as a church dedicated to St. Genevieve, but after many changes now combines liturgical functions with its role as a famous burial place. It is an early example of Neoclassicism, with a façade modelled on the Pantheon in Rome, surmounted by a small dome that owes some of its character to Bramante's "Tempietto". Located in the 5th arrondissement on the Montagne Sainte-Geneviève, the Panthéon looks out over all of Paris. Its architect, Jacques-Germain Soufflot, had the intention of combining the lightness and brightness of the gothic cathedral with classical principles. Soufflot died before his work was achieved, and his plans were not entirely followed. The transparency he had planned for his masterpiece was not attained. Nevertheless, it is one of the most important architectural achievements of its time and the first great neoclassical monument.


King Louis XV vowed in 1744 that if he recovered from an illness he would replace the ruined church of Sainte-Geneviève (see entry Genevieve) with an edifice worthy of the patron saint of Paris. The Marquis of Marigny was entrusted with the work. He had sponsored the architect Soufflot, whom he chose for the construction of the new Église Sainte-Geneviève (today the "Panthéon"), a major work in the neoclassical style. The overall design was that of a Greek cross with massive portico of Corinthian columns. Its ambitious lines called for a vast building 110 meters long by 84 meters wide, and 83 meters high. No less vast was its crypt.

The foundations were laid in 1758, but due to financial difficulties, it was only completed after Soufflot's death by his pupil, Jean-Baptiste Rondelet, in 1789. As it was completed at the start of the French Revolution, the new Revolutionary government ordered it to be changed from a church to a mausoleum for the interment of great Frenchmen.

Twice since then it has reverted to being a church, only to become again a temple to the great intellectuals of France.

In 1851, physicist Léon Foucault demonstrated the rotation of the Earth by his experiment conducted in the Panthéon, by constructing a 67 meter Foucault pendulum beneath the central dome. The original iron sphere from the pendulum was returned to the Panthéon in 1946 from the Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers.

In 2006, Ernesto Neto, a Brazilian artist, installed "Léviathan Thot", an anthropomorphic installation inspired by the biblical monster. The art installation was in the Pantheon from September 15, 2006, until October 31 for Paris' Autumn Festival.

In late 2006, a "cultural guerilla movement" calling itself Untergunther completed a year-long project where they covertly repaired the Panthéon's antique clockworks.

Burial place

The inscription above the entrance reads AUX GRANDS HOMMES LA PATRIE RECONNAISSANTE ("To the great men the grateful homeland"). The absence of a verb in French emphasizes that the implicit notion of honour is given from the homeland to the great men. By burying its great men in the Pantheon, the Nation wants to acknowledge the honour it received from them. As such its entrance is severely restricted and is allowed only by a parliamentary act for "National Heroes". Similar high honours exist in Les Invalides for historical military leaders such as Napoléon, Turenne and Vauban.

Among those buried in its necropolis are Voltaire, Rousseau, Victor Hugo, Émile Zola, Jean Moulin, Marie Skłodowska-Curie, Louis Braille, Jean Jaurès and Soufflot, its architect.

A widely-repeated story that the remains of Voltaire were stolen by religious fanatics in 1814 and thrown into a garbage heap is false. Such rumours resulted in the coffin being opened in 1897, which confirmed that his remains were still present.

On 30 November 2002, in an elaborate but solemn procession, six Republican Guards carried the coffin of Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870), the author of The Three Musketeers, to the Panthéon. Draped in a blue-velvet cloth inscribed with the Musketeers' motto: "Un pour tous, tous pour un" ("One for all, all for one,") the remains had been transported from their original interment site in the Cimetière de Villers-Cotterêts in Aisne, France. In his speech, President Jacques Chirac stated that an injustice was being corrected with the proper honoring of one of France's greatest authors.

In January 2007, President Jacques Chirac unveiled a plaque in the Pantheon to more than 2600 people recognized as "Righteous" by the Yad Vashem memorial in Israel for saving the lives of Jews who would otherwise have been deported to concentration camps. The tribute in the Pantheon underlines the fact that around three quarters of the country's Jewish population survived the war, often thanks to ordinary people who provided help at the risk of their own life. This plaque says :

Sous la chape de haine et de nuit tombée sur la France dans les années d'occupation, des lumières, par milliers, refusèrent de s'éteindre. Nommés "Juste parmi les Nations" ou restés anonymes, des femmes et des hommes, de toutes origines et de toutes conditions, ont sauvé des juifs des persécutions antisémites et des camps d'extermination. Bravant les risques encourus, ils ont incarné l'honneur de la France, ses valeurs de justice, de tolérance et d'humanité.
Which can be translated as follows :
Under the cloak of hate and darkness that spread over France during the years of [Nazi] occupation, thousands of lights refused to be extinguished. Named as "Righteous among the Nations" or remaining anonymous, women and men, of all backgrounds and social classes, saved Jews from anti-Semitic persecution and the extermination camps. Braving the risks involved, they incarnated the honour of France, and its values of justice, tolerance and humanity.

Full list of people interred

Year of burial
in the Panthéon
Name Notes
1791 Honoré Mirabeau Disinterred in 1794
1791 Voltaire
1792 Nicolas-Joseph Beaurepaire Disappeared
1793 Louis Michel le Peletier de Saint-Fargeau Assassinated deputy, disinterred from the Panthéon. His body was removed by his family on 14 February 1795.
1793 Augustin-Marie Picot, marquis de Dampierre Disappeared
1794 Jean-Paul Marat Disinterred from the Panthéon
1794 Jean Jacques Rousseau
1806 Claude-Louis Petiet
1807 Jean-Étienne-Marie Portalis
1807 Louis-Pierre-Pantaléon Resnier
1807 Louis-Joseph-Charles-Amable d'Albert, duc de Luynes Disinterred from the Panthéon
1807 Jean-Baptiste-Pierre Bévière
1808 Francois Barthélemy, comte Béguinot
1808 Pierre Jean George Cabanis
1808 Gabriel-Louis, marquis de Caulaincourt
1808 Jean-Frédéric, comte de Perrégaux
1808 Antoine-César de Choiseul, duc de Praslin
1808 Jean-Pierre-Firmin, comte Malher Urn with his heart
1809 Jean Baptiste Papin, comte de Saint-Christau
1809 Joseph-Marie, comte Vien
1809 Pierre Garnier, comte de Laboissière
1809 Jean Pierre, comte Sers Urn with his heart
1809 Jérôme-Louis-François-Joseph, comte de Durazzo Urn with his heart
1809 Justin-Bonaventure, comte Morard de Galles Urn with his heart
1809 Emmanuel Crétet, comte de Champnol
1810 Giovanni Baptista, cardinal Caprara
1810 Louis-Joseph-Vincent-Leblon, comte de Saint-Hilaire
1810 Jean-Baptiste, comte Treilhard
1810 Jean Lannes, duc de Montebello
1810 Charles-Pierre-Claret, comte de Fleurieu de La Tourette
1811 Louis Antoine de Bougainville
1811 Charles, cardinal Erskine of Kellie
1811 Alexandre-Antoine Hureau, baron de Sénarmont Urn with his heart
1811 Ippolito Antonio, cardinal Vicenti Mareri
1811 Nicolas-Marie, comte de Songis des Courbons
1811 Michel, comte Ordener
1812 Jean-Marie-François Lepaige, comte Dorsenne
1812 Jan Willem de Winter or in French Jean Guillaume De Winter, comte de Huessen
1813 Hyacinthe-Hugues-Timoléon de Cossé, comte de Brissac
1813 Jean-Ignace Jacqueminot, comte de Ham
1813 Joseph Louis, comte Lagrange
1813 Jean, comte Rousseau
1813 François-Marie-Joseph-Justin, comte de Viry
1814 Jean-Nicolas, comte Démeunier
1814 Jean-Louis-Ebenezer, comte Reynier
1814 Claude-Ambroise Régnier, duc de Massa di Carrara
1815 Antoine-Jean-Marie, comte Thévenard
1815 Claude-Juste-Alexandre, comte Legrand
1829 Jacques-Germain Soufflot
1885 Victor Hugo
1889 Lazare Carnot Buried at the time of the centennial celebration of the French Revolution
1889 Théophile-Malo Corret de la Tour d'Auvergne Buried at the time of the centennial celebration of the French Revolution
1889 Pierre Galetto Buried at the time of the centennial celebration of the French Revolution
1889 François Séverin Marceau-Desgraviers Buried at the time of the centennial celebration of the French Revolution – Only his ashes are buried there
1894 Marie François Sadi Carnot Buried immediately after his assassination
1907 Marcellin Berthelot Mme Sophie Berthelot is buried with her husband
1908 Émile Zola
1920 Léon Gambetta Urn with his heart
1924 Jean Jaurès Interred ten years after his assassination
1933 Paul Painlevé
1948 Paul Langevin
1948 Jean Perrin Buried the same day as Paul Langevin
1949 Victor Schoelcher His father Marc, is also in the Panthéon. Victor wanted to be buried with his father
1952 Louis Braille Body moved to the Panthéon on the centenary of his death
1964 Jean Moulin Ashes transferred from Père Lachaise Cemetery on December 19, 1964
1987 René Cassin Entered the Pantheon on the centenary of his birth
1988 Jean Monnet Entered the Pantheon on the centenary of his birth
1989 Abbé Baptiste-Henri Grégoire Buried at the time of the bicentennial celebration of the French Revolution
1989 Gaspard Monge Buried at the time of the bicentennial celebration of the French Revolution
1989 Marquis de Condorcet Buried at the time of the bicentennial celebration of the French Revolution
1995 Pierre Curie Both Pierre and Marie were enshrined in the crypt in April 1995.
1995 Marie Sklodowska-Curie First woman to be buried in the Pantheon for her own contributions to science
1996 Andre Malraux Ashes transferred from Verrières-le-Buisson (Essonne) Cemetery on 23 November 1996 on the twentieth anniversary of his death
2002 Alexandre Dumas, père Reburied here 132 years after his death.

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