Located in the lively Latin Quarter of Paris, the Pantheon is a neoclassical mausoleum that houses the tombs some of France’s greatest minds. Originally conceived as a Church, the Pantheon has oscillated between being a religious monument and being a secular one. The Pantheon’s interior is as impressive as the exterior; with domed ceilings, imposing column, and large paintings depicting religious and revolutionary scenes decorating the walls. Find also a Foucault pendulum suspended from the main dome. Downstairs, explore the crypt and find the tombs of Marie Curie, Louis Braille, and Victor Hugo. This is a perfect visit for those interested in history, art, and architecture.
Appreciate the architecture
The Pantheon shows a variety of incredible architectural styles. Outside, notice the neoclassical style and façade. Both were inspired by the Pantheon in Rome. The style of its dome was also borrowed from a roman building, the San Pietro church. There is also a portico leading to the entrance made out of Greek-inspired Corinthian columns. Inside, find multiple domes decorated with intricate stone carvings. Just below the domes, arches and columns help support the weight of the dome, which is Paris’ highest.
Tour the ground floor
The first floor of the Pantheon serves more as a museum than as a mausoleum. Large paintings and sculptures depicting scenes from French history and from the Bible are on display. This mix of secular and religious art highlights the historical tensions underlying the Pantheon’s orientation. Between its creation in the 18th century up until Victor Hugo’s induction in 1885, the Pantheon alternated being a church and being property of the government. Although officially secular, the Pantheon still features a cross on top of the dome, rather than a French flag.
This curious mix of religious and secular is further illustrated by the installation of Foucault’s pendulum from the central dome. Originally installed in 1851 by French physicist Léon Foucault, this 67 meter (220 feet) pendulum illustrates the earth’s constant movement. This scientific object certainly makes a case for the Pantheon being secular, but the debate is still open.
In addition to the permanent features on the ground floor, temporary exhibitions are also regularly held, providing more detailed information about new inductees to the Pantheon.
Head downstairs to the crypt
The crypt is located in the Pantheon’s basement. Tombs are grouped according to the reason for inhumation at the Pantheon. This makes finding them easier in the basement’s labyrinthine configuration. Selected groups include: authors, scientists, and political dignitaries. For example, the tombs of politicians like Voltaire and Rousseau are located next to each other, while those of writers like Victor Hugo and Emile Zola are located in a separate area.
Stop at the Pantheon for a remarkable look at France’s history
The Pantheon is one of the most architecturally interesting buildings in Paris and certainly one of the most fascinating displays of French art and history. It tends to be less crowded than other Paris attractions so wait times are never too long. To reach the Pantheon, take the Regional Express Rail (RER) line B, stop Luxembourg. Entrance is 7,50 EUR (8,00 USD), reduced-priced tickets cost 6,50 EUR (7,00 USD) and are available for those under 25. Entrance is free for Europeans under 26 and children under 18.
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