Suitcase and World: The Panthéon.

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Panthéon.

"Monument à la Convention Nationale" by François-Léon Sicard (1913).


  fter a quick breakfast in our apartment, we headed out for another day of sightseeing in Paris. Our first destination of the day was the Panthéon. We had come here late yesterday afternoon but unfortunately, we arrived just a few minutes after the place had closed for the day. Bad timing.

Our apartment is in the same arrondissment, located probably about a 10 minute walk away.

The Panthéon was designed by Jacques-Germain Soufflot. It was originally built, starting in 1758, as a church dedicated to Saint Geneviève and to house the reliquary containing her relics.  As the construction of the building was completed at the start of the French Revolution, the new Revolutionary government ordered it to be changed from a church to a mausoleum in which distinguished French citizens were to be interrred.  It is in essence, a national mausoleum and as such, interment here is severely restricted and is allowed only by a parliamentary act for "National Heroes". Famous French men buried here include Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Victor Hugo, Émile Zola, and Louis Braille. There are women interred here as well. The first was Sophie Berthelot who was buried alongside her husband, Marcellin Berthelot. Marie Curie was the first woman interred based on her own merits. Just this year, Geneviève de Gaulle-Anthonioz and Germaine Tillion, heroines of the French resistance, were interred.  Their names and portraits, along with the two men who were also interred in 2015, are presented on flags displayed on the building's front facade.

When I was here yesterday, I took a couple of photos of the front facade.

The inscription below the pediment reads, "To the great men, the grateful homeland".

Detail of the pediment.

The front portico.  You can see just how high it stands.

Relief work on the ceiling of the portico.  Corinthian columns hold up the ceiling.

One of the entry doors.

Today, there was only a very short line of people queued up to get in.  Since our museum pass was no longer valid, I bought entry tickets for the two of us.&nbspTickets cost 7 euros each. We then had to go through a cursory check of our backpacks before we were allowed in.  What an impressive space we walked in to!

The main ground floor space is in the form of a cross.  It measures 110 meters (352 feet) long by 85 meters (272 feet) wide and it's 85 meters (272 feet) from floor to the central dome.

Z and I split up and we each wandered about on our own.  I was just so taken but the splendor of the architecture in this place.  I could have spent hours here just taking photos.  Here's my album.

Looking back towards the front entrance.

Looking up at the central dome.

Painted in the center of the dome is "The Apotheosis of Saint Genevieve" by Antoine-Jean Gros (1811).
Several large paintings adorn the walls.  The one below shows Saint Geneviève for whom the original church was dedicated to.

In 1851, physicist Léon Foucault demonstrated the rotation of the earth by constructing a 67 meter (220 feet) tall pendulum beneath the central dome. The original Foucault pendulum is housed at the Musée des Arts et Métiers and what you see at the Panthéon is just a copy. It was still very cool to see the pedulum swinging from side to side - nothing mechanical to drive it.

"Monument to Jean-Jacques Rousseau" by Albert Bartholomé (1907).

"Aux orateurs et publicistes de la Restauration" by Laurent Honoré Marqueste (1903).

Look at the detail! Perhaps some inspiration for the crown molding for my living room?

Housed in a small room, just to the north of where the altar once stood, is a scale model of the Panthéon.

At the far end of the Pantheon, opposite the front entrance, is a sculpture called “La Convention Nationale" (The National Convention) carved by François-Léon Sicard (1913).

On the left side, the sculpture depicts a group of men and soldiers who fought against the monarchy during the rench Reevolution.  On the other side are sculptures of the men who created the National Convention after the monarchy was overthrown.  In the center stands Liberty, holding a sword.

"Aux orateurs et publicistes de la Restauration" by Laurent Honoré Marqueste (1903).

When I was finished with the ground floor, I went looking for Z.  I walked all around and didn't see him.  I even headed back out the front door, after confirming with the guard that he would let me back in, to see if he was there.  No luck.

I then decided to just sit down and wait.  I waited and waited and waited and no sight of the guy.  I was starting to not be so happy.  Then, I decided I needed to use the facilities and it was on my way to the ladies room that I discovered the crypt which is located one floor below ground.  So thanks to not being able to find Z, I found the crypt!

It was a very quiet, tranquil and for lack of better descriptors - airy, neat and clean space.  When I think of a crypt, a dark, dank place comes to mind. This was far from that.

There were a few exhibits and even a multimedia display in the crypt.  I think it's now partly a museum.

As I walked about the crypt, I kept an eye out for Z.  No sign of him here.

I headed back up and as I walked towards the front entrance, I saw Z seated very near to where I had sat just a short while back.  We literally must have walked by each other and not noticed.

Back out front, I got a chuckle seeing all the young people seated on the cobblestone square.  We are very near the Sorbonne and it was lunch time so I was guessing it was students on a break.  Who needs a bench? 

From the Panthéon, we had to make our way to Notre-Dame Cathedral.  We had a bus to catch!