When the French king Louis XV was recovering from illness,
he promised that if he recovered, he would build a church
to replace the half-ruined Abbey of St. Genevieve.
However, due to lack of funds, the project did not begin until
1755. And thus the renowned architect Soufflot designed
this beautiful monument based on a classical prototype - a
dome with a Latin cross fronted by a Greek temple facade -
which rightly reflects its name (Pantheon literally means
heavens for Greek gods). However, during the construction,
Soufflot passed away and the church which is known today as
the Pantheon, was finally completed in 1789 - the
year of the French Revolution. This is a spectacular realisation
of classical design surmounted by a huge dome.
USE & EVOLUTION
By the late 18th and 19th century, the Pantheon became an
honoured mausoleum to "receive the bodies of great men who
died in the history of French liberty". The windows were closed,
thus enforcing the solemnity of the interior. The building
alternated between being a church and a mausoleum throughout
the last century. In 1985, following the collapse of stone
work in the vaults, it has had to be closed for an indefinite
period. Yet, one can still visit the crypt. In the crypt lies
the mortal remains of France's honoured great men : Mirabeau,
Voltaire, Rousseau, Hugo and Zola joined recently by humanist
novelist André Malraux. When Francois Mitterrand came
into office as the first Socialist president of the Fifth
Republic, his first official visit was to the Pantheon. There,
he laid down a rose which is the symbol of the Socialist Party,
in memory of Jean Jaures, the Socialist leader who
was murdered in 1914.
ST-ETIENNE-DU-MONT - shrine of St Genevieve
In the neighbourhood of the Pantheon on the corner of rue
Clovis, lies another older church dating back to from the
16-century - of St-Etienne-du-Mont. This church combines Gothic,
Renaissance and Baroque elements. Herein, lies the shrine
of Saint Genevieve - patron saint of Paris from the
5th century. According to history, St Geneviève saved Paris
and its inhabitants from the cruelty of Attila the Hun
in 451 A.D. With the help of the archdeacon of Auxerre,
she persuaded the panic-stricken people of Paris not to leave
their homes and to pray. The intercession of Genevieve's prayers
caused Attila's army to go to Orléans instead. Later on during
Childeric's siege and the blockade of Paris in 464
A.D., Geneviève passed through the siege lines to Troyes,
to bring grain to the city. She also pleaded to Childeric
for the welfare of prisoners of war. Later, at the request
of Genevieve, Clovis I - the first christian king of France
liberated captives and showed greater lenience to wrongdoers.
Clovis I founded an abbey for Genevieve, where she was later
buried after her death. Nearby were also the convents of Benedictine
sisters. In 847 A.D. it was plundered by the Vikings.
It is believed that in 1129 A.D., when the city was
suffering from an epidemic of ergot poisoning, this "burning
sickness" was stayed after St Genevieve's relics were carried
in a public procession around Paris. Since then, the saint's
relics are carried in a yearly procession and the relief from
the epidemic is still commemorated in the churches of Paris.
The interior of the church is divided into three aisles by
free-standing pillars connected by a narrow knave, and flooded
with light by an exceptionally tall clerestory. The only rood
screen in Paris is also in this Renaissance-style building.
The clock tower tour Clovis is situated in lycee Henri IV adjacent to the church.
This is the last surviving part of the abbey of Sainte Genevieve.
NEAR AND AROUND
From this place a few steps takes one to la Sorbonne
along the Rue Cujas. Founded by the canon Robert de Sorbon,
confessor to Saint Louis, this building still contains a section
of the Arts Faculty, and some of the offices of the Paris
Academy. Descending from the church in a southerly direction
one arrives at the rue
Mouffetard traditional market and the lively Place
de la Contrescarpe, with its beautiful fountain and its
typically Parisian cafés and bars open till the wee
hours of the morning. On the other direction, if one goes
around Pantheon and down Rue Soufflot, one descends to the
du Luxembourg, in a few minutes stroll. It is a lovely
walk on a late summer evening and if you are a jogger you
will fall in love with the jogging paths inside the idyllic
Luxembourg Gardens. A favorite Hemingway story has
to do with him catching and roasting pigeons from the park;
nevertheless, there is no clear record or confirmation of
his story by other sources.
(please verify with the Paris
Place du Panthéon, 75005 Paris
Open: Winter: 10 a.m.-5.30 p.m. - Summer: 9.30 a.m.-6.30 p.m.
Prices: Standard : 35,00 FF
Special rates : 23,00 FF
5,34 and 3,51 euros
Closed: Bank holidays
Metro (Line 10): Cardinal Lemoine
RER (Line B):Luxembourg