Photographer's Note

An impressive sculptural group in the Pantheon, the final resting place of France's greatest figures.

The name "Pantheon," from the Greek, means literally "temple to all the gods," so, in this context, it seems to me rather pretentious! The illustrious, albeit obviously mortal, figures who lie in quiet repose in its expansive mausoleum are anything but deities, despite their great works. The structure is located in the Latin quarter, and was originally a church dedicated to St. Genevieve. Louis XV apparently vowed that if he recovered from an illness, he would construct a new church on the site of the ruined Abbey of St Genevieve. It clearly worked out: in 1755, Jaques-Germain Soufflot was commissioned to design and construct the massive church, which initially consisted of a Greek cross measuring some 110 meters x 84 meters, with a portico of Corinthian columns. The exterior is a brilliant example of neo-classicism with a porch modeled on the Pantheon in Rome. The architect did not live to see the finished product: his student, Jean-Baptiste Rondelet took over, completing the impressive work in 1790.

Perhaps in keeping with the Revolutionary ideal, the church was ordered to be transformed into a mausoleum to serve as the burial place for France's most illustrious figures during the final days of the Revolution. The first person interred there was orator and statesman Honoré Gabriel Riqueti, comte de Mirabeau, who died on April 2, 1791. The structure has reverted to the status of a church twice since then, but today it still serves as a burial place. Among the honored dead are Voltaire, Rousseau, Victor Hugo, Louis Braille, and its original architect. Marie Curie and her husband are also here; she was only the second woman to be buried there, but the first to be so honored for her own merits. Simone Veil, who served as the Minister of Health, a survivor of Auschwitz-Birkenau, is also now buried here, having died in June, 2017. Curiously, illustrious figures are still being interred as well, long after death. In 2002, the remains of Alexandre Dumas, who died in 1870, the author of The Three Musketeers, were moved to the Pantheon.

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Additional Photos by Terez Anon (terez93) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 92 W: 78 N: 1277] (2193)
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