Paris guides: visiting the Pantheon museum
Paris is a city for lovers of all kinds. If you’re looking for romance, culinary adventures, history, culture, and a shopping spree, the City of Lights has it all. You could lose or find yourself here, as many others have done before you. You can even visit some of them by visiting the Pantheon museum, the final resting place of France’s cultural heroes.
The Pantheon wasn’t always a museum. It has played many roles over the years, and today, it’s one of Paris’ top attractions. A combination of neoclassical architecture and stunning Paris views, the Pantheon museum is definitely a place that should be on your to-do list.
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Pantheon Paris architecture
Although inspired by its namesake in Rome, Pantheon Paris deserves its own accolades. Perched on top of the historic hill Montagne Sainte-Geneviève in the Latin Quarter, the Pantheon’s iconic dome stands proudly over the city as it has for centuries.
In a typical neoclassical style, the design is an homage to the simplistic use of the classical elements. The building, 110m long and 85m wide (361 x 279 feet), follows the outline of a massive Greek cross with enormous domes held up by hidden flying buttresses. Corinthian columns line the portico, similarly to the style found in the Rome Pantheon. Aisles of columns divide the central part of the building, holding up a mural inspired by Greek architecture.
The dome of the Pantheon Paris, reminiscent of the St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, features three superimposed shells that reach the height of 83m (279 feet). You can climb the 276 steps to the top for spectacular views of the city. The steps include flat and sloping surfaces making it easier to reach the top.
Pantheon Paris history
The Pantheon stands on land that was once a church dedicated to St. Genevieve. The original church dated back to 507 AD, when newly turned Christian King Clovis built a basilica for Saint Genevieve, the patron said of Paris. She was buried here in 512 AD.
Over the centuries, several churches replaced the Clovis basilica. By the mid-18th century, the last of its incarnations was in ruins. In 1744, King Louis XV, brought down by illness, vowed to rebuild the crumbling church of the Abbey of St Genevieve if he recovered. Fortunately, he did, and in 1755, Jacques-Germain Soufflot was commissioned to design the new church.
The construction started in 1758, hit several roadblocks, including bad planning, foundation issues and a lack of funds. The building, finally completed in 1790, soon met the end of its function as a church with the start of the French Revolution. After the Constituent Assembly declared the building to become a shrine to French heroes, it also became known as the Pantheon, meaning “the place where the gods live.”
Under Napoleon, the building became a church again for a short time. Alternating between being a church and a mausoleum over the years, it is now the final resting place of France’s many cultural heroes and thinkers.
Visiting the Pantheon museum
Visiting the Pantheon is a humbling experience. The simple yet stunning architectural details are awe-inspiring and get you from the moment you step inside the building. There is an unspoken feeling of being surrounded by greatness while you stand inside it.
The ground floor is rather devoid of clutter, which plays up the magnificence of the columns and incredible ceilings. The sheer space of the place makes you feel very small and insignificant. For me, this was the most stunning part of the place.
The Pantheon museum houses many images of the building during its many incarnations, including a blinding model. You could probably spend hours inside, admiring all the elements that make this such an awe-inspiring piece of architecture.
Underneath the Pantheon are crypts with the remains of France’s intellectual visionaries. Some of the famous names interred here include Voltaire, Rousseau, Victor Hugo, Pierre and Marie Curie, Alexandre Dumas, and Soufflot. At first, only famous men were laid to rest here. Today, there are five women among them.
Visiting the Pantheon crypts is a profoundly moving experience. You are in the presence of men and women that changed the world. These great minds of writers, poets, politicians and scientists lie stoically in their resting places surrounded by centuries-old walls.
People pay their respects in hushed voices, further creating a feeling of reverence for the building and the people who made it what it is today.
Foucault pendulum Paris
Inside the Pantheon is a 67-meter (220 feet) tall replica of Foucault’s pendulum. Léon Foucault was a physicist who designed a famous experiment in 1851 to prove that the world spins on an axis instead of staying still. The experiment occurred inside the Pantheon at the request of Napoleon Bonaparte, and it’s hard to imagine it anywhere else.
What you see today is a replica, while the original iron sphere resides at the Musée des Arts et Métiers.
Hours of operation
Last admission approximately 45 minutes before closing time.
|January 2 – March 31||10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.||Open every day|
|April 1 – September 30||10:00 a.m. – 6:30 p.m.||Open every day|
|October 1 – December 31||10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.||Open every day|
The Pantheon is closed on January 1, May 1, December 25 and the morning of June 17.
Address: Place du Pantheon, 5e, 75005 Paris
Phone: +33 (0) 1-44-32-18-00
Fax: +33 (0) 1 44 07 32 33
Metro Line 10: Cardinal Lemoine
RER B: Luxembourg
Adults €9, Children free
For up-to-date information visit Pantheon’s official website.
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Final thoughts on Pantheon in Paris
By visiting the Pantheon in Paris, you are looking inside the cultural heart of France. It’s a great way to spend some time discovering the glory of the past. Besides, you’ll love the architecture and history that make this one of the most important monuments in the city.
If you want to read more about Paris, check out Pere Lachaise Cemetery!