Panthéon (Paris)

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The Panthéon (Latin: Pantheon,[1] from Greek Pantheon, meaning "Every god") is a building in the Latin Quarter in Paris. It was originally built as a church dedicated to St. Genevieve and to house the reliquary châsse containing her relics, but after many changes now functions as a secular mausoleum containing the remains of distinguished French citizens. It is an early example of neoclassicism, with a façade modeled on the Pantheon in Rome, surmounted by a dome that owes some of its character to Bramante's "Tempietto". Located in the 5th arrondissement on the Montagne Sainte-Geneviève, the Panthéon looks out over all of Paris. Soufflot had the intention of combining the lightness and brightness of the gothic cathedral with classical principles, but its role as a mausoleum required the great gothic windows to be blocked. Nevertheless, it is one of the most important architectural achievements of its time and the first great neoclassical monument.

Contents

History

King Louis XV vowed in 1744 that if he recovered from an illness he would replace the ruined church of the Abbey of St Genevieve with an edifice worthy of the patron saint of Paris. He did recover, and entrusted Abel-François Poisson, marquis de Marigny with the fulfillment of his vow. In 1755, Marigny commissioned Jacques-Germain Soufflot to design the church, with construction beginning two years later.

The overall design was that of a Greek cross with massive portico of Corinthian columns. Its ambitious lines called for a vast building 110 meters long by 84 meters wide, and 83 meters high. No less vast was its crypt. Soufflot's masterstroke is concealed from casual view: the triple dome, each shell fitted within the others, permits a view through the oculus of the coffered inner dome of the second dome, frescoed by Antoine Gros with The Apotheosis of Saint Genevieve. The outermost dome is built of stone bound together with iron cramps and covered with lead sheathing, rather than of carpentry construction, as was the common French practice of the period. Concealed flying buttresses pass the massive weight of the triple construction outwards to the portico columns.

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