The Pantheon, a great building for the “great men”
The Pantheon is a building with an interesting background. It was originally commissioned by King Louis XV in 1755. He had a serious illness, and apparently made a deal with God that he would build a church if he recovered, and sure enough when he did, he commissioned what was originally called Abbey Sainte-Geneviève.
Unfortunately, it took 34 years to complete, and when it was finished in 1791, the French revolution was in full swing, and churches were distinctly unpopular (BTW, during this time the Notre Dame was used to store hay and supplies, and came close to being torn down). So it was decided it would be converted into a temple to house the remains of “the great men of France”, and indeed today a crypt holds the ashes of Victor Hugo, Voltaire, Jean Monnet, Marie and Pierre Curie and Emile Zola (Marie Curie is a great man?).
But that wasn’t the end of it. In 1806 it became a church again, but in 1885 it reverted back to the Pantheon. Wait a few years, and it may become a church again.
From our apartment, it was just a 10-minute walk up the hill. I think for many visitors, it’s in a neighbourhood that isn’t as clearly defined as many others in Paris. It’s still in the 5th arrondisement, and indeed the square houses the magnificent City Hall of the 5th (did you know that each arrondisement has its own City Hall, and assumedly, the bureaucracy that comes with it), but I think when most people picture the 5th, they’re thinking about the part closer to the Seine.
We walked through this square a few times, but never did make it inside the Pantheon despite being on my To Do list. Next time….