Rome has St. Peter's, London has St. Paul's, and Paris has the Panthéon, whose enormous dome dominates the Left Bank. Built as the church of Ste-Geneviève, the patron saint of Paris, it was later converted to an all-star mausoleum for some of France's biggest names, including Voltaire, Zola, Dumas, Rousseau, and Hugo. Pierre and Marie Curie were reinterred here together in 1995. Begun in 1764, the building was almost complete when the French Revolution erupted. By then, architect Jacques-German Soufflot had died—supposedly from worrying that the 220-foot-high dome would collapse. He needn't have fretted: the dome was so perfect that Foucault used it in his famous pendulum test to prove the Earth rotates on its axis. Time, however, has taken its toll on the Panthéon, and the structure is now in the midst of an extensive, multiyear overhaul. The crypt and nave remain accessible to the public, but the pendulum won't return to its place of honor until 2016.
Pl. du Panthéon, Paris, 75005, France
Sep 1, 2014
"To great men, a grateful homeland" is the motto inscribed on the pediment of this monumental building, which combines Greek and Gothic architectural styles. This imposing civic temple built under Louis XV was originally a basilica dedicated to Saint Genevieve, but just as it was being completed, the Revolution gave it a different destiny. Transformed in 1791 into a mausoleum and finally consecrated as the National Pantheon in 1885 at the
funeral of Victor Hugo (named after the square on which it is located), it also houses the tombs of Pierre and Marie Curie, Alexandre Dumas, Jean Jaurès, André Malraux, Jean Moulin, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Voltaire. In the crypt, an exhibition presents the life and work of those buried there.