Our time in Paris has nearly come to a close, but rather than let our last day in the city slip away, Walt and I played hookie this morning and finally paid a visit to a building we’ve passed by everyday during our stay here: the Panthéon.
Originally this building was created as a church to Saint Genevieve, the patron saint of Paris. However at the time of its completion in 1790, the city was gripped in a revolution that rejected the monarchy and the church in equal measure. This beautiful building was seized, and instead of being defaced like the other Catholic structures of the time (including the Notre Dame – its facade was nearly destroyed), it was turned into a secular mausoleum. It houses the remains of France’s great minds of philosophy, literature, diplomacy and science. The space is an interesting combination of original paintings of Saint Genevieve and Joan of Arc, and statues from depicting Voltaire and Louis Braille. As a result, the space really did feel like a place of reverence and worship, just toward thought and reason as opposed to a higher power.
What a beautiful idea.
After relishing in the open expanse of the main chamber, we headed down into the crypt which had a quiet, more intimate though equally reverential tone. The mausoleum was pristine, beautifully lit and deliciously cool. What was most striking to me were the curves and lines in the architecture. It seemed to suggest a theme of continuation, eternity and strength. I couldn’t help but feel awed by the place, a feeling that only grew as we passed the tombs of Madame Curie, Victor Hugo and Alexander Dumas.
It was breathtaking.
Our final bit of exploration took us up two-hundred-some-odd steps to the exterior of to the rotunda. The walk up was fine, but the walk down flared up some intense vertigo which I did not appreciate… we did get to see a spectacular view, though, and we got to admire the building from another point of view.
All in all, I am so glad we visited the Pantheon. It’s really unlike any place I’ve ever been before.