The Panthéon: A Complicated History    My three-day trip to Paris was filled with art. The first of these was encountered on the way to my youth hostel; the stunning panthéon.  To say the Panthéon has changed with the times would be an understatement. The building has evolved in parallel to the tumultuous political climate of France. Located in the Latin Quarter of Paris, in an area known for universities and learning, the Panthéon is a landmark to all. It was originally commission as a reconstruction of the old gothic church of Ste Geneviève by Louis XV as he lay on his death bed. The religious function is noted as the relics of Sainte Geneviève (the patron saint of Paris) were found in the crypt-although secular figures such as Voltaire and Rousseau and now housed there. This overtly religious function would change. In 1792 the building underwent numerous structural and ideological changes as a result of the secularisation of France. The west façade pediments, which contained carving from Soufflot himself, were stripped and replaced with ones of allegorical civic values. In addition to this the church’s 42 large windows were blocked up and the two East Front bell towers knocked down to create a more sombre interior. The basic form of the building (a Greek cross, topped by a dome atop a colonnaded drum at the crossing with a lantern and a cross finial) is inspired by St Peter’s Basilica in Rome: the seat of the Papacy and the epicentre of global Roman Catholicism. The choice of a Greek cross plan was unusual for France, where Latin cross plans are the norm. Its temple façade consists of a prominent portico of Corinthian columns capped with a triangular pediment, under which the inscription ‘The Fatherland is grateful to its great men’ proclaims its civic function as a place of commemoration. Soufflot articulately combines Neoclassical aesthetics to Gothic structural principles, and was clearly influenced greatly by Abbé Logia’s book Essai sur l’Architecture, which promoted the simplicity of the ancient ‘primitive hut’.

The Panthéon: A Complicated History My three-day trip to Paris was filled with art. The first of these was encountered on the way to my youth hostel; the stunning panthéon. To say the Panthéon has changed with the times would be an understatement. The building has evolved in parallel to the tumultuous political climate of France. Located in the Latin Quarter of Paris, in an area known for universities and learning, the Panthéon is a landmark to all. It was originally commission as a reconstruction of the old gothic church of Ste Geneviève by Louis XV as he lay on his death bed. The religious function is noted as the relics of Sainte Geneviève (the patron saint of Paris) were found in the crypt-although secular figures such as Voltaire and Rousseau and now housed there. This overtly religious function would change. In 1792 the building underwent numerous structural and ideological changes as a result of the secularisation of France. The west façade pediments, which contained carving from Soufflot himself, were stripped and replaced with ones of allegorical civic values. In addition to this the church’s 42 large windows were blocked up and the two East Front bell towers knocked down to create a more sombre interior. The basic form of the building (a Greek cross, topped by a dome atop a colonnaded drum at the crossing with a lantern and a cross finial) is inspired by St Peter’s Basilica in Rome: the seat of the Papacy and the epicentre of global Roman Catholicism. The choice of a Greek cross plan was unusual for France, where Latin cross plans are the norm. Its temple façade consists of a prominent portico of Corinthian columns capped with a triangular pediment, under which the inscription ‘The Fatherland is grateful to its great men’ proclaims its civic function as a place of commemoration. Soufflot articulately combines Neoclassical aesthetics to Gothic structural principles, and was clearly influenced greatly by Abbé Logia’s book Essai sur l’Architecture, which promoted the simplicity of the ancient ‘primitive hut’.

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