"Aux Grands Hommes La Patrie Reconnaissante"
Very ill, Louis XV, King of France decided in 1744 that if he survived the illness, he would restore the Sainte-Geneviève abbey which was at the time a ruin at the top of the Sainte-Geneviève hill in Paris. He healed, and kept his word : The Panthéon was born. The Architect chosen by the King was Germain Soufflot, the brother of the Marchioness of Pompadour, the king's favorite.
Soufflot built the Panthéon in about 30 years : Started in 1758, the building was finished in 1789. He replaced the abbey by a monument in the greco-roman style, about 360 feet long and 272 feet high. It looks like a greek cross from above and has a dome on top of it. The whole lies on a crypt where the former monks of Sainte-Geneviève were buried.
In 1791, the Constituant Assembly closes the church and decided to turn it into a huge crypt bearing all the men who dedicated their lives to french liberty. The first great men to be transferred are Mirabeau, Voltaire and Rousseau. Carved on the pediment, one can read : "Aux grands hommes la patrie reconnaissante" (To great men, the thankful country)
During the nineteenth century, the Panthéon was given back and taken right away from the catholic Church as many times as the Power changed hands. Given by Napoléon, taken back by the Monarchy of July and given once again by Napoléon III during the second Empire. It is only in 1885 during the funeral of Victor Hugo, that the monument was definitively dedicated as a laïc temple to great men.
Nowadays, there are 71 men buried there among which :
NB : Since 1997, right under the dome, oscillates a huge Foucault's Pendulum to commemorate the famous experiment conducted by Léon Foucault to prove the Earth's rotation.