Once again, being flexible saved the day. We started the day walking to Notre Dame de Paris to see the cathedral restoration progress. About ten minutes into our walk, the rain started, the wind blew and the temperature dropped.
Just as we were questioning if we wanted to spend the day outside, we passed the Pantheon. An intriguing art exhibit poster outside the building caught our eye and we decided to change our plans.
After joining the queue to enter the Pantheon, we looked around and saw the Eiffel Tower in the distance.
The Pantheon (temple to all gods) has an interesting history. Louis XV originally intended it to be a church honoring St. Genevieve, the patron saint of Paris.
However, before it was finished the French Revolution had started, and the Pantheon was transformed into a mausoleum for distinguished French citizens.
Entering the beautiful 18th century building, we immediately noticed the beautiful dome in the middle.
A pendulum hangs from the highest point of the dome. It is a copy of the one used by Leon Foucault at the Pantheon in 1851 to demonstrate the rotation of the earth.
La Convention Nationale, the Pantheon’s major sculpture is at the far end. It features soldiers on the right and the National Convention on the left. It was this National Convention who ordered the executions of Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette in 1793.
After touring the main level, we carefully walked down a steep, narrow spiral staircase to the crypt below.
Interment in the Pantheon’s crypt requires a parliamentary act for “National Heroes.” Currently the remains of seventy-five men and six women are interred there. The most famous are Voltaire, Rousseau, Victor Hugo, Emile Zola, and Marie and Pierre Curie.
Special Art Exhibit at the Pantheon
Since a number of the great names honored by the Pantheon shared a commitment to abolishing slavery, the National Monuments Center organized a two-part exhibition focused on the fight against slavery.
We Could Be Heroes, the first part, is currently on display. Raphael Barontini’s colorful and monumental installation creates an “imaginary pantheon.”
I loved the special art exhibit and felt it added an unexpected delight to our Pantheon visit.
By the time we left the Pantheon, the rain had mostly stopped and we found a place to have a light lunch. Because the few inside tables were full, we sat outside. My dear husband, whose comfort range for outside dining is about five degrees, almost happily stepped out of his comfort zone and ate in the fifty-five degree weather . I think he is becoming more French.
After lunch we strolled around the Marais district and discovered another little outdoor market.
We ended our day with a lovely dinner at Madamador. Although it doesn’t happen as frequently as before, both the hostess and the server greeted my French with an amused smile. They were kind and I honestly think the French appreciate my humble attempts with their language.