Panthéon and Jardins de Luxembourg
The most obvious tourist destinations in Paris are, naturally, the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe. However, after reading about the Panthéon situated in Paris’ Latin Quarter, I just had to visit. I hope to visit Greece someday and see the real deal, but I was intrigued by this church-turned-secular mausoleum.
Before going inside, I happened to notice another building, the Faculty of Law for the University of Montréal, which is engraved with France’s motto:
On to the Panthéon itself. Instead of paying homage to Greek gods, the French Panthéon was built as a church dedicated to St. Genevieve, the patron saint of Paris.
The city of Paris was founded by a tribe called the Parisii in the 3rd century BCE. In the late 400s to early 500s BCE, during the reign of the Franks’ king, Clovis the First, it became the Frankish seat of power. King Clovis decided to build an abbey, which was later dedicated to Saint Genevieve, who had helped him defend Paris from an attack from the Huns. More than a thousand years later, King Louis XV of France fell gravely ill and promised Saint Genevieve, that he would refurbish the then-decrepit abbey. He recovered, thankfully, and fulfilled his promise. However, this act had as much a political motive as a religious one: Louis XV had many dissidents who believed he lived a far too extravagant life and did not contribute anything toward the well-being of France. By transforming the abbey into the massive, magnificent structure it is today, the king was trying to send a message that he was fit to rule France and could strengthen it in the same way he revamped the Panthéon.
Inside the Panthéon, there are many frescos lining the walls that tell the tale of St. Genevieve’s life. The ceiling is held up by massive Corinthian columns, which, if you ask me, are a very pretty touch of Greek architecture. Reaching down from the towering dome (which holds itself up by magic and hidden support beams) is a Foucault pendulum. The pendulum is an experiment devised to prove that the Earth rotates; it hangs from a fixed, motionless point in space and swings back and forth. If the Earth did not rotate, the pendulum would swing back and forth at the same angle perpetually; however, it appears to move (which can be proven by setting up small objects at different points on the circumference of the pendulum’s reach, and watching them get knocked over). This proves that the Earth does indeed rotate.
The whole experience was very rewarding, and frescoes were beautiful. After lunch, I saw some natural beauty: the Jardins (Gardens) de Luxembourg, one of the most famous gardens in Paris. They were first created by Marie de Medici, wife of King Louis IV of France, who was born and raised in Florence, Italy. The gardens are meant to resemble the Florentine style.
The gardens also have a small pond on which people can float tiny sailboats (available for rent).
Apparently, green chairs are a hallmark of any Parisian park. The view more than makes up for the slight discomfort of sitting in one. You can’t say you’ve been in Paris until you’ve spent an hour in these chairs reading or simply enjoying the view!
Up next: A trip to the town of Bayeux and the Normandy beaches.