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Pantheon

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Published on Jan 23, 2010

The final resting place for the great citizens of France, the Pantheon was not originally built for this purpose. Louis XV ordered the building of a church to replace nearby St-Etienne-du-Mont as the new home to the relics of Ste-Genevieve, who became the patron saint of Paris when her constant praying in 451 supposedly made Attila the Hun change his plans to invade the city in the last minute. Construction began in 1755, with Soufflot's design for a Greek cross plan supporting a dome on a scale never seen before--a soaring masterpiece of technical achievement and visual harmony. However; his engineering really sucked and the perfect building has been trying desperately to fall apart ever since. The original windows had to be filled in, interior columns braced, the dome restructured; and in 1985 falling stones forced a temporary closure. The structure was finished in 1790, just in time for ... the revolution. It has since alternated as a church and a nondenominational burial ground until the funeral procession of Victor Hugo ended up in the crypt, cementing its status as a final resting place for the great French citizens. Rousseau and Voltaire are interred near each other (most probably to the great annoyance of Voltaire). Writer Emile Zola and Nazi victim Jean Moulin are also buried here. The heart - yep, the heart! - of Leon Gambetta (a leader of the Paris Commune) lies quietly in a vase. Also here are the remains of Louis Braille, except for his all-too-important hands which remain in his parish churchyard.

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