The Pantheon and a Roman Amphitheater

We started out today to visit the Pantheon. The Pantheon is in a “quarter” (district or “arrondissement“) in the 5th arrondissement of Paris. The Pantheon started out as a church dedicated to St. Genevieve (patron saint of Paris) and was intended to contain her relics, but following the French Revolution, the church was transformed, into a “shrine of reason”. Thus, the Pantheon, the church, became a gigantic mausoleum. And this church/mausoleum is truly gigantic. More on this in a bit.

We took a Metro to the closest point, which was still a fifteen minute walk to the Pantheon. The Metro station to which we traveled is obviously deep underground, as we climbed at least four flights of stairs up to get to the surface. This is an old Metro station; no elevators or escalators. But on exiting, we found ourselves next to an unexpected sight– a Roman amphitheater called Arènes de Lutèce.

Constructed in the 1st century AD, this amphitheater is largely intact. Over time, it became buried and was only rediscovered when there were plans to build a road on the site where the amphitheater is located. The amphitheater could hold up to 15,000 people. It was a venue for gladiators as well as theatrical performances. There were holding pens on the side of the arena which likely held animals which could be released into the arena and the central area could be flooded with water for other events.

When Paris was sacked by barbarian invasions of 280 A.D., some of the structure’s stone work was carted off to reinforce the city’s defenses around the Île de la Cité

Now, it is a public park and was saved in large degree through the efforts of Victor Hugo.

We continued on to the Pantheon , whose dome is visible from quite a distance away.

Some of the streets in this quartier are quite narrow.

A square near the Pantheon is full of neighborhood cafes, une boulangerie (bakery, a staple of every neighborhood) , and an Amorino gelato shop (we shared)

as well as an O’Tacos store, which I somehow have to believe was not founded in 1748.

Pantheon

The scale of the Pantheon is hard to describe. It is 110 meters long (360 feet or the length of 1.2 football fields), 84 meters wide and 83 meters high.

As large as the Pantheon is above ground, it’s crypts are extensive, holding the remains of Voltaire, Jean Jacques Rousseau and a number of statesman.

The central portion of the building, under its dome has Foucault’s pendulum, which was built to illustrate that the earth revolves on its own axis. The length of the cable (important) holding the orb runs from the dome ceiling down to where the orb is suspended.

If you did what I did (not recommended) and take the steeply circular winding steps down to the crypts, you’re rewarded with another level of interesting exhibits and architecture.

There’s a better way down here (my wife reminds me) but apparently I prefer to take the narrow steps. I took the easier way back up.

They were preparing for some sort of media event here, as there were power cables and lights strung around, but there was no indication of what it might be. The event staff were standing around waiting for the Pantheon to close to visitors.

Jean Jacques Rousseau

Looking forward to going back down those four flights of stairs.,,,

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