Monday, August 25, 2014

Monumental Paris - Pantheon and Arc de Triomphe

Paris is filled to the brim with monuments of historical and/or artistic importance. It is difficult to walk 2 steps without stumbling upon one. The Pantheon is one such imposing structure we couldn't miss. Even as you stand outside and look at this impressive structure, you can't help but also admire the beauty of the surrounding buildings and roads.

There was some restoration work going on but thankfully, none of the sections inside were closed or covered in scaffolding. 

Before you even enter, you have to stop and take in the grand entrance with it's intimidating columns and sculpted designs. The relief on the pediment is inscribed with the motto: Aux grands hommes, la patrie reconnaissante (To great men, the grateful homeland) which is in reference to the great French personalities interred in the crypts below.

The first look surprises you because you wouldn't have though it would be so spacious and grand going by the façade. The triple dome holds you in awe till you manage to take your eyes from it and explore the other treasures here.

There are many sculptures, each with its historical significance, such as the tribute to the orators and statesmen for their contribution to the Battle of Valmy that was one of the most significant battles during the Revolution in 1792. It was sculpted by Laurent Marqueste in 1903 and the group of speakers and publicists of the Restoration is composed of Benjamin Constant, Count Pierre Serre, Casimir Perrier, Armand Carrel, General Maximilien Foy, Jacques-Antoine Manuel, the Vicomte François-René de Chateaubriand.

The centrepiece is “The National Convention” by Francois Leon-Sicard done in 1920. It features soldiers on the right of Marianne, the symbol of France, and members of the National Convention on the left. Above in the half dome (done 1874 to 1885) by Ernest Hebert is Christ teaching the angel of France with St Genevieve and Joan d'Arc to the left and the City of Paris kneeling to the right.

There are also many impressive murals on the walls like the one by Jules Eugène Lenepveu depicting the significant moments in the life of Joan of Arc. It is actually a set of four 15 feet high panels, and four other smaller paintings.

As mentioned above, the Pantheon also houses a crypt with the who's who of France's elite. Voltaire (pictured above), Rousseau, Louis Braille, and Victor Hugo to name a are in esteemed company

Of course, no visit to Paris is complete without visiting the iconic Arc de Triomphe. It is in the centre of a beautifully laid out crossroads with roads leading to it from all directions like a 12-pronged star. This makes it is a bit of a challenge to cross the road here with the absence of a traffic signal. We didn't go up to the viewing platform or the museum, but sat near one of the pillars and took in this magnificent city on a delightful summer's evening.

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