SOUFFLOT, Jacques-Germain
(b. 1713, Irancy, d. 1780, Paris)

Exterior view

begun 1756
Photo
Panthéon, Paris

The Panthéon in Paris was begun about 1756 by the architect Jacques-Germain Soufflot as the Church of Sainte-Geneviève to replace a much older church of that name on the same site. It was secularized during the French Revolution and dedicated to the memory of great Frenchmen, receiving the name Panthéon. Its design exemplified the Neoclassical return to a strictly logical use of classical architectural elements.

The Panthéon is a cruciform building with a high dome over the crossing and lower saucer-shaped domes (covered by a sloping roof) over the four arms. The facade, like that of the Roman Pantheon, is formed by a porch of Corinthian columns and triangular pediment attached to the ends of the eastern arm.

At Soufflot's death in 1780 only the vaulting of the naves was complete. By 1790 the dome was completed but the sculpted decoration of the interior was only half-finished. From 1791, following a Revolutionary decree, the church was altered into the Panthéon des Grands Hommes. Antoine Quatremère de Quincy (1755-1849) had the buttresses demolished and, more crucially, the lower windows blocked up; this radically altered the lighting effects Soufflot had sought to achieve. Having removed the religious sculpture, Quatremère supplied a new programme for decorating the pediments (finally executed by David d'Angers in 1830s).