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

Interior view

begun 1756
Panthéon, Paris

Jacques-Germain Soufflot received the commission to build the church of Sainte-Geneviève in Paris. He dreamed of a synthesis of "Greek sublimity and the ethereal Gothic". He constructed a building on a Greek cross, with portico extension. Its Neoclassical interior evoked a sense of lightness in spite of its academic rigor. The crossing piers nevertheless had to be reinforced during construction in order to support the monumental dome. This church was altered in Republican times and converted for use as the Pantheon.

The church's brightly lit, airy interior struck contemporaries as an epoch-making work and the very existence of a new church architecture. The elegance of the slender columns and daring opening up of the wall surfaces by means of large windows were technical master strokes, achieved mainly through the novel employment of relieving arches, flying buttresses and concealed iron stays. During the planning process, the initially lavish decoration in late Baroque tradition was gradually reduced and replaced by classical motifs.

View the ground plan of the Panthéon, Paris.