Place du Panthéon: 9, 10, 12, 17
The Panthéon dome (actually three in one like a Russian doll) is one of Paris’ landmarks. Jacques-Germain Soufflot’s Church of Saint-Genevieve on the hill to the South of the River Seine was built on a grand scale between 1755 and 1790 – and being completed only shortly after the French Revolution began.
Almost immediately the National Constituent Assembly decided to use the model of the Roman Pantheon and to install statues of great Frenchmen in it.
The slogan, ‘A grateful nation honours its great men‘, was put over the entrance and on April 4 1791 Mirabeau became its first brief resident (his ashes were taken away on November 25 1793), followed by Voltaire (July 11 1791), Rousseau (October 11 1794) and then several executed revolutionaries, including Jean-Paul Marat (September 21 1794 – and then thrown into the gutters by the Muscadins on February 26 1795).
Under Napoleon Bonaparte who gave it back to the Catholic Church, its crypt was stuffed with 41 mainly military figures. After the July Revolution it reverted to being a secular Pantheon on August 26 1830, but no more ‘great men’ were inserted there under Louis-Philippe who kept the crypt closed.
The square in front of the Panthéon became the meeting place for hundreds of demonstrations and pitched battles in the 19th and 20th centuries. One riot under a black flag started there on 21 December 1830 in protest against the light sentences given to the reactionary government ministers of Charles X.
On 22 February 1848 a student demonstration against the banning of university courses by Quinet and Michelet left from there for the Madeleine. Soon after the Panthéon was renamed ‘The Temple of Humanity’, with the intention of turning it into a monument to human progress. The Law School at No. 12 hosted the revolutionary Soufflot Club in March 1848.
On June 22 1848 the square was the meeting place of thousands of workers protesting the closure of the National Workshops who then organised the building of barricades and the call for an armed insurrection. It was one of the three main centres of resistance, with the barricade at the Rue d’Ulm being one of the most important.
The National Guard used canon to burst through the doors of the Panthéon on 25 June 1848 to dislodge the workers inside.
Following Louis Napoleon’s 1852 coup-d’état the building was returned to the Church again, now the ‘National Basilica’, and the surviving bits of the nun Genevieve’s 1,350-year-old corpse stuck together in a new tomb.
From September 4 1870 the Town Hall of the 5th Arrondissement at No. 21 became the recruiting office for the National Guard defending Paris. with 12 separate offices interviewing recruits. Between 200 and 300 summary executions of Communards took place there on 24 May 1871.
The Panthéon itself was shelled during the Franco-Prussian war and became the scene of a major battle between the Communards and the Versaillais army. On 31 March 1871 a red flag was attached to the sawn off wooden cross that had been erected on top of the building on the orders of Napoleon III. Jean Allemane spoke on the steps supporting the raising of the red flag.
The Law School at No. 12 was where the ‘Democ-Socs‘, the 5th arrondissement’s Democratic-Socialist Club was based in 1870-1871. Many were massacred here on May 24 1871 as the Army burst through to attack those defending the Panthéon via a side door.
Before the ‘Bloody Week’ of the Commune a communist and atheist newspaper l’Éducation républicaine was published at No. 9, being used by a revolutionary club called ‘The Democratic Association of Masters of Study‘.
The Panthéon finally returned to its role as resting place for the ‘great men’ of France on June 1 1885, after the government inserted Victor Hugo‘s body into the crypt.
The Ste Geneviève Library where Lenin researched ‘Materialism and Empiro Criticism’ in 1908, was based at No. 10.
In 1920, as part of the celebration of the German defeat, Sicard was commissioned to produce an altar dedicated to the National Convention that declared the First Republic in 1792.
On July 16 1942 the Police Station based in the Town Hall at No. 21 was used at a primary collection point for Jews being arrested for deportation by the Paris police in the entirely French-run exercise called ‘The Vel’ d’Hiv Roundup‘ (Rafle du Vélodrome d’Hiver).
In some form of recompense, on May 27 2015, Jean Zay‘s remains were transferred to the Pantheon, along with the resistance fighter Pierre Brossolette, and soli from the graves of two women heros of the Resistance who survived the occupation, Geneviève de Gaulle-Anthonioz, and Germaine Tillion.