The Montagne Ste-Geneviève is topped by the grandly domed and porticoed Panthéon, Louis XV’s grateful response to Ste-Geneviève, patron saint of Paris, for curing him of illness. The Revolution transformed it into a mausoleum, and the remains of giants of French culture such as Voltaire, Rousseau, Hugo and Zola are entombed in the vast, barrel-vaulted crypt below, along with Marie Curie (one of only four women), and Alexandre Dumas, of musketeers fame, who was only “panthéonized” in 2002. The interior is overwhelmingly monumental, bombastically classical in design. The dome, however, is pretty impressive – it was from here, in 1851, that French physicist Léon Foucault suspended a pendulum to demonstrate vividly the rotation of the earth: while the pendulum appeared to rotate over a 24-hour period, it was in fact the earth beneath it turning. Unfortunately, the working model of the pendulum that usually hangs from the dome has been removed while the building undergoes lengthy restoration work.

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