The Eclipse of Exemplarity: The Imperial Pantheon in Paris
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The impressions that traveller Franz Grillparzer entrusted to his diary reflected a frequently voiced disappointment of contemporaries when visiting the Panthéon in Paris. Jacques-Germain Soufflot’s Neoclassical design for the former church of Sainte-Geneviève inspired general admiration yet the Panthéon failed to live up to its fame as the repository of France’s great men. Much of its glory had been lost by the political infighting of the revolutionary days. The first inclusion, that of Mirabeau in April 1791, had also been the first exclusion; when the staunchly republican Jean-Paul Marat was pantheonised in 1794, the Convention unceremoniously transferred Mirabeau’s remains to an anonymous grave on one of Paris’ overcrowded cemeteries before admitting the ‘new God’ Marat.2 He was in turn depantheonised after the radicalism of the sans-culottes had ended. One tourist later compared the behaviour of French political elites to that of ‘Jupiter, who, according to his pleasure, chases away and receives gods on the Olympus’.3
KeywordsCivil Code Imperial Culture Patron Saint Public Commemoration Parish Church
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