Versailles and Pantheon

Paris has been hit with a crippling heat wave that is affecting large parts of Europe. All we had in us for the last couple of days was a brief visit to Versailles yesterday and the Pantheon today.

The Hall of Mirrors is the “must-see” room in the Chateau. But I take exception to the name–the English name, that is. To see why, first take a good look at the room itself:

Hall of Mirrors, Versailles

The French name is “Galerie des Glaces“, which of course can be reasonably and literally translated “Gallery of Mirrors”. But “glace” can also be “window” or “ice”. Notice there are as many windows on the right as there are mirrors on the left. And all those chandeliers with glass (ice)? I rest my case. But historically speaking, it was the mirrors that were the attraction. At the time of its construction, nowhere could be found such an installation of mirrors, and putting them directly across from all the windows gives the room a sparkle that even today is breathtaking.

Today we went to the Pantheon, not too far from our apartment. The building was originally intended as a church honoring Ste. Genevieve, patron saint of Paris, a gift of gratitude from Louis XV for being healed from a grave illness. Construction was not complete when the French Revolution derailed it.  The revolution being very secular in nature, the leadership decided to repurpose the building from a house of christian worship to a mausoleum honoring the heroes of France.  The cross atop and the traditional floor plan along with some artwork of historical events of a religious nature are the only vestiges of religion there today.

The Pantheon of Paris

Hanging from the 300 foot-high dome of the building is a dramatic demonstration of the rotation of the earth.  First exhibited in 1851, it showed the common people that indeed, just like scientists had been saying for years, the sun and moon did not spin around the earth, but the earth rotated on its own axis.  There are now several such demonstrations in other parts of the world.

Foucault Pendulum

And so we finish up another visit to Paris. A tip to travelers: if you plan a trip to Paris in the summertime, choose lodgings with air conditioning. Just sayin.

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