How France’s Panthéon Started Living Up to the Nation’s Ideals

Resistance Heroine Simone Veil Was Laid to Rest This Summer Alongside Voltaire and Rousseau—the Fifth Woman So Honored

When architectural critics gaze at the Panthéon in the Latin Quarter of Paris, one thought often comes to mind: Rarely have so many blocks of stone been heaped so high to so little effect.

This 18th-century pile of stone—despite being dedicated to the patron saint of the city, Saint Genevieve—is as banal as it is big, vacuous as it is vast. In his novel Notre-Dame de Paris (more commonly known as The Hunchback of Notre-Dame), Victor Hugo declared that the design, by the architect Jacques-Germain Soufflot, failed to provide the “sacred …