The Panthéon, which was constructed as a church to compete with Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome and Saint Paul's Cathedral in London, serves as the national cemetery for France's most notable people. On the site of the demolished abbey of Sainte-Geneviève, King Louis XV commissioned the architect Jacques-Germain Soufflot (1713–80) to construct a new church. The church was finished in 1790. The Panthéon's architecture clearly departs from the jovial Rococo of the Louis XV style and instead displays a simpler and more solemn Neoclassical design. The Panthéon's exterior bears the phrase "Aux Grands Hommes La Patrie Reconnaissante" ("To the Great Men Recognized by Their Country"). There are 75 great figures interred here, including writers Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas, Émile Zola, and André Malraux, as well as philosophers Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and René Descartes. Although the monument was initially only intended for the male inhabitants of France, this has subsequently changed. The physicist Marie Curie, a two-time Nobel Prize winner, is among the notable female citizens of France interred in the Panthéon since 1995. At the Pantheon, five further ladies are interred. Josephine Baker, a well-known Black American expatriate dancer and singer, was inducted into the Panthéon in November 2021, making her the sixth woman to hold this honor. Except for free entry on the first Sunday of each month from November through March, visitors must pay admission to enter the Pantheon. All year long, guided group tours are offered. Visitors can climb to the Panthéon's dome from April to October (for an extra entrance cost), where a colonnaded balcony offers a breathtaking view of the city's landmarks. From the Louvre and Notre-Dame Cathedral in the foreground to the Eiffel Tower in the distance, there are panoramic views.
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