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French public to vote on Pantheon burial honour

Dan MacGuill · 27 Aug 2013, 10:12

Published: 27 Aug 2013 10:12 GMT+02:00

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What French man or woman, above everyone else, deserves to be the next to be honoured by being laid to rest in the famous Pantheon monument, on the Montagne Saint-Genevieve in Paris?

Now for the first time ever, the public will have a say, it was announced this week.

Speaking to TF1 television, Philippe Belaval, president of the Centre for National Monuments, confirmed that an online poll will open on September 2nd, to determine which luminary will join the likes of Emile Zola, and Marie and Pierre Curie.

“Rather than limiting the debate to just institutional leaders, it seemed useful to me to open it wide, so that everyone can offer their opinion,” Belaval said.

The poll will be open for a month, before Belaval and other officials analyse the results, and report back to President François Hollande by September 30th.

Anyone interested in having their say on the next leading light to be enshrined at the 18th century mausoleum – roughly equivalent to the British tradition of burial at Westminster Abbey – will be asked two questions.

Firstly, “In your opinion, who deserves to be honoured next at the Pantheon, and why?”

Secondly, “In your opinion, what should be the primary quality of the next person honoured at the Pantheon: humanitarian engagement, political action, activism for liberty, scientific discoveries, sporting achievements,” and so on.

The exercise, however, may not be the intriguing and light-hearted affair Belaval is hoping for.

Feminist groups ‘Osez le feminisme’ and ‘La barbe’ gathered on Monday outside the Pantheon “to protest against the erasing of women from history.”

Out of the 78 people buried in the mausoleum, only two are women – Marie Curie, for her scientific discoveries, and Sophie Berthelot, whose remains were interred at the Pantheon after her husband Marcellin died in 1907.

Belaval didn’t address this gender imbalance, nor the concerns of feminist demonstrators, on Monday, saying only: “Internet users can propose [the names of] women.”

Entry into the Pantheon caused controversy in France in March, when Hollande was accused of populism for proposing the burial of French Resistance fighter and author Stéphane Hessel, who had died the previous month.

Story continues below…

The most recent entry into the hallowed crypt of the Pantheon was Martinican poet and politician Aimé Cesaire, who was transferred there in 2011, three years after his death.

In 2002, 'Three Muskateers' author Alexandre Dumas was interred in the Pantheon, 130 years after his death.

Who’s your choice to be buried in the Panthéon next, and why? 

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Dan MacGuill (dan.macguill@thelocal.com)

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