Foucault's Pendulum – Paris, France - Atlas Obscura

Foucault's Pendulum

Paris Panthéon

19th century pendulum and a clock restored by a rogue group of guerilla artists. 


In 1851, physicist Léon Foucault demonstrated the rotation of the Earth with an experiment conducted in the Paris Panthéon.

By constructing a fixed 67-meter swinging lead bob beneath the central dome, Foucault was able to prove that the earth was in fact in rotation at all times, as the plane of the pendulum never changed, yet it seemed to move with earth’s rotation.

While the original pendulum is now housed at the Musée des Arts et Métiers, a working copy is displayed at the Panthéon and has been swinging there since 1995. Despite the history of the Panthéon, where notable French figures from Victor Hugo to Voltaire are interred in what was repurposed as a church of reason during the French Revolution, modern day achievements in the building are perhaps even more fascinating.

In 2007, four members of the rogue art group Untergunther snuck into the Panthéon and restored the famous clock inside the building. Without being caught, the group decided to reveal itself and took credit for the work in front of the building administrator. Shortly after, the police were alerted, resulting in the arrest of the four members and a ridiculous trial in which the members of Untergunther were declared innocent.

Know Before You Go

Métro: line 10Bus: lines 21, 27, 38, 82, 84, 85 and 89RER: line BBy car: boulevard Saint-Michel and rue SoufflotNote: Pantheon has an entry fee. 11.5/9E, 10 am-6 pm daily.

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