Soufflot, Jacques Germain

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Soufflot, Jacques Germain (1713-1780): French Architect.

In 1731, at the age of 18, Jacques Germain Soufflot went to the French Academy in Rome in order to study architecture. Soufflot returned to France in 1738 as the Municipal Architect in Lyons where he established his professional reputation with a number of buildings: the Theatre, Hôtel-Dieu, and the Loges des Changes. He traveled to Italy again, including a visit to the temples at Paestum, in 1750 for the grand tour as the tutor in architecture to the Marquis de Marigny, the younger brother of Pompadour, Marquise de.

On his return to France, the Marquis was appointed superintendent of buildings in Paris and used his position to promote the career of Soufflot. In 1757, Soufflot was commissioned by Louis XV to work on his masterpiece, the church of Sainte-Geneviève, which he continued to work on until his death. Ste. Geneviève was the first great building of French neoclassicism and, as such, marked the transition from the rococo period to the neoclassical in France. Architecturally, Soufflot achieved in Ste. Geneviève a synthesis of the classical and the gothic. With a Roman temple front, inside the church combines the magnificence of the Greeks with the lightness of a Gothic cathedral. During the French Revolution, the church was deconsecrated and renamed the Panthéon and is still known as this today.

Further Reading:

Allan Braham, The Achitecture of the French Enlightenment, 1980.

Kevin Dodson