The Temple of Man

The Temple of Man is a monumental ensemble that Landowski worked on his entire life. His goal was to tell the history of mankind on sculpted walls eight meters high and 200 meters long (1,200 m²): ‘‘a temple to celebrate the splendor of the human spirit where all the great lightbearers are gathered in a symphony of minds.’’ (Notebooks, unpublished) It was to be a single place of meditation, civic meetings, international congresses and performances, and would also include a library and cinema. Landowski was inspired by his humanist convictions and his dream of seeing Europe at peace. We note the influence of Romain Rolland and Valery.  Landowski’s project was presented in a special room at the Decorative Arts Exhibition in 1925 where it was a huge success. Landowski attempted to make the project happen several times: in 1932, for example, he submitted it to a contest for a triumphal route linking the Porte Maillot to La Defense. He worked with various architects (Taillens, Bigot, Laprade) until 1950 and completed major parts of it. The drawings of the different projects are conserved in the Musée Landowski and the Musée du Petit Palais in Paris. Two doors mark the entrance: the Door of Science (which became the Door of the Medical School on the Rue des Saints-Pères) glorifies man’s domination over nature  and the Door of Psyche which depicts redemptive love. The Sons of Cain group (completed and installed in the Tuileries) stands on the square. Inside, the four walls chronicle the history of free thinking over the centuries: The Wall of Prometheus, the Wall of Religions, the Wall of Legends and the Wall of Hymns.

The Wall of Prometheus

This wall represents bound thought, the struggle between might and intelligence: Hesiod the poet sings, Isaiah walks in agony. Thales of Milet teaches fishermen the art of navigation. Crucial scenes from the lives of the Buddha, Confucius, Pythagoras, Hippocrates, Pheidias, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Archimedes, Epiktetos, Apollonius of Tyana, Marc Aurelius and John the Baptist are all depicted.

The Wall of Religions

Christ faces off with Prometheus, flanked by Saint Paul and Saint Martin who defend the damned pagans. Pelagius opposes Saint Augustin; Averroes is chased out of Cordova; Saint Francis, Bacon, Dante, Michelangelo, Gutenberg, Giordano Bruno, Michael Servetus, Descartes, Spinoza, Denis Papin, Voltaire, Carnot, Victor Hugo, Byron, Pasteur, Tolstoy, etc.

The Wall of Legends

The Hero is surrounded by characters from the famous legends and great myths: Krishna, Zarathustra, Osiris, Samson and Dalilah. Perseus and Andromeda, Orpheus and Eurydice; the labors of Hercules, Siegfried and Regin, Odin and Sigurd, Brunhilde, Parsifal and the flower girls, etc.

The Wall of Hymns

The songs engraved on the wall encircle the Shulamite from the Song of Solomon; a Vedic couple celebrates the dawn; Saint Frances and Saint Clare celebrate the Canticle of Creatures.