This is one of the coolest things I have read in a while. I guess I can't help it, I love a bit of anarchy once in a while (people simply should not always be obedient!). Especially when it's cultural monuments that benefit.
It is one of Paris's most celebrated monuments, a neoclassical masterpiece that has cast its shadow across the city for more than two centuries.
But it is unlikely that the Panthéon, or any other building in France's capital, will have played host to a more bizarre sequence of events than those revealed in a court last week.
Four members of an underground "cultural guerrilla" movement known as the Untergunther, whose purpose is to restore France's cultural heritage, were cleared on Friday of breaking into the 18th-century monument in a plot worthy of Dan Brown or Umberto Eco.
For a year from September 2005, under the nose of the Panthéon's unsuspecting security officials, a group of intrepid "illegal restorers" set up a secret workshop and lounge in a cavity under the building's famous dome. Under the supervision of group member Jean-Baptiste Viot, a professional clockmaker, they pieced apart and repaired the antique clock that had been left to rust in the building since the 1960s. Only when their clandestine revamp of the elaborate timepiece had been completed did they reveal themselves.
Klausmann and his crew are connaisseurs of the Parisian underworld. Since the 1990s they have restored crypts, staged readings and plays in monuments at night, and organised rock concerts in quarries. The network was unknown to the authorities until 2004, when the police discovered an underground cinema, complete with bar and restaurant, under the Seine. They have tried to track them down ever since.
But the UX, the name of Untergunther's parent organisation, is a finely tuned organisation. It has around 150 members and is divided into separate groups, which specialise in different activities ranging from getting into buildings after dark to setting up cultural events. Untergunther is the restoration cell of the network.
"We would like to be able to replace the state in the areas it is incompetent," said Klausmann. "But our means are limited and we can only do a fraction of what needs to be done. There's so much to do in Paris that we won't manage in our lifetime."
The Untergunther are already busy working on another restoration mission Paris. The location is top secret, of course. But the Panthéon clock remains one of its proudest feats.
"The Latin Quarter is where the concept of human rights came from, it's the centre of everything. The Panthéon clock is in the middle of it. So it's a bit like the clock at the centre of the world."