paris

A Walking Tour Through Paris

Before I move on with writing about other destinations, I have one final post to share in which I’ll wrap up our 3 week exploration of Paris from June-July 2017. This post will include a miscellaneous collection of pictures that I have not yet shared in my other posts about Paris1. I’ll begin with some photos of the apartment we stayed in, which was located in the historic neighbourhood of Les Marais. Then I’ll share some photos I took of the Porte Saint-Martin, the Seine River, the Hôtel de Ville, the Fontaine du Palmier, the Saint-Jacques Tower, the Tuileries Gardens, the Place de la Concorde, the Opéra Garnier, and their surrounding neighbourhoods.

First up, our super cute apartment! Below is the main living area.

The living room of our Marais apartment. Image sourced from Air BnB.

We ate several loaves of fresh French bread at the dining table shown below, accompanied by a bottle (or two) of sparkly pink rosé.

The living room of our Marais apartment. Image sourced from Air BnB.

The kitchen was narrow, but it had everything that we needed to cook up a few meals.

The kitchen of our Marais apartment. Image sourced from Air BnB.

The kitchen had a tiny balcony that was just wide enough to lean out on and smoke a cigarette. You could probably keep a small planter of herbs there, if you wanted. I liked the tulips on the window!

The balcony of our Marais apartment. Photo by Leah, June 2017.

The view below the window.

View outside our Marais apartment. Image sourced from Air BnB.

The view down the street.

Street outside our Marais apartment. Photo by Leah, June 2017.

A bedroom just big enough to fit a bed.

Bedroom of our Marais apartment. Image sourced from Air BnB.

The bathroom had a bathtub that did not have a flat bottom, which was a surprise to me the first time I used it.

Bathroom of our Marais apartment. Image sourced from Air BnB.

There was an old, narrow stairwell that we had to navigate when exiting and entering the apartment.

The stairwell of our Marais apartment building. Photo by Leah, June 2017.

With the apartment covered, I’m now going to move onto a few things I photographed near where we were staying. The very first thing that I took a picture of in Paris was the Porte Saint-Martin, a triumphal arch that Louis XIV had commissioned in 1674 in honour of his victories in the Franco-Dutch War (for more information, see my first post on the history of the Château de Versailles). The Porte Saint-Martin replaced a medieval gate that had been formerly part of the city wall of Charles V (built 1356-1383, demolished 1670—more information can be found in my post on the Louvre). The north side of the monument, shown below, depicts Louis XIV on the left as Mars, the Roman god of war. He is using the shield of France to push a German eagle back from a woman and an old man. The Porte Saint-Martin pre-dates the Arc de Triomphe (begun in 1806) by 132 years! It is located just north of Le Marais, near the République train station.

The Porte Saint-Martin. Photo by Leah, June 2017.

Below is an example of a Haussman-style apartment building that was nearby. You can read more about Haussman’s renovation of Paris (1853-1870) in my post on Le Marais.

Haussman apartment building in Paris. Photo by Leah, June 2017.

A close-up on the left façade of the building, to better show the detail of the iron railings on the balconies.

Haussman apartment building in Paris. Photo by Leah, June 2017.

Another Haussman-style apartment building is shown below. I didn’t know what they were at the time, but I thought they were beautiful.

Haussman apartment building in Paris. Photo by Leah, June 2017.

A close-up look at more balconies on a different apartment building (I was a little obsessed with them).

Apartment balcony in Paris. Photo by Leah, June 2017.
Apartment balcony in Paris. Photo by Leah, June 2017.

Now we’ll begin walking west along the Right (north) Bank of the Seine river. Below is the Pont (Bridge) de Sully, and to its left is the Île Saint-Louis.

The Seine River and the Pont de Sully. Photo by Leah, June 2017.

A little further west down the Seine you’ll find the Pont Marie, which marks the mid-way point of the Île Saint-Louis.

The Seine River and the Île Saint-Louis. Photo by Leah, June 2017.

A closer look at the bridge, as a tour boat approaches it.

The Seine River and the Pont Marie. Photo by Leah, June 2017.

We’ve now walked past the westernmost tip of the Île Saint-Louis, which you can see on the left in the photo below. You can see the Pont Louis-Philippe as well. To the right is the beginning of a second Seine river island, the Île de la Cité. It is the larger of the two river islands situated at the heart of downtown Paris.

The Île Saint-Louis and the Île de la Cité. Photo by Leah, June 2017.

As we walk further west down the Right Bank overlooking the Île de la Cité, you’ll be able to spot the spire and the two bell towers of Notre-Dame Cathedral (this picture was taken in June 2017, prior to the devastating fire of April 15, 2019 that destroyed the spire). The bridge up ahead is the Pont d’Arcole.

The Seine River and the Île de la Cité. Photo by Leah, June 2017.

A slightly closer look at the Île de la Cité.

The Seine River and the Île de la Cité. Photo by Leah, June 2017.

We’ve now crossed the Pont d’Arcole into the Île de la Cité. We’ve taken a left down the Rue d’Arcole so that we can walk towards the back of Notre-Dame. Along Rue d’Arcole you’ll find the picturesque restaurant, Au Vieux Paris d’Arcole (which roughly translates to “in Old Paris”).

View of the Aux Vieux Paris d’Arcole. Photo by Leah, June 2017.
View of the Aux Vieux Paris d’Arcole. Photo by Leah, June 2017.

My pictures of this restaurant didn’t turn out as nicely as the ones you can find on Pinterest. Probably because the midday sun was shining mercilessly, so the lighting was really harsh. Oh, well! We had lots of other things to see and photograph!

View of the Aux Vieux Paris d’Arcole. Photo by Leah, June 2017.

Here are some cool buildings I saw as we were walking further down the Rue d’Arcole.

Apartment buildings on Rue d’Arcole. Photo by Leah, June 2017.
Apartment buildings on Rue d’Arcole. Photo by Leah, June 2017.

I love the pattern on the red brick apartment building.

Apartment buildings on Rue d’Arcole. Photo by Leah, June 2017.

Neil and I grabbed food one morning at a café near Notre-Dame Cathedral. It was fun sitting along the sidewalk and watching people go by!

Sidewalk café. Photo by Leah, June 2017.

I had a croque madame, which is a grilled ham and cheese sandwich topped with a fried egg. It was tasty!

Croque madame. Photo by Leah, June 2017.

We’ve now left the Île de la Cité and crossed the Pont d’Arcole over to the Left (south) Bank of the Seine. That’s where you’ll find the English-language bookstore, Shakespeare and Company. You’re not allowed to take photos inside the shop, so these exterior shots will have to suffice. The inside of the bookstore was really cute, and they had lots of great titles. Definitely worth a visit!

View of Shakespeare and Company. Photo by Leah, June 2017.

In front of the bookstore, Neil and I came across an interesting piece of Parisian history. It is the green cast-iron sculpture that can be seen on the left in the photo below. The sculpture is actually a public drinking fountain known as a Wallace Fountain, and they are located in many popular areas throughout the city of Paris. They are named after the man who funded them, English philanthropist Sir Richard Wallace. Wallace was living in Paris when the Franco-Prussian War broke out on July 19, 1870. Shortly thereafter, in August, Wallace inherited a large fortune from his father. Wallace decided that he would use that money to help the citizens of Paris. When the Prussian army surrounded the city on September 19, Wallace insisted on remaining in his Paris home instead of evacuating to one of his estates in the countryside. Throughout the four-month Siege of Paris, Wallace donated large sums of money (2.5 million francs, roughly $10.8 million USD today) that helped to fund field hospitals, surgical facilities, transportation, and other forms of medical assistance. Wallace’s contributions earned him the respect and appreciation of the Paris people. He was awarded the Legion d’Honneur, and a boulevard was named after him.

View of Shakespeare and Company and a Wallace Fountain. Photo by Leah, June 2017.

The city suffered a lot of damage during the Siege of Paris and the subsequent Paris Commune (March 18 – May 28, 1871). Many of the city’s aqueducts were destroyed, which severely limited the supply of freshwater. As a result, the cost of water increased substantially. In many cases, vendors would just sell water that they had taken from the Seine River. This water had a high likelihood of being dirty and contaminated, as numerous sewers and streets drained into the Seine. The city’s poorest citizens were hit particularly hard by this development. In 1872, Wallace decided to do something about the need for clean, free drinking water by arranging to have 50 public drinking fountains installed. Wallace designed the fountains himself and had sculptor Charles-Auguste Lebourg make them.

Wallace Fountain in Nantes. Image sourced from Pixabay.

Wallace wanted the fountains to be beautiful and useful. The fountains consist of a dome that is supported by four caryatids (sculpted female figures) that are representative of kindness, simplicity, charity, and sobriety. Water falls from the centre of the dome in a small, steady stream into a basin that is protected by a grille. Thirsty patrons can reach through the caryatids to the stream and fill their cup or bottle. The fountains were made of cast-iron as the material was affordable, easy to shape, weather-resistant, and simple to maintain. The height, dark-green colour, and locations of the fountains were all carefully chosen so that they would blend in with the city landscape. The fountains were an immediate success, and soon more were installed throughout the city. A couple of simplified models, including one with a push-button feature, were also introduced. Today, there are nearly 100 of these fountains in Paris. They can also be found in other French cities such as Nantes (in honour of Lebourg, who was from there) and Bordeaux. The fountains also have an international presence in many foreign cities including Barcelona (where they were donated for the 1888 World Fair); Lisburn, Ireland (where Wallace also had a home); Montreal; Moscow; and Zürich.

Wallace Fountain in Paris. Image sourced from Pixabay.

All right, we’ve now crossed all the way back to the Right Bank of the Seine. We are standing on the Pont au Change bridge looking back towards the Île de la Cité. The building in the photo below is the Conciergerie, which is one of the few remaining traces of the historic Palais de la Cité (Sainte-Chapelle is the other). The Palais de la Cité was first built on the western end of the Île de la Cité in the middle of the 5th century. It served as the main royal residence of the Capetian kings until Charles V moved to the Louvre in 1358. In the 15th century, the Conciergerie became one of the biggest prisons in France. During the French Revolution, it held more than 2,700 prisoners destined for the guillotine—including Marie Antoinette! Many of the palace’s structures were replaced in the 19th century when the Palais de Justice was built. The four towers of the Conciergerie, shown below, were restored in the 19th century to the appearance they would have had in 1585. The tour de l’horlage (clock tower), located on the left, is the most famous of the four. The other three are the César, Montgomery, and Bonbec towers.

View of the Conciergerie. Photo by Leah, June 2017.

Another view of the Conciergerie from the Pont au Change bridge, looking further west down the Seine towards the Pont Neuf bridge.

View of the Conciergerie and the Pont Neuf. Photo by Leah, June 2017.

Below is a panorama showing the four towers of the Conciergerie on the left, and the building housing the Cour de Cassation (Supreme Court) on the right (part of the Palais de Justice, built 1857-1868).

View of the Conciergerie and the Cour de Cassation. Image sourced from Pixabay.

On a side note: one night, Neil and I met up with a group of CouchSurfers for an evening picnic along the Seine river. While we were hanging out with them, I noticed these pups nearby and couldn’t resist taking their picture.

Dogs beating the heat along the Seine River. Photo by Leah, July 2017.

Our next stop is city hall, the Hôtel de Ville, which is situated on a spot that has served as the municipal heart of Paris since 1357. In 1533, François I decided that Paris deserved a grander centre for its civic administration. He had two architects, Italian Dominique de Cortone and Frenchman Pierre Chambiges, construct a new building in the French Renaissance style that François I had already popularized in the châteaux of the Loire Valley. The south wing was built from 1535-1551, and a north wing was later added from 1605-1628. However, the Hôtel de Ville was heavily damaged by fire during the Paris Commune in May 1871. It was rebuilt adhering to its original exterior design, but on a slightly larger scale, from 1874-1882.

View of the Hôtel de Ville. Photo by Leah, June 2017.

Below is a photograph taken in 1871 that shows the ruins of the original Hôtel de Ville. The surviving stone shell was used in the building’s reconstruction, while the interior was entirely redone.

The Hôtel de Ville after the Paris Commune, 1871. Hipployte-Auguste Collard. Image sourced from the collections website of the Met Museum.

The Hôtel de Ville served as the headquarters of the French Revolution and was the site of several notable scenes during this time, such as: the murder of provost Jacques de Fleselles by an angry mob on July 14, 1789; the forming of a new municipal government on July 15, with the election of Jean-Sylvain Bailly as Paris’ first city mayor; a visit paid by Louis XVI on July 17, who faced a large crowd of Parisians from a balcony as he dutifully pinned a tricolour cockade to his hat; as well as the gathering place for a large group of Parisian women prior to their march on Versailles on October 5, 1789 (see my fourth post on the History of the Château de Versailles for more information about all of that!).

View of the Hôtel de Ville. Photo by Leah, June 2017.

The Hôtel de Ville also served as the centre of the afore-mentioned Paris Commune from March 18 – May 28, 1871. The Communards set fire to the Hôtel as their defeat became imminent with the approach of the French army (for more information on the Paris Commune, see my post on Montmartre). In addition to the building, nearly all of the city’s archives were also lost in the blaze, as were several paintings and sculptures.

Side view of the Hôtel de Ville. Photo by Leah, June 2017.

On August 25, 1944, Charles de Gaulle gave a speech at the Hôtel de Ville to mark the liberation of Paris from Nazi occupation, saying (translated into English): “Paris! Paris outraged! Paris broken! Paris martyred! But Paris liberated! Liberated by itself, liberated by its people with the help of the French armies, with the support and the help of all France, of the France that fights, of the only France, the real France, of the eternal France!”

View of the Hôtel de Ville. Photo by Leah, June 2017.

Standing outside of the Hôtel de Ville during our visit was a temporary pavilion, shown below, that had been made of reused materials including 180 wooden doors that had been discarded during the refurbishment of an apartment building. The Circular Pavilion is named not for its shape but for the concept of a circular economy that aims to eliminate waste through the continual use of resources. The pavilion was an architectural experiment designed by Encore Heureux, a collective of architects founded by Nicola Delon and Julien Choppin in 2001, to demonstrate the possibilities of material reuse. It was designed for the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, which was held in Paris.

The Circular Pavilion. Photo by Leah, June 2017.

Next up is the Fontaine du Palmier (Fountain of the Palm Tree), which is located in the Place du Châtelet a couple of streets away from the Hôtel de Ville. When Napoleon took office as the First Consul of the French in 1799, he asked his Minister of the Interior, Jean-Antoine Chaptal, what would be the most useful thing he could do for Paris. “Give it water,” Chaptal replied. Napoleon obliged by ordering the construction of several freshwater canals that brought water into Paris from rivers outside the city. He also had many of the old fountains in Paris cleaned and repaired. In 1806, he commissioned the building of 15 new drinking fountains; the Fontaine du Palmier was one of these. The fountains were modelled after the design of Roman triumphal columns, and they all shared a common theme of celebrating Napoleon’s military accomplishments.

The Fontaine du Palmier. Image sourced from Wikipedia.

The Fontaine du Palmier was designed by François-Jean Bralle. It features an 18 meter (59 foot) column that is topped by a statue of Victory holding several pairs of laurel wreaths (the present statue is a copy; the original is now at the Musée Carnavalet). The bands of bronze adorning the column pay tribute to Napoleon’s victories in his Egyptian campaign such as the Siege of Danzig, the Battle of Ulm, and the Battle of the Pyramids. The fountain gets its name from the sculpted palm leaves located at the top of the column, although it is also known as the Fontaine du Châtelet or the Fontaine de la Victoire. The fountain was completed in 1808.

View of the Fontaine du Palmier. Photo by Leah, June 2017.

The Tour Saint-Jacques can be found near the Fontaine du Palmier and the Hôtel de Ville. This 52 metre (170 foot) tower is all that remains of the former church of Saint-Jacques-de-la-Boucherie (Saint James of the Butchers). The church was named after its generous patrons, the wholesale butchers of the nearby Les Halles market. It was built around the end of the 11th to the beginning of the 12th century, and was enlarged in the 14th-15th centuries. The tower, which features a Flamboyant Gothic design, was added in 1509-1523. Saint-Jacques-de-la-Boucherie served as a starting point for pilgrims heading to Tours to embark on the Way of Saint James, which led to the major pilgrimage destination of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain.

View of the Tour Saint-Jacques. Photo by Leah, June 2017.

Nicolas Flamel, the French scribe and manuscript-seller who posthumously acquired a (false) reputation as the alchemist who discovered the philosopher’s stone, was a patron of Saint-Jacques-de-la-Boucherie. In 1418, he was buried beneath the nave of the church. Most of the church was demolished in 1797 during the French Revolution, although the tower was spared. Architect Théodore Ballu restored the tower between 1852-1870 and designed a small city park around it. Further restoration work took place from 2008-2009 to address structural issues.

View of the Tour Saint-Jacques. Photo by Leah, June 2017.

The Tour Saint-Jacques is a ten minute-walk away from the Temple Protestant de l’Oratorie du Louvre (also known as the Église Reformée de l’Oratorie du Louvre), a historic Protestant church that was founded in 1611 by Pierre de Bérulle. This large church, shown below, is located just across the street from the Louvre.

View of the Temple Protestant de l’Oratorie du Louvre. Photo by Leah, June 2017.

On December 23, 1623, Louis XIII designated the Église Reformée de l’Oratorie du Louvre as the royal chapel of the Louvre Palace. The church later hosted the funerals of both Louis XIII (1643) and his chief minister, Cardinal Richelieu (1642).

View of the Temple Protestant de l’Oratorie du Louvre. Photo by Leah, June 2017.

In 1889 a statue and monument to Admiral Gaspard de Coligny was added to the church; Coligny was a Protestant Huguenot leader who was assassinated nearby during the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre on August 24, 1572.

Monument to Gaspard de Coligny. Image sourced from Pixabay.

Also near the Louvre is a striking belfry, shown below, that joins the Church of Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois with the town hall of the 1st arrondissement of Paris. The belfry is 38 meters (124 feet) high and contains 38 bells. It was constructed in 1858 by Théodore Ballu, the same man who restored the Tour Saint-Jacques.

View of the belfry that connects the town hall of the 1st arrondissement of Paris with the Church of Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois. Photo by Leah, June 2017.

A close-up of the top of the belfry.

View of the belfry that connects the town hall of the 1st arrondissement of Paris with the Church of Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois. Photo by Leah, June 2017.

In the picture below you can see the town hall on the left (north) side of the belfry, and the church on its right (south) side.

View of the the town hall of the 1st arrondissement of Paris, the belfry, and the Church of Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois. Photo by Leah, June 2017.

Just the church and the belfry are shown in the photo below. The Church of Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois is a Roman-Catholic church that was originally founded in the 7th century and has since been rebuilt many times over the centuries. The present building was erected mostly in the 15th century, although parts of it date back to the 13th century. It used to serve as the parish church for inhabitants of the neighbouring Louvre Palace when it was a royal residence from 1360-1682. One of the church’s bells, Marie, rang out during the night of August 23, 1572 when the St. Bartholomew’s Massacre began. Thousands of Protestant Huguenots, who were visiting Paris to celebrate a royal wedding, were killed in the ensuing violence.

View of the belfry and the Church of Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois. Image sourced from Wikipedia.

Just the town hall and the belfry are shown below. The town hall was built from 1858-1860 by architect Jacques Hittorff, and its Eclectic Gothic design was inspired by the Church of Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois. The belfry was built at the same time by Ballu.

View of the town hall of the 1st arrondissement of Paris and the belfry. Photo by Leah, June 2017.

A wider angle of the town hall and belfry.

View of the town hall of the 1st arrondissement of Paris and the belfry. Photo by Leah, June 2017.

A fuller angle of both the town hall and the belfry.

View of the town hall of the 1st arrondissement of Paris and the belfry. Image sourced from Wikipedia.

We’ll now go on a stroll through the Tuileries Gardens. In 1564, Catherine de Medici decided she wanted a new Renaissance-style palace built to suit her tastes, as she found the medieval Louvre too unfashionable. The Tuileries Palace was constructed not far from the Louvre, just on the other side of the still-existing city wall of Charles V, on the site of a former tuile (tile) factory (to learn more about the Louvre and the Tuileries Palace, see my post on the history of the Louvre). To the west of the palace she had an Italian Renaissance garden installed, measuring 500 meters (0.31 miles) long by 300 meters (0.186 miles) wide. It was the largest and most beautiful garden in Paris at the time and contained flowerbeds, trees, fountains, vineyards, kitchen gardens, a labyrinth, a grotto, and more.

View of the Eiffel Tower from the Tuileries Gardens. Photo by Leah, July 2017.
View of the Tuileries Gardens. Image sourced from Pixabay.
View of the Grand Bassin Rond (Large Round Basin). Photo by Leah, July 2017.

The Tuileries Gardens were first opened to the public in 1667, and they became an official public park after the French Revolution. The gardens were soon very popular, as they provided Parisians with a relaxing place to meet up and go on short walks. In addition to the fresh air and greenery, the public also enjoyed various entertainments on the grounds including concerts, puppet theatres, and acrobatics. Refreshments were available at lemonade stands, and toy sailboats could be rented for use on the water ponds. Artists such as Édouard Manet, Camille Pissarro, and Claude Monet took advantage of the opportunity to paint the gardens en plain air (outside).

La Musique aux Tuileries (Music at the Tuileries). Édouard Manet, 1862. Image sourced from Wikipedia.
The Tuileries (Study). Claude Monet, 1876. Image sourced from Wikipedia.

In May of 1871, during the Paris Commune, the Tuileries Palace was packed with explosives and set ablaze. The fire raged for 48 hours and gutted the building. The ruins of the palace stood in place for several years before it was finally demolished in 1883-1884.

The ruins of the Tuileries Palace, 1871. Image sourced from Wikipedia.

When the site of the Tuileries Palace was finally cleared it was incorporated into the gardens. The diagram below shows where the Tuileries Palace was formerly situated, at the west end of the Louvre between the northern Richelieu wing and the southern Denon wing. Interestingly, there has been talk since 2003 about the possibility of rebuilding the Tuileries Palace. One benefit of such a project would be that the Louvre could expand its collections into the rebuilt palace. However, I imagine reconstruction priorities have recently changed due to the fire at Notre-Dame Cathedral in April 2019.

Former location of the Tuileries Palace in relation to the Louvre. Image sourced from Wikipedia.
View of the Louvre from the Tuileries Gardens. Photo by Leah, July 2017.

Some places of note in the Tuileries Garden include the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel (see my post on the history of the Louvre for more information), the Musée de l’Orangerie, and the Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume,

A modern amusement in the Tuileries Garden includes a ferris wheel. Photo by Leah, July 2017.

At the west end of the Tuileries Gardens you’ll come upon a set of gates, a panel of which is shown below. Exiting through these gates will take you to the Place de la Concorde.

Gate panel between the Tuileries Garden and the Place de la Concorde. Photo by Leah, July 2017.

A glance up at the gate panel. It’s very pretty!

Gate panel between the Tuileries Garden and the Place de la Concorde. Photo by Leah, July 2017.

The Place de la Concorde is situated between the Tuileries Garden (to the east), the Avenue des Champs-Élysées (to the west), and the Seine River (to the south). It is the largest public square in Paris, and is octagonal in shape. It features a large Egyptian obelisk and two fountains encircled by a traffic roundabout, as can be seen in the aerial photo below.

Aerial view of the Place de la Concorde. Image sourced from Wikipedia.
Street-level view looking north at the Place de la Concorde. Image sourced from Wikipedia.

The Egyptian obelisk standing at the heart of the Place de la Concorde once marked the entrance to the Luxor Temple. It is over 3,300 years old and is adorned with hieroglyphics that detail the reign of the Egyptian pharaoh Ramessess II, who reigned from 1279-1213 B.C.E. The obelisk is made of yellow granite, stands 23 meters (75 feet) high, and weighs over 250 tonnes.

The Luxor Obelisk. Photo by Leah, July 2017.

The obelisk was gifted to France by Egypt in 1829. It was raised in the square a few years later on October 25, 1836, as it took some time for the monument to make its way to France. The details on how that journey was undertaken can be found on the pedestal beneath the obelisk—no small feat!

The Luxor Obelisk. Photo by Leah, July 2017.
View looking south at the Place de la Concorde from the Rue Royale. The Palais Bourbon (home of the French National Assembly) can be seen directly behind the Luxor Obelisk from its spot on the opposite bank of the Seine, and the golden dome of Les Invalides can be seen to the right. Photo by Leah, July 2017.

Two fountains were added to the Place de la Concorde shortly after the installation of the Luxor Obelisk from 1836-1840. They were designed by Jacques-Ignace Hittorff, who took inspiration from the fountains of Rome—particularly Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s Fountain of the Four Rivers located in the Piazza Navona (Hittorff also built the town hall of the 1st arrondissement of Paris, discussed earlier). The two Fontaines de la Concorde are located to the north and south of the Luxor Obelisk. The fountains share a marine theme: the motif of the north fountain, the Fontaine des Rivières (fountain of the rivers), features the Rhône and Rhine rivers; the south fountain, the Fontaine des Mers (fountain of the seas), centers on the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea.

The Fontaine des Rivières, located at the north end of the Place de la Concorde. Image sourced from Pixabay.
The Fontaine des Mers, located at the south end of the Place de la Concorde. Image sourced from Pixabay.

The fountains also share a structural form. They both have a circular stone pool as their base, in which six alternating male and female figures (tritons and naiads/water nymphs) hold fish that spout water upwards.

A naiad in the Fontaine des Rivières. Image sourced from Pixabay.

I’m mildly amused and delighted by the triton figure below.

A triton in the Fontaine des Rivières. Image sourced from Pixabay.
A naiad in the Fontaine des Rivières. Image sourced from Pixabay.

Behind the tritons and naiads are six seated sculptural figures who have their feet placed on the prows of ships. Above them is a middle circular basin. These figures are allegorical. The sculpted figures in the north fountain, the Fontaine des Rivières, are meant to represent the harvesting of flowers, fruits, and grapes as well as the “geniuses” of river navigation, industry, and agriculture. The ones in the south fountain, the Fontaine des Mers, depict the harvesting of coral and fish, the collection of pearls and shellfish, as well as the “geniuses” of astronomy, navigation, and commerce.

The allegorical figures of the north fountain, the Fontaine des Rivières. Image sourced from Pixabay.
A triton figure in the Fontaine des Rivières. Image sourced from Pixabay.

The middle basin of both fountains contain a further grouping of four allegorical statues. The fountains are then topped by an inverted circular basin.

Middle and top basins of one of the Concorde fountains. Image sourced from Pixabay.
Middle and top basin of one of the Concorde fountains. Image sourced from Pixabay.

The Place de la Concorde also contains eight statues (one for each octagonal side) that are meant to depict eight French cities: Brest, Bordeaux, Lille, Lyon, Marseille, Nantes, Rouen, and Strasbourg. When the province of Alsace-Lorraine was lost to Germany following the Franco-Prussian War in 1871, the statue of Strasbourg (the region’s capital city) was covered with black-mourning crepe on state occasions; this practice ended when the territory was recovered at the end of WWI. (I admire the melodrama of this).

Statue of Strasbourg on the Place de la Concorde. Image sourced from Wikipedia.
Statue of Marseille on the Place de la Concorde. Image sourced from Wikipedia.

The Place de la Concorde also has several beautiful lampposts that complement the style of the Fontaines des Concorde.

Lamppost in the Place de la Concorde. Photo by Leah, July 2017.
Lamppost in the Place de la Concorde. Image sourced from Pixabay.
Lamppost in the Place de la Concorde. Image sourced from Pixabay.

The Place de la Concorde has an interesting history. It was originally designed in 1755 by Ange-Jacques Gabriel2 as the Place Louis XV to honour the current French king. The centre of the square featured a large equestrian statue of Louis XV. In 1789, this statue was torn down by revolutionaries and the square was renamed the Place de la Révolution. A guillotine was then set up and it was here that Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, Maximilien Robespierre, and other prominent figures were executed during the French Revolution. In 1795, the French Directory changed the name of the square to the Place de la Concorde as a gesture of reconciliation. The square underwent a couple more name changes in 1814 (back to the Place Louis XV) and 1826 (to the Place Louis XVI) before permanently becoming the Place de la Concorde in 1830.

Below is an illustration that shows what the square would have originally looked like, with the equestrian statue of Louis XV at its centre.

View of the order and the march of ceremonies which must be observed on the day of the publication of the Peace at the Place de Louis XV, circa 1763. Image sourced from Wikipedia.

Below is an image of Louis XVI’s execution by guillotine in the renamed Place de la Révolution. The empty pedestal on the right side of the painting is where the equestrian statue of Louis XVI’s predecessor and grandfather, Louis XV, had been located.

Execution of Louis XVI in the Place de la Révolution. Isidore Stanislas Helman, 1794. Image sourced from Wikipedia.

Our final stop on this tour of Paris will take us to the Palais Garnier, which is about a 17-minute walk northeast of the Place de la Concorde. The Palais Garnier is a 1,979 seat opera house that was built in the Napoleon III style by Charles Garnier from 1861-1875. This style is highly eclectic and borrows from many historical sources including Baroque, Palladian Classicism, and Renaissance architecture. The Napoleon III style is highly ornamental, leaving no space free of decoration. This can be seen on the main south façade of the opera, which overlooks the Place de l’Opéra. 14 painters, mosaicists, and 73 sculptors created the decorative elements that can be seen here.

South façade of the Palais Garnier. Photo by Leah, July 2017.

I should note that in the picture above, I was standing at an angle that doesn’t let you see the full roof of the opera house. You can see it in the photo below. The two gilded sculptural groups located on the left and right side of the roof of the opera house were made by Charles Gumery. The one on the left is L’Harmonie (harmony) and the one on the right is La Poésie (poetry). Both of Gumery’s sculptural groups are made of gilt copper electrotype. A border of tragic antique masks, sculpted by Jean-Baptiste-Jules Klagmann, line the roof below them. The sculptural group in the middle of the roof, at the top of the green dome, is Apollo, Poésie, et Musique by Aimé Millet.

South façade of the Palais Garnier. Image sourced from Pixabay.
L’Harmonie by Charles Gumery. Photo by Leah, July 2017.
La Poésie by Charles Gumery. Photo by Leah, July 2017.
Apollo, Poésie, et Musique by Aimé Millet. Image sourced from Pixabay.

A little lower on the façade, beneath the Academie Nationale De Musique lettering, there is a line of busts that pay tribute to several renowned composers. They are, from left to right: Gioachino Antonio Rossini; Daniel François Esprit Auber; Ludwig van Beethoven; Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; Gaspare Luigi Pacifico Spontini; Giacomo Meyerbeer; and Jacques-François-Fromental-Élie Halévy.

South façade of the Palais Garnier. Image sourced from Pixabay.

Beethoven, Mozart, and Spontini can be seen below.

Busts of composers on the Palais Garnier. Photo by Leah, July 2017.

A close-up on Beethoven.

Bust of Beethoven on the Palais Garnier. Photo by Leah, July 2017.

A close-up on Mozart.

Bust of Mozart on the Palais Garnier. Photo by Leah, July 2017.

The west façade of the Palais Garnier contains the Pavilion de l’Empereur, which was designed to give Napoleon III direct and secure access to the opera house via a double ramp into the building. The Emperor’s security was a prime concern when constructing this new opera house, as a previous assassination attempt had been made on Napoleon III when he was entering the opera house at the Salle Le Peletier on January 14, 1858. Three bombs were thrown at the imperial carriage by Italian revolutionary Felice Orsini and his accomplices. 8 people were killed and 142 injured, although Napoleon III and Empress Éugenie were unhurt. This pavilion now houses the Bibliothèque-Musée de l’Opéra de Paris (Paris Opera Library Museum). The east façade of the Palais Garnier (not pictured) contains a matching pavilion, the Pavilion des Abonnés, which allowed opera subscribers similar direct access from their carriages into the building.

West façade of the Palais Garnier. Photo by Leah, July 2017.
West façade of the Palais Garnier. Photo by Leah, July 2017.

That’s it for Paris, at long last! I hope you enjoyed reading my posts!


1 My other Paris posts include wandering through the neighbourhoods of Le Marais and Montmartre; a tour of several local bakeries, cafés, and markets; a hunt through the streets of Paris for beautiful doors, metro-stations, and interesting examples of pixel-art; an exploration of Paris’ historic covered passageways; museums and art galleries such as the Louvre (its history and its collections), Musée d’Orsay, Musée Picasso, Musée Marmottan Monet, Musée de l’Orangerie, Musée de la Vie Romantique, Musée de Cluny, Musée de Montmartre, and the Centre Georges Pompidou; as well as famed city attractions such as Notre-Dame Cathedral, the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe; Sainte-Chapelle; the Palais & Jardin de Luxembourg; the Paris Catacombs; and the Jardin des Plantes.

2 Ange-Jacques Gabriel was Louis XV’s principal architect, and also designed the Petit Trianon and the Royal Opera House of Versailles.

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