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The Louvre - Paris

( Originally Published Early 1900's )



The panorama of the Louvre, the Tuileries and the distant Arc de Triomphe is one which has been described by innumerable guide books in hackneyed phrase, yet it never fails to delight the eye and interest the mind, since under the charm of everchanging skies and days it never looks twice alike. You may cross from the left bank to the right of the Seine by the Pont Neuf, glancing at the statue of Henri IV in the centre, a fine figure of a man and a king who knew his people well, as he proved when he said that what he wanted to see was every peasant in his realm with a fowl to put in the pot on Sundays. He realised that what his subjects longed for was a. feeling of security in the home, and he express ed it in homely phrase.

On reaching the right bank of the river by the Pont Neuf, you face the Louvre with the church of St. Germain l'Auxerrois on the right and the Pont des Arts on the left.

The church of St. Germain l'Auxerrois is one of the most interesting of the Paris churches. In 560 a small oratory was built to the memory of Germain, Bishop of Auxerre, who was in the habit of resting at that spot on his journeys from village to village preaching and converting. A century later, under the direction of another St. Germain, Bishop of Paris, a circular baptistry was added to the original building and named St. Germain le Rond. It was used by the surrounding neighbourhood as far as St. Cloud, for baptism. Water was brought from the Seine in abundance and at settled periods. In the dry intervals children climbed into the font for instruction, and so originated the Cathechist schools of which there are so many in France today.

St. Germain l'Auxerrois is also the oldest daughter of the Paris cathedrals and the priests of Notre - Dame were formerly bound to celebrate Mass there each year, on the festal day of its patron saint. Further, its chapter, quite an important one, was bound to furnish the bishop of the diocese with a horse and oats wherewith to feed it, whenever he joined the King's army.

Under the Normans the church suffered considerably and by them was made into a fortress surrounded by moats, which on their retirement fell into ruin. King Robert the Pious rebuilt it in the XIth century and a century later, under Philip Augustus, it became the Chapel Royal. This title may be the reason why, on the anniversary of the death of Louis XVI, a mass is said for his soul, and the old nobility attends, dressed in black. The tribune where Marie-Antoinette used to sit, the prie-Dieu where she knelt, may still be seen.

The great bell of St. Germain l'Auxerrois rang joyously to announce every royal birth, every national event; it also rang the tragic signal for the Massacre of the Huguenots on 5t. Bartholomew's Day, August 24th, 1572. The bells of this church are still the most important in the city, thirty-six in number, each one with its special name.

Nothing now remains of King Robert's church. Some of the old stones were no doubt used in successive buildings, but they cannot be traced. A XIIth century spire and four small bell towers were destroyed in the XVIIth century. The central door, the chancel and the abside are the work of the XIVth century. Almost all the rest of the church is of later date. The high altar is XVIIth century, the iron and bronze gates of the XVIIIth Much of the restoring work of that century was bad and some of it wickedly so. The simple, dignified pillars were fluted, the rood screen was broken and carted away. A great deal of the old glass was destroyed during the Revolution, but the rose window and four others in the south transept are ancient.

The chapel of Notre Dame de Bonne Garde is a great centre of devotion because the statue of the Virgin was miraculously saved from destruction when the mob of 1831 attacked the church and destroyed many of its beautiful ornaments. When the mob retreated the Virgin was found under a heap of rubbish, unhurt. It was thereupon placed in the chapel of St. Louis and the chapel was re-named to celebrate the miraculous preservation of our Lady.

Under the Revolution the church was declared to be a Temple de la Reconnaissance, it was restored for public worship under the Concordat. Forty years later, in 1831, it was closed again and for a time served as the Town Hall of the IVth arrondissement. Viollet-le-Duc, who built the present Town Hall, erected a tower between it and the church which was tall enough to overlook the Tuileries Palace. Napoleon III, in his fear of spies, had it suppressed.

Across the road from St. Germain l'Auxerrois is the Pavillon des Arts, exactly opposite the Pont des Arts, and the work of Louis XIV.

The name Louvre was derived from the word Louverie, a rendezvous of wolf hunters.

The early walls of the palace were built of hard stone from the quarries on the Mont Ste. Genevieve and were begun not earlier than 1190, not later than 1192, by Phillip Augustus.

The original plans were made for a palace more like a prison than a king's residence. How small it was may be seen to-day by noting the outline of its walls marked in white stones on the pavement of the inner court.

There were four towers and one round tower, the keep in the middle, scarcely any windows, and, surround ing it, a square moat. The original palace was built in ten years, the famous wall, within which it stood, took over twenty-one.

It was not until the XIVth century that the Louvre was in any way suitable for the Kings of France to live in. Under the orders of Charles V the rooms were then furnished and decorated afresh and the Court bidden to assemble in them. Until this was done the reigning sovereigns showed a marked preference for the old palace on the Ile de la Cite, or for the Palais des Tournelles, in the neighbourhood of St. Paul.

A century later Francois I known as "the Prince of the Renaissance", made great plans for the enlargement of the Louvre. He thought to turn it into a fine Renaissance palace; but his plans did not mature. He began to demolish the old walls and got very little further than that. He had the round tower pulled down, an undertaking of five months' hard labour by a swarm of workmen. Eight months before he died he commissioned Lescot to begin the West wing. This work also Francois only saw in its infancy. It was only in the succeeding reign, that of Henri II, that it was completed.

Many good Parisians of the day regretted the demolishing of the old keep and a superstition grew up which said that the hole made by its uprooting would never be filled. This superstition held good until the XXth century- when the hole in question was filled up and paved over.

To see the present Louvre Palace in proper perspective, it is well to stand within the circle of white stones which mark the site of that old keep of the Middle Ages, and think backwards. Here in the Middle Ages stood the little Gothic castle, turreted and dark, typical of the time in which it was built. Then, under Henri II and Catherine de Medici, came the work of Lescot and Jean Goujon, the sculptor, an amazing performance.

To what remained of the old castle they built, in the South-West corner, a wing of splendid arches, high walls decorated with wonderful sculptures. What is now the Place du Carrousel was then a mass of small houses, narrow streets, gardens and tile works.

The southern wing was begun under Henri II, but was not finished in his reign. After his death his widow, Catherine de Medici, continued the work and in 1566-76 Pierre Chambiges built to her order the Petite Galerie, a wing, originally of one storey, overlooking the Seine. She next proceeded to build the Grande Galerie which was to connect the Louvre with her new Palace of the Tuileries.

Henri IV added a second storey to these galleries, now known as the Grande Galerie and the Galerie d'Apollon. The Pavillon de Flore was also built in the reign of Henri IV and in 1624 the same king laid the foundation stone of the Pavillon de l'Horloge.

Under Louis XIV the Galerie d'Apollon was rebuilt after destruction by fire and the famous colonnade of twenty-eight Corinthian columns in pairs was constructed at his order by Perrault. After this the Roi Soleil neglected the Louvre for the chateau of Versailles and it was not until the reign of Napoleon I that work on the palace was resumed.

In 1805 the Emperor ordered the whole place to be thoroughly restored and a connecting gallery to be built between it and the Palace of the Tuileries. This wing had been built as far as the Pavillon de Rohan, when the Emperor was deposed.

After another inactive period the work was continued in 1848. In 1852 Napoleon III ordered the building of the North Gallery. Finally, the South Gallery, overlooking the Seine, was enlarged, remodelled and completed between 1863 and 1868.

All these buildings welded into one great palace make an impression of supreme magnificence, hardly to be equalled in Europe. The palace of the Louvre covers three times as much ground as the Vatican, including St. Peter's. With the exception of the rooms occupied by the Ministry of Finance, it is entirely devoted to the Fine Arts.

From the windows of the new Louvre the view is over the charming gardens of the Tuileries, from which the Palace of Catherine de Medici and Louis XIV has vanished, destroyed by the mob in 1871. Where Gambetta's florid statue now stands, once stood the church of St. Thomas, dedicated to the memory of Thomas a Becket. This church was demolished under Louis Philippe. Beyond it is the Arc du Carrousel, a monument to the victories of Napoleon I in Italy. It makes a splendid gateway to the Tuileries gardens, planned by that great French garden maker, Le Notre.

The Tuileries Gardens are enclosed on three sides by terraces. On the North, overlooking the rue de Rivoli, is the Terrasse des Feuillants, which gets its name from a monastery of the Feuillant order, (reformed Cistercians), which once existed there. When the order was dissolved in 1791 the monastery became the meeting place of the moderate party (Les Feuillants) as opposed to the violent Jacobins. It was also used as a riding school and a meeting place of the National Convention during the Revolution. The Republic was instituted there in 1792. When the mob destroyed the Palace in 1871, the adjacent buildings went with it. On the South side, near the river is the Terrasse Bord de l'Eau, with the Orangerie. The space at the end of the Terrasse des Feuillants is known as the Jeu de Paume.

The tall trees, the fountains, the statues, the brilliant flower beds, lend beauty to this garden laid out by Le Notre in the reign of Louis XIV. But it is not the monuments, not the historical memories which alone make the charm of the Tuileries gardens. It is the children, the lovers, the man who tames the sparrows by feeding them with bread crumbs. It is the life of to-day which gives charm and brings laughter to the flower filled spaces, to the shady groves and the broad walks. Little boys and girls cluster round the fountains to sail their boats, which can be hired at so much the hour from a man near by, or of which they can become the proud owners by paying a modest sum. Very small children ride on the wooden horses with great solemnity, feeling the great adventure to be no laughing matter. For fi f t y centimes they get three turns. Others sit entranced before the Guignol watching Punch beat Judy in the old, old way. Surely no-one is so conservative as a child.

Older and more advanced youngsters skate and scoot about the paved alleys while their grownup brothers and sisters play tennis up against the walls of the south terrace. Football is played in the open space near the Terrasse des Feuillants by working boys in the dinner hour. Mothers, nurses, lovers, and lonely people sit on benches and chairs, sewing, talking, dreaming, watching the lively play of youth and the light and shade of sun and clouds among the trees, the flowers and playing waters of the fountains. Midinettes eat bread and chocolate for lunch, powder their noses, redden their lips, and gossip as noisily as the sparrows. Here is life. There, in the palace, are memories.



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