Paris - The Marais
( Originally Published 1921 )
IN the days when the Bastille Saint-Antoine was a fort-bastide—built on the line of the city walls just to the south of the Porte Saint-Antoine, and surrounded by its own moat, the Marais was the favoured residence of the nobility. The fortress commanded the river and its approaches, and furnished protection to the Hotel Saint-Pol, to which Charles V removed the court when he came to the throne.
Whilst Jean le Bon was a prisoner in England, his son, the dauphin, afterwards Charles V, was alarmed by the growing power of the Confrerie des Bourgeois, the municipal authorities of Paris. The climax was reached when their formidable provost, Etienne Marcel, at the head of two or three thousand men, wearing the colours of the revolt, marched to the Louvre, broke into the apartments of the dauphin, and in the presence of the prince assassinated Robert de Clermont, marshal of France, and Jean de Conflans, marshal of Champagne, his two favourite ministers. The dauphin, himself, escaped merely by consenting to wear the red and green cap of the republican leader. .
The prince regent at first took flight, but returning to Paris after Etienne Marcel had been put to death by his order, determined to seek a more secure residence with the Association de la Marchandise de l'Eau, which had always been de-voted to the king. So, forsaking the Palais and the Louvre, Charles now bought, near the Porte de Saint-Pol, the hotel of the comte d'Etampes, adding later to his purchase the hotel of the Archbishop of Sens with its gardens, and the smaller hotels d'Estomesnil and Pute-y-Muce and the estate of the abbots of Saint-Maur. When he came to the throne Charles V declared the Hotel Saint-Pol the property of the crown. It was a group of palaces, rather than a single building, surrounded by high walls, which enclosed meadows, gardens, galleries, and courts.
Charles VI, the son and successor of Charles V, occupied the Hotel Saint-Pol during the greater part of his life. Its gardens were shaded by trellises, covered with vines, which yielded annually a goodly supply of yin de l'hotel. After Charles VI became insane he amused himself by keeping a menagerie under the shade of the trellises, paying fabulous sums for rare animals. At the Hotel Saint-Pol were born the king's twelve children, by Isabeau de Baviere; and here in later years, abandoned by the queen, he died, attended only by his mistress, Odette de Champdivers, la petite reine, who was faithful to him to the end, while the queen gave herself up to her passion for her brother-in-law, the due d'Orleans, in the Hotel Barbette.
After the murder of her lover and the death of her husband, Isabeau de Baviere passed also the last miserable years of her life at the Hotel Saint-Pol—the Tournelles had become the residence of the reigning monarch—shut away from the eyes of a populace which hated her. Brantome describes her funeral: she was carried out of the hotel and conveyed in a little boat on the Seine without pomp or ceremony, to her tomb at Saint-Denis, " as though she had been a simple demoiselle."
At the angle of the Rue Vieille du Temple and the Rue des Francs-Bourgeois stands a beautiful old house with an overhanging tourelle, ornamented with niches and pinnacles in the Gothic style. Under the general restoration remains something of the original Hotel Barbette, this petit sejour of the unfaithful Queen Isabeau, in which the duc d'Orleans dined upon the fatal night of his assassination.
Etienne Barbette, master of the mint and confidential friend of Philippe le Bel, built a house here, in 1298, and it is his name which has survived its colourful history. But here, under the tenancy of Isabeau de Baviere, the queen and her lover decided all the affairs of state, for the duke was at this time the only rampart of fallen monarchy and the logical protector of the future king against the plots of the Duke of Burgundy. We have already seen how the Duke of Burgundy revenged himself, by the murder of his cousin. The scene of the tragedy was a few steps from the Hotel Barbette in the Rue des Francs-Bourgeois.
As for the house itself it again became interesting in 1521, as the residence of the old comte de Breze, husband of the famous Diane de Poitiers. One day as Diane stood at a window, doubtless a window of the tourelle, Francois I riding through the street caught sight of her and at once fell a victim to her charms, an incident that launched her upon her career. We are told repeatedly that she was not beautiful, but her spell over both Francois and his son was not less potent.
We have seen at Saint-Denis the tomb which Louis XII raised to the memory of his grand-parents, the murdered duc d'Orleans and his wife, Valentine de Milan. The tomb was saved from the monumental chapel which the duke built, in 1393, in gratitude for his escape from the famous fire in the old hotel of Blanche de Castille during a masquerade, called the ballet des ardents.
The Chapelle d'Orleans formed part of the old convent of the Celestins which had occupied the Quartier Saint-Pol since 1352, when the monks of this order were established there under the patron-age of the dauphin, Charles, during the captivity of his father, Jean le Bon, in London. The Caserne des Celestins marks the site of this celebrated convent, and the Boulevard Henri IV, when cut through in recent times, swept a wide path through the middle of the estate, destroying many associations.
After the dauphin became Charles V he built the Celestins a beautiful church, whose portail bore statues of himself and the queen, Jeanne de Bourbon. These are now at Saint-Denis. The Celestins, then, became the special foundation of royalty, liberally endowed and protected by Charles V, Charles VI, and the due d'Orleans. The church was paved with sepulchral stones carved with the effigies of the benefactors of the convent, garbed in the habit of the Celestins in which they were dressed before receiving the last sacrament. The choir contained the tombs of Jeanne de Bourbon and of Leon de Lustigan, last king of Armenia—both now at Saint-Denis—and of Anne de Bourgogne, Duchess of Bedford —now at the Louvre.
Annexed to the church was a chapel, given by the confederation of the ten thousand martyrs in the XVth century, wherein were buried the families of Gesvres and Beaune under magnificent monuments. Three little chapels, communicating with the Chapelle des Gesvres, belonged to the Roche-forts, the Zamets, and to Charles de Maigne, gentleman of the chamber to Henri II, with a beautiful statue by Paul Ponce, now in the Louvre.
The more magnificent Chapelle d'Orleans rose attached to the Celestins and contained the assemblage of sculptured monuments of which we have already spoken, and of which many were destroyed and others distributed between Saint-Denis and the Louvre.
Naturally so regal a church was pillaged during the Revolution, but the greater sacrifice was made in the middle of the last century when the whole of the chapel was razed to make way for the Boulevard Henri IV.
Behind the Hotel de Ville, between the river and the Rue des Francs-Bourgeois, Paris is honey-combed with ancient streets, filled with historic souvenirs of other times. The Hotel de Ville itself, a modern restoration of the original, which was burned in the Commune of 1871, sounds a bit too loudly the note of the quarter. The Place de Greve, with its hideous historical associations, preceded the modernized Place de 1'Hotel de Ville. Here, in 1473, was Jean Hardi torn to pieces by four horses on the accusation of having tried to poison Louis XI; here Nicolas de Salcede, sieur d'Auvillers, suffered the same fantastic punishment, in the presence of the king and the queens of the court, for having conspired against the life of Catherine de Medicis' youngest son, the due d'Anj ou. Here, on May 27, 1610, was Ravaillac executed for the murder of Henri IV; and in 1757 Damiens, the fanatic who tried to kill Louis XV, was put to death with all the savagery of an ingenious people. These are but a few of the horrid associations of this place.
Immediately behind the Hotel de Ville lies the Church of Saint-Gervais, brought into prominence by the bomb dropped upon it on the Good Friday of 1918, during the celebration of high mass. Many people were killed and the interior of the church was badly damaged. Though as a parish Saint-Gervais dates from the time of Childebert, the present edifice shows nothing earlier than the remains of a Gothic church erected in the XIIIth century and entirely remodelled in the XVIth century. De Brosse, Marie de Medicis' architect, added a Greek portico in 1616. The interior, remarkable for its height, is considered a fine specimen of Gothic architecture. Most of its treasures of painting have been carried to the Louvre and there is little doubt that for future generations Saint-Gervais will stand more prominently as the martyr church of Paris than for its artistic qualities.
The church stands at the parting of the ways, both leading into the heart of the old Paris of Charles V and VI. One has only to wander at random through this network of narrow byways to become lost in the Paris of the XVth century, of which there remain many fragments, as well as a few entire houses, crumbling with decay or de-based by unworthy occupation, but eloquent of the magnificence of their time.
The Rue de l'Hotel de Ville, which runs parallel to the quay of the same name, has preserved its provincial character. Following it through its file of dark dwellings from which exhale the odours of many centuries of dampness, the street at its base takes a short curve to the left and comes out, at its junction with the Rue du Figuier, into a small place before an ancient house, whose pointed tower, overhanging the street, has already intrigued us. This is the Hotel de Sens, once interwoven with the group of dwellings which made the royal residence of Charles VI.
This noble house, admirable even in its decay, remains, with the Hotel de Cluny, one of the most remarkable specimens of XVth century French architecture. Happy are those who have seen it in its ruin, for restoration is in the air, and the house, the property of the city since 1911, is destined to become a museum of relics of Jeanne d'Arc.
The original house served as a Paris residence for the archbishops of Sens, from which mediaeval city Paris, as a simple bishopric, depended until 1622. Its importance therefore was considerable when Jean le Bon, returning from his captivity in England, resided here for a time as guest of the archbishop. Charles V bought the house from Guillaume de Melun and it became the chief of the buildings which constituted the Hotel Saint-Pol. When the latter was abandoned for the Tournelles, under Charles VII, the estate which had belonged to the archbishops was restored to them. The present building goes back to Tristan de Salazar, archbishop of Sens, who erected it from 1474 to 1519, and is about contemporary with the Hotel de Cluny, the only other specimen in Paris of the domestic architecture of this date.
This old hotel has known all the grandeurs, the vicissitudes, the decadence of the quarter itself. Inhabited by the clergy—archbishops, bishops, cardinals—by royalty, there is also a tradition that it offered its hospitality to Jeanne d'Arc when she entered Paris victorious. Under Henri IV it was for a short time famous as the residence of his divorced wife, Marguerite de Valois—la refine Margot—who brought scandal to its threshold, for one day returning from mass at the Celestins, her page and favourite, Julien, was shot dead at the door of her carriage, by her jealous former lover, Vermond. The queen swore that she would neither eat nor drink until his death was avenged, and she had the assassin beheaded in her presence two days later in the place before the hotel. It was in this house that the former queen slept in a bed with black satin sheets to show off the whiteness of her skin.
After Paris was accorded an archbishop the Hotel de Sens was deserted by its owners, who, however, were not dispossessed until the Revolutionists took possession of the property. Its de-cline was then rapid. For a time it served as a diligence office, and under the Directoire the famous " Courrier de Lyon " is said to have started from its court. Planted in the facade is a ball from the revolution of 1830. Little by little speculators robbed it of its garden, its chapel, and in 1891 the house was despoiled of its chimney-pieces and carved woodwork, sold to collectors; but the square dungeon with its tower at the back of the court and the winding stair of the tourelle remain intact.
The Hotel Saint-Pol yielded as royal residence to the Tournelles, which came to the crown during the reign of Charles VI. It was a palace of in-numerable turrets, first built by Pierre d'Orgemont, chancellor of France, in 1380. His son, bishop of Paris, sold it to the due de Berry, uncle of Charles VI, from whom it passed to his nephew the due d'Orleans, and from him to the king. The duke of Bedford, regent of France after the death of Henry V, lived at the Tournelles. Charles VII was the first monarch to adopt the Tournelles as a residence and after him it was occupied on occasions by Louis XI, Charles VIII, Louis XII, and Francois I. Henri II found the palace mesquin, insalubre, and nauseabond and made only short stops there during tournaments held in the park which surrounded the chateau, on the site of the present Place des Vosges. The Rue du Pare Royal marks one of the boundaries of this park.
It was in such a tournament, held in honour of the marriage of Elisabeth of France with Philip II of Spain, that Henri II, tilting with the Earl of Montgomery, was fatally wounded. The king was hastily carried to the Tournelles, where he expired ten days later, and Catherine de Medicis conceiving a superstitious horror of the place obtained from her son, Charles IX, authority to throw it down. The Rue des Tournelles occupies the line of the facade of the palace, the Place des Vosges marks the site of the royal garden.
The Place des Vosges, in its present form, dates from Henri IV, who determined to make the Marais the handsomest quarter of Paris and the Place Royale (Place des Vosges) the brilliant centre from which wide streets radiating in all directions should bear the names of all the provinces of France—the Rues Saintonge, de Bearn, de Bretagne are survivals of the original intention. The plans adopted for the place were designed by the king's favourite architect, Jacques-Androuet du Cerceau and the king built the side towards the Rue Saint-Antoine at his own expense and then ceded plots of ground on the other sides of the square to his courtiers, on condition that they erect houses at once according to the accepted plan, in order that the whole enclosure should be uniform. Thirty-six pavilions surrounded the square.
Four new streets were opened leading to the place and the king erected the two central pavilions on the south and north, which were called the Pavilion du Roi and the Pavilion de la Reine. The king came daily while in Paris to direct and speed-up the work and during his absences at Fontainebleau he wrote constantly to Sully begging him to do the same. " Je volts recommande la Place Royale" was his admonition, added to letters to his minister on other subjects.
Henri meant to live in the Pavilion du Roi, but the square was unfinished at the time of his death and it was not until the commencement of the reign of Louis XIII that the Place Royale was inaugurated. The occasion was made brilliant as part of the festivities attending the marriage of the young king's sister, Elisabeth, with the Infant of Spain. This fete established the favour of the place with the aristocracy and it remained a centre of fashion until the commercial world invaded it at the end of the XVIIth century. Though under Louis XIII duelling was forbidden, the Place Royale was a favourite rendezvous for duellists, and the balconies and windows of the square used to be filled with spectators, which gave such affairs almost the publicity of gladiatorial combats.
As a warning to duellists Richelieu raised in the centre of the square an equestrian statue of the king. It was destroyed by the Revolutionists, who melted the bronze into cannons, and the present statue, by Dupaty and Cortot, was erected in 1825. It presides over desolation, solitude, abandon.
The setting is intact—strangely unchanged and more perfect in its preservation than its contemporary, the Place Dauphine, of which we have spoken. But every vestige of former splendour has vanished. Where once was all gaiety, life, animation; where sedan chairs and carriages deposited the beauties of the court of a gallant monarch, where elegant cavaliers pirouetted under the eyes of their divinities, where nobles fought and played, where was the rendezvous of fashion, where court and public found their choicest distractions and pleasures, is now a vast emptiness pervaded by a touching melancholy. We seem far from Paris in this complete picture of a dead past, this empty theatre of departed glories. In the poetic beauty of its decline the Place des Vosges is like some exquisite discarded mistress. It has something of the tragedy of old Edinburgh.
The vogue of the Place Royale persisted under Louis XIV; then the beau monde emigrated to the vicinity of the Tuileries, or the Palais Royal, while many of the aristocracy had already crossed the river to the faubourg Saint-Germain. The cannons of the Bastille drove out the remaining faithful—shops were shut up and homes abandoned. The Place Royale became the " Place de l'Indivisibilite " and an armory was installed. The present name is in honour of the first department of France to forward patriot-contributions to Paris.
The disposition of the place is fine. The brick houses with their wide, white markings in stone, their picturesque, high-pitched, slate roofs, de-scribe a large square upon which open one hundred and forty-four arcades; long galleries are reserved to promenaders; and four wide roads to horsemen and carriages. In the centre the garden was formerly enclosed by a handsome grill dating from Louis XIV. This grill, torn out for no apparent reason, is replaced by an inferior railing, but a fragment of it encloses the magnificent hotel of cardinal Mazarin in the Rue Vivienne. (Now part of the Bibliotheque Nationale.)
Madame de Sevigne was born in No. 1 Place Royale; Richelieu lived in No. 21. Under Louis-Philippe artists and men of letters replaced the Brands seigneurs. Rachel, the tragedienne, died in No. 13; and, in 1832, Victor Hugo occupied an apartment in No. 6, the former dwelling of Marion Delorme, which has now become a national museum of the effects of the poet.
Reentering the Marais by the picturesque Rue Francois Miron, on the left hand of Saint-Gervais, we find again some ancient dwellings. The Hotel de Beauvais (No. 62) is readily distinguishable for its agreeable facade with balconies and its imposing entrance leading into a fine court. The house was built about the middle of the XVIIth century for Pierre de Beauvais, whose wife, Catherine Bellier, was first lady in waiting to Anne of Austria. In the decorations of the court the heads of rams (belier) which alternate with those of lions are in allusion to the mistress of the house. The queen so favoured her that it used to be said that her house was built with stones from the Louvre. There is a rich vestibule with Doric columns sustaining trophies ; an oval court with pilasters and masks; a stairway with Corinthian columns, reliefs, and a rich balustrade leading to the chief rooms on the first floor. From one of these rooms, on August 26, 1660, Anne of Austria and Henrietta Maria, of England, watched the triumphal entry of Louis XIV and Marie-Therese into the capital.
The Rue Francois Miron was formerly part of the Rue Saint-Antoine, into which it leads, at the widening of the thoroughfare where the modern Rue de Rivoli starts. We are now in the heart of the Marais and seem far from Paris. Two churches, dating from Louis XIII, give the note of antiquity and rise above the general squalour into which the neighbourhood has fallen. That nearest the Rue Francois Miron is the Church of Saint Paul and Saint Louis, built for Louis XIII, in 1627-41, by Francois Derand, upon the site of a Jesuit church, built in 1580, in which Ravaillac, according to his own testimony, was instructed by the Jesuit d'Aubigne to murder Henri IV. The site of the church was first occupied by the hotel of the cardinal de Bourbon.
The present church imitates the Italian style of the XVIth century; it is cruciform and its hand-some dome is one of the earliest erected in Paris. Richelieu added the portal, from designs by the Jesuit, Marcel Ange, and he celebrated the first mass. Louis XIII made a liberal endowment and the church, before its treasures were despoiled and dispersed by the Revolution, contained many interesting monuments. The sculptor, Sarazin, who carried on the traditions of Germain Pilon, made for it the statues of the grand Conde and his father, Henri de Bourbon; while Pilon's statue of the cruel chancellor, Rene de Birague, (now in the Louvre) was one of the more famous monuments. Sarazin made for the church a golden urn, supported by silver angels, to contain the heart of Louis XIII, and the heart of Louis XIV was brought here, in 1715, enclosed in a case designed by Coustou Jeune. The pulpit was given by Gaston de France, brother of the king.
The church still retains a few of its treasures, amongst which the most famous is the Christ in the Garden of Olivcs by Eugene Delacroix. There is a Madonna in marble by Germain Pilon, a replica of the terra-cotta from the Sainte-Chapelle, now in the Louvre. The crucifix in the sacristy comes from the old chapel of the Bastille and the shells which serve as vessels for the holy water were given by Victor Hugo when his first child was baptised.
The Temple Sainte-Marie, which carries the picturesqueness of the street well down towards the Place de la Bastille, was built as the Church of the Visitation, by Francois Mansart, in 1632. In the convent of the Visitandines Louise de la Fayette, the virtuous and beautiful friend of Louis XIII, preferring a life of seclusion to the scandals and temptations of the court, took the veil in 1637, to escape from the insults of Richelieu and the queen, who feared her influence. She became superior of the convent under the name Mere Angelique. Louis saw her there and held a long conversation with her through the grill of the parloir, and it was during this conversation that she persuaded him to consecrate the kingdom to the Virgin. We have seen, in the choir of Notre-Dame, the statue of Louis XIII offering his crown and sceptre to the Virgin, and we know that his son, Louis XIV, executed the vow which his father died too soon to accomplish.
Upon the site of this church stood formerly the Hotel de Boissy, in which died Quelus, the favourite of Henri III, who had been mortally wounded in the great duel of April 27, 1578. For thirty-three days Henri watched at the bedside of his dying " mignon," offering one hundred thousand francs to the surgeon who could save the life of one to whom he bore une merveilleuse amide.
Quelus died calling upon the king and it was Henri himself who cut his long chestnut locks and took from his ears the earrings he had given him.
Close by the Church of the Visitation is the Hotel de Mayenne, or d'Ormesson, or du Petit-Muse, a handsome house built by Du Cerceau for the duc de Mayenne.
But of all the ancient hotels which still remain of those which clustered around the neighbour-hood of the Place Royale the most interesting is that built by Sully, the minister who superintended its erection. Du Cerceau was again the architect, building upon part of the site of the old Tournelles this handsome residence for Maximilian de Bethune, due de Sully, who had made a fortune in the service of Henri IV.
The rich facade of the hotel still looks down upon the rue Saint-Antoine, the lower part destroyed by commercial disfigurement, but the upper stories still full of character. There are two massive corner pavilions with the high-pitched Renaissance roof, connected by a simpler face of which the upper part is obviously modern, but under which is the original imposing entrance to the stately court. This court is richly sculptured with reliefs of the four Seasons, in the Gouj on style, with armour, with masques and foliage above the windows. Two sphynxes guard the stone steps which lead into the central building at the back and the whole court is opulent in carved stonework of the period. Inside a noble salon shows the proportions of the apartments and here and there a trace of the monogram of Sully. Another room preserves its ancient mosaic pavement.