Paris - Conclusion
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
PARIS, outside the great boulevards, comprises by far the larger part of the existing city. Nevertheless, it contains comparatively few objects of historical or artistic importance, being almost entirely modern and merely residential. Walks and drives in this part of Paris are pleasing, of course, as exhibiting the life of the great town, and they embrace many points of passing interest, such as the Trocadéro, the Champs Élysées, the Champ-de-Mars, the Place de l'Étoile, the Arc de Triomphe, the Parc Monceau, the church of the Sacré-Coeur on the height of Montmartre, etc., etc. Most of these the visitor will find out for himself. They do not need any explanation or elucidation.
Among the very few objects of historical interest in this district, I would call special attention to the Maison de François ler, on the Cours-la-Reine, at the first corner after you pass the Palais de l'Industrie. This beautiful little gem of domestic Renaissance architecture was erected for François Ier at Moret, near Fontainebleau, in 1527, probably as a gift for Diane de Poitiers, the mistress of Henri II., though it is also asserted that the king built it for his sister, Queen Margaret of Navarre. It was taken down in 1826, and rebuilt on the present site. The style recalls that of the Renaissance palaces of Venice. The delicate and beautiful decorative work of the pilasters, etc., and the dainty portrait medallions, deserve inspection. Do not miss this charming little building, which should be compared with Jean Goujon's portion of the Louvre, and with the Renaissance remains at the École des Beaux-Arts and elsewhere.
A collection to which a few hours may be devoted, in the same connection, by those who have time, is the Musée Carnavalet, which lies, however, within the boulevards. The building is a fine Renaissance mansion, once the residence of Madame de Sévigné. Many of the objects preserved here have a purely sentimental, and, to say the truth, somewhat childish interest, consisting as they do of relics of the great Revolution or other historical events, which derive whatever value they happen to possess from their sentimental connection only. But some of the objects have real artistic and historical importance ; so have the decorations by Jean Goujon. When you have seen everything else enumerated here, you may give with advantage a Thursday morning to this somewhat scratch collection. The most important objects are those in the garden.
For the Champs Élysées, the Arc de Triomphe, and the other buildings or promenades of wealthy, modern, western Paris, the guidance of Baedeker is amply sufficient.
The buildings already enumerated, and the objects noted in them, form the most important sights in Paris, and are as many as the tourist is likely to find time for visiting during a stay of some weeks. If, however, he can add a few days to his sojourn, I give briefly some hints as to a list of other objects worthy his notice, — taking it for granted, of course, that he will find his way to the Champs Élysées, the Bois de Boulogne, the theatres, etc., by the light of nature, not unaided by Baedeker. Amid the mass of information tendered in the ordinary guides, the visitor scarcely knows how to distinguish the necessary from the optional. This short list may help him in his selection.
In the old region on the south side, between the river and Cluny, are two churches worth inspection by the antiquarian : (I) St. Julien-le-Pauvre, the former chapel of the old Hôtel Dieu, which here occupied both banks, spreading to the spot now covered by the statue of Charlemagne ; transitional ; twelfth century ; and (2) St. Séverin, dedicated to two Iocal Gallic saints, of the same name ; good flamboyant Gothic ; its interesting portal commemorates St. Martin, part of whose famous cloak was kept in a chapel here ; the façade was brought from St. Pierre-aux-Bœufs, on the Ile de la Cité, demolished in 1837; good modem reliefs on altar represent episodes in the lives of the two saints, — St Séverin the Abbot healing Clovis, and St. Séverin the Hermit ordaining St. Cloud. Altogether, a church to be visited and understood, rich in historic interest.
Among churches of the later period, the domes and their development are worthy of study, as illustrating the ideal of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The earliest was St. Paul et St. Louis (originally Jesuit), 1627, with a massive and gaudy Louis XIV. doorway ; interior, florid and tawdry, after the Jesuit fashion. Next comes the Sorbonne, 1635, interesting from its original connection with St. Louis (his confessor, Robert de Sorbon, founded the hostel, of which this is the far later church, for poor theological students) ; it is the first important dome, and contains an overrated monument to Richelieu by Lebrun, executed by Girardon. If you have plenty of time, you may visit it. Then the Invalides, 1705, now containing the tomb of Napoleon. Lastly, the Panthéon, already described. If visited in this order, they form an instructive series. Note the gradual increase in classicism, which culminates in the Madeleine. The earlier domes resemble those of the Rome of Bernini ; the later grow more and more Grecian in their surroundings. .The Institut (included here for its dome) and Val-de-Grâce are sufficiently inspected with a glance in passing.
The churches of the innermost Paris are mostly dedicated to local saints; those of the outer ring of Louis XIV. to a somewhat wider circle of Catholic interest ; among them, St. Roch, the famous plague-saint, deserves a visit ; it is rococo and vulgar, but representative. The churches in the outer ring. are of still broader dedication, often to newer saints of humanitarian or doctrinal importance. Among these quite modern buildings, St. Vincent-de-Paul ranks first, on account of its magnificent frieze by Flandrin, running round the nave, and representing a procession of saints and martyrs, suggested by the mosaics in Sant' Apollinare Nuovo at Ravenna ; this the visitor should on no account omit ; it lies near the Gare du Nord, and is a good example of the basilica style, successfully adapted to modern needs. Baedeker will efficiently serve you. But, though artistically fine, Flandrin's frescoes are not nearly so effective as the original mosaics in Theodoric's basilica. The other great modern churches— St. Augustin, St. Ambroise, La Trinité, Notre-Dame-de-Lorette, Ste. Clotilde, etc. — need only be visited by those who have plenty of time, and who take an intelligent interest in contemporary Catholicism. But, if you can manage it, you should certainly mount the hill of Montmartre, the most sacred site in Paris, both for the sake of the splendid view, for the memories of St. Denis (the common legend says, beheaded here ; a variant asserts, buried for the first time before his translation to the Abbey of St. Denis), and for the interesting modern Byzantine-Romanesque pile of the Sacré-Cœur which now approaches completion. Close by is a quaint old church of St. Pierre-de-Montmartre, and behind it a curious belated Calvary.
Those whom this book may have interested in church-lore will find very full details on all these subjects in Miss Beale's "Churches of Paris." Another useful book is Lonergan's " Historic Churches of Paris." With the key I have striven to give, and the aid of these works, the visitor should be able to unlock for himself the secrets of all the churches.
Two pretty little parks which deserve a passing visit are the Parc Monceau, near the Ternes, and still more, the Buttes Chaumont, in the heart of the poor district of La Villette and Belleville, showing well what can be done by gardening for the beautification of such squalid quarters. The Jardin d'Acclimatation in the Bois de Boulogne, and the Jardin des Plantes, at the extreme east end of the south side, are both interesting, especially to the zoologist and botanist. The last named is best reached by a pleasant trip on one of the river steamers.
Of collections not here noted, the most important is the Musée Guimet of Oriental art, near the Trocadéro. It should be visited, if time permits, by all who are interested in Chinese, Japanese, and Indian products. The Trocadéro itself contains a good collection of casts, valuable for the study of comparative plastic development ; but they can only be used to effect by persons who can afford several days at least to study them (in other words, residents). The Ethnographical Museum in the same building is good, but need only detain those who have special knowledge in the subject.
To know what to avoid is almost as important as to know what to visit. Under this category, I may say that no intelligent person need trouble himself about Père-Lachaise and the other cemeteries ; the catacombs ; the various halles or markets ; the interiors of the Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers, except so far as above indicated, the Bourse, the Banque de France, the Bibliothèque Nationale, unless, of course, he is a student and wishes to read there; the Archives, the Imprimerie Nationale, the various courts and public offices, the Gobelins manufactory, the Sèvres porcelain works, the Institut, the mint, the Invalides, the Chamber of Deputies, the buildings in the Champ-de-Mars, except while the Salon there is open, the Observatory, and so forth. In Paris proper, I think I have enumerated above almost every-thing that calls for special notice from any save specialists.
Three excursions from Paris are absolutely indispensable for any one who wishes to gain a clear idea of the France of the Renaissance and the succeeding epoch.
The first, and by far the most important of these, is that to Fontainebleau, a visit to which is necessary in order to enable you properly to fill in the mental picture of the change wrought by François Ier and his successors in French art and architecture. It is an inevitable complement to your visits to the Louvre. This excursion, however, should only be made after the visitor has thoroughly seen and digested the Renaissance collections in the Louvre, and the École des Beaux-Arts, as well as the tombs of the kings at St. Denis. Baedeker is an amply sufficient guide for this the most interesting and instructive excursion that can be made from Paris. One day suffices for a visit to the château and a glimpse of the forest, though a week can be pleasantly spent in this charming region. After your return, you will do well to visit the Renaissance sculpture at the Louvre again. Many of the works will gain fresh meaning for you after inspection of the surroundings for which they were designed, and the architecture which formed their natural setting.
The second excursion, also valuable from the point of view of the study of the Renaissance, is that to St. Germain, where the château itself, and the exquisite view from the terrace, are almost equally delightful. Those interested in prehistoric archæology, too, should not miss seeing the very valuable collection in the museum installed in the château, probably the finest of its sort in the world, and rich in drawings and other remains of the cave-men of the Dordogne.
The third excursion, in every respect less pleasing and instructive, is that to Versailles. This must be taken rather as a duty than as a pleasure. Leave it for some enticing day in summer. Neither as regards art or nature can the great cumbrous palace and artificial domain of Louis XIV. be compared in beauty to the other two. The building is a cold, formal, unimposing pile, filled with historic pictures of the dullest age, or modern works of often painful mediocrity, whose very mass and monotony make most of them uninteresting. The grounds and trees have been drilled into ranks with military severity. The very fountains are aggressive. Nevertheless, a visit to the palace and gardens is absolutely necessary in order to enable the visitor to understand the France of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, with its formal art and its artificial nature. You will there begin more fully to understand the powdered world of the Du Barrys and the Pompadours, the alleys and clipped trees of Le Nôtre's gardens, the atmosphere that surrounds the affected pictures of Boucher, Vanloo, and Watteau. Take it in this spirit and face it manfully. Here, again, the indications in Bae, deker are amply sufficient by way of guidance.
When you have seen these three, you need not trouble yourself further with excursions from Paris, unless, indeed, you have ample time at your disposal and desire country jaunts for the sake of mere outing. But these three you omit at your historical peril.
In conclusion, I would say in all humility, I am only too conscious that I have but scratched in this book the surface of Paris. Adequately to fill in the outline so sketched, for so great and beautiful a city, so rich in historical and artistic interest, would require a big book and big books are not easy to carry about with one, sightseeing. Moreover, I reflect by way of comfort, it is not good for us to be told everything ; something must be left for the individual intelligence to have the pleasure of discovering. All I have endeavoured to do here is to suggest a method; if I have succeeded in making you take an interest in mediæval and Renaissance Paris, if I have stimulated in you a desire to learn more about it, I have succeeded in my object. However imperfect this work may be, and nobody can be more conscious of its imperfections than its author, — it will be justified if it arouses curiosity and intelligent inspection of works of art or antiquity, in place of mere listless and casual perambulation.
It is common in England to hear superior people sneer at Paris as modern and meretricious. I often wonder whether these people have ever really seen Paris at all, — that beautiful, wonderful, deeply interesting Paris, some glimpse of which I have endeavoured to give in this little work. To such I would say, when you are next at your favourite hotel in the Avenue de l'Opéra take a few short walks to St. Germain-des-Prés, the Place des Vosges, St. Etienne-du-Mont, St. Eustache, and Cluny, and see whether you will not modify your opinion.