January 04, 2008

Square des Innocents

The Square des Innocents was for many centuries the site of the major Paris cemetery. When it was created, it was of course outside the centre, along the road to Normandy and the north, today’s rue St. Denis (see plan in my previous post), but it was soon surrounded by the growing city.

Some wealthy people got individual graves, but most people were buried in mass graves. In 1786 it was decided - despite the walls that had been built around and some other basic precautions - that this could not last. The major Paris market place – Les Halles – was the immediate neighbour and one started to have some ideas about infections etc. The cemetery was closed and some two million skeletons were displaced to the catacombs.

Today, this has become a nice square with a beautiful fountain in the middle. The fountain, in a different form, was created in the middle of the 16th century by the architect Pierre Lescot and the sculptor Jean Goujon, who also were behind the architecture of the Louvre when the transformation from a fortress style was commenced. The fountain was in the beginning rather a relief placed along the church you can see here (the engraving is from 1550), was moved and transformed to its square fountain form in the 1780’s when the cemetery became a market place.

The declaration of the first French constitution took place here in 1791 (based on the revolutionary declarations of 1789).

The market was closed in 1858 and a real square was prepared. The fountain was again slightly displaced.

You can here get some ideas of what the place looked like in 1550 and in 1865.
… and what it looks like today. In the background you can see the St. Eustache church. You can find these pictures in their larger form on my photo blog.

See you Monday! Have a nice weekend!


Drama Div@ said...

As usual...those are really lovely pictures... Peter, this is a great thing you are doing. I really think many people can refer to your blog when they plan their holidays in paris. Good job!

hpy said...

C'est vrai, ce n'est absolument plus la peine de se déplacer pour visiter Paris depuis que tu blogues!

lyliane said...

Aprés les rues mal famées de Paris, tu joues aux innocents,,,filou va...
Les soldes ne sont pas chères et les vêtememnts de meilleurs qualités et puis je suis sûre, dans mon village, de ne pas trouver une personne avec le même vêtememt que le mien.

Ash said...

Wonderful photos. I especially loved the first and the last one :)

Have a great weekend Peter!!!

Olivier said...

superbe série, les photos de nuit sont vraiment très belles.

Pour répondre à la célèbre question, pourquoi la Cathédrale n'est pas éclairée tout les soirs, ben c'est tout simplement une question d'argent, c'est le diocèse d'Évry-Corbeil qui paye tout de A à Z (la mairie n'intervient pas, la cathédrale ne coûte rien aux habitants de la ville d'Évry) et l'entretient de cette superbe cathédrale coûte très cher.

je te souhaite un bon weekend

Kate said...

Again, you have given us not only wonderful photos but lots of excellent information.

Jessica Camis said...

You are often able to find excellent historical images of the places you blog about. Do you have a source for these or do you just search individually? I ask because I have trouble finding images like the ones you show here and was hoping for a little guidance if you have any to give on this matter.

Once again, this is an excellent post. Very informative. I love the info about how places change over time as you give here especially regarding the fountain.

Peter said...

drama div@:
Trust you will soon be one of these visitors.

Alors, c'est raté! J'espérai donner envie de visiter!

Bonne chance pour les soldes! Le problème aujourd'hui est qu'on trouve les mêmes magasins dans toutes les villes (Zara, H&M..., sans parler de Dior, Kenzo...)!

Peter said...

You usually show only one (nice) picture! I can never decide for only one to be shown, but I try to put my faourite one on the top.

Tu devrais organiser un collect!

Thanks! ... and have safe trip to Mexico!

Peter said...

It differs. I have a few books (and two of the images have been scanned here), but I often also go for google. There are a lot of books about the "old Paris". There is a old 1734 "Turgot map" on the net, on which you can move around like on Google Earth, but of course only valid for what then was central Paris. Maybe I could help you in some research if you tell me what you are looking for?
In the meantime, I feel that you already have a lot of good old (and of course new) material on your blog!!

Anonymous said...

The 1550 picture reveals the stark truth about it without the sentimentality modern man attaches to everything.

Consider the poor souls here in 1550. If they popped back up and took a look around what terror would fill their minds.

Anonymous said...

Those fountains have had a great part of a city image during hundreds of years. They have been also important in earlier times, I think, for drinking water or am I quite wrong?
Warm greetings from cold Finland!

Peter said...

... and maybe vice versa? I guess life was tough for many those days. Which would have been the best century to live if you look backwards? ... and of course depending on country and continent.

Yes, people really depended on water from the fountains. Free and - according to more modern terms - clean drinking water was as from thr 19th century wideley distributed in Paris via the Wallace fountains, which you still can find around. I made a post or two about it a few months ago.

Cergie said...

Particulièrement passionnant cher Peter. Je suis très attachée à cette place comme je te l'ai dit hier. A la fontaine moins cependant qu'à une autre dans le coin ds laquelle Pierre, à l'age de 5 ans, a réussi à sauter à pied joints en plein mois de février
La fontaine des innocents à l'origine était alimentée par les sources du Nord depuis le regard de la lanterne à Belleville dont j'ai parlé en septembre (Pardon de faire la pub, mais cela peut être intéressant ds le contexte)

SusuPetal said...

Fountains are amazing, they bring nature into the hearts of cities.

Have a relaxing weekend, Peter!

Heather said...

Beautiful night photos! I especially like the way the church looks all lit up - just lovely!

Ex-Shammickite said...

How fascinating. When I was in the Paris catacombs, perhaps I saw the bones and skulls of some of the skeletons who were moved from the Square des Innocents. The catacombs are nothing like I expected.... have you been down underground there Peter?

Noushy Syah said...

The last pic is awesome..it looks like a castle to me...is yellow the 'real colour' of the building or is it because of the lights?

How amazing those rich people could have individual graves at that time! Perhaps they even choose the places before they die?

Have a pleasant and relaxing w/end yea.

isabella said...

During our stay in the 2e (rue St. Honore) we used to walk our dog to the grassy area in front of St. Eustache - that was before it was "refurbished", when it was still dark and gloomy looking. Now it's gorgeous...

Bon weekend!

lyliane said...

Mais il n´y a pas de Since, de Kaukoff, de Karlstad, de P et C et surtout pas le même genre de vêtements et de prix.Bon week end.

Peter said...

Je relu ton post de 21 septembre, bien fascinant. J'avais déjà commenté à l'époque. Tu as fais une belle découverte (au moins un découverte pour moi)!

... and Paris is full of fountains, with or without water.

No energy saving here!

Peter said...

Years ago... I must do it again!

It's just the lights, but the church has been cleaned.
Yes, I guess you are right. Still today you find empty graves where people have invested and prepared the future restroom... Not my case. Ashes blowing in the wind would be fine!

Yes, it looks fine, of course even better during the dark hours with the lights.

Tu as raison... bien sur!

Neva said...

They are all wonderful photos but the last one is really awesome! Hope you have a great weekend!

Catherine said...

bonne année Peter et je te souhaite des heures et des heures de plaisir et de flanerie dans les rues de Paris; continue à nous faire rêver avec tes textes et tes photos....

hpy said...

Non, ce n'est pas raté! C'est juste quelque chose que je dis pour me convaincre que je n'ai pas envie alors que c'est le temps qui me manque.

GMG said...

Hi Peter!
First thanks for your regular comments at Blogtrotter; much appreciated. Second sorry for arriving here only at intervals, but that’s the best I can manage… ;(
About the last posts: they’re gorgeous as always, with wonderful pictures and lots of useful information. My attention was drawn in particular to the way you described Rue St. Denis: the idea that «the night life, especially in the southern part of the street, is very active» deserves a writer’s award! ;))
It’s the first time I remember reading about the «Place des Innocents», though it’s a place I’ve been too so many times on my way from the Novotel Les Halles (where some friends used to stay) to Beaubourg and return. Always learning here!
Have a great week!

GMG said...

I forgot to mention, but the St. Eustache night picture is awesome!

ruth said...

Wow, I haven't seen St Eustache since it was cleaned up! Gorgeous. At first I thought it was only pretty because it was lit up at night. :)

Wonderful history, as always.

Azer Mantessa said...

what a historical city paris is. pics of the older versions are very interesting. thx :-)

Maxime said...

Cela a l'air d'un endroit bien étrange, une fois que l'on connait son histoire. Et c'est un plaisir de la découvrir.

Peter said...

Thanks! (Too late to wish you nice weekend now!)

J'ai bein l'intention de continuer mes flaneries!

Pourtant, c'es la porte à coté!

Peter said...

I always feel honored by your kind comments, dear globetrotter and blogtrotter!

Finally, I think I have to go back and see how clean it actually is!

I enjoy to compare, if you enjoy also, I'm happy!

L'histoire est un peu effrayante, mais la place est belle!