Paris V: Details

Final Paris posting here, gathering up more of the better photos.


Walk down any residential street and you’ll see amazing doors like this that lead to the courtyards of apartment blocks. All the decorations are different, as are the brass door-handles emblazoned with human or animal heads. You could spend months photographing them.

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Paris IV: Notre-Dame


Baedeker insists that the façade of Notre-Dame is the cathedral’s finest feature but I disagree; I much preferred seeing the windows on the southern transept and the buttresses supporting the nave. There were also fewer people in the small square at the back. The mass of tourists at the front seemed like a contemporary equivalent of the hordes that have frequently laid siege to the building.

The Cathedral of Notre-Dame, founded in 1163 on the site of a church of the 4th cent. was consecrated in 1182, but the nave was not completed till the 13th century. The building has since been frequently altered, and has been judiciously restored since 1845 ; but the general effect is hardly commensurate with the renown of the edifice. This is owing partly to structural defects, partly to the lowness of its situation, and partly to the absence of spires. It is, moreover, now surrounded by lofty buildings which farther dwarf its dimensions; and, lastly, the adjacent soil has gradually been raised to the level of the pavement of the interior, whereas in 1748 the church was approached by a flight of thirteen steps.

During the Revolution the cathedral was sadly desecrated. A decree was passed in August, 1793, devoting the venerable pile to destruction, but this was afterwards rescinded, and the sculptures only were mutilated. On 10th Nov. in the same year, the church was converted into a ‘Temple of Reason’, and the statue of the Virgin replaced by one of Liberty, while the patriotic hymns of the National Guard were heard instead of the usual sacred music. On a mound thrown up in the choir burned the ‘torch of truth’, over which rose a Greek ‘temple of philosophy’, adorned with busts of Voltaire, Rousseau, and others. The temple contained the enthroned figure of Reason (represented by Maillard, the ballet dancer), who received in state the worship of her votaries. White-robed damsels, holding torches, surrounded the temple, while the side-chapels were devoted to orgies of various kinds. After 12th May, 1794, the church was closed, but in 1802 it was at length re-opened by Napoleon as a place of divine worship.

In 1871 Notre-Dame was again desecrated by the Communards. The treasury was rifled, and the building used as a military depot. When the insurgents were at last compelled to retreat before the victorious troops, they set fire to the church, but fortunately little damage was done.

At the back of the Cathedral is another ‘place’, occupying the site of the old archiepiscopal palace, in the centre of which rises the tasteful Gothic Fontaine Notre-Dame, designed by Vigoureux, and erected in 1845.

At the S.E. end of the Isle de la Cité, not far from the fountain just described, stands the Morgue (open daily), a small building re-erected in 1861, where the bodies of unknown persons who have perished in the river or otherwise are exposed to view. They are placed on marble slabs, kept cool by a constant flow of water, and are exhibited in the clothes in which they were found. The process of refrigeration to which the bodies are subjected makes it possible to keep them here, if necessary, for three months. The bodies brought here number 700-800 annually. The painful scene attracts many spectators, chiefly of the lower orders.

Baedeker’s Paris (1900).

Paris III: Le Grande Répertoire–Machines de Spectacle


The Grand Palais from Ave du M Gallieni.

The Grand Palais, opposite the Petit-Palais, was built in 1897–1900 by Louvet, Deglane, and Thomas. Its dimensions, covering all area of about 38,000 sq. yds, are imposing. It consists of a large front building, united with a smaller one in the rear by a transverse gallery. The style is composite, but mainly reminiscent of the 17th century. The façade is adorned with a double colonnade, rising to a height of two stories; and there are three monumental entrances in the central pavilion. The sculptures of the central portico, representing the Beauty of Nature, and Minerva and Peace, are by Gasq, Boucher, Verlet, and Lombard. Those to the right represent Sculpture, Painting, Architecture, and Music, and are by Cordonnier, Lefebvre, Carlès, and Labatut. To the left are the Arts of Cambodia, Egypt, Greece, and Rome, by Bareau, Suchet, Béguine, and Clausade. On and under the colonnades are friezes of Amoretti, holding the attributes of the arts. At the top are a balustrade, allegorical groups on the abutments, by Sepsses and Greber, and bronze quadrigae, by Récipon. In the middle of the principal building rises a depressed dome. The rear-façade, in the Ave d’Antin, is embellished with colonnades, sculpture, and friezes in polychrome stoneware, made at Sèvres (Ancient and Modern Art).

In 1900 this building is to be used for contemporary and centennial exhibitions. Afterwards it is to be the scene of the annual exhibitions of paintings and sculptures, horse shows, agricultural fairs, and the like. Its destination explains the peculiarities of its internal construction. The roof is glazed, consisting of curved sheets of glass 10 ft. long and 3 ft. wide.

Baedeker’s Paris (1900).

One of the highlights of this trip was a visit to the wonderful Grand Palais to see an exhibition of invented machines that wouldn’t have been out of place in La Cité des Enfants Perdus or a Terry Gilliam film. The slightly run-down but still splendid venue was the perfect setting for rusted contraptions devoted to making loud noises or smashing things to pieces. The exhibition is still running should you have the good fortune to be in Paris up to the 13th of this month.

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Paris II: The River Fountain


The River Fountain, Place de la Concorde. (Eiffel Tower in the background.)

Yes, I’m inordinately fond of photographing things with the sun behind them but the cloudscape was especially attractive on this afternoon. There wasn’t as much visible water coming off the fountains as there had been previously but the spray was most welcome on a hot day. Some of the fountains of Paris are a good match for those in Rome.

Each of the Fountains beside the obelisk consists of a round basin, 53 ft. in diameter, above which rise two smaller basins, surmounted by a spout from which a jet of water rises to a height of 28 ft. In the lowest basin are six Tritons and Nereids, holding dolphins which spout water into the second basin. The fountain on the S. side is dedicated to the Seas, the other to the Rivers.

Baedeker’s Paris (1900).

Paris I: The Obelisk


The Obelisk, Place de la Concorde.

I love the way the thin layer of tarmac in the Place has been worn away by the traffic to reveal the cobblestones beneath. The Paris Obelisk seems more impressive than Cleopatra’s Needle, not least because of its dramatic setting and the way it’s aligned with the Tuileries promenades and the two Arcs de Triomphe (the famous, larger one at the end of the Champs Elysses and the smaller one before the Louvre).

The Obelisk, which rises in the centre of the Place, was presented to Louis Philippe by Mohammed Ali, Viceroy of Egypt. This is a monolith, or single block, of reddish granite or syenite, from the quarries of Syene (the modern Assuan) in Upper Egypt. It is 70 ft. in height, and weighs 240 tons. The pedestal of Breton granite is 13 ft. high, and also consists of a single block, while the steps by which it is approached raise the whole three and a half ft. above the ground. The representations on the pedestal refer to the embarkation of the obelisk in Egypt in 1831 and to its erection in 1836 at Paris, under the superintendence of the engineer J. B. Lebas. Cleopatra’s Needle in London is 70 ft. in height, and the Obelisk in the Piazza di San Giovanni in Laterano at Rome is 104 ft. high.

Ramses II, King of Egypt, better known by his Greek title of Sesostris the Great, who reigned in the 14th cent. before Christ, erected a huge ‘pylon’ gate and a colonnade before a temple which his great ancestor Amenhetep III (Amenophis or Memnon of the Greeks) had built in the E. suburb of Thebes, the site now occupied by the poor village of Luxor. In front of this gate stood two beautiful obelisks, and it is one of these that now embellishes the Place de la Concorde. Each of the four sides of the obelisk is inscribed with three vertical rows of hieroglyphics, the middle row in each case referring to Ramses II, while the others were added by Ramses III, a monarch of the succeeding dynasty.

Baedeker’s Paris (1900).