Medieval places - Right bank


Along this stroll, we will stop especially at:

Rue du Grenier-sur-l’Eau
13, rue François-Miron
L’Hôtel de Sens
Rue des Jardins-Saint-Paul
Rue du Prévôt
Cloître des Billettes
Hôtel de Clisson
 3, Rue Volta
 Maison de Nicolas Flamel
 Prieuré de Saint-Martin-des-Champs

stroll in old medieval Paris right bank detailed itinerary

Rue du Grenier-sur-l'Eau

Coming from rue du Pont Louis-Philippe, we stop at rue rue du Grenier sur l'Eau.

At the angle of rue des Barres and rue du Grenier-sur-l’Eau, the half-timbered house, probably built in the 17thcentury looks quite medieval.
At Atget’s time, the street was much more narrow and the old building was almost reaching the other house across the street, which was later destroyed in 1943.

In 2000, the opposite side of the street across rue du Pont Louis Philippe  has been renamed Allée des Justes, in tribute to Righteous people who risked their lives to save Jews during war from 1939 to 1945. Since 2006, their names appear on the wall of the Holocaust Museum, located in the near 17, rue Geoffroy-l’Asnier.

We continue rue des Barres on the right up to rue François-Mirron. 

rue du grenier sur l'eau
rue du Grenier sur l'eau Atget

Rue du Grenier-sur- l’Eau
Atget - 1899
(Musée Carnavalet)

13, rue François-Miron

“For one of the radical differences of the cities of that time and the cities of the present day is that now the fronts face the streets and places, whereas then it was the gables. During the last two centuries the houses have turned round. “
The Hunchback of Notre-Dame – Victor Hugo (1831)

For safety reasons, a 1667 law prohibited the gables and from then the axis of roofs is parallel to the streets. These two old gabled houses were built between 14th and 16th century. The corner beams are made of a single piece of wood and are specific of the old medieval building techniques. When the houses were meticulously restored in 1967, the architect removed the plaster covering them. In 1607, it was also ordered to cover wooden buildings with plaster in order to prevent fire hazards.
Using old documents, the architect also built in 1967 a replica of two medieval shops with the sign of the Reaper at n°11 and the sign of the Sheep at n°13.

We follow rue François Miron up to rue de Jouy. Then rue des Nonnains d'Yhères on the right 

13 rue Francois Miron
13 rue Francois Miron Atget

13, rue François-Miron
Atget - 1901
(Musée Carnavalet)

Hôtel de Sens

Bishopric of Paris was under the control of the archbishops of Sens until 1622. This is why the archbishop Tristan Salazar had this mansion built between 1475 and 1507. This also explains the name of the mansion and also why the style of the building is in between late Gothic and early Renaissance.

The mansion did not house only pious people … It housed also Reine Margot, wife of King Henri IV of France in 1605. At that time, she was not any more the beautiful young lady which beauty was praised by the poet Ronsard and the philosopher Montaigne. Though 53 years old and fat, she was still having love affairs with very young men. There is this story which happened in front of the Hôtel de Sens… Whereas her lover Saint-Julien was helping Queen Margot from her carriage in front of the Hotel, he fell shot down by a 20 year old rival, the earl of Dumont. As Dumont was immediately captured and dragged in front of the Hotel, Marguerite came to a window and shouted: “Kill him, kill him! If you have no arms, take my garter and strangle him with it." Three days after, the poor guy was beheaded in front of the hotel that Reine Margot left for ever.

Abandoned and sold during the Revolution, the hotel housed various small industries after having been a stagecoach messenger for a long time. Very damaged, it was bought in 1911 by the city of Paris. Its remarkable restoration took many years (from 1934 to 1960) and the facade overlooking the garden had to be almost completely rebuilt. It now houses the Forney Library, which specialises in the fine arts, decorative and graphic arts, crafts and the history of techniques.

Continue onto rue de l'Ave Maria and turn left onto  rue des Jardins Saint-Paul.

Hotel de Sens Gardens
Hotel de sens from rue de l'Ave Maria
Hôtel de Sens depuis la rue de l'Ave-Maria
Atget - 1899

Hôtel de Sens depuis la rue de l'Ave-Maria
Atget - 1899

Rue des Jardins-Saint-Paul

It is rather difficult to recognise the street as photographed by Atget in 1899 and the one where we are.

On Atget's photo, the street is rather narrow and is lined with buildings on each side.
Today, the street is broader, the buildings on the left side were demolished. This demolition made visible a large piece of the wall of Philippe-Augustus. The demolished buildings were replaced by a playing field along the wall. The street is now broader, with a better view on the rear of the Saint-Paul Saint-Louis church.

Some explanation to better understand, how this large portion of this wall could be perfectly saved.  The wall was used as a robust support for the construction of the convent (Couvent des Soeurs de l’Ave Maria) and later as a common wall between the convent and houses. The convent was later demolished in 1868 and replaced partly by Lycée Charlemagne. The wall was made visible when the buildings were demolished. It was restored in 1981; 60 meters long, it has two towers.  In medieval times, the wall was higher – between 8 and 9 meters.

rue des jardins saint paul at the back rue Charlemagne and church of Saint Paul Saint Louis
Wall Philippe Augustus
rue des jardins saint Paul at the back rue Charlemagne and church of Saint Paul Saint Louis Atget

Rue des Jardins-saint-Paul
At the back,  rue Charlemagne and church of Saint-Paul Saint-Louis
Atget - (Musée Carnavalet)

External side of wall Philippe Augustus in 2005

Vue du côté externe de la muraille de Philippe Auguste en 2005
(Photo Le Marais - Parigramme)

At the end of rue des Jardins Saint-Paul, turn left onto rue Charlemagne and right onto the narrow rue du Prévôt.

Rue du Prévôt

This narrow three meters wide street looks very much medieval.

Let's notice the peculiar corner of the street to enable the carriages to turn into the narrow street.

At the end of rue du Prévôt, cross rue de Rivoli to take rue Pavée. Turn left onto rue du Roi de  Sicile. Continue on rue de la Verrerie and turn right onto rue des Archives.

rue du Prevot
rue du Prevot Atget

Rue du Prévôt
Atget - 1901
(Musée Carnavalet)

Cloître des Billettes, rue des Archives

There is a legend associated with this place … It is told that in 1290, on the Easter Day, the Jew Jonathas  tried to destroy a host with a knife. As the host was bleeding, he threw it in boiling water which turned into blood. Neighbors panicked when they noticed the blood leaking under the door and called constables. Jonathas was arrested, burned alive, his property taken away, his wife and his children converted to Catholicism.

On the site of the house where “God was boiled”, a citizen of Paris, Rainier Flamingue, had a chapel built in 1299. King Philippe le Bel assigned it to the Hospital of Charity Notre-Dame. The monks were called Billettes, probably because the garment they were wearing had the shape of a heraldic piece, called  billette. As their church became more important a cloister was built in 1427. When the church was later  rebuilt in the 18th century, it was assigned to the Lutheran church by the city of Paris.
In the old times, the street kept the name of the street where God was boiled. Feeding antisemitism for a long time, the legend seems to be known in several countries in Europe. It is represented in a series of paintings done by Paolo Ucello in the 15th century, the Miracle of the Profaned Host, t at can be seen at the Galleria Nazionale delle Marche, in Urbino.

cloister Billettes
Cloitre des Billettes Atget

Cloître des Billettes
Atget - 1898
(Musée Carnavalet)

Hôtel de Clisson - 58, rue des Archives

The fortified door with two conical roof towers is  the one of a medieval house in 1380. It was owned by constable Olivier of Clisson. The two carved medaillions with Clisson’s motto “Pour ce qui me plet” (“For what appeals to me “) were added in the XIXth century during the restoration of the two towers. Two painted shields above the entrance were discovered during this restoration; they bear the emblems of the Guise family who in 1553 got the house transformed by the Italian architect and painter, Primaticcio  into a palace.

The Guise family played a key role in the French war of religions. As he was convinced that the Huguenot leader, Admiral Colligny, was involved in the murder of his father François of Guise, Henri Duke of Guise (also called the Scar face) prepared his revenge. Asked by the Queen Catherine de' Medici, he took the  lead of the Saint-Bartholomew's day massacre during which Coligny and all the Huguenot leaders were killed.  

hotel de clisson
hotel de clisson atget

Hôtel de Clisson
Atget - 1898

Later in 1700, the hotel was completely transformed by the Prince of Soubise and only the fortified entrance and the chapel were kept. The architect Delamair created an other gate at 60, rue des Francs Bourgeois for the new main mansion and the huge courtyard.
In 1808, Napoleon I decreed that this mansion was to become the National Archives; later Napoleon III extended it as Museum of French History. The visit of the Museum gives certainly a good opportunity to visit the apartments of the mansion. 

Proceed rue des Archives up to rue des Haudriettes on the left. Continue into rue Michel le Comte and on the right onto rue Beaubourg. And on the right onto rue au Maire up to rue Volta.

3, rue Volta

For a while it was thought that this house was the oldest one in Paris, until someone found a certificate of sale dated 1654 … Therefore, the oldest house is Nicolas Flamel's, rue de Montmorency that we will see next. Whatever its date of construction, 17th and not 14th, this type of structure with a half timbering and a stone ground floor looks certainly medieval.

old house 3 rue Volta
old house and old shop 3 rue Volta Atget

Old house and old shop.
3 rue Volta
Atget - 1901

The old shop is now occupied by a Chinese restaurant. Rue Volta, along with its neighbour Rue au Maire, is in the middle of a small Chinese neighborhood. Chinese, mostly from the city of Wenzhou, came to work in France during the First World War to replace the men who had left for the front. Many stayed and settled in this district of the Marais.

Let's go back to rue Beaubourg to reach rue de Montmorency, where the oldest house in Paris is located.

51, rue de Montmorency

This is the oldest house in Paris and for a long time thought it had magical power.

It was built in 1407 by Nicolas Flamel, a renowned copyist and academic but also known as an alchemist. The façade of the house is entirely made of stone, what only rich men in Middle Ages could afford. There was much talk on the sudden fortune that got this modest book seller. Some thought he discovered the Philosopher's Stone, that he could use to change metals into gold. Perhaps there is some more prosaic explanation, never confirmed though… Jews were persecuted during the revolt of Maillotins - Parisian insurgents named from the lead mallets they used as weapons against tax officers and Jews. Before their escape, they would have entrusted their goods to Nicolas Flamel who would have invested in them and got a large profit.
The house was a shelter for poor people on the condition they said the daily prayers for the Dead. We can read this on the inscription engraved on the pediment:  “We, working men and women living beneath the porch of this house, built in 1407, must each say an Our Father and an Ave Maria every day, to ask the grace of God to forgive poor trespassed sinners. Amen.”

Nicolas Flamel's house rue de Montmorency
Maison de Nicolas Flamel Atget - 1902  (BNF)

Nicolas Flamel's house
Atget - 1902

At the end of rue de Montmorency, turn on the right onto rue Saint-Martin up to the Museum of Arts et Métiers. 

Priory Saint-Martin-des-Champs

Le clocher de l'église avant la restauration en 1913
(Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux Arts)

Le clocher de l'église avant la restauration en 1913
(Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux Arts)

It is one of the oldest churches in Paris, largely unknown.
The Roman church dates from 12th century. If you go up to the corner of rue du-Vert-Bois and rue Saint-Martin, you will see an old castellated tower built in 1273, which is a remnant of the long wall of the priory Saint-Martin-des-Champs.

The church is part of the interesting museum Arts et Métiers, which was created in 1794 to exhibit inventions and machines. Among the 2400 inventions, you will find the Blériot's plane, the Foucault pendulum, the Blaise Pascal's calculator, the first Lumière brothers' camera, the Jacquard Loom and the original model of the Statue of Liberty …

Priory saint martin des champs
Church Saint Martin des Champs

Texte / Photos : Martine Combes

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