Sunday, 30 June 2013

Paris: A Few More Photos From Day 2

I woke up at 5.30am on my second day in Paris, which surprised me, because usually when I am in the UK visiting family the time difference makes it hard to get up before 10am.  Melissa was awake about an hour later and we readied ourselves to head for breakfast at Bread & Roses at 7 Rue De Fleurus/62 Rue Madame.
After sating ourselves with coffee and croissants we walked the 2.5miles to the St Paul Metro station to join with a Paris Walks tour of the Marais.

We arrived about half an hour too early for the tour so we killed time by pottering around the Place Des Vosges - the oldest planned square in Paris, built by Henri IV between 1605-1612 on the site of the Hôtel des Tournelles, a former royal estate - and the Carnavalet Museum; a free museum dedicated to the history of Paris.

Place Des Vosges

At 10am on Saturday morning the square was very peaceful, but when we returned at the end of the tour, around noon, it was full of French families enjoying picnics with many an open bottle of champagne.  "I like how the French picnic," said Melissa.

The picnics explained the proliferation of hugely fat pigeons, like these two enjoying a morning shower in one of the fountains.

As pigeons go they were quite photogenic in the Place Des Vosges

One of the first stops on the tour was the Hôtel de Beauvais former home of Catherine Bellier, wife of Pierre de Beauvais, who was a lady in waiting to Anne of Austria.  Apparently Catherine and Anne were very close with Catherine administering the Queen Mother her colonics.  Yikes!!!  A 38-year old Catherine was also rumored to have shown Anne's son, the 14 year old Louis XIV, a very good time - at Anne's request - by providing him with a practical demonstration of the facts of life.  Louis and Anne were lovers for 2-years after which time she was awarded an estate and a pension by the dowager Queen Anne, using the money to commission architect Antoine Le Pautre to design and build the Hôtel de Beauvais in 1657.  Today the building is used as an administrative court. 
Hotel de Beauvais, 68 rue Francois-Miron, Paris

One of the benefits of the Paris Walks tour, led by Oriel, is that we got to go inside the courtyard.  The home was built on the site of a 13th Century mansion, which Catherine had knocked down, although she left the cellars intact for the servants. Nice of her eh!!  The facade of the building is in the French Baroque style, the name given to French architecture during the reigns of Louis XIII, Louis XIV and Louis XV (1610-1774).

Despite not being blessed in the looks department Catherine was purportedly not short of lovers, it being fashionable at the time to imitate the king, and she was very much in demand in the bedroom department, counting the Archbishop de Sens, Henri-Louis de Gondrin, among her lovers.  This carved stone figure, or grotesque, in the courtyard of the Hôtel de Beauvais is supposedly of Catherine.

According to Leonard Pitt in "Walks Through Lost Paris:A journey into the heart of historic Paris," Catherine grew ugly and heavy as she aged, although never lost her strong sexual appetite but was reduced to paying for sexual favors.  When her husband died in 1674 she was saddled with huge debts and became a pauper.  In the end she lived destitute at the Hôtel de Beauvais as merely a renter. 

Catherine wasn't the only notable resident of the townhouse.  In 1763, when the building was in the possession of the Bavarian Ambassador he was visited by Mr. Leopold Mozart and family, including a 7-year old Wolfgang.  During his stay the young prodigy performed for the royal family at Versailles.

Further along the Rue Francois-Miron at the corner of the tiny, pedestrian only, Rue Cloche Percé stand wood framed houses whose construction dates back to the 14th Century.  The pitched roofs allow rainwater to drain down the sides of the buildings. The wooden frames of these buildings meant they were a serious fire risk with fires jumping quickly from building to building and in 1607 Henri IV ordered the buildings to be covered with plaster of Paris to prevent the spread of fire.

11 & 13, rue Francois Miron
"I'm told it's now a swingers club" said our guide, Oriel.  A quick look at Google confirms that the building at number 13 does indeed now house the Au Pluriel Club, which describes itself as "Adult swingers Club in the 4th district of Paris."  Enter at your own risk. 

After a quick tour around a Saturday market we made our way to the Church of St Gervais et St Protais, one of the oldest churches in Paris whose existence in this location is mentioned as early as the 4th century.  The present church building is in the Gothic style and was begun in 1474 and completed in 1578.  Since 1975 the church has been the headquarters of the Monastic Fraternities of Jerusalem, who are devoted to monastic life within an urban context with most of it's members working part-time jobs.

The Church of St Gervais et St Protais

At the back of the church are a number of misericords, also known as a mercy seat, a small wooden shelf used for support when having to stand for long periods, since prayers in the early medieval church were said standing with uplifted hands. The old or infirm could use crutches or, as time went on, a misericordia, which literally means "act of mercy". According to our guide, Oriel, the seats in St Gervais et St Protais were used by the priests and would typically be shielded from the view of the standing parishioners by a rood screen, an ornate partition between the chancel and the nave, so that they wouldn't be able to see the priests having a break.  The seats could be turned up to  expose a small shelf underneath which could be leaned against.  They were often beautifully carved with detailed scenes, despite being hidden underneath the seats.

Misericords in the church of St Gervais et St Protais
The church at St Gervais et St Protais has 21 mid-16th century misericords (dating from 1556) and 21 from the early 17th century.  Most Parisian churches had their carvings removed and burnt during the fuel shortage that resulted from the siege of Paris (1870-1871).

A woman cavorts with a fool. Supposedly a damning indictment of women, but women more often than not cavort with men so....I'm just saying!!

The next stop on the tour was the Shoah Memorial.  According to TripAdvisor the memorial "opened in 2005 as a bridge between contemporaries of the Holocaust and those who have not experienced it" and also houses the Center of Contemporary Jewish Documentation (YSC) founded during the Second World War to gather documentary evidence of the destruction of European Jews.   

Outside the museum is "le mur des justes", a wall of names of those who helped the Jews in France during World War II.  Apparently the wall is featured in the fictional film Sarah's Key, an adaptation of the book by Tatiana de Rosnay, which follows an American journalist's present-day investigation into the Vel' d'Hiv Roundup of Jews in German-occupied Paris in 1942. Irene Nemirovsky's Suite Francaise also tells a story of being a Jew in Nazi occupied France. 

I'm going to end this here as I feel it's getting lengthy, but I'll continue reporting on the tour in a day or two, but below is the tour route so far, beginning on the far right at the St Paul Metro station.

Tour of Le Marais, Paris

1 comment:

Amel said...

OOHHHHHHH...I LOVE walking tours! :-D Never knew about misericords. Interesting!