Île de la Cité

Wednesday, 5 October 2016 - 11:00 am (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General, Palaces, Castles, Manors, Parks, Paris

© GuidoR/cc-by-sa-3.0

© GuidoR/cc-by-sa-3.0

The Île de la Cité is one of two remaining natural islands in the Seine within the city of Paris (the other being the Île Saint-Louis). It is the centre of Paris and the location where the medieval city was refounded. The western end has held a palace since Merovingian times, and its eastern end since the same period has been consecrated to religion, especially after the 10th-century construction of a cathedral preceding today’s Notre Dame. The land between the two was, until the 1850s, largely residential and commercial, but has since been filled by the city’s Prefecture de Police, Palais de Justice, Hôtel-Dieu hospital and Tribunal de commerce. Only the westernmost and northeastern extremities of the island remain residential today, and the latter preserves some vestiges of its 16th-century canon‘s houses.

The Pont Neuf, the “new bridge” that is now the oldest bridge in Paris, was completed by Henry IV, who inaugurated it in 1607. The bronze equestrian statue of Henry IV was commissioned from Giambologna under the orders of Marie de Medici, Henry’s widow and Regent of France, in 1614. After his death, Giambologna’s assistant Pietro Tacca completed the statue, which was erected on its pedestal by Pietro Francavilla in 1618. It was destroyed in 1792 during the French Revolution, but was remade from surviving casts in 1818. The sculpture originally rose from the river on its own foundations, abutting the bridge; since then, the natural sandbar building of a mid-river island, aided by stone-faced embankments called quais, has extended the island, which is planted as the teardrop-shaped Parc Vert Galant in honour of Henry IV, the “Green Gallant” King.

The Place Dauphine, laid out in 1609 while the Place des Vosges was still under construction and named for the Dauphin of France, the future Louis XIII, was among the earliest city-planning projects of Henry IV. The space, essentially a triangle because of its promontory location, was made over to Achille de Harlay for development. Twelve lots were sold, and forty-five irregularly sized houses were constructed behind a standardized façade. The houses were built of brick with limestone quoins supported on arcaded stone ground floors and capped by steep slate roofs with dormers, very like the contemporaneous façades of Place des Vosges. There were originally two entrances to the Place Dauphine, one at the “downstream” point, through a kind of gateway centred on paired pavilions facing the equestrian statue of Henry IV on the far side of the Pont Neuf, and the second in the center of the eastern range. Badly damaged during the turmoil of the Paris Commune of 1871, the eastern range was swept away in 1872 to open the view to the monumental white marble Second Empire Palais de Justice (built 1857–68), like a glazed colonnade centered on the Place Dauphine, the remains of which now form a kind of forecourt to it. Few visitors penetrate the Place Dauphine, which lies behind them, and where all the other buildings have been raised in height, given new façades, rebuilt, or replaced with heightened pastiches of the originals.

© GuidoR/cc-by-sa-3.0 © David Monniaux/cc-by-sa-3.0 © Daniel Vorndran/DXR/cc-by-sa-3.0 © Benh LIEU SONG/cc-by-sa-4.0 Plaque commemorating the burning of Jacques de Molay © PHGCOM/cc-by-sa-3.0 Map of Île de la Cité © OpenStreetMap - Paris 16/cc-by-sa-4.0
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Plaque commemorating the burning of Jacques de Molay © PHGCOM/cc-by-sa-3.0
Three medieval buildings remain on the Île de la Cité (east to west):

The oldest remaining residential quarter is the Ancien Cloître. Baron Haussmann demolished some of the network of narrow streets, but was dismissed in 1869 before the entire quarter was lost. Old engraved maps of Paris show how, when the Pont Neuf was built, it grazed the downstream tip, the “stern” of the island-ship. Since then, the natural sandbar building of a mid-river island, aided by stone-faced embankments called quais, has extended the island, which is planted as the small Vert Galant park (“square du Vert-Galant”), named for Henry IV of France, the “Green Gallant” king whose statue stands near the center of the bridge. It retains the original low-lying riverside level of the island. Nearby, a discreet plaque commemorates the spot where Jacques de Molay, Grand Master of the Knights Templar, was burnt at the stake, 18 March 1314. The upstream tip of the island is the site of the Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation, a memorial to the 200,000 people deported from Vichy France to the Nazi concentration camps during the Second World War.

Read more on parisinfo.com – Île de la Cité and Wikipedia Île de la Cité (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State). Photos by Wikimedia Commons. If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.




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