The smaller of the two river islands, but still easily reached by connecting bridges from both the Seine's left and right banks, most people access Ile Saint Louis via the small bridge immediately behind Notre Dame.
Formerly a swampy island, Ile Saint Louis became an exclusive residential enclave in the 17th century and today retains a genteel air. In itself it has no major 'attractions' or 'must sees' but instead has a village feel and the pleasure of the island is to simply amble, checking the galleries, shops, cafes and restaurants. It's full of character and it's a great spot for buying quality gifts.
“Know, my son, though I am devoted to you, and feel all a mother’s love for you, I should prefer to see you dead rather than have you become guilty of any mortal sin.”
— Blanche of Castile (1188-1252), to her son, Louis IX
The church is the setting for classical music concerts. Check local listings for schedule and program.
Louis IX (1214-1270) was king of France from 1226 to his death. He was a member of the House of Capet and the son of Louis VIII and Blanche of Castile, who served as Regent during her son’s minority. Because he is the only canonized king of France, many places are named in his honor, including the USA’s St. Louis, Missouri.
Pope Boniface VIII declared Louis a saint in 1297; he is the only member of the French royal family to be canonized. Louis IX is looked upon as the ideal Christian monarch. Because of the aura of holiness attached to his memory, his name was given to many royal princes who would go on to become king; many sons of the nobility were named for him as well. Members of the Bourbon dynasty, who are descended directly from one of St. Louis’s younger sons, used the name to confusing excess.
St. Louis is the patron of builders, kings, large families (he fathered nine children), Crusaders and St. Louis, Missouri. In art he is represented by the Crown of Thorns (a thorn from which he had Sainte-Chapelle built to house), crown, scepter, and the fleur-de-lis. His feast day is celebrated on August 25th.
“Be kindhearted to the poor, the unfortunate and the afflicted. Give them as much help and consolation as you can. Thank God for all the benefits he has bestowed upon you, that you may be worthy to receive greater. Always side with the poor rather than with the rich, until you are certain of the truth.”
— From a set of instructions by King Saint Louis IX to his eldest son and heir, Philippe III
Église Saint-Louis-en-l'Île, literally the Church of St. Louis on the Island, is easily my favorite church in Paris. It is so peaceful. Without great glamour, it is not a major tourist draw. It is quite beautiful, best of all it is a community church; it’s the only church on the island, part of the 4th arrondissement of Paris. Its wooden doors, decorated with angels, are an invitation to come inside this surprisingly vast church.
The Swiss cheese-like spire (see photo #1) is unmistakable as you walk the main street of Ile St-Louis. The church was built from 1652 to 1765. The iron clock dates from 1741. St-Louis’s interior was stripped during the odious Revolution, the fate of too many French churches. Most of today’s interior decoration was carried out in the 19th century, including the likeness of Our Saint carved in wood (see photo #5).
Île Saint-Louis could be called an authentic part of Paris; it is the area of the city that most closely resembles what it looked like in the 17th and 18th century!
During a walk on the Left Bank further upstream from the center, it became lunch time and we decided to have a light repast so that we could have an ice cream cone. We crossed onto the Ile via the Pont Tournelle which brought us into the r. des Dex Ponts. At its intersection with E-W street (r. St.-Louis en l'Ile) on the left was our goal-Berthillon's , home of the best ice cream (primarily cones) in Paris. There was no line(it was off-season) but we went inside and had tuna salad or pizza. My son's salad came with Tiramisu so he had that as well as a plate of 2 scoops (try passion fruit). We always try to go by for ice cream when our Paris walks take us near the Ile. It is worth the detour as evidenced by our grandson on another trip.
This Island on the Seine is viewed from the Pont des Arts.
Fortunately for all of us Beatchick was kind enough to point out my error in calling this the Ile de St. Louise. It is the Ile de la Cité (with the Ile St-Louis running behind it). The tip of that island is called the Square du Vert Galant, named for King Henri IV.
Thank you Mary!
Ile de Saint-Louis is a lovely little island in the Seine with luxurious 17th century townhouses and charming shops and restaurants which cater to the tourist. Unfortunately it is exactly those people who probably make this tiny island a bit less attractive, at least for those who desire privacy and quiet, and possibly not the most desirable place to live today. But at one time it was the home to the artists Camille Claudel, Honoré Daumier and Cézanne, the writer philosopher, Voltaire, and poet, Beaudelaire. Marie Curie also lived here, as did Georges Pompidou and the Baron de Rothschild. I have heard, but, am not sure if it's true, that my favorite French actor, Daniel Auteuil, lives here now.
Anyway, since we are tourists, I encourage you to take an hour or two to walk it and have a cafe creme or lunch at a cafe. You can do it as you walk from Notre Dame to le Marais.
If you pass Berthillon, you must have an ice cream. The Parisians say it is the best, but personally I like another that can be found in le Marais, Gelati d'Alberti, but then perhaps I have been spoiled by living in Italy which I believe is world famous for their ice cream.
Behind the Ile de la Cité, the famous "island of the Notre Dame", is another small island called Ile Saint Louis. It is about half the size of the Ile de la Cité, and way less touristic and crowded. It is a great place to see the old and authentical side of the city, to see the banks of the Seine and to see the Notre Dame from a different side.
The island got its current looks in the 17th century, when the architect Louis le Vau designed most of the large houses on the island. He liked it so much that he soon decided to move in to one of his creations too.
The Rue St-Louis-en-Ile is the central street of the island, where you can see lots of very classic looking shops. At the western side, close to the Notre Dame there are several very nice place to have a lunch or to have a drink, while having a great view of the city.
Linked to the Ile de la Cite by a footbridge, the smaller Ile Saint-Louis may not have any sights to speak of, but it possesses a charm all of its own, with its handsome ensemble of seventeenth century houses, villagey streets and tree-lines quais. It is often considered the most romantic part of Paris.
For centuries the Ile St Louis was nothing but swampy pastureland, a haunt of lovers, duellists and miscreants on the run, until in the 17th century a developer had the bright idea of filling it with elegant mansions, so that by 1660 the island was quite transformed.
It is prime strolling territory, with various restaurants and cafes, and a number of interesting (if pricey!) shops.
This smaller island in the middle of the Seine River is a quiet neigborhood with small streets, cobble stone, caf?s and little shops - my little oasis right next to the powerful Notre Dame cathedral.
My favourite view is towards the Notre Dame, which from this side looks both powerful and kind of quiet and peaceful - I guess it is because you don't see all those tourists in and around the church!
On 1664, after the sketches of famous king architect, it was started to build the cathedral of Saint Louis. It took a long time to build it, more than 60 years, and it was dedicated to the king Saint-Louis, what’s already mentioned there. As it says after his name there was named Saint-Louis city in Missouri State.
I liked the interesting cathedral’s spire, it’s made like from metal and I haven’t seen many cathedrals’ like that.
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