“The great art of governing consists in not letting men grow old in their jobs.”
— Napoleon III (1808-1873)
OLD vs. NEW Although Paris was settled more than 2,000 years ago by the Iron Age Celtic people known as the Parisii, the image that most of the world has of the City of Light is that of a 19th century capital.
From 1852 to 1870 the Mediaeval city was transformed under the order of Napoleon III by Baron Georges Haussmann. Entire sections of Paris were cleared away to create the wide boulevards, parks, and commercial and residential areas that are so familiar today. The demise of the dirty blind alleys that bred disease was welcome by progressive urban planners and humanitarians alike. Make no mistake about Napoleon’s motives; they were largely a factor of self-preservation. In addition to breeding disease the city’s narrow, dead-end streets also bred dissent. It was believed that the new broad avenues would be less likely barricaded and could more easily move troops to squelch rebellion.
From the start of Napoleon III’s reign in 1852, the Préfecteur Haussmann cut immense and dead-straight arteries through Paris, such as Avenue de l’Opéra, Boulevard de Sébastopol, and Boulevard St-Michel. These great axes were lined with wealthy and comfortable residential buildings of five or six floors.
These Second Empire buildings are distinguished by the mansard roof, wrought iron balconies, limestone cladding, dormers, projecting central pavilions, and classical details such as quoins and cornices. And everything always had a sense of monumentality. Because some of the older streets met the newer ones at acute angles the buildings at these angles were rounded to help soften the look.
Here is a sampling of some of those rounded corner buildings throughout Paris.
The river Seine disects Paris and is a great place to stroll along either the left bank or right bank. There are many arguments over which bank is better, don't worry, just do both.
The Latin Quarter (arrondissement or district 5e and 6e) is quite central and while growing in tourism, stilll contains a large number of students, artists and academics. The boulevard St Michel which is the border is a large shop lined street. This area is known as the Latin quarter because up until the revolution the students and professors only communicated in Latin.
There is an amazing collection of cafes and restaurants, theatres and quaint shops in this area, plus its only a quick stroll to the Notre Dame and Pont Neuf along the Seine River. The pantheon is a landmark in this area. It is a very historic area of Paris.
In all, it makes a great base to explore Paris from.
“God willing, every working man in my kingdom will have a chicken in the pot every Sunday, at the least!” — the domestic policy of Henri IV (1553–1610)
FOR THE PEOPLE Michael the Archangel is the protector of the French people. The fountain at the focal point of Place St-Michel features a bronze sculptural grouping, St-Michel points to heaven as he trounces the Devil under foot, while two dragons gargle water into the basin. This grouping is the work of Francisque Joseph Duret. A Raphaël painting in the Louvre, which shows St-Michel killing the Devil, served as Duret’s inspiration.
The fountain was designed by Gabriel Davioud in 1860 as part of Baron Georges Haussmann’s city renovation plan. This square, in the heart of the Latin Quarter at the foot of Boulevard St-Michel, is a popular meeting spot for students and tourists.
This is also a Wi-Fi Hot Spot, for those with more internet need than deep pockets!
“Paris is the greatest temple ever built to material joys and the lust of the eyes.” — Henry James (1843-1916)
High points inside the Church of Saint-Séverin include stained glass windows dating from the Middle Ages, illustrating Biblical stories, for example, Christ giving the keys to Kingdom of Heaven to St. Peter (see photo #4) as well as the lives of the saints, for example, St. Martin of Tours’ encounter with Christ (see photo #5).
There is also a set of seven windows dating from the late 1960s by Jean René Bazaine. These more recent windows, in an colorful abstract style, were inspired by the seven sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church, and are around the ambulatory behind the altar.
Saint-Séverin’s double ambulatory’s most striking feature are 10 double spans of twisted pillars (see photo #2) behind the altar; it has been said that they resemble the trunks of palm trees.
“Paris vaut bien une messe.”
(“Paris is well worth a Mass.”)
— Henri IV (1553-1610)
YOU BET IT IS Following the advise of his mistress, Gabrielle d’Estrées, Henri II, King of Navarre made the above declaration on 25.July.1593. He embraced Roman Catholicism, permanently renouncing Protestantism, in order to claim the throne of France, becoming Henri IV.
This beautiful Flamboyant Gothic church honors the sixth century pious hermit, St-Séverin, who lived in the area. The Flamboyant style gets its name from the flame-like meanderings of its tracery decoration, as well as the dramatic lengthens of the window and door pediments and the tops of arches. Popular in the 15th century and early part of the 16th, France was where this style is most commonly found. Gargoyles (see photo #5) lurk overhead as you enter this magnificent church. Today, these stone projections are impressive during rainstorms, especially heavy ones, when rainwater gushes from their gaping mouths.
This Latin Quarter church started its mission as a small oratory. The Vikings destroyed it during their Siege of Paris between AD 885 and AD 886; it was rebuilt as a parish church during the 11th century. The current building, however, was not completed until the early 1500s. It lacks a transept. Its long rectangular shape terminates in a circular apse.
The façade is now composed of a 13th-century portal (see photos #3 & #4), brought from a church on Île de la Cité, which was demolished in 1837; and it is paired with a handsome, 15th-century tower (see photo #1) rising above it.
Walking thru the latin neightborhood I saw this beautiful church which was not in my tourist guide. It's the Romanian Orthodox Church in Paris. Fortunately I could enter there. I didn't take any picture inside because they were celebrating a service, so I prefered to stand at the end in a respectful way just for a few minutes.
There is a statue of a Romanian philosophe and poet called Mihai EMINESCU (1850-1889) inext to the church.
Caminado por el Barrio Latino vi una bonita iglesia que no venía en mi guía turísitica. Es la Iglesia Ortodoxa Rumana en París. Afortunadamente pude entrar, pero no tomé ninguna foto dentro porque estaban celebrando un servicio religioso y preferí quedarme sólo un rato atrás de manera respetuosa.
Cerca de la iglesia está la estatua de un filósofo y poeta rumano llamado Mihai ENINESCU (1850-1889)
The r. St.-Severin ends at r. St.-Jacques just beyond the apse of its name church. If you look ahead (see picture) you see the west end of the church of St. Julien le Pauvre (See separate Tip). This is partly a quaint ruin worthy of study (look for the iron-caged well and the entrance to the Hotel Laffemas across the street). Skirting the church to the left discloses the pretty park: the Place Rene-Viviani, a treed and sunlit area. Immediately ahead is a large and damaged tree, a false Acacia said to be the oldest tree in Paris. Revealed through its branches is the South face of Notre Dame. In fact the best pictures of this side of the church are obtained from the Northeast corner of the park. This is a fine place to sit down and take a rest.
The r. de la Huchette, once called and again resembling the r. des Rotisseurs, begins at the Blvd. St.-Michel near the Metro stop of that name. It parallels the Seine (running East) to r. St.-Jacques; r. St. Severin parallels it next south and passes its name church. Both streets are filled with Greek and Algerian restaurants (perhaps 9 of each) and assorted other food-related venues (including bakeries). The better Algerian restaurants are spread further south in the quarter. Our picture shows a typical near-Eastern way of cooking: spit-roasting (usually lamb or if Greek maybe pork). The adjacent restaurant windows are filled with skewers of kebabs, lamb, beef and shrimp and other expensive delicacies for grilling (this is called souvlakia in Greek) whose higher prices are not obvious (beware). In poorer times the offal meats (heart, kidneys, liver,intestine, trimmings) were compressed and tied into heavy masses and marinated. These were roasted, upended and trimmed or shredded, doused with marinade and fresh vegetables (onion, peppers etc.) and served in a pita-pocket called a gyro. Today only lamb and beef are used. The compressed meat masses are prepared by commercial butchers, the rotisseries are mass produced and mid-Eastern restaurants worldwide serve the dish as a fast-food. There is such a sidewalk takeaway right here on the corner of Xavier Privas and St.-Severin, or it can be had more elaborately inside the restaurants. Many other Greek specialties are available and at night there may even be dancing in an attempt to conger up visions of Athens for you.(at a price?).
The Algerian restaurants serve semolina steamed above stews of various meats and vegetables, called couscous. The grain has a most delectable flavor that is unequaled. One order is enough usually for two people and the dish is quite inexpensive. Algerian wines are cheap and quite good too. Some of the couscous restaurants are on r. Xavier Privas which runs parallel to Blvd. St.-Michel between Huchette and St.-Severin.
Like many other religious buildings the Oratory to St.-Severin was replaced by a Church after its Norman destruction. This one took centuries to reach its present state (until 1520). Inside it is predominantly Flamboyant Gothic. The present 13C west portal was added in 1827 coming from another church demolished at that time. The original doorway was moved under the North side of the bell-tower to the left. On the South side of the church is an open ground (once a cemetery) surrounded on two sides by a vaulted gallery which was an ossuary (See our Separate Tip). This space can be entered from the church via a door at the back of the nave. There is a 15C Rose Window in the West Front. On the inside it is obscured by a marvellous 18C organ in a Louis XV organ loft. (I think Saint-Saens was organist at some time). There are regular concerts, often with Organ, and they are always completely sold out, so get your tickets days ahead. Because of the organ, lots of weddings are held in the church, sneak in and you may hear it!
The Romanesque church was Gothicized from about 1230 to 1530 with mostly Flamboyant Gothic now visible. The three westernmost bays have short thick columns with figured capitals supporting wide arcades. The eastern later ones are tall and graceful. This was due to a rebuilding after a fire. Subsequently the Grande Mademoiselle poured money in, hiring LeBrun to fix it for her, his way, and so the arches were blunted and lots of marble added. Inside the most notable features are a Flamboyant double ambulatory with elaborate rib patterns descending onto the columns and the carved figures on the capitals of the oldest nave columns. There is 15C glass in the triforium and clerestory windows which are full of stone tracery. There is modern glass behind the altar.
St. Severin curch was rebuilt in the 15C after a fire. It is quite large inside and interesting classical concerts are held there. Along the South side of the church is a garden area that was once a graveyard. This was replaced by a gallery that looks like a cloister (they no longer let you in but you can see the details through the fence). It connects to an old church building that closes the South side. The belltower at the NW is part of the original church (as are fragments of the interior). Overlooking the garden along the South side of the church are menacing gargoyles projecting out like fleeing demons.
One of the most remarkable things in Saint-Séverin are its fantastic columns and baults. The rounded space behind the choir is formed of a double ambulatory delimited by concentric semi-circles of columns. The central coiled column is the most dramatic feature of the circular passageway, but this striking shaft is surrounded by a veritable forest of others, each column differing from its neighbor while stamped by its own specific design, terminating in a spray of ribs that spread out to form the vaults. This visual effect of the columns led to imaginate as it is a "palm grove" with its crowd of vertical shafts and overhead arched branches.
Una de las cosas más destacables de Saint-Séverin son sus fantásticas columnas y bóvedas. El espacio redondo que hay detrás del coro está formado por un doble ambulatorio delimitado por columnas en semi círculos concéntricos. La columna central del ábside es la más dramática del recorrido, pero está rodeada por otras columna vecinas que forman un verdero bosque, donde cada columna es diferente de la otra, con diseños específicos, culminando en unos nervios que se expanden por las bóvedas. Este efecto visual hace imaginar en un bosque de palmeras lleno se formas verticales que sobrepasan los arcos.
Mass schedule / Horario de misas
Monday to Friday / Lunes a viernes: 12:15, 19:00
Saturday / Sábado: 12:15, 18:30
Sunday / Domingo: 10:30, 12:00, 18:00, 19:30
The next stop was the Saint-Séverin church. I particularly love this church because here it was my first ever mass in Paris some years ago. It's placed in one of the oldest neighbourhood in town, with narrow and bended streets. The church is dedicated to Séverin, who is said to have been a hermit who lived there and prayed in a small rudimentary oratory. After Séverin's death, a basilica was constructed on the spot. This was destroyed by the Vikings, and the current church building was started in the 11th century, though its major features are late Gothic and date from the 15th century.
La siguiente parada fue la iglesia de Saint-Séverin. Le tengo un especial cariño a esta iglesia porque aquí fue donde escuché la primer amisa en París hace algunos años ya. Se encuentra en uno de los barrios más antiguos de la ciudad, con calles estrechas y tortuosas. La iglesia está dedicada a Séverin, del que se dice que era un ermitaño que vivió y rezó en un pequeño y rudimentario oratorio. A su muerte se levantó una basílica en el lugar, pero fue destruida por los vikingos. La actual iglesia comenzó en el siglo XI, pero sus más destacables partes son de estuilo gótico, datando del XV.
Opening hours / Horario de apertura
Monday to Saturday / Lunes a sábado: 11:00 - 19:30
Sunday / Domingo: 9:00 - 20:30
Finally, you can see here more pictures of Saint-Séverin, a church I like a lot, as you can see! Until 1790 Saint-Severin was the seat of the southern archdeaconry of the pre-revolutionary diocese of Paris. In the late nineteenth century the writer Joris-Karl Huysmans frequented and popularised the church. In 1956 it was the scene of a demonstration by Christian conscripts against the war in Algeria. In the years leading up to the Second Vatican Council Saint-Severin was known for the style of its worship arising from the Liturgical Movement.
Finalmente aquí puedes ver más fotos de Saint-Séverin, ¡una iglesia que ves que me encanta! Hasta 1790 Saint-Séverin era la sede del archidiaconado de la Diócesis de París antes de la Revolución. Al final del siglo XIX el escritor Joris-Karl Huysmans frecuentó y popularizó esta iglesia. En 1956 éste fue el lugar de una protesta de reclutas católicos contra la guerra de Argelia. En los años que siguieron al Concilio Vaticano II Saint-Séverin se dio a conocer por su culto surgido del Movimiento Litúrgico.
Internal features of the church include both ancient stained glass and a set of seven modern windows by Jean René Bazaine, inspired by the seven sacraments of the Catholic church, around the ambulatory. Actually I like most the ancient ones, because I prefer to see exactly what they're depicting at. The most ancient ones are the upper windows around the church which were created from the late 14th to the 15th century, and they allow sunlight to illuminate the church vividly throughout the day.
En el interior de la iglesia hay tanto vidrieras antiguas como modernas, estas últimas situadas en el ábside, creadas por Jean René Bazaine y que representan los siete sacramentos. Realmente prefiero las antiguas, porque prefiero ver claramente qué es lo que están representando. Las más antiguas son las vidrieras altas alrededor de la iglesia, creadas entre el siglo XIV y el XV, que permiten dar muchísima luz al interior durante el día.