Place de Furstemberg: A World Wonder

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Reviewed on 09/27/2010 | No Reviews

Places

Tracing Delacroix

Paris is full of surprises. And this is one of it’s best. Imagine you walk down Boulevard Saint-Germain following the crowd like all the others. But you’re sick of it, tired of all the hustle and bustle.

So, just take a step back, turn around and try not to miss the tiny Passage de la Petite Boucherie behind the Eglise Saint-Germain-des-Prés  which leads you directly to one of the most charming and tranquil squares in Paris.

Here we are at Place de Furstemberg. It feels like one of the seven Wonders of the World (or at least of Paris). How can it possibly be that just a few steps away from the terrorism of tourism such a thing as this exists? A quiet, gentle place apparently meant for insiders only?

The square is planted with four paulownias that flower in spring, which makes the spot even more spectacular at this time of year. No wonder the square always attracted artists, not only to paint it, but also even to live – as Manet and Bazille did. In 1857 Eugène Delacroix moved in number 6 of Place de Furstemberg and worked here until his death in 1863. Even if his most important works are displayed in the Louvre and in the nearby Eglise Saint-Sulpice, the charming Musée Eugène Delacroix, with his atelier and garden is worth a visit.

The abbey became a gunpowder warehouse

Today the square and street is in the hands of interior home boutiques such as Flamant, fabric specialists (Pierre Frey) and a handful of antique shops, which gives you the opportunity for a bit of window shopping.

Every time I come here, I feel like I’ve been transported in a time machine. Actually, in the late seventeenth century, this area formed the forecourt to the Saint-Germain abbatial palace, which is still visible at the beginning of the street. In the centuries afterwards a lot of transformation went on. The Normans pillaged it and burnt it down. It was reconstructed then, under Cardinal Charles I de Bourbon, who was King Henri IV’s uncle, a true abbatial palace was built in 1586. By that time the Saint-Germain-des-Prés abbey had become one of the most beautiful monastic complexes of the Middle Ages.

The Revolution, of course, put an end to it. The abbey became – guess what? A gunpowder warehouse. And an immense explosion during the night of August 19, 1794, destroyed most of it.

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