Medieval Paris,  Paris

Snapshot: Place de la République

Sometimes we just need some pictures. And maps. Definitely maps.

1739 Paris, a square in infancy

As part of Paris Gone By’s development, I’ve been wanting to create different “features” or types of articles. These would be a break from the usual post style, ranging from light topics (the amuse-bouche, if you will) to in-depth exploration of larger topics. As the heat of summer bears down upon us and the weight of the world seems a little too heavy, I had some inspiration.

I would like to introduce you to the Snapshot series. Snapshots will be about one place such as a building or square or other small corner, told mostly in pictures instead of words. Of course the emphasis will still be on the history!

SNAPSHOT #1

For this inaugural Snapshot, I wanted to take a look at the evolution of the Place de la République through 900 years of maps and images. Why maps?

As I’ve mentioned before, I love them. This is partially practical–I have a notoriously bad sense of direction. But in my diligent (and sometimes desperate) effort to not become lost, I started to love the details in maps. The little quirks and the information they provide.

Then I discovered historical maps. It was love at first sight! Outlined in beautiful drawings is the history of a place, the story of a modern city. Paris is especially well-captured in maps, making the journey (and the research!) a delightful one.

Place de la République’s story is a graphically easy one to follow and allows us to touch Paris’ history as she expanded and grew beyond her fortified walls.

First came the Templars

We start back with the Knights Templar and their Temple complex built outside of the city in the 12th century. Which seems like a good place to put a bunch of soldier/monks/money lenders. It is very long ago, but bear with me. There is a reason that the square has a rue du Temple, a boulevard du Temple and a rue du Faubourg du Temple feeding into it.

1180. Ish.

Of course Paris kept growing and quickly Philippe Auguste’s wall just wasn’t cutting it. King Charles V had to build a new wall about 150 years later. The Temple grounds and the Abbey of St. Martin were enclosed within it, as well as his new palace of St. Pol (St. Paul).

PORTE DU TEMPLE

The wall started life as a double earthwork fortification: tall wall inside, water-filled moat, second wall, and a dry ditch on the outside. At the Porte du Temple–the gate next to the Temple–they also later built a bastion or “bastille”, not to be confused with the Bastille of Revolution fame. It is kind of a funny looking thing:

1550, with the two moat design

Then they got rid of the two ditch/moat idea and went with a single larger moat and more solid, mostly stone wall. It appears here that they are in the middle of the conversion. The bastion actually looks less threatening here:

1550 as well. Giving the enemy the high ground?

BASTION UPGRADE

While there seems to be some disagreement on this, it appears in the late 16th century or early 17th century the bastions were upgraded to a cool ace of spades shape, complete with handy windmills. I’m not sure of the full strategic importance of the shape, but it is definitely an improvement over a giant lumpy hill. The shape also makes more sense when considering the future of the bastion.

Much better, circa 1620

TIME GOES BY

More time went by and the Sun King Louis XIV graced France with his presence. After securing the country’s borders, he wanted to show how confident he felt by taking down the walls and filling in the moat. No need to secure a city within secure borders, bien sur. In their place, he created the first set of Grands Boulevards.

These modern wonders include boulevards we still use today, such as the Boulevard du Temple and the Boulevard St. Martin. Confusingly, these boulevards do not align with the original Temple or the Abbey of St. Martin or their rues. But their legacy lives on!

Here is a map showing what was proposed by Louis XIV. This is where we finally start seeing what would eventually become Place de la République:

Circa 1670

And here we see the post-demo view:

1705. Note the bastion elevation between the trees and the Rue des Fossez.

The boulevards were a hit with the Parisians, even though they looked nothing like the traffic congested roads we think of today:

A PLACE’S PROGRESS

Through the maps, we start to see the progression of the crossroads into the Place de la République. It starts as a larger opening where the boulevard St. Martin meets the boulevard du Temple and slowly we see buildings fill in. Here it is by the end of the 18th century (pre-Revolution):

1783

We see the shape beginning to form here. We also see some of the other features in their infancy. For example, the smaller reservoir is about to turn into a fountain…

CHATEAU D’EAU

Well, actually two fountains.

Fountain #1

In 1811, the first fountain in the square is installed, under Napoleon’s orders. The fountain is called the Chateau d’Eau and the square is then conveniently named place du Chateau d’Eau. A few years earlier, Bonaparte also had the Temple torn down to prevent it being a symbolic place for demonstrations.  And then he managed to begin a square that would become a symbolic place for demonstrations.  

1821

This fountain, near the small reservoir from above, is located a little outside of the current Place de la République.

It’s easy to see the original place du Chateau d’Eau, thanks to the triangular building

The fountain, designed by Girard, was very popular with the public. It featured eight lounging lions and a multi-tiered design. It also supplied water to the inhabitants of that area of Paris, before running water was available to the masses.

1855

Under the intrepid (if destructive) eye of Baron Haussmann, the place du Chateau d’Eau was redesigned in the 1850s and 1860s into the larger shape we know today. The theaters around the square were razed for additional boulevards and a new magasin (department store).

1874

Fountain #2

The original fountain was deemed too small in scale for such a grand square. It was removed in 1867 to the entrance of the La Villette slaughterhouse to be used as a water trough for the animals. It remains there today, in front of the abattoir that has been converted into the La Villette cultural center.

One last drink, circa 1900
The Lions Now

A second larger lion-themed fountain was then created by Davioud. It also had eight lions, this time sitting up. It was placed in alignment with the new square in 1874, after being delayed by the Commune.

circa 1875

This one only hung out for 6 years before being shuffled off to place Daumesnil (now place Félix-Éboué) in 1880. At least they were good at recycling!

The Lions now

Place de la République

And here, at long last, we see the emergence of the name Place de la République. With the lions off in other parts of the city, the Morice brothers designed the statue we see today. With a standing lion at the base. Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité, et Lions?

Where did the other guys go?

The statue was installed in 1883, complete with a tastefully rendered (i.e fully covered) Marianne and allegories to Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité and bas reliefs of the history of the French Republic. In 1889, during the centennial of the Revolution, the square was officially renamed Place de la République.

The square was, as it had been for centuries, a gathering place for the people of Paris. In the 20th century, it developed more formally into a sight for demonstrations, celebrations, and mass mourning. Most recently, it has hosted protests against racism, police violence, and government policies. But it has also borne witness to a city and country in mourning after the November 2015 and Charlie Hebdo terrorist attacks. It has lived up to its name as a square for the republic!

The square today

TRANSIT HUB

With so many boulevards and smaller arteries intersecting at Place de la République, it is no surprise that it quickly became a major transit hub. First for horse and foot traffic and then for the trams and omnibuses of the 19th Century.

In 1904, the République Métro station opened, serving Line 3. By 1935, it was serving the five current lines that intersect at this busy station. There are actually 9 entrances circling the square. Trust me, take the time find the right one when exiting the station. It can be a loooooong walk across the whole thing in the rain.

Bonne chance

With the rise of the automobile, the square basically became a giant traffic circle. The impact on pedestrian traffic made it increasingly unpopular as a casual gathering and resting place, helping to lead to a decline of the area.

In the 21st century, there has been an effort to make the square more welcoming and people friendly, by reducing the amount of vehicle traffic and enlarging the pedestrian spaces. In a city full of beautiful squares, the Place de la République is finally slowly returning to more than just a transit hub and place of protest.

FOR THE TOURIST

Place de la République is located where the 3rd, 10th, and 11th arrondissements converge. It can be reached by a decent meander up from the Seine on the rue du Temple or by taking the Métro. The square itself is worth a look around. It is incredible to reflect on how much change and how many people have used this crossroads over the last nine centuries.

Once you are done communing with the past, it is time to dive into the neighborhoods! I recommend heading south toward the old Temple. You will be in the Upper Marais, filled with restaurants, boutiques, and beautiful historic buildings. If you head over to the Mairie (town hall), you can see the outline of the old Temple outlined in steel paving stones. It is weirdly smaller than you think it should be!

TO EXPLORE FURTHER

I am pleased to announced another new section for PGB. When appropriate, I’ll provide a list of resources to learn more about the topic at hand. I’m here to enable your curiosity. 😄 Please note that as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases of items marked “affiliate link” below.

Recommendations

For more on the Templars, British historian Dan Jones has a thorough and readable history written in his very accessible style. It was the first book I’ve found that made the Templars easy to understand and actually interesting! Check out The Templars: The Rise and Spectacular Fall of God’s Holy Warriors [Affiliate Link].

There are many options for Haussmann’s alterations to Paris–his impact cannot be understated! I’m currently reading City of Light: The Making of Modern Paris [Affiliate Link] by Rupert Christiansen. Rupert’s tone is casual and entertaining, making this a short, light, and easy read–perfect for the distractions of 2020.

For some pretty dubious history but lots of drama, the History Channel has created a series based on the downfall of the Knights Templar: Knightfall, available on Netflix. For me, the best part was the recreation of medieval Paris. They have done an amazing job with the CGI! Warning: It is in the vein of Vikings and may not be suitable for all audiences.

Thank you for your patience while I figured out a few things with PGB and life. Please let me know what you think of the new changes and stay tuned for more Paris history!

Merci!


Image Credits
1739 Map: Extract from Composite: Paris. Plan de Turgot. Authors: Turgot, Michel-Etienne ; Bretez, Louis ; Lucas, Claude. From the David Rumsey Map Collection. Public Domain.
1180 Map: Extract from Paris de 1180 à 1223, sous le règne de Philippe Auguste. From Wikimedia Commons, posted by Paris 16. Public Domain, PD-US-expired.
1550-1: Extract from Plan en Perspective, De La Ville De Paris, telle qu’elle etoit sous le Regne de Charles IX, 1550. Author: Jacques I Androuet du Cerceau. From Wikimedia Commons, posted by Paris 16. Public Domain.
1550-2: Extract from La ville, cité et Université de Paris, 1550. Authors: Olivier Truschet & Germain Hoyau. From Wikimedia Commons, posted by Paris 16. Original image from Basel University Library. Public Domain, PD-US-expired.
1620: Extract from: Paris Wie Solche A° 1620 im Wessen gestanden. Author MERIAN, Matthausor. From Wikimedia Commons, posted by Paris 16. Creative Commons Licence Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International.
King Louis XIV Plan: Extract from Plan de Paris levé par les ordres du roi. Paris de 1670 à 1676. Fac-similé du plan de Bullet et Blondel. Authors: Bullet & Blondel. From Wikimedia Commons, posted by Paris 16. Public Domain, PD-US-expired.
1705 Map: Extract from Huitieme Plan de Paris, Divise en Ses Vingt Quartiers, 1705. Authors: Nicolas de La Mare, Antoine Coquart, Nicolas de Fer. From Wikimedia Commons, posted by Paris 16. Public Domain, PD-US-expired.
Grands Boulevards: Le boulevard des Capucines, peu de temps après sa création, avec l’hôtel de Montmorency sur la gauche, Paris 9e arr, circa 1700. Author: Jean-Baptiste Lallemand. In the collection of the Bibliothèque nationale de France. From Wikimedia Commons, posted by Tangopaso. Public Domain.
1783 Map: Extract from: Nouveau Plan Routier De la Ville et Faubourgs de Paris Avec ses Principaux Edifices Par M. Pichon Ingénieur Géographe A Paris Chés Esnauts et Rapilly … 1783. Author M. Pichon. In Collection of Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek Darmstadt. From Wikimedia Commons, posted by Paris 16. Public Domain, PD-US-expired.
1821 Map: Extract from Plan routier de la ville de Paris, ou Guide des étrangers dans cette capitale… 1821. Author/Publisher C. Picquet. Bibliothèque nationale de France, GEC-387. Public Domain.
Place de Chateu d’Eau 1855: Château d’eau. From Guide dans les monuments de Paris, by Paulin et Le Chevalier. From Brown University Library Digital Repository, digital ID 115046964316465. Public Domain.
1874 Map: Extract from Paris et ses environs, 1874. Author: E.D. Vorzet. In the collection of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. From Wikimedia Commons, posted by Paris 16. Public Domain, PD-US-expired.
Villette Then: “L’abreuvoir des Abattoirs de la Villette, vers 1900.” From Le Rues de Paris.
Villette Now: Google Maps Street View extract. June 2020.
1875 Davioud Fountain: Pinterest. Retrieved June 29, 2020
Current Davioud:Place Félix-Éboué.” From Wikimedia Commons, posted by Pyb. Public Domain, as granted by author.
Current Lion Statue: “Statue de lion, Monument à la République, Place de la République à Paris. Bronze, 1883”. From Wikimedia Commons, posted by Mbzt (author). Under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
Le monument à la République: “A la Gloire de la République Française”. 1883 by the Brothers Morice. Photo from Wikimedia Commons, posted by author Jebulon. Under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
Foot & Carriage Traffic: “1314 – ALL PARIS – Place de la République” from CPRama.com,
Tram Traffic: “Carte postale ancienne éditée par ND, N°28”. From Wikimedia Commons, posted by Claude Villetaneuse, from his private collection. Public Domain, PD-US–published before 1925.
Republique Plan: “Metro station maps – République” from CPRama.com.
Car Traffic: “The Place de la République of yesteryear – 75003/75004/75011”. From Le Rues de Paris.
2020 Map Images: From Google Earth, June 2020.

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