20.2.17

Place Maubert


There is a very modest little square called Place Maubert. Modest in size, but with a lot of history. There have been some doubts about the origin of the name “Maubert”, but it seems rather clear that it’s some kind of transformation of “Maître Albert”.  This means that it refers to Albertus Magnus, also known as Albert the Great, Albert of Cologne…. and in France as Maître Albert. He was born around 1200 and died in 1280. He was extremely knowledgeable in many areas, but is perhaps especially known as one of the leading philosophers and theologians of the Middle Ages. He gave lectures at the Paris University during a few years in the 1240’s and had as one of his pupils – and also friend - another very influential philosopher and theologian, Thomas Aquinas. They are now both Saints. 

Albert’s lectures were very popular and had often to be held outdoors, obviously here, at Place Maubert, quite close to the Seine River and the Notre Dame Cathedral, then under construction.

He also got his name linked to the little street, Rue Maître Albert, and to the nearby Passage Maubert.

There are a number of portraits of Albert, but they seem all to have been made a century or more after his death, so maybe the resemblance is not perfect.

Place Maubert is also known to have been a place of a large number of executions. Some 300 years after Maître Albert’s lectures there were a number of processes against Protestants, heretics, pretended atheists… and generally the sentence was death in various forms. On these city maps from that period, we can see for what the place was known.

One of the many condemned personalities was Etienne Dolet (1509-46). He was convicted of heresy and was burned with his books in a sentence obviously signed by the Paris Parliament, the Inquisition and the theological faculty of the Sorbonne University. Dolet somehow became a reference when during the 19th century the separation of the State and the Church started to become an important issue. He got his statue on Place Maubert in 1889. Meetings were held here until the separation came into force in 1905 … and even later. The statue disappeared in 1942 when the metal was required by the Nazi occupants.


Certain days of the week there is an important open market on the opposite side of the street. 

    

16.2.17

Rue Douai


Rue Douai is a rather long street in the 9th arrondissement, created during the 1840’s. It goes from Rue Victor Massé (on which I have already posted a number of times, e.g. here and here) to Place de Clichy (on which I have also posted, e.g. here and here). We are just north of what is referred to as the “Nouvelle Athènes”, we may rather be in the “Pigalle” area. Among these then rather new streets, we could during the 19th century meet a large part of the then, but especially later, famous members of the artistic world. Along the street you cross also the Square Berlioz (see previous post)... 



...and looking right and left in the side streets, it’s easy to see in which neighbourhood you are.

The street is also well-known by the fans of modelling, especially model trains.


Even more is the street known for the place to buy instruments, especially guitars.




There are also a few references to what many considered to be typical Pigalle activities.

At no. 22 of the street, you will find a beautiful building (see also top picture), during the 19th century belonging to Michel-Victor Cruchet (1815-99), who was a successful sculptor-ornamentalist.

However, the place is today especially known for having been the home of the then newly married Georges Bizet. Together with his wife Geneviève, born Halévy, they lived here the years 1869-75. He was about 30 and Geneviève about 20 when they moved in. Their son Jacques was born in 1871. Georges had already spent all his life in the area. He was fairly successful as a musician and composer, but not enough to be really rich. He still gave piano lessons… and the family lived in a modest flat in this building… and also in a rented country house in the Paris suburbs – at Bougival. Those were the years when George composed “Carmen” – libretto by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy - they had written a lot together already, especially for Jacques Offenbach. Ludovic Halévy was a cousin of Bizet’s wife Geneviève. “Carmen” was first performed March 3, 1875, without success and acclaim. Georges became ill, suffered one or two heart attacks and died three months later, 36 years old. 


Here we can see some photos of Georges, Geneviève, their son Jacques… and of Ludovic Halévy and Henri Meilhac.


… and some illustrations dating from the first "Carmen" performances, including a photo of the first “Carmen”.

Geneviève, the wife, later opened a “salon”, well visited by the distinguished Paris society. She married a lawyer some ten years later. She died, depressed, in 1926. Her son Jacques, who became a medical doctor and was a friend of Marcel Proust… had died four years earlier.

Let’s listen to “Habanera”.

      
 
Talking about “salon”… At no. 50, lived the famous mezzo-soprano Pauline Viardot, sister of another famous singer, Maria Malibran. Pauline was not only a leading singer, she also played the piano (had taken lessons by Franz Liszt…), played four-hands with Clara Schumann, spoke six languages fluently, was the friend of Georges Sand, Frédéric Chopin, Jenny Lind, Charles Gounod,  Hector Berlioz… and perhaps especially the Russian novelist Ivan Turgenev who actually spent his last twelve years here.


A last word about the no. 15 with Eugène Viollet-le-Duc as architect. He may be better known for some restoration work, including the Notre Dame Cathedral. 

        

14.2.17

The Vendôme Column


I already posted about the “Vendôme Column” a number of times, e.g. here, here and here…  and I told how the Napoleon statue has been replaced, that the column has been torn down, re-erected…  In my latest post I said that the column was under renovation. Now, since a couple of months it looks like “new”. I thought it was worth showing some details again.

Let’s read the inscription on the base of the column in approximate translation: “Napoleon, the august emperor, has dedicated this column to the honour of the Grand Army, a monument made of bronze, seized from the enemy during the German war in 1805, a war which under his leadership was finished in three months.” This obviously refers especially to the battle of Austerlitz.  

It’s quite amazing to see all the details in some kind of a spiral, 280 m (920 ft) long, representing different war scenes, executed by a number of sculptors under the leadership of François Rude. (I talked about him e.g. here and here.) The bronze used is said to come from some 1.200 captured canons.


Maybe a special attention could be paid to the little openings, giving a bit of light to the interior staircase…


… and especially to the “F II” that you can find a bit everywhere. This of course refers to the defeated Francis II, the last “Roman Emperor”, a title he gave up after the Austerlitz battle. He was later known as Francis I, emperor of Austria and King of Hungary…  After some other defeats against Napoleon, we must remember that in order to confirm peace with France, in 1810 he also “offered” his daughter Marie-Louise to become the wife of Napoleon.  
              

9.2.17

Another amazing bookshop


Many know about the bookshops “Shakespeare & Co”, the present one and the original one … I wrote about them here and here. There is another, possibly more discrete bookshop, but also (more than) full of old and new books. It's named "The Abbey Bookshop". The owner, Brian Spence, of Canadian origin, opened this shop in 1989. He has now some 39.000 titles to offer … most of them in English, but there is also a large choice of especially French-Canadian books.

The shop is to be found in a beautiful early 18th century building, in an old street. During the 12th century the street was referred to as “Rue des Ecrivains” (the writers) and since 1387 it has been named “Rue de la Parcheminerie” (parchment making).  













When you try to make your way in the shop, including downstairs, you wonder how it is possible to find a specific title you may be looking for. 


























I went there together with Swedish author Christina Björk, who found a number of interesting books. Brian also proved that he was able to quickly and easily find a specific book, e.g. the one that Christina wrote about "Linnea in Monet's Garden". I wrote about that book also in a post here.









6.2.17

Year of the Rooster...


The Chinese New Year, in 2017 the year of the Rooster, began January 28. It has since been celebrated in different ways at different spots in Paris. The last great manifestation was the parade in the 13th arrondissement, Sunday February 5.

Actually, in Chinese astrology, each zodiac year is associated not only with an animal, but also with one the five different elements - water, wood, earth, metal… and this year it’s the Fire Rooster. As the Rooster is one of the 12- year cycle animals you will have to wait for 60 years to see the Fire Rooster year come back. If you are interested in the zodiac interpretations, horoscopes etc… I will let you look for it yourselves. There are too many sources and I don’t know which one to “trust”! 


The Chinese have dated the years differently during the last four or five thousand years. Although this celebration is a great event – and the Chinese New Year actually is also that of Korea, Vietnam… , we must of course remember that these countries today officially refer to the Gregorian calendar as do most other countries in the world.  Actually, China adopted it already in 1912, earlier than countries like USSR, Romania, Greece, Turkey…


This is not the first time I have reported on this yearly event, but it’s quite spectacular and worth revisiting. I hope you don’t mind getting some views also from this year’s parade. There were of course some local politicians in the front line, including the Paris Mayor. There were a few Roosters to be seen but many more dragons, lions…