Michou is a personality, always dressed in blue. You have a great chance meeting him in or on the terrace of one of his favourite bars during a stroll around Montmartre, his “kingdom”.

Michou, now 82 (almost 83), has been running a successful drag queen cabaret in Montmartre since some 50 years. Last weekend, the City of Paris had organised some festivities in his honour.

People who were there to celebrate him were of course asked to wear something blue (I had a blue scarf).

The official meeting place was in the little park, Square Jean-Rictus, where you can find the “I-love-you”-wall (see previous post)…

… but you could also (of course) find him in some of the neighbour bars.

A special look on his car, the now probably 60 years’ old Citroën, nicely decorated.


Palais de Justice

The Palace of Justice was long the home of the French Kings. It was built on the premises where the Roman Governors and later the Merovingians and Capetians established their headquarters. The “Sainte Chapelle” was built 1246-48, simultaneously with the “Conciergerie”. The towers we can see on the Seine banks date from the 14th century as well as the recently renovated clock. 

In 1431, the Kings left for the Louvre and the old palace was given to the “Parliament”, a place of justice, which it still is today.

I have already posted on “Sainte Chapelle” (here), the “Conciergerie” (here) and the old clock (here)

In this post I will concentrate on the justice part. This is where we today can find all the major Parisian and some national justice courts. (Part of the activity will move to new facilities in the Batignolles area of Paris in a couple of years (see post here).

What today is used as a main entrance was added 1783-86. The magnificent wrought-iron fence is there since 1787.

Why is the entrance court called “Cour de Mai” (May)? During the 13th century reign of King Louis IX, Saint Louis, (who had the Sainte Chapelle constructed) a tree was every year in the month of May temporarily planted in the “Cour de Mai” for some festivities. The legend says that the King administered justice under an oak tree. Here or elsewhere? Probably rather somewhere in the Bois de Vincennes. To your left, you have “Sainte Chapelle”, to the right the entrance to the local restaurant.

To get to the restaurantt, you will use the same steps that Marie-Antoinette used on her way to the guillotine. 

There is also a back entrance to the Palace. It was actually meant to be the main entrance, when it was added during the 19th century. The idea was also to demolish Place Dauphine to give a full and nice perspective. Finally, “only” the third part of the Place Dauphine rectangle was destroyed. (Compare the 1715 and today’s views above.)

It’s evident that ambition to make this in a 19th century magnificent design was there.

Once you have passed a security control, you are free to walk around and to assist to trials. Of course, photos are not allowed where a trial takes place, but some of the chambers can be empty…

What previously was named “La Grande Salle” from the 14th century - originally the central place of ceremonies and celebrations in the old Royal Palace - burnt in 1618 and was reconstructed in 1622… suffered from a new fire in 1871 (the Commune) and was then renovated in its 17th century design. Today it’s referred to as the “Salle-des-Pas-Perdus” (lost steps), the place where you wait, where lawyers and their clients meet and prepare the hearings...

The statue to the right represents Malesherbes (1721-94) who defended King Louis XVI. The lady to the left of her represents “France”. When you look behind you may see her bare back.

The statue to the left is of a famous lawyer, A.P. Berryer (1790-1868), considered to be a very courageous advocate, a fantastic orator, often defending those who were not in favour. 

Today his name is also remembered by the monthly “Berryer Conferences”, which mostly take place in this chamber, “Chambre de Criées”. Always with an invited prestigious personality (Salvador Dali, Serge Gainsbourg, Peter Ustinov, Dominique Strauss-Khan, Marcel Marceau, Nicolas Sarkozy, Catherine Deneuve…), one of the 12 secretaries of the Conference makes a (mostly rude) presentation of the invited person, followed by some oratory exercise by secretary candidates or others, pleading on nonsense subjects which have nothing to do with law. There is lot of laughs. You have to queue for hours if you want to get in.

This chamber, today “Première Chambre”, was probably once the sleeping quarters of Saint Louis, then referred to as “La Chambre Dorée” (the Golden Chamber) or “Grand-Chambre”, has changed name a number of times. Referred to as “Chambre de la Liberté” or “Chambre de l’Egalité” during the revolutionary years, this was then the seat of the Revolutionary Tribunal, where Marie-Antoinette, Robespierre, Danton… and finally the Public Prosecutor himself (Foquier-Tonville) were condemned. The room was a bit bigger those days and after a fire in 1871 it was renovated in its 16th century design.

Here are some views from the long corridors. You may note the spectacular heating arrangements. I found a cock (rooster). The rooster has actually been a symbol for France already since the fall of the Roman Empire and may be a play on word on “gallus” (Latin for rooster) and “Gallus” (gallick).

Many doors were of course closed or it was not (or hardly) possible to take photos. 

Some beautiful stairs – again with a cock!

… and at last (this is gettong long!), some stained glass windows and glassed ceilings.

I did not visit (maybe fortunately) the Criminal Investigation quarters on one of the upper corners, mostly referred to as “36 Quai d’Orfèvres”, its address, well-known from e.g. George Simenon’s Commissaire Maigret fiction novels.  


Sainte Elisabeth de Hongrie Church

The Sainte Elisabeth de Hongrie Church, built 1628-46, was once part of a Franciscan convent. Elisabeth was a 13th century Hungarian princess who supported the Franciscan movement, died young, became a symbol of Christian charity and was canonized only a few years after her death.

On the below plan from 1739 you can see the convent and the church placed between the priory Saint-Martin-des-Champs (Saint Martin in the Fields) – now the National Conservatory for Arts and Crafts and the “Arts-et-Métiers” Museum (see previous posts here and here) and the The Temple (see previous posts here).

The Revolution and later the Haussmannian reshaping of Paris has now left us with just the church.

Most of the interior, including the stained glass windows and the organ are from the 19th century. The church had to be redecorated after it had been used as a warehouse during the first revolutionary years. Around the ambulatory you can find nice wooden 17th century bas-reliefs, brought there from the Saint Vaast Abbey in northern France. 

There is an indirect link to the Knight Templars who occupied The Temple until the order was brutally dissolved early 14th century. The Sainte Elisabeth Church is today the church of the Knights of the Order of Malta, somehow indirectly the heirs of the Knight Templars. We can see their banners in the church.  


Appreciated publicity?

Buildings, even official ones, under renovation are more and more covered by tarpaulins – and publicity. Many people find this disturbing, which is understandable. However and at least, it means that part of the renovating costs are covered by this publicity. Even if the contribution may be modest compared to the total costs, it seems however that this, which you may call sponsoring, often can represent millions of €uros.

… and when you e.g. look on the result here (for more details see posts here and here) I guess you must somehow be satisfied.  Or…?

So far... no publicity on the Panthéon. 


A squeezed in church

The Saint Michel Church, generally referred to as “Saint Michel de Batignolles”, although not quite in the “Batignolles” area of Paris (rather in what is referred to as “Epinettes”) is squeezed in amongst some narrow streets and apartment buildings.

It seems that the original plans were to have it built in the corner, referred to as “La Fourche” (the fork), where the Avenue de Clichy splits into the continuation of Avenue de Clichy and to Avenue Saint Ouen. (We can easily find this “fork” and future avenues on all old plans of Paris and surroundings - the roads then leading to the villages Clichy and Saint Ouen .)

The construction of the church lasted quite a while, 1913-38, obviously disturbed by WWI and, I imagine, lack of funds.

Not easy to illustrate the interior, quite dark with some small windows and somewhat surprising light installations. The church is quite large and can accommodate 2500 people.

The organ is quite different from most church organs and can almost be referred to as a cinema organ. Its origins are from what then was the Hotel Majestic, Avenue Kléber, and was acquired in 1936 when the hotel closed and became State property (later housing the Supreme Army Command during the Nazi occupation, becoming  a Conference Centre – where e.g. the Vietnam War peace talks took place – and now again transformed to a luxury hotel).

The church architect (Bernard Haubold) was also involved in the restoration of the famous Mont Saint Michel Abbey. The other link to this abbey is the statue of Saint Michel, which can be found on the top of the abbey... and on the Saint Michel Church tower. They are two slightly different versions due to the sculptor Emmanuel Frémiet (1824-1910). (A third version can be found at the Orsay Museum). Among the most famous Frémiet statues still left, there is of course the “Joan of Arc” (Place des Pyramides). Frémiet was a specialist of animal sculptures, an example is this elephant outside the Orsay Museum. The statue we find on the church had to be taken down after a violent storm in 1990, but was fortunately saved and was put back in 2007. 

Nothing really to do with the above, but here are some spring greetings from Paris!