I should have booked….

This was yesterday evening. Yes, it was the evening after a very hot day (some 37°C, 100 °F) and it was the “Fête de la Musique” (World Music Day)….  Didn’t feel like, having the energy, to go for all the places where music was played, like previous years, I just wanted to have a little meal with some friends in my immediate neighbourhood. I should of course have booked a table. This is what we met. This is actually what I like about the area where I live - the number of nice bars and restaurants… but it was a bit of a fight before we found a place to sit.  These pictures were all taken in an area within one or two minutes’ walk from my flat – yes, it’s a nice area!

The alternative could have been a picnic in the nearby park, but…. (pictures taken 9 pm).  



I already wrote about the Madeleine Church, e.g. here and here, but walking by the other day I was struck by the ongoing cleaning and renovation job and thought I must have a new look. The cleaning really makes you observe “details” that you normally just may neglect, see top picture.

Here we have some views of the “before”, “during” and “after” cleaning.

The Madeleine Church has a rather curious history… In 1753 Louis XV decided to have a church built here, ten years later the works commenced. The original architect died in 1777, was replaced … However, the church was not yet ready, when the Revolution of 1789 stopped it all – with ideas to transform the future building to a “Temple of the Revolution”. Then Napoleon had the idea to create a temple dedicated to the glory of his army and there were other ideas about the use… library, ballroom, bank, Court…

When the royalty was back in power in 1815, Louis XVIII decided that the building after all was going to be a church, dedicated to Mary Magdalene – we can see her kneeling here. The works continued slowly… and as late as 1837, there were even some plans to use the building for a future railway station. Finally, in 1842 the building was consecrated as a church.

There are some 30 or 40 Saints around the church. So far only Saint Denis seems to have been cleaned.

The flowers on the steps in front of the Church have been there now for a couple of years. A place for a nice relaxing moment on a sunny day – with a nice view.

The front doors are worth a closer look, inspired by the Florence Baptistery and Ghiberti. They are by a rather unknown Henri de Triqueti (1804-1874) who also decorated a fantastic Albert Memorial Chapel at Windsor.

A few shots from the interior. The Cavaillé-Coll organ has been there since 1845 and has had some famous titular organists like Camille Saint-Saëns (between 1858-77) and Gabriel Fauré (between 1896-1905).

What is really quite special is the fresco in the nave from 1838 by Jules-Claude Ziegler (1804-1856) – “The History of Christianity”.  Once again we can see Mary Magdalena… but also some historic kings and rulers… and also Muhammad, Luther… and in the very front – Napoleon!

Not really within the subject, but I wonder what is happening to what is supposed to be one of the most beautiful public toilets in the world? It’s been closed for a couple of years. I wrote about it here, when it was still open.

Maybe also a reminder that you, for a yearly subscription of 5 Euros, can have a good lunch for 8.50 Euros in a restaurant in the basement of the church.   


Square d'Ajaccio

This little square, Square d’Ajaccio, was created in 1865 – and was as a large part of the Paris parks and squares designed by Jean-Charles Alphand (1817-1891). Originally it had the name of Square des Invalides. It’s actually very close to the Hôtel des Invalides (see my previous posts here) and is somehow a “twin” to another little square, “Square Santiago-du-Chili” (see previous post). Why has this square got the name of Ajaccio? I haven’t found any answer… maybe because of the nearby tomb of Napoleon – Ajaccio was his birth town.

There isn’t too much to say about the little park as such, only that it’s well kept…

… and that when you look up through the trees, you can find some well-known monuments.

There are three more modest monuments to be found in the square - a statue, “La défense du foyer”, a bronze medallion of Hippolyte Taine and a statue of a general, Henri Gouraud. Some explanations may be useful?  

The statue “La défense du foyer” (The defense of the family) was made in 1887 by Emile-André Boisseau (1842-1923). There are tens of thousands of copies in bronze of this statue. One of them was recently sold by Sotheby’s for some 7.500 USD. Boisseau is also represented at the Orsay and Louvre museums and he has decorated a number of graves at the Montmartre and Père Lachaise cemeteries.

There is thus a bronze medaillon of Hippolyte Taine (1828-1893) who was a critic and historian and he obviously had a large influence on French literature and intellectual culture for a while. The medallion is made by Oscar Roty (1846-1911) who was a celebrated medalist and also professor and even president of the “Académie des Beaux-Arts”. Roty is today perhaps best known as the designer of the “Semeuse” image on French silver coins and stamps. On the net you can even find a photo of the model of the “Semeuse”.  

Henri Gouraud (1867-1946) was a French general, known for having led the Fourth Army during WWI (when he lost his right arm), for having served 1919-23 as representative of the French government in Middle East and then as High Commissioner in Syria and Lebanon. 1923-1937 he was the Military Governor of Paris. I don’t know who made his statue.


Ground Control

Last year I reported on a site named the “Grand Train” (see here). Temporary bars, restaurants, playground… were offered in a former railroad depot in the 18th arrondissement. This kind of activity continues one year after the other, but the spot changes. The basic idea is to, in cooperation with the National Railway Company (SNCF) and in a temporary way, use space before demolition and new building projects.

Opened only during the summer months, this summer (and next summer) the place chosen under the work name “Ground Control” is close to the Gare de Lyon, in the 12th arrondissement. “Halle Charolais” is a former warehouse and mail sorting centre. In two years a new housing project will get started. In the meantime, you can enjoy a different atmosphere, buy a book, get things to eat and drink with an emphasis on organic, ecological products… or just sit down and relax. 



Michelangelo on the top floor.

Referring to my latest post - In front of the shops, workshops, galleries… on Avenue Daumesnil, there is a rather surprising building, in an art deco style, but built as late as 1991. It holds a police station on the bottom floors and normal living quarters on the upper floors. The surprising thing is to find the top floor decorated by 12 giant reproductions of a Michelangelo statue, the Dying Slave.

Michelangelo (1475-1564) made two slave sculptures, the Dying one and the Rebellious one, around 1513. They were supposed to be part of the tomb that Pope Julius II ordered for himself. However, the tomb never became what it was supposed to be (a long story). Finally, the tomb was erected in 1545 in the San Pietro Vincoli church in Rome, but the only real Michelangelo part of the tomb is the famous Moses, also from 1513. Michelangelo offered the Slaves in 1546 to his friend Roberto Strozzi (Medici family), who later offered them to the French King François I. They changed owners several times (one of them was Richelieu), but became part of the Louvre Museum collection already in 1794, very soon after the Revolution. 
The architect of the building on Avenue Daumesnil is Manuel Núñez Yanowsky (with Miriam Teitelbaum). Still active, he has achieved some remarkable buildings, including these ones (“stolen” from the net) to be found in the Paris region. Here you can also see his project for the recently built Orthodox Cathedral in Paris, the real architectural winner, but finally not chosen (a long story).