Well, as I showed the metro station “Arts et Métiers” in a previous post (last Sunday), it seems logical that we now make a visit to what you can find on the ground, above the station. What was created during the revolutionary years (in 1794) as the National Conservatory for Arts and Crafts (Arts et Métiers) is still today a higher education state establishment, and since 1802 also a fabulous museum. Originally this was the Priory (or Abbey) of Saint-Martin-des-Champs (St.Martin-in-the-Fields), with very old origins, officially (re)founded in 1060, then well outside the city limits. It’s amazing to see the surface St.Martin – together with the nearby Temple – occupied. St. Martin played for centuries a great role in the French religious history and had some famous priors, including Richelieu.Contrary to what happened with the Temple (see previous post), some of the old buildings of St.Martin were left to the posterity after the Revolution, including churches, chapels and also a refectory which now is the library of the Conservatory (same architect as the Sainte Chapelle (see previous post) – Peter de Montereau). Some new Conservatory buildings were added during the 19th century and two big new streets crossed the area, including Rue Réaumur (see previous posts), which even made its way between two of the churches, St. Martin and St.Nicolas-des-Champs (see previous post) – see the difference between the 1739 map and today.
The St. Martin church is now part of the museum, the most spectacular from architectural point of view. It was built between the 12th and 14th centuries. This is where you can find some of the bigger objects (top picture) like steam engines, cars and even some of the early aeroplanes including one on which Louis Blériot crossed the Channel in 1909. This is also where you today find (a copy of) the Foucault Pendulum (the original is now transferred to the Panthéon – see previous post), which proves that the globe is rotating. (Umberto Eco’s book “Foucault’s Pendulum” is clearly related to the “Art et Métiers” Museum.)The museum has totally some 80.000 objects and some 15.000 drawings to testify how techniques of different kinds have developed during centuries. You can see the first photographic equipment (Daguerre...), the first telephones, radios, televisions, calculating machines (one of them is a copy of the one I had on my desk in my first job!), computers, satellites... There are also models of some important construction work, including the NY version of the Statue of Liberty. (In previous posts I have talked about the original statue in the Luxembourg Gardens, about the place where the NY version was constructed...). Of course, a great number of beautiful early precision instruments, clocks... are also exposed. I also found the 1948 model of my 2008 Solex (today electrically driven)!