The Paris Town Hall (L’Hôtel de Ville) has already been present is some of my posts, but passing by the other day I thought I should really try to show and underline to which extent the building is almost overloaded with decorative details.
Once more, maybe first some history and geography: The Town Hall is situated at what is logically called Place de l’Hôtel de Ville, but what was until 1803 called “Place de Grève”*. Here is a comparison between early 17th century and today.
*/ “Grève” originates from “grava” in the old Gallic language and means gravel. Today, “grève” means strike in French. The explanation is that jobless people met here, but the original meaning of “faire la grève” - “looking for a job” has during the later centuries rather got the opposite meaning.
As we can see from this later artist impression (which I have “stolen” from an excellent site) we can see how the place originally was a sloping beach which served as a river port.
The place has also been known as one of the leading execution places in Paris, during centuries by burning, quartering, beheading... This is where the guillotine first came into use in 1792. The guillotine served frequently here until 1832 (see previous post about the guillotine).
What you may refer to as Paris’ first Town Hall was erected here in 1357 - a modest building referred to as “La Maison aux Pilliers” (The House on Pillars). On the south side of today’s building you can find the equestrian statue of Etienne Marcel, who can be considered to be the first Mayor of Paris, although his title was different. He was lynched in 1358.
A new more worthy edifice was built in episodes between 1533 and 1628, in a renaissance style, and it looked very much like the one we still can see today. In the early 19th century two wings were added. During the exited days of the war with the Prussians and of the “Paris Commune”, the Town Hall was in 1871 set on fire and only part of the walls remained. The reconstruction which lasted from 1873 to 1892 was made in a spirit to keep the outside”as it was”, whereas the interior was completely rethought.
It’s amazing to see how the copying of the original exterior has been executed in detail.
I have had the pleasure to visit the interior and made a post about it.
But this post was, as said above, meant to illustrate the very richly decorated exterior. 230 sculptors (including Auguste Rodin) produced 338 statues of famous Parisians and a lot of other sculptural features.