Play me I'm yours!

There was a surprise the other day when I went to “my” park - there was a piano… and a sign said: “Play me – I’m yours”. I might have, but without my scores, I’m lost (bad excuse).

… and a further surprise, in front of the main entrance stood another one!

Well, launched in 2008 by a British artist (Luke Jerram), pianos like these have been installed in parks, train stations… in a number of cities around the world - until now some 600 pianos. Linked to the “Fête de la Musique” (see previous post) the French Ministry of Culture now launched it in Paris. Altogether some 40 pianos have been placed at different spots in Paris and they will remain there until July 8. Then, they will be lent to different associations until a new campaign next year. They are of course old pianos but quite OK to play, in general decorated by some street artist. 

During a Saturday afternoon, after a timid start (great thanks to the young kids), more and more people played and attracted a little crowd.

I checked a bit also the following days. Amazing, the number of people who can play. Here is a man playing jazz, a lady who brought her scores and played Chopin, a charming Cuban-born lady who played Bach...

Unfortunately, and as one could fear, all the pianos are not as well treated as the ones in "my" park. I found this one on Place de Clichy.

Talking about vandalism. You may have noticed that I'm quite in favour of good street art, urban art (see a number of posts), but I'm also against wild tagging. The City of Paris offers cleaning, free of charge, of such tagging. Here you can see one of the city agents in action.

Added June 30:
... and one week after my first pciture, the pianos in "my" park are still there. The "concerts" go on. I only regret that I didn't bring my camera more often.

Added July 1:


Fête de la Musique again

Since a start in France in 1982, the "Fête de la Musique" seems now, each year, June the 21st, the soltice day, to be celbrated in some 100 countries!

I already made posts about it, as well on this blog as on my previous one.

This day is of course also linked to different originally pagan traditions. In Sweden, the Midsummer, or the Midsummer’s Eve, is a great day of festivities. This is the reason why the Swedish Institute in the Marais (see previous post) for a couple of years has taken the opportunity to combine both, Midsummer celebration and the Fête de la Musique, making use of the vast garden behind their fantastic 16th century building.

It all starts with some children friendly folkloric singing and dancing around the “Midsommarstång”  (Maypole), later followed by some more “adult” music.

Thunderstorms were announced, but the sky stayed quite clear during the evening hours. On my way home, I listened to other groups – they are “everywhere”, passing by Rue de Rivoli, the Centre Pompidou… ending up at the Palais Royal ….

… before taking the last metro home, where we also got some nice entertainment.   



To reach the official main entrance to “La Sorbonne” you just have to cross the street from the little square described in my latest post

I had the opportunity to visit some of the more official parts of “La Sorbonne”. First, however a bit of European teaching and learning history.

The word university comes from the Latin “unversitas magistorum et scholarum” meaning “community of teachers and scholars”. Bologna, in what then were the Papal States, is considered to be the first university, founded in 1088. It was followed about simultaneously by the University of Paris and the University of Oxford probably around 1150, a bit later by Cambridge, Salamanca…

The origin of these medieval universities was the cathedral or monastic schools which existed since the 6th century.  In Paris you could find the Palace School, the School of Notre Dame and that of the Sainte-Genevieve Abbey (see previous post about what today is the “Lycée Henri IV”) and later the School of Saint-Victor.

What was referred to as the University of Paris was actually a number of “collèges” -, where pupils and teachers lived together. Most of these “collèges” could be found on the slope between the Sainte-Genevieve Abbey and the Seine River, the Latin Quarter, of course named so because Latin then was the common, official, language used by all the “nations” who taught and were taught “art” here. Later came the faculties of theology, law and medicine.

One of the “collèges” was the “Collège de Sorbonne”, founded in 1257 by Robert de Sorbon. It became a leading Faculty of Theology, was renovated by Cardinal Richelieu during the 17th century, was suppressed (together with the other” colleges”) during the French Revolution, restored in 1808 and finally closed in 1882. Around where the original Collège de Sorbonne had stood a complete new secular Paris University complex was built which stood ready in 1889, the year of a Universal Exhibition (and the Eiffel Tower). It became known as “La Sorbonne”.

Now, the University of Paris has been reorganised into thirteen autonomous universities and schools, some of which still carry the Sorbonne name, all today spread out all over the city. However, the buildings that we may refer to as “La Sorbonne” have, in addition to normal student activities, some of the central functions, rectorship offices and official receptions rooms, library, amphitheatres…

The architect of the present complex was Henri-Paul Nénot (1853-1934), only 29 years old when he got the job! The official entrance (there are lot of others) is imposing with the double stairs leading to the peristyle...

… and to the Grand Amphitheatre, which can seat some 3000 people. It’s decorated by a great fresco by Puvis de Chavanne (the statue of whom we could find in the square in the previous post). The “secular virgin” in the middle is supposed to represent the school, “La Sorbonne”. There are statues of some remarkable people, including Robert de Sorbon. Apart from for university lectures and different meetings, the amphitheatre is used as an excellent concert hall. This is also where Pierre de Coubertin in 1892 launched the idea of the Olympic Games, where the first session of the General Conference of UNESCO (see previous post) was held in 1946.

The fabulous peristyle (see also top picture) offers a number of wall paintings representing Paul de Sorbon receiving the chart by Saint Louis (Louis IX) to create the college, Pascal discussing with Descartes, Richelieu laying the first stone of the new college chapel… and the statue of what obviously should represent “La Sorbonne”.

Looking up from the entrance floor or from the peristyle you can see the stained glass window representing the Arms of Paris. One may be surprised to see that Paris is represented by a small sailing ship. Originally this was the arms of the Guild of Watermen which later was taken over by the City with the motto “Fluctuat nec mergitur” (She is tossed by the waves, but does not sink). The “fleurs de lys”, mostly conncected to the Royalty disappeared during Revolutions, Napoleon… but are back since the end of the 19th century.

From the peristyle, you may reach other rooms like this one, used for different official ceremonies…

… and this room, which is the entrance to the Grand Amphitheatre for the “officials”.

Descending to the “Cour d’Honneur” you discover the college chapel, which is oldest remaining building, from 1642. (Top left here below you can see it from the street.)  

Turning in the opposite direction you find this sun dial, with its decorations. “Sicut ombra dies nostri” (Our days pass like a shadow) can be seen as inscription on many sun dials.

On the floor of the Cour d’Honneur the design of the original college chapel has been designed. There are of course also some statues (Victor Hugo…).

The chapel has been used for religious services during different periods even since the University became secular and even after the separation of State and Church (1905), but not during the last decades. Today the interior is in bad state and in heavy need of restoration. 

Cardinal Richelieu, who was the headmaster of La Sorbonne from 1622 to his death in 1642 and decided on  its reconstruction, including the Chapel, has his tomb here. His body disappeared during the Revolution, but his head was saved (stolen), retraced … and back in the tomb. Above the tomb you can find his “galero”, the wide-brimmed cardinal hat.

Several rooms are under restoration, including the fabulous library, so could not be visited, at least this time.

There is again a little extra post below.

Another little extra post

I have some sad news from what I call "my" park, because it's only one minute's away from my home. I reported here and here about a Bar-headed Goose who was laying on three eggs. After more than three weeks, she has now for some reason abandoned them.

I showed also a duck with four happy ducklings. Only one is still there. 

These things are probably quite normal, but it feels really sad, when you come to look at them closely.


A little square

Just north of the main entrance to the Sorbonne university and south of the medieval building and museum “Hôtel de Cluny” and what remains of the Roman Baths (see previous post), is a small park, called Square Paul Painlevé. (Paul Painlevé, 1863-1933, was a French scientist and politician.)

The square was originally created in 1900 and 100 years later remodeled in a medieval style, basically because of the types of plants and flowers chosen.

There are a number of monuments, including a copy of the famous Capitolian (She-)Wolf, given by Rome a few years (1962) after Paris and Rome were “twinned” in 1956. Rome is actually the only city with which Paris is twinned ("Solo Parigi è degna di Roma; solo Roma è degna di Parigi"). I don’t know what Paris offered to Rome.

Another monument is dedicated to Puvis de Chavannes (1824-98), a major painter, who e.g. decorated part of the Paris City Hall (seee previous posts) and is represented by a number of paintings at the Orsay museum (see previous post).

A third monument and fountain is erected in honour of Octave Gréard (1828-1904), who was an eminent member of the Sorbonne University and initiated secondary education for girls. 

If you look for fresh drinking water, there is a small model of the Wallace Fountains (see previous posts, here and here).

... and just outside the little park, in front of the Sorbonne University offocial entrance is a statue of Michel de Montaigne (1533-92), a statesman and author, probably one of the most influential Renaissance writers. His "Essays" established a new literary form. The sculptor is Paul Landowski (1896-1961), perhaps most well-known for Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro (and present at several places in Paris, see e.g. here, here and here). Originally in marble, the statue is now in bronze in order to better resist against some students' practical jokes ... and their habit to touch his shoe, which is supposed to bring examination luck.

You may take this post as an introduction to what probably will be next one, about the Sorbonne University. We can see the main entrance behind the trees on the top picture.



I had recently the opportunity to visit the headquarters of UNESCO (The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). UNESCO’s mission is “to contribute to the building of peace, the eradication of poverty, sustainable development and intercultural dialogue through education, the sciences, culture, communication and information”.

UNESCO has 195 member states, but certain countries have withdrawn / reentered the organization depending on changing political views, the last example perhaps being the admittance of Palestine in 2011 which led the United States to stop their funding.

In 1998 the Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights, developed by UNESCO, were endorsed by the UN.

UNESCO inscribes sites on the World Heritage List, today some 900 sites.

UNESCO has tens of field offices over the world, but the central office is thus situated in Paris.

Unfortunately my visit was on a rainy day, which somehow complicated the possibilities for more attractive photos. Also, the Y-shaped design of the main building makes it look more interesting, when seen from above. I had no helicopter at my disposal… hopefully the Google map helps to give some kind of impression. 

The buildings date from 1958 and were designed by three cooperating architects (Marcel Breuer, Pier Luigi Nervi and Bernhard Zehrfuss) and approved by an international panel (Gropius, Le Corbusier, Saarinen…). Le Corbusier and later Renzo Piano have also directly contributed.  

On the top floor of the main building there are restaurants, canteens, which allow a splendid view of Paris and it gives also a better view of the other buildings, actually to a large part “hidden” by the lawn, and also the building with the nickname “the accordion” which houses conference rooms, especially the large one for the plenary sessions, which of course also is used for other purposes, concerts…

There is a beautiful park, different monuments and many artworks inside and outside, mostly donated by the artists or by member nations. On the top picture we can e.g. see sculptures by Calder and Henry Moore. Inside, you find works of Arp, Giacometti, Vasarély, Tapiès, Picasso, Le Corbusier, Lurçat, Miro… There is also space for temporary exhibitions. (Below, there is a little extra post about the hatching goose.)

Another little extra post

A little in-between-report referring to my post June 4. It seems now that the Bar-headed Goose has been hatching during three weeks. Normally four weeks are needed. Today she was disturbed by a young pigeon… which finally left (and will be back?). For a very short moment I managed to take a shot of one of the eggs – obviously there are two. I will keep surveying.


Lycée Henri IV

Lycée Henri IV is a public school, considered as one of France’s most demanding ones, with some 2.500 pupils. Actually the school offers as well the four first years of secondary education (age 11-14), “collège”, as further secondary education (age 15-18), “lycée”, preparing for the “baccalauréat”, the entrance to higher, university, studies… but also something more particular – “classes préparatoires”, supposed to prepare students for entrance to the elite “Grandes écoles”.  It’s situated in the Latin Quarter, surrounded by other prestigious educational establishments, including the Sorbonne.

The school has a long history which actually starts well before it became a public school. It occupies buildings which once were the Abbey of St. Geneviève, first established in 506. The abbey was suppressed by the French Revolution and became in 1796 the “Ecole Centrale du Panthéon”, the first French public school. It has changed name several times, depending on who governed in France.

The school is situated just behind the Panthéon (see previous post) and is immediate neighbor to the beautiful church Saint-Etienne-du-Mont (see previous post). Between the two buildings, the former abbey chapel disappeared when rue Clovis was opened in the beginning of the 19th century.

But a lot of the former abbey remains, the most spectacular perhaps being the “Clovis Tower” with origins from the 12th century, once the church tower of the disappeared abbey chapel. (It lost its spire by thunder in 1764.)

Let’s start with a general view, seen from the outside.

When you pass the main entrance you will reach what was the cloister building. Today’s aspect dates from the 17th and 18th centuries…

…, but some walls cover 12th century architecture – very partly made visible, however the day of my visit covered by some improvised “art”. (I “stole” a photo from the school website to show what it may look like.)

A few more photos from the different interior courts.

In one of the cloister aisles you can find what used to be the convent refectory, transformed to a chapel during the 19th century, with a statue of Sainte Genevieve, a relic from the destroyed abbey chapel.

What is referred to as the “Salle des Actes”, used to be a chapel (“Chapelle de la Miséricorde”). Recent excavations have permitted to find tombs of former abbots, now covered by a wooden floor.

The “Salle de médailles” (Room of the medals), used once to be a place where natural curiosities were displayed. It’s today mostly used as a music room. The wooden panels from the 18th century are in good shape, but the ceiling obviously is in need of restoration.

To reach these rooms, you will use these beautiful stairs.  

There are some other major stairs, “l’escalier des prophètes” also named “l’escalier de la vierge” (the stairs of the virgin). The 17th century statue of the virgin still wears some traces of the original paint, but it seems that some student has added some lipstick colour. 

These stairs will lead to the abbot’s oratory

… and further up – now via some modern, added, stairs – to what used to be the abbey’s library, which some centuries ago had one of the largest European book collections, now transferred to the nearby Bibliothéque Sainte-Geneviéve (see previous post). With a central cupola and four aisles forming a cross, after having for some time served as dormitory, it’s today again used as library and working space for the students. The floor has been restored according to original design; the 18th century wooden walls are in good shape…, but the cupola and what surrounds it seem to be in a very sad shape (see also top picture).

Through one of the windows you can see the top of the “ClovisTower”.

The library was during the abbey times open to public, but by using a separate entrance. These were the stairs then to be used…

… leading to this wooden door.

The inside of the door has still some “fleur-de-lis”, associated with the French monarchy. The question is still open how they escaped from the revolutionary inspections.  

One detail which draw my attention was this clock mechanism, with the inscriptions “…donated by the Duc d’Orléans in 1743” and especially the phrase, made in Paris by “son très humble et très obéisant serviteur Gallonde”. (Louis Charles Gallonde obviously made a lot of clocks and astronomical instruments during the 18th century.)

A lot of nice things to be seen, but a lot of restoration work would be appreciated.