Archives Nationales

The « Archives Nationales » (translation hardly needed) were created during the revolutionary years. Since 1808 they are located in what is named the « Hôtel de Soubises » (with further buildings added during the 19th century), since 1927 also in the nearby « Hôtel de Rohan », later also at Fontainbleau and since the beginning of 2013 also in a new complex at Pierrefitte-sur-Seine. Obviously a lot of space is needed.

In the original « Hôtel de Soubises » building are today basically conserved documents preceding the 1789 revolution. Part of this building is a museum. As an amateur visitor you cannot accede the long corridors with its documents, but some documents are exposed, the oldest from the 7th century.

The website of the « Archives Nationales » allows a virtual visit of some of the « hidden » rooms and corridors and also to have a closer look on a number of documents. Here is an example: The letter ("testament") that Marie-Antoinette wrote to Madame Elisabeth (sister of her already guillotined husband, Louis XVI) a few hours before she was brought on her last trip to “Place de la Révolution” (today Place de la Concorde).

But the visit of the “Hôtel de Soubises” is already interesting for the building itself, a combination of architectures from the 14th to the 19th centuries.

What used to be the main entrance when Olivier de Clisson, Constable, First Officer of the Crown, moved in during the 14th century, is now a side entrance. Behind this entrance there are still some old buildings. Behind the stained glasses is where the “Ligue Catholique” frequently met during the second half of the 16th century, when the Guise family had taken over the place. The religious wars between the Huguenots and the Catholics had as Catholic leader, Henry, duc de Guise, who was killed on orders by (and in presence of) King Henry III in 1588.

In 1700 the place was bought by François de Rohan, prince de Soubise, probably and basically thanks to his wife, Anne, and favours she for some reason had obtained by Louis XIV. The present main pavilion, the new main entrance…

… and the rococo interiors were made by the Soubise family during the 18th century. There are paintings by some of the most prominent rococo painters like François Boucher and Carle van Loo.

The main stairs from the ground to the next floor were reshaped during the 19th century, when the building had been taken over by the State.

In some more private rooms you can find documents, some curiosities and the portrait of Anne, who obviously so much attracted Louis XIV.

When I visited just before Christmas, there was an exhibition of tapestries which had belonged to one of the Rohan-Soubise family members, Cardinal de Rohan. (I took a close-up photo of the arrow in Achilles’ heel.) (There were several Rohan cardinals; another one became famous especially for being involved in the affair of the Diamond Necklace.)

Here we can get an idea of what the premises looked like around 1600, during the 18th century and today.



Jeanie said...

Peter, this post is just killing me because when we were in Paris we were staying about three blocks away (My friend Jerry was on Rue du Temple just north of the Jewish Museum, maybe a block past Rambateau). We walked by here but had no idea one could go in or what we would discover if we did. Oh, my heart is breaking! How incredibly beautiful and fascinating, too!

Anonymous said...

¡Que maravilloso articulo!

¿Y que me dices de las fotos?

Mil gracias Peter.


P.S. Not very impressed with Mme. de Rohan´s picture.......

Alain said...

Une institution un peu austère mais qui fait des expositions thématiques intéressantes.

Studio at the Farm said...

What gorgeous buildings, so sumptuous! Your photos and article are fantastic, Peter. I thank you again for this vicarious look at historic spots in Paris.

Vagabonde said...

This is such a wonderful place. My mother used to live a couple of blocks away at rue des Archives so I visited it several times.
Last time, we went when it was the museum free event in May – there were so many people, but it was still so interesting.

Harriet said...

Thank you so much for this post. It's one of the places that my 92 year old friend especially wanted to see when we visited in Oct 2012; however, we were limited to seeing only the downstairs on our visit due to the fact that curators were in the process of setting up an exhibit scheduled to open the next day, which happened to be our day of departure.

Synne said...

I have only been in the yard at this place - maybe I'll take a closer look next time I'm around!
I love exploring archives, it always gives me a sense of adventure to look through heavy binders and heaps of dusty documents!

Starman said...

The gardens were spectacular!

Nathalie H.D. said...

J'ai vu un reportage magnifique sur les archives nationales à la télé la semaine dernière. Moi qui ne la regarde jamais, j'ai eu la chance de tomber la-dessus et c'était passionnant.

Dis-moi, quel APN as-tu ? Toujours ton Canon G11 - ou douze, ou quinze, je ne sais plus ? Ou bien es-tu passé à autre chose ? Je me suis fait voler mon appareil en Italie (sur le marché d'Asti) en octobre et je me demande si je ne vais pas acheter un Canon powershot G1X... Bises