There is a quiet little square in the 2nd arrondissement, close to the Bibliothèque Nationale (National Library) with the name Square Louvois. (The Marquis de Louvois, minister under Louis XIV, had once a residence here.) In the middle of the square (prepared by the usual Paris “park team”, Alphand and Davioud) you can find an imposing fountain – the day of my visit the water was however missing – created in 1844 (or 1839?) by Louis Visconti - also known for the tomb of Napoleon (see my post here) and for other great fountains, the Saint-Sulpice one (see my post here), the Molière one (see my post here) … and a lot more. For this one he was helped by the sculptor J-P-J Klagmann, who created the four ladies representing four French rivers, Seine, Loire, Saône, and Garonne.
(The building in the background is the National Library.)
There are four tritons, mounted on dolphins.
These twelve mascarons should normally spout water.
The fountain is beautiful, was last time renovated in 1974 and may now need some new refreshing.
So, where the fountain now stands used, as aid above, to stand the Paris home of the Marquis de Louvois. But the place is particularly known for something else; it used to be the place of one of Paris’ opera houses. There have been many opera buildings in Paris since the first one was created during the 17th century, some for very short periods. Many of them disappeared by fire, others were demolished… Today we have the Opera Garnier (see previous posts) and the Opera Bastille (see previous post). I posted about another disappeared one, the one preceding Opera Garnier, here.
The opera house which stood where we now have Square Louvois was in operation between 1793 and 1820. It’s known with many names – also due to the fact that France then lived a period with a number of changing regimes – revolution, Napoleon, royalty… : Théàtre National, Théâtre des Arts, Théàtre de la République et des Arts, Salle de la Rue de la Loi, Salle de la Rue de Richelieu (the street name changed), Salle Montansier... after Mademoiselle Montansier who actually originally created the theatre, but lost it to the state in 1794. (You should read about her here, she had a remarkable career.)
Some events are linked to this theatre. Bonaparte, then first consul, escaped in 1800 from an attack on his way to the opera – 22 dead and 56 injured. In 1820, the Duke of Berry was mortally wounded (by an anti-royal bonapartist), when leaving the theatre. He was the son of the future King Charles X and the one who could still potentially offer a heir, a future King, to the House of Bourbon. However, his wife was pregnant and seven months later a son was born, who however finally failed to become a King (under the name of Henry V) when in 1830 Louis-Philippe of the Orleans branch took over. (Since then there is a dispute between the Bourbon and the Orleans branches about who should be considered as King, if France decided to bring back royalty to power – which of course is doubtful. J)
The murder however completely upset the royalty and it was decided to demolish the theatre where the attack took place. Instead an expiatory monument, a memorial, was built, which however soon disappeared and was replaced by the present fountain.
There was actually another theatre on one side of the square, Théâtre Louvois, which was demolished in 1825, but which for a very short period, after the destruction of the Théâtre National, was used for operas.
Here is what the area looked like in 1816 … and today.