A chapel full of books!

There is a large building, Rue de Saint Petersburg. It was originally built as a convent for the “Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate”. They moved in here around 1900, but soon left. There were new laws (1903), introducing an "exception system" which seriously restricted the possibilities for congregations to act in certain areas, like e.g. teaching…. The building became a hotel until 1945, when it started to be used for some State offices. Since 2012 it has been used by an organisation, named "Aurore", offering temporary housing for needy people awaiting more permanent solutions. As I understand some 160 people live here representing some 35 or 40 nationalities.

I pushed some half-open doors and found this first…

… and then what you can see on the top picture, a chapel full of books.

The explanation is that part of the building, including the chapel, is occupied by a sub-organisation to “Aurore”, named “L’Archipel”. Their tasks include all kinds of solidarity actions – social mixtures, insertion...  For that purpose they offer a multitude of activities to which everybody is welcomed. This involves a free exchange of books (you leave one, you take one), concerts, theatre plays, Sunday brunches, yoga lessons… You can find their site – and program – here.     

There is still also what now has become a parish church, “Saint-André-de-l’Europe”.

In the church I found a statue of Mary with, on the wall, a prayer to her honour, in 20 languages, including Swedish

What now follows has hardly anything to do with the above, except the "Swedish”. The whole creation of this area is actually due to a Swede, Jonas-Philip Hagerman (1774-1839). He was born in Sweden, son of a Lutheran priest. He did fairly well in his studies, traveled, met his future wife in Genoa (daughter of a wealthy banker), made a fortune, moved to Paris… In the years after Napoleon, joined by a French contractor, he bought and developed the whole area around what became “Place de l’Europe”, including the streets which received names of European cities like Constantinople, Vienna, Stockholm, Athens, Naples, Edinburgh, London, Rome… and Saint Petersburg. It’s all referred to as the “Quartier de l’Europe".

Hagerman made a lot of money - he also invested in some of the first French / continental railway companies, in the completion of the Burgundy Canal...-, later bought Napoleon’s and Joséphine’s castle “Malmaison” and also a castle in Sweden (where once his grandparents had worked as squires).

Before being bought and transformed to a living area, this part of Paris was during the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century occupied by what was named “Tivoli” - large parks and amusement areas. I have approximated the area within which you could find three different “Tivoli” installations. There were also some less developed fields - around the future Place de l'Europe -, all belonging to the same family.

During the 19th century many artists worked and lived in this area, see e.g. my post about Manet here and I included two paintings by Caillebotte, see more on my post here.

Here we can see how the area developed; first what it looked like around 1790 (with the “tivolis”), then in the early 1830’s, after the development of the streets, and finally in 1860, when the railway leading to the future Gare Saint Lazare - opened in 1837 as first French passenger line (see previous post) -, had changed the landscape. Some streets had then been cut, some street names had changed place, but less of the area was then, compared to now, in open air - the original tunnels disappeared after a serious accident in 1921. Rue de Berlin had its name changed to Rue de Liège during WWI.  


Virginia said...

I can't keep up with all the must do's from Peter's Paris!

Julie said...

Keep pushing those half-open doors, Peter. I get the feeling from this post, that you could create more posts from individual elements.

martinealison said...

Bonjour cher Peter,

Tu es un bible parisienne !... Une reportage qui m'a appris beaucoup de choses. Un grand merci !

Gros bisous ♡

Jeanie said...

Rick and I spent some wonderful hours on Rue du Rome and Rue du Edinburgh, checking out classical guitars, of course. But while we were there I had no idea of that history so thank you for this. (Next time I'll have to check out that corner of the Caillebotte painting!

Anonymous said...

Como dice la señora en su comentario mas arriba, es indudable cuanto aprendemos de su blog, M. Peter.
¡Que hermoso lugar y que hermoso relato!
Mil gracias.
Maria O. Russell

Anne in Oxfordshire said...

I agree with Virginia , the list just keeps getting longer and longer. Will have to come and live in Paris :-) another superb post with such history added. Merci and take care. Anne

Esme said...

Oh my thank you for this-I never knew this existed. I must mark this on my list.