Medici Aqueduct - Maison Fontainier

The highest level of water supply per capita in Paris was actually reached during the Gallo-Roman centuries (some 250 litres per person per day), then even higher than today (some 200 litres per person per day), but...the Roman aqueducts from the 2nd century were abandoned when new rulers arrived. During the following centuries some "pipelines" from surrounding hills were installed, basically to supply some monasteries and royal castles, but the balance of the water came from the Seine and from wells. The water consumption per capita was extremely low for centuries – some documents mention a yearly bath… (Actually the Vikings had a reputation for cleanliness, they had a weekly bath - the translation of the Nordic word for Saturday is the day of bathing.)

Henry IV wanted to improve the water supply and took several initiatives in this respect. After his assassination in 1610, his widow Marie de’ Medici (mother of Louis XIII and grandmother of Louis XIV) took over the idea of creating a new aqueduct, more or less following the trace of the old, abandoned, Roman one. It was completed in 1623 and is referred to as the “Medici Aqueduct”. The water was brought to a building, from where some natural cleaning and some distribution to different users was organised. This building is still there, “La Maison Fontainier” (see top picture), close neighbour to the Paris Observatory (see previous post here). It was also the home of the person who had the royal charge of water supply (fountains). The family Francine had this office 1623 – 1784. 

Here we can see an ancient map of the “Medici Aqueduct” and its approximate route with a starting point at Rungis, just north of the Orly airport. 

Just north of the Parc de Montsouris (see previous post here), some recent construction work made parts of the old aqueducts, very close to each other, visible and some parts can now be seen from the street. (Especially the window protecting the Medici one would need to be cleaned.) 

The “Medici Aqueduct” had 27 “regards”, small buildings with stairs down to the water level, points of observation and maintenance.  It should be noted that the Medici water canals were wide and high enough to allow walking along. Here you can see no. 23 and no. 25. “La Maison Fontainier” has the no. 27. 

Under the “Maison de Fontanier” you can still see the 17th century installations. Different basins and canals permitted a distribution, which in the beginning meant basically supplying the royalty (Luxembourg Palace…), some convents …. and a little bit for public fountains.

Until 1845 water just went through, but then a large installation was added, permitting a regulation of the in- and outflow.              

These installations are of course today not used for drinking water, but the aqueduct supplied the Medici Fountain (see previous post here) in the Luxembourg Gardens until 1904 and still some “lakes” in the Parc Montsouris.

The Paris water system was completely changed during the 19th century, but that’s another chapter.


Virginia said...

You always manage to find such interesting topics for us after all these years of blogging. You prove my point that Paris is a never ending treasure trove!

Jean Pierre said...

So interesting; about something we take for granted every day. The value of civilization and working together for a common goal. Thank you, Peter.

Anonymous said...

La magnitud de todo esa civilizacion perdida cuando la caida del Imperio Romano es realmente asombrosa.
La abundante provision de agua para los habitantes era uno de los puntos mas sobresalientes de esa cultura. Tambien lo era la esterilizacion de los instrumentales para cirugia que los medicos de esa epoca exigian. Todo eso se perdio, lastimosamente, por un largo tiempo para la humanidad.

La ciudad de Chicago, en esta epoca del año esta inundada de los descendientes de esos Vikingos tan limpios :-)
De entre los turistas se los distingue por su idioma y a los hombres especialmente por su constitucion fisica: ¡Impresionante musculatura esqueletica! Siempre los veo en el Metra.

¡La Maison du Fontainier es una belleza! Bellas tambien son sus fotos, M. Peter.
Mil gracias por su fantastico articulo.