Tour Locations | Le Marais: the Paris neighborhood that has it all!
LOCATION 28 | Le Marais: the Paris neighborhood that has it all!
Saint Paul Saint Louis
Stop, sit on a bench and have a look at the magnificent church on your right.
The first church on this site was built around 650. They built a second one in 1125, and then again in 1430.
The first stone for this version of the church was laid by Richelieu in 1627 and it was to be the church for the Cardinal’s beloved Jesuit order. This baroque-style church was finished in 14 years, which shows the kind of money and power Richelieu wielded. He, of course, being a Bishop, celebrated the first mass here.
As someone who enjoys classical music, I have to point out that French composer Marc-Antoine Charpentier was music director in this church for many years. He lived at the same time as Bach who was composer in residence at a similar church in Leipzig in Germany. Both composers wrote baroque choir music to be performed the following Sunday in their respective churches.
One hundred years later, the French Revolution turned this church into a Temple of Reason. Revolutionaries were opposed to religion in all its forms but recognized that the people were drawn to the pageantry and grand masses as celebrated in this church. So, they held humanist services here where they preached reason with a little bit of theatrical production. It was a complete flop as they lacked the talent of a Charpentier or a JS Bach!
This church went back to being a Catholic church in 1802.
If you like paintings by Delacroix there is a famous one in this church: it shows Christ in agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. It's on the left side towards the back of the church. The wood paneling on the right side is also stunning!
Now please find somewhere to sit just outside the church while I tell you about a great event that took place on this street.
(3 seconds silence)
This street is where in 1559 King Henri II organized a joust to celebrate a treaty between England, France and Spain.
Henri II was married to Catherine de Medici, but for this occasion his mistress Diane de Poitiers was also present and the two women were sitting on the stands side by side. These were the humiliations you had to endure to be the Queen of France.
This joust was a lavish affair. Imagine wooden stands build by the best craftsmen with carved banisters and an overhanging roof to protect the ladies from the sun. In the distance there were large cloth tents to shelter the various parties. This street was decorated with banners featuring the coats of arms of all the participants.
And running along the center of it all there was the "tilt barrier", the fence that kept jousting candidates on different tracks. This is where horses and riders ran towards one another at full speed with a lance in hand. There were hundreds of people in attendance and the game could be deadly, even though the point of this particular joust was to entertain and not to do battle.
On the day of the joust, June 30, 1559, King Henri II was feeling strong and most content with the proceedings. By mid-morning he had already won the first joust. The second joust was a tie between the himself and the Duc de Guise, but the 40-year-old King felt great.
For the third joust of the morning, the King was up against a much younger English nobleman by the name of Montgomery. They clashed into each other with great force, but both men were able to stay on their horse, which meant the joust was not over. Young Montgomery’s lance broke and the tip of his weapon was now nothing but shards. Montgomery asked for a pause so he could get a new lance. The King refused and the joust continued.
So again, the two men ran their horses at full speed towards one another. Montgomery’s lance hit the King’s helmet, opening the visor and the wood penetrated the king’s face in 5 spots. One particularly long piece of wood entered through his right eye and exited through his ear. The King lost consciousness and was taken inside the building across the street where doctors made the first assessment of the damage.
The wounds were terrible. The best surgeons were called to attend to the King, but none of them knew what to do with such a terrible injury.
Famous French surgeon Ambroise Paré wanted to learn more about the condition of the King’s brain before he attempted anything. Without x-ray or MRI, what could he do?
Ambroise Paré ordered the jailers at the Châtelet prison to execute 6 prisoners and send their heads to him right away. He then proceeded to reproduce the King’s injuries on the prisoner’s decapitated heads, then cut them open to see the damage. Ambroise Paré had the right idea with his experiments, but alas, it was all in vain. The King died 10 days after his injury having never regained consciousness.
Moral of the story: never joust a younger man with a lance full of shards!
Now, let's carry on walking in the same direction keeping to the right.
Try to not be too distracted by all the wonderful food vendors around here!