This one-time suburb [faubourg]
of Paris is located on the
Bank, across the Seine from the Tuileries. It runs along the
southern shore of the Seine, in the 7th
and 6th arrondissements, and consists
of the area east of boulevard St-Michel as far as to include the Musée
d’Orsay. It stretches some 4 to 5 blocks to the south, including boulevard
St-Germain and several blocks to its south.
It is bordered on the
north by the Seine, to the east by the Invalides & Tour Eiffel Quarter, to
the south by the Luxembourg Quarter and to the west by the Latin Quarter.
The intellectual center of gravity, of this quartier of bistros, bookshops,
coffee-houses, galleries, nightclubs and publishing houses, is at the
intersection of rue Bonaparte and boulevard St-Germain. This is the
location of the Café Les Deux Magots [frequented by the writers of the "Lost
Generation" of the 20s and 30s, and by the post World War II
Existentialists], the Café de Flore and the Brasserie Lipp.
interesting structures are the Cour du Commerce St-André, the Cour de Rohan,
the Ecole Nationale d’Administration, the Institut de France, the Palais
Abbatial, the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, the Théâtre
National de l’Odéon and the St-Germain-des-Prés church. Some of its more
interesting streets are boulevard St-Germain, the rue du Dragon and the rue
de l’Odéon. Its museums include the Musée Eugène Delacroix, the Musée
Nationale de la Légion d’Honneur, the Musée de la Monnaie and the
It was supposedly at
No. 9, Cour du Commerce St-André where Dr. Guillotin perfected his
decapitating machine. In 1835, the composer Saint-Saëns was born at a house
where the small courtyard of the Cour de Rohan opens to the rue du Jardinet.
The Cour’s name is derived from the fact that, in the 15th century,
the archbishop of Rouen had a town house there.
The Ecole Nationale
d’Administration, where many well-known French politicians [including
Jacques Chirac] once studied, was located at 13 rue de l’Université. During
the Revolution, the location was an ammunitions depot.
Since 1805, the
building at 23 Quai de Conti has been the location where the 40 members of
the Académie Française have worked on the official dictionary of the French
language under the auspices of the Institut de France.
which was built for Charles of Bourbon in 1586, is located at 1 – 5 rue de l’Abbaye. Charles was a cardinal and the abbot of St-Germain when it was
built. He later became king. The abbey was seized, by the Revolutionary
government, and sold. During the 19th
century, the sculptor James Pradier had his studio there. The façade
contains interesting ironwork.
The Ecole Nationale
Supérieure des Beaux-Arts is found at 14 rue Bonaparte, next to the Quai
Malaquais. It is France’s leading school of fine art. It is quartered in
the imposing Palais des Etudes and several adjoining buildings.
At 1 place Paul-Claudel
is the neo-classical Théâtre National de l’Odéon. It was constructed in
1779 on a site donated by the king and was originally used by the Comédie
Française. Beaumarchais’ The Marriage of Figaro was premiered there.
The oldest church in
Paris is the St-Germain-des-Prés. It was built, by the Merovingian
King Childebert in 542, to house holy relics. It was rebuilt during the 11th
century, the 19th century and again
in the 1990s. Since its inception, it was a very influential Benedictine
abbey. During the Revolution it was burned. It was mostly rebuilt during
the 19th century, but one of the 3
original Romanesque belfries still remains and is the oldest in France. The
philosopher-mathematician, René Descartes is buried there. The church has a
Gothic choir and a Romanesque nave.
Following World War II,
boulevard St-Germain rivaled boulevard Montparnasse as the intellectual
center of Paris. This was the period when
Simone de Beauvoir, Juliette Greco [the muse de St-Germain-des-Prés] and
‘existentialized’ at the Deux Magot, the
Café de Flore [see the nearby
sculpture by Picasso] and the Brasserie Lipp [also a favorite eatery of
François Mitterand]. All three of these meeting places are clustered about
the intersection of St-Germain des Prés and rue Bonaparte.
Le Procope, the world’s
first coffeehouse, founded in 1686, is situated at 13 rue de
l’Ancienne-Comédie – just a few blocks west of the cafés. It is no longer a
coffee house, but rather an elegant restaurant. Supposedly
drink 40 cups of its coffee per day. It was also a haunt of the young
The rue du Dragon is a
short street running from St-Germain des Prés to the Carrefour de la Croix
Rouge. It boasts houses from the 17th
and 18th century, but is really a
relic of the Middle Ages. When he was 19, Victor Hugo lived at No. 30.
stretches some two miles between the Pont de Sully, which crosses over to
the Île St-Louis, to the Pont de la Concorde [near the d’Orsay Museum]. The
fashionable boulevard is the result of the 19th
century planning of Baron Haussmann. The former president of France,
François Mitterrand, had a town house near its crossing with rue de Bièvre
in the 5th arrondissement.
The great cafés of the
area are either on, or near, the boulevard. The
rue de l’Odéon runs from
the Carrefour de l’Odéon [on St-Germain] to the Place de l’Odéon near the
intersection of Monsieur le Prince and rue de Vaugirard. It was the first
street in Paris to have pavements with gutters, and was a center for
intellectual book stores that attracted the likes of
Ernest Hemingway and
Ezra Pound and their French counterparts
André Gide and Paul Valéry.
At 6, rue de
Fürstenberg, between rue Jacob and rue de l’Abbaye, is the
Delacroix. The romantic painter lived here between 1857 and 1863 partly to
be close to his work on the frescos of the Chapelle des Anges in the St-Sulpice
At the Quai d’Orsay,
near the headquarters of the French Secret Service, is the Musée d’Orsay.
The museum was originally a belle époque railroad station that was scheduled
for demolition in the 1970s. Jack Long, the then Minister of Arts, was
instrumental in having it transformed into one of the world’s most beautiful
The d’Orsay houses most
of the art that was formerly displayed or stored at the Jeu de Paume before
its closing in 1986. The museum displays a wide range of paintings and
sculpture that includes works from before 1870, Impressionism,
Neo-Impressionism, Naturalism, Symbolism and Art Nouveau.
Immediately east of the
d’Orsay is the Palace of the Légion d’Honneur. This is the old Hôtel Salm
which was built in 1786.
Napoléon I, who created the Légion d’Honneur on
May 19, 1802, lived there for several years before making it into a museum.
Musée de la Monnaie,
at 11 Quai de Conti, was the former French mint. The building, which was
finished in 1777, was the result of a design competition that was won by the
architect Jacques Antoine. Coins were minted there as late as 1973. The
building now displays an extensive collection of coins and medallions.