Place de la République

Arrondissements 3, 10, 11

Numbers: 12

A small square close to the present huge open space first appeared in the 17th century soon after the 14th century Charles V wall and its Temple gate were knocked down. It became known as the Château-d’Eau square after 1811 when Napoléon Bonaparte inaugurated a huge fountain surrounded by lions there to celebrate his opening of a much-needed aqueduct bringing fresh water to Paris from the North.

The Chateau d’Eau fountain stood from 1811 to 1867 in the Place du Chateau d’Eau that was enlarged in 1854 and finally became the Place de La République in 1879. Cast in iron by the Creusot factory, supplier of canons first to the young Republic and then to Napoleon, the fountain was moved to La Villlette in 1867.

The square witnessed a left demonstration on June 13 1849 against the prince-president Louis Napoleon’s decision to declare war on the Rome Republic. Ledru-Rollin and another 30 deputies marched from the Square, hoping unsuccessfully to secure widespread popular support – something they failed to get because of mistrust over Ledru-Rollin’s involvement in the 1848 June Days insurrection.

Haussmann’s aim to subdue the most working class and militant north-eastern area of Paris created the huge public square we recognise today.

In 1855 Haussmann ordered the building of the huge Prince Eugène barracks at No. 12 behind the fountain. It was big enough for 3,200 soldiers. This postcard dates from the 1900s. The barracks was renamed the Vérines barracks in 1947 after its former Republican Guard commander who was shot by the Germans for his resistance activities in 1943. The barracks was the last German stronghold to surrender in Paris on August 25 1944.

Planning to make troop movements through Paris easier, in 1857 Haussmann approved the knocking down and building through of what are today the Boulevard Voltaire (at the time the Prince-Eugène Boulevard) and the Avenue de la République.

From 1865 the square began to take its present dimensions becoming a rectangular square 280m long by 120m wide. In 1867 a second much bigger fountain with 8 bronze lions around it spitting water was planned for the square (it is now in the Place Félix-Éboué) and the first fountain was moved to supply water to the cattle waiting to be slaughtered at the new livestock market at La Villette. Built between 1860 and 1867 the giant La Villette meat market replaced five other big Parisian slaughter house centres (at Montmartre, Menilmontant Roule, Grenelle and Villejuif).

On May 30 1878 some 6,000 demonstrators staged an illegal demonstration in the square demanding the freedom of all France’s political prisoners. This was one of the first steps in winning the amnesty for the imprisoned, deported and exiled Communards in 1879.

In 1879 the square was given its present name. A competition was also held for a grand monument dedicated to the Republic to be erected in the square. This was won by the Morice borthers. On July 14 1880 a plaster model was inaugurated in the square and the bronze version was inaugurated three years later.

A minority on the competition jury so strongly defended the proposal made by the newly-returned Communard, Jules Dalou, that in 1880 his model was chosen to be put in the Place de la Nation.

Some of Paris’ most important demonstrations have taken place in the Square. On February 9 1934 the Communist Party organised a demonstration starting at the Gare du Nord and marching to the Square.

Three days after the attack on the National Assembly by the fascists, calling for the outlawing of the right-wing leagues and for a government of workers and peasants. It was banned by the government and attacked by the police. The most significant thing about the demonstration was that many socialist workers also responded to the events of February 6 1934 by joining the communist demonstration. This was the real beginning of the Popular Front.

On July 14 1935 the North African Star movement held up the Algerian flag for the first time during the Bastille Day demonstration in the Square.

On May Day 2002 hundreds of thousands filled the Square to protest against Jean-Marie Le Pen of the fascist National Front getting through to the second round of that year’s presidential election.

The Square was also full two days after the machine gun attacks of November 13 2015 as Parisians showed their determination not to give in to terrorism.

Despite fear that the Bataclan terrorists might strike again, tens of thouands filled the Place de la Republique two days after the murders of 130 people and the wounding of another 413.

One week later a solidarity demonstration with undocumented migrants and against the State of Emergency took place from the Place de la Bastille to the Place de la Republique.

Solidarity demonstration on Noveber 22 2015 for the sans-papiers and against the state of emergency. Harrassed by police from start to finish it finally arrived at the Square

Two weeks after France’s biggest terrorist attack since the German occupation, the March for the Climate to take place demanding stronger action from the COP21 international conference was also banned under the November 20 State of Emergency. This did not prevent more than ten thousand demonstrators taking to the street.

The police started arresting demonstrators in the Place de la Republique on Sunday afternoon November 29 2015 after their demonstration calling for real climate action from COP21

By the early afternoon on November 22 2015 the 3-5,000 demonstrators still at the Square protesting the infringement of their freedom were tear-gassed and attacked with sound grenades by the police, who made 341 arrests and kept 317 of the protestors overnight.

Still under the State of Emergency, massive trade union demonstrations against the socialist President Hollande’s liberalising labour law measures began. Disillusion with the so-called ‘Socialist’ government sparked anger and a new social movement. After a massive day of demonstrations on March 31 2016, a number of leftists decided to meet in the Place de la République, and not to disperse, but to stay on and sleep there.

The Nuit Debout movement was born. The photograph at the top of this article was taken in April. Every evening at 6 pm people – mainly young people – would meet at the Square, often voting on different issues, and some would sleep there. In June, after the labour law reform had been passed by the government, the meetings got smaller and smaller and fizzled out.

Steve photographed the base of the Nuit debout protest during the day on April 14 2016. It was still covered with the slogans and placards from the 2015 anti-terrorist demonstrations

In the 2020s the Square remains the focal point for demonstrations linked to the real demands for freedom, equality and humanity.

I found this image stencilled on a wall close to the Place de la Republique on April 14 2016

One website that keeps Parisians informed on what demonstrations are taking place now in the Place de la Republique and other places in Paris is Demosphere.




Square Alban Satragne

Arrondissement 10

Saint-Lazare prison

The present square includes the chapel of the Saint-Lazare prison. It started as a leper colony run by monks in the 17th century and then as a special prison for the well-to-do. 165 prisoners were executed here over the three days before Robespierre’s arrest on 27 July 1794 at the height of the terror. It became a women’s prison later that year. After being rebuilt in 1834 and closed in 1935 to become a hospital, it was also closed in its turn in 1998.

Square Alban-Satragne showing the Chapel of the Prison Saint-Lazare that survived its demolition

Saint-Lazare had dual roles: medical treatment and jail. After the 1802 law requiring prostitutes to have regular medical check-ups, the Saint-Lazare prison became one of the first prison hospitals in France, with many women undergoing treatment. They would not be released until they were given a ‘clear card’. Those who didn’t have a card at all could simply be locked up in the prison side of the establishment. This law continued in force until 1946, when all women’s detention centres in France were finally closed.

Saint-Lazare was rebuilt by the architect Louis-Pierre Baltard as a special women’s hospital in 1834 after the old Saint-Lazare church collapsed.

Feeding the prisoners at Saint-Lazare. A painting by Hubert Robert,  a surviving inmate from 1794,

In 1838 the Paris police chief made the Sisters of Marie-Joseph responsible for guarding the prisoners.

In 1857 Saint-Lazare had about 1,300 prisoners in three sections: those convicted or waiting trial; those undergoing treatment or refusing it; and girls between 7 and 16 or 20 who were deemed to be vulnerable.

The Saint Lazare women’s prison in the late 19th century with a male urinal conveniently placed outside

Records show some 11,000 women and girls passed through the Hospital/Prison in the single year, 1885. This was two years after Louise Michel was imprisoned there.

In 1935 the old prison was demolished but the special hospital continued to treat women prostitutes until 1975, the international year of women.

The only remaining bits of the prison are the Chapel in the Square and the old hospital’s wings, now associated with the Françoise Sagan media centre.


Boulevard Bonne-Nouvelle

Arrondissements 2, 10

Numbers 20, 38,

A postcard of the Theatre du Gymnase in 1900. In 1848, 28 years after the small theatre was built, a key barricade placed across the boulevard at this location.saw a major contingent of Louis-Philippe’s troops go over to the people.

This is a wide Parisian street built in 1631 on the line of the obsolete 16th century city wall. It was one of what are called the ‘Grands Boulevards’ on the right-bank of the city. Its even numbers are in the 10th arrondissement and its odd numbers in the 2nd.

Named after the local ‘Our Lady Good News’ church (Notre-Dame-de-Bonne-Nouvelle) It is well used to demonstrations. On June 9 1820 Louis XIII’s cavalry charged demonstrators on the Boulevard chanting ‘Long Live the Charter’, killing several of those demanding that the King keep his 1814 promises of acting as a constitutional monarch.

The next time it was King Louis-Philippe’s troops who forcibly cleared the boulevard of republican demonstrators on 15 June 1831.

A major barricade across the boulevard at No. 38 saw the monarchist Odilion Barrot booed by the republican crowd on February 24 1848 when he argued for a regency under Louis-Philippe’s wife to take over from the King. The 2,000 troops sent to demolish the barricade ended up fraternising with the crowd.

On June 23 1848 three of the first barricades in the workers’ insurrection challenging the end of the National Workshops were erected in the short stretch of the boulevard between the Porte St-Denis and the Rue de Mazagran. The flags on the barricades carried the slogan, ‘Bread or Death‘.

After burning down once in 1849, a second time in 1899 and a third time in 1930, a huge post office was built at No 20 on the site of the 1848 Club des Femmes meetings

Many political meetings used to take place during the 1848 Revolution at No. 20, in the concert hall Bonne-Nouvelle. The Women’s Club attended by Désirée Gay and Pauline Roland met there regularly.

On June 13 1849 Ledru-Rollin and Raspail were arrested after organising a demonstration against the government’s decision to besiege the Roman Republic and restore the Pope to the Vatican. Marx, who had observed the demonstration on the Boulevard, was expelled immediately afterwards.

18 months later, 280 opponents of Louis-Napoleon’s coup d’etat of 4 December 1851 were massacred by canon fire at the junction of the Boulevard with the Rue St Denis.

On September 3 1870 it was the police who fired from the police station at No. 23 on demonstrators angry at the announcement of the defeat of Napoleon III at the battle of Sedan.

On Bastille Day, July 14 1941, after Hitler’s invasion of Russia, the Young Communists (Jeunesses communistes) organised a demonstration in the Boulevard that was attacked first by the Paris police and then by the German army.

The Théâtre du Gymnase, also at No. 38, was where Jean Cocteau’s wartime play, The Terrible Parents, was first performed and then banned in 1942.

On 23 August 1927 fighting broke out in the boulevard when the police attacked the demonstration called by the Communist Party against the executions that day in America of the framed Italian migrants Sacco and Vanzetti.

Another street battle between demonstrators and police took place on 16 December 1972, when a protest march against a police murder of a young Algerian man two weeks earlier was broken up, with its leaders, including Michel Foucault, being arrested.


Boulevard de la Chapelle

Arrondissements 10, 18

Numbers: 1, 124

The St Denys of La Chapelle is one of Paris’ oldest, and it gave its name to the commune that grew up near it

The boulevard marks the boundary between the 10th and the 18th arrondissement, whose La Chapelle Commune (once known as La Chapelle-Saint-Denis) was only incorporated into Paris in 1860.

Since 1900, as shown in the photograph above, a section of the second Metro line in Paris now runs straight down the middle of the broad boulevard.

During the working class insurrection of June 24 1848 the barricade of the Virtues across the Boulevard at No. 1 briefly stopped General Cavaignac‘s troops from moving from Western to Eastern Paris, the heart of the revolt. It was named after the tax gate of that name there in the Farmers’ General wall that was built in 1786.

In May 1939 the tenth ‘New Family’ working class cooperative restaurant was opened at No. 124.

Plus d’informations


Rue du Château d’Eau

Arrondissement 10

Numbers 3, 14

Louise Michel taught at a boarding school run by Mme Vollier at No. 14 in 1856-7. It is the building on the right-hand corner looking up the street.

The Château d’Eau road runs towards the Gare du Nord for nearly 700m from the Boulevard de Magenta that leads directly from the Place de la République. The road used to cover a sewer that was finally completely covered up in 1841. The old road was renamed in 1851 by the government the Rue du Château d’Eau. This was one of the first demonstrations of how the then President Louis Napoléon was using his uncle’s achievements to bolster his own political designs to become Emperor.

The Chateau d’Eau fountain that stood from 1811 to 1867 in the Place du Chateau d’Eau that was enlarged in 1854 and finally became the Place de La République on the 100th anniversary of the 1789 French Revolution

In 1811 Napoléon Bonaparte had inaugurated a huge fountain, surrounded by lions, in the square of what became known as the Place du Château d’Eau that became the Place de la République in 1879. The original fountain erected to celebrate the opening of a much-needed aqueduct bringing fresh water to Paris from the North, was moved to La Villette in 1867.

Louise Michel taught briefly at a boarding school based in 14 rue du
Château d’Eau in 1856-7.

The doorway to 14 rue du Chateau d’Eau, where Louise Michel first taught in Paris in 1857
The first Labour Exchange (Bourse du Travail) in France was established in Paris in 1887. This Paris-council purpose-built support for trade unionism still offers Paris trade union branches offices and meeting rooms. It is dated 1888 and 1889 and was completed in 1896.

One of the most interesting buildings at the start of the Rue du Château d’Eau is the monumental Bourse du Travail at No. 3. Built between 1888 and 1896 for the City of Paris after the left Republican majority on the City council was the first to vote in 1887 to create a trade union alternative venue to private employment hiring agencies. Reproduced nearly everywhere that the centre left won municipal councils, the federation of Bourses du Travail was one of the key components of early French trade unionism. Even today, where they still exist, unions using the Bourses du Travail are provided with free office space. meeting rooms and phone lines by their local councils.

In 1944 the Bourse du Travail was one of the first municipal buildings taken by the resistance. The Paris Liberation Committee used to meet there after the liberation of Paris in August 1944.

Created in October 1943 the underground leadership of the Liberation Committee are listed on this plaque. After Liberation it took the role of the Municipal Council until 1945.
A meeting of Paris Liberation Committee at the Bourse du Travail in 1944

Next to the Bourse du Travail there’s a nice cafe, with some old trade union banners and memorabilia. Well worth a stop…

The trade union café next to the Bourse du Travail


Rue du Faubourg St Denis

Arrondissement 10

Numbers: 23, 58, 60, 83, 107, 122, 125

This is the old royal road into Paris that linked the Saint-Denis basilica in the north to the Rue Saint-Denis in the South. Whenever the Bourbons and earlier kings entered Paris this is how they got directly to first their fortified palace on the island of the Cité , and later to their Louvre Palace in the heart of Paris.

In 1849, No. 23 was the location of the People’s Bank experiment set up by Proudhon to allow ordinary people to exchange work and goods. It only lasted four months.

From 1862 until 1871 this address was where Fortuné Henry, a supporter of Fourier who lived with his aunt, before becoming a well-known member of the Commune.

After Fortuné Henry’s death the portrait of him by the anarchist sympathising Swiss-born artist by Félix Vallotton was published in 1897 in La Revue Blanche edited by Félix Féneon

Paul Éluard lived in 1909 to 1909 No. 58 (then taking the name of his grandmother, Grindel).

The house at No. 60 was the birthplace in 1804 of Victor Schoelcher, who from wealthy origins became a lifelong campaigner against slavery as well as a left republican.

Maurice Feld, one of the first young communists to be shot for attacks on the Germans on August 22 1942, was aged just 17. He lived at No 83 and is remembered by a plaque there.

The St Lazare prison was at No. 107. The barricade across the road was taken from behind by the Versaillais troops in May 1871. Seventeen Communards who were captured after refusing to surrender were put up against the prison wall and shot on 25 May 1871.

Louise Saumoneau, the seamstress turned feminist and pacifist journalist was jailed at Lazare for making anti-war propaganda on October 2 1915.

A rare Communist Party demonstration took place under the German occupation at No 122, on the corner with the Boulevard Magenta on 1 July 1944.

On June 23 1848 a barricade was put up across the road at No. 125 where it meets the Rue de Chabrol. This was one of the three major centres of the workers’ uprising in Paris and the last to be crushed on June 25.

Plus d’informations


Quai de Jemmapes

Arrondissement: 10

Number 96

For a long period before the Second World War this was the libertarian Librarie du Travail bookshop on the side of the Saint Martin canal.

The old Librarie du Travail on the Quai de Jemmapes alongside the St Martin canal is now a hotel bar where one December evening in 2016 I had a really good, if not cheap, glass of wine. At least its name, Hotel Citizen, testifies to a remote leftist memory.

The Quai was first given the name Quai Charles-X in 1824, when that very Catholic reactionary Bourbon king took the crown. In 1830 it was renamed the Quai de Jemmapes, after the first battle of November 6 1792 that was won by the new revolutionary army in Belgium near the village of Jemappes, against the Austrians – one in which the new July 1830 monarch, Louis-Philippe, had taken part on the French government’s side.

This revolutionary syndicalist bookshop was where Pierre Monatte (1881-1960) ran the CGT’s La Vie Ouvrière from 1909 until the monthly review stopped publication in July 1914. It continued to be used as a meeting place. Julius Martov first met some of the few French revolutionary syndicalists who opposed the First World War, and later, in November 1914, Monatte, Alfred Rosmer (1877-1964) and Alphonse Merrheim met Trotksy (1879-1940).

The bookshop was also visited by Ho Chi Minh in 1919, where he made contact with the left socialists who would go on to lead the majority to vote to affiliate to the Third International at the SFIO Tours congress in 1920.

This was also the second location of La Révolution prolétarienne, a ‘revue syndicaliste-communist’ monthly set up by Pierre Monatte in January 1925 after he had resigned from the then Communist Party-controlled daily, l’Humanité. From January to June 1925 it had been first based at 17 rue André del Sarte in the 18th arrondissement.

The journal dealt with practical and theoretical issues. It denounced French imperialism in Indochina, Madagascar and North Africa, and criticised Stalin’s hold over the workers’ movement and the persecutions of the Left Opposition in Russia. In 1927 La Révolution prolétarienne became a fortnightly. From 1930 it described itself as a ‘revue syndicaliste revolutionnaire’.  Contributors included early founders of the PCF such as Alfred Rosmer, as well as Daniel Guérin, Simone Weil, Victor Serge and Jean Maitron.

La Révolution prolétarienne stopped publishing in 1939 but started up again in 1947. In 2018 its strapline simply state ‘Revue fondée par Pierre Monatte en 1925’. It is available online.


Rue René Boulanger

Arrondissement 10

Numbers: 50, 60

A street named after a trade unionist is rare in Paris. During the Occupation René Boulanger was one of the organisers of the underground CGT. Aged 43 he was tortured to death by the Gestapo on March 7 1944. The road was renamed in his honour on December 18 1944, recalling the presence in the Rue Bondy of the Paris regional office of his union, the CGT’s white collar finance section.

Aged 20 Pierre-Jean de Béranger lived in a garret at No. 50 in 1800.

The painter Georges Seurat was born at No. 60 on December 2 1859. This was also the address of the monthly journal La Voie Communiste. This was an opposition paper within the Communist Party started in 1958 by Gérard Spitzer and Denis Berger that supported the Algerian FLN. Its publication stopped in 1965.