Named after a 16th century Italian painter in 1880, the old Montmartre street was originally called the rue Saint-André. Its biggest claim to fame, apart from hosting Monatte‘s oppositional publication, La Révolution prolétarienne, at No. 17 in 1925 is the recent discovery (in 1988) of one of the last wells found in Montmartre – at 17b.
A bustling square on the 1791-1860 northern boundary of Paris at the old tax gate into Paris to the south of the Montmartre hill. Its barricade in May 1871 involved fighter from the Women’s Union. Today it is home to Le Moulin Rouge that opened in 1889 and dozens of tacky strip bars and sex shops.
The Place Blanche (White Square) was named after a café called the ‘White Cross’. It got its name from the showers of white flour and gypsum whose mills and quarries often covered those working on and near the Montmartre hill.
The tax collectors’ building in the Farmers-General Wall at the Place Blanche was burnt down here on 11 July 1789 in a protest by quarry workers against the taxes on the carts they had to pay to enter neighbouring inner Paris. It was one of the many sparks that ignited in Paris three days later on July 14 1789.
The tax wall was first abolished by the Constituent Assembly in 1791 and in November 1793 32 of its wealthy tax collectors were arrested and 28 guillotined. After the tax wall’s reintroduction by the Directorate in 1798, it and its gates survived until 1860, when Montmartre was incorporated into Paris.
The halfmoon-shaped square was laid out in 1803 as La Place de la Barrière Blanche, and only
became La Place Blanche in 1864.
The women fighters had already retreated from the Batignolles barricade, and after the Versaillais took this barricade they were then forced to retreat again to the next barricade at the Place Pigalle.
Louise Michel and Mlle. Poulin taught a class for 60 students at No. 24 in what was formerly rue Oudot in 1868. The street’s name had just been changed under Napoleon III in 1867 to Championnet, the name used by one of Napoleon Bonaparte’s favourite generals, Jean Etienne Vachier, but it was still called Oudot by the locals and in Louise Michel’s memoirs.
The site of the school is now entirely occupied by a huge extension of the original Bus Depot at No 34 by the publicly-owned Paris Transport Company. To imagine the kind of building Michel taught at, it’s best to look at Number 36.
The Central Bus Depot of the then privately-owned Paris Region Transport company (STCRP) was based at No. 34 rue Championnet. Its huge factory workshop employed between two and three thousand workers – and as soon as this Germans occupied Paris its collaborationist employers jumped at the chance to become a major site for repairs to German armoured vehicles and lorries.
The maintenance factory was the first target for a bomb (that didn’t go off) chosen by the French Communist Party in the summer of 1941, when the PCF started military resistance to the German occupation. Throughout the war resistance members within the workshop sabotaged the vehicles whenever possible.
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.
The most imposing building in the Rue de Clignancourt used to be the Château Rouge. It was built in 1780 with white stone and red brick by one of Paris’ tax collectors. Under the Empire it became the home of Napoleon’s brother Joseph Bonaparte . On March 30 1814 it was the place that he signed the capitulation to the allies.
The house and estate were sold off in lots in 1844, when the house and front garden were bought by a businessman who turned it into the Château Rouge Dance Venue outside the Farmers’ General tax wall around Paris. This was where the reforming monarchists and a smattering of republicans gathered at the 9 July 1847 banquet to hear political speeches against the government of King Louis-Philippe.
Alexandre Ledru-Rollin and others then toured the country making republican speeches at other oppositional pro-democracy banquets.
It was the banning of the 21 February 1848 banquet proposed for the Champs Elysées that triggered the 1848 February Revolution.
Louise Michel’s close Blanquist friend, Théo Ferré, lived opposite the Château Rouge at No 41, where the Vigilance Committee met during the Prussian siege of Paris from September 1870 to January 1871.
On March 18 1871, when General Lecomte failed to seize Paris’ canons further up the Montmartre Hill, he was first brought to the Château Rouge, then acting as the headquarters of the 18th Arrondissement’s Committee of Vigilance. In the afternoon he was taken back up the hill and shot.
During the Commune the 26-year-old Ferré was nominated Prosecutor, and in response to the growing number summary executions of Communards who surrendered to the Versaillais troops took place during the ‘bloody week’ May 21-28, on May 24 he authorised the execution of six of the hundreds of hostages held by the Commune at the prison of La Roquette. He wrote ‘especially the Archbishop’ of Paris (George Darboy) on the note.
Many Communards were executed at the Château Rouge, their bodies being buried in the grounds and only uncovered when a local school was built. Ferré was captured, tried and shot on the early morning 28 November along with two army officers who had defected to the Commune.
In 1881 a developer bought the building and park and built the 13 huge houses at 42-54 rue de Clignancourt and from 7 to 13b rue Custine.
In 1864 Haussmann prolonged the Clichy Boulevard by extending it with the Boulevard des Martyrs and the Boulevard Pigalle. These were the old broad roads that had followed the 18th century tax farmers’ wall around Paris and which had helped lead to the 1789 French Revolution.
When it was still called the Boulevard Pigalle, Daumier lived at what is now 36 Boulevard de Clichy from roughly 1859 to 1863.
Just to the south of the Montmartre hill the Boulevard was the border between a more expensive inner-Paris and a cheaper area for artists to live in and bars serving tax-free booze. Its even numbers on its northern Montmartre side are in the 18th arrondissement, and the odd numbers in the 9th.
From 1886 to 1888, Paul Signac‘s studio was at No. 130. He then moved his studio to No. 20 from 1889 to 1891, where Georges Seurat‘s meetings of the Pointilliste artists used to take place on Mondays.
The painting by Vincent van Gogh of the Boulevard de Clichy at the head of this piece was painted when Vincent had just joined his brother Theo in March 1887, staying close by on the Rue de Laval and then from June in the Rue Lepic. Van Gogh was often at No. 62, the Café du Tambourin, where he gave the owner some of his earliest paintings in exchange for meals, and his first exhibition took place. and Seurat, Toulouse-Lautrec and others also used to eat there.
When he first arrived in Paris in May 1901, Picasso lived in the 6th floor studio at No. 130ter until 1904 during his ‘blue period’. He later lived at No. 11 from 1909 to 1912; for the last five years of his life Edgar Degas (1834-1917) lived on the fifth floor of No. 6, where he died aged 83.
No. 4 used to be the anarchist bookshop belonging to Jules Erelbach, the man known as Ducret who was murdered by Léon Lacombe for allegedly betraying Garnier, one of the Bonnot gang in 1912. Victor Serge was later sentenced to five years imprisonment for his journalistic support for the gang.
In 1928 Jacques Prévert and his wife Simone lived at No. 64, the Hôtel le Radio. While there he wrote some of his first poems, and was visited by André Breton.
The Moulin Rouge was built in 1889 at No. 82-90 on the site of the White Queen ballroom, where Georges Clemenceau and Louise Michel both attended a big political meeting at the close of the Second Empire in 1870.
In the mid-1920s the Café Le Cyrano at No 82 became the headquarters of the surrealists around Breton.
In the 1950s, Fernand Léger set up an art school studio at No 104, where he taught with his second wife Nadia.
In the middle of the boulevard outside No. 122 there is the base of a statue of Charles Fourier (1772-1837). The utopian socialist thinker was sculpted by the anarchist Émile Derré but the statue was destroyed by the Germans in 1942 to be melted down for armaments
By selling her last fields outside Paris, Louise Michel‘s mother was able to buy a day school business for her daughter in this street in 1865.
It was then a much longer Montmartre street, going as far as the Rue Championnet. Its name comes from a corruption of the old French word claye, meaning a grill that could be used to close access.
Today the road passes the Square Léon Serpollet, named after the man who built his first steam-powered tricyle at Number 27.
A Communist resistance printworks was operated clandestinely at Number 17 during the Second World War. This was where the first issue of France d’abord (France first), the news sheet of the Communist-founded resistance movement FTP (Franc-tireurs et partisans (Sharp-shooters and patriots) was printed.
Rosa Luxemburg lived at No. 21 when she first came to Paris in 1893 to start researching her doctorate and to edit the Polish Social Democratic party newspaper, The Workers’ Cause.
Aged 23, she stayed initially in Paris with the 26-year-old Adolf Warski (Warszawski) and his wife. Warski was the theoretician of Polish communism and founder of the Polish Communist Party (KPP) from 1918.
In 1929, with Marshal Piłsudski’s dictatorship tightening, Warski left Poland for Moscow. A critic of Stalinisation, he was arrested and executed the same day, August 21 1937.
A memorial plaque to Rosa Luxemburg was erected on the house on International Women’s Day 2010 with the support of the Socialist majority on the Paris City Council.
Ironically, the road these revolutionaries lived in was named after the rich bishop of Beauvais, Jean-François-Hyacinthe Feutrier (1785-1830). He had owned the land on which the road was first built in 1835 and was also a curé at the church of the Madeleine.
Named in 1863 after the first name of a wife of one of the owners the road was first opened in 1840, initially being called the Rue Neuve-Saint-Paul and then in 1843 the Rue Bénédict.
Picasso lived at No. 49 with his friend Carlos Casagemas from October to December 1900. This was Picasso’s first studio in Paris, but after they returned to Spain for Christmas, Carlos returned on his own to Paris where he committed suicide early the next year. Another painter, an American or Bulgarian origins, Jules Pascin took over the studio there in 1909.
Fifty years earlier Paul Verlaine first met his future wife, the 16-year-old Mathilde Mauté de Fleurville at No. 19.
This street changed its name at the French Revolution from ‘Petite Rue Royale’ – as a continuation of the Rue Royale which used to be the name of the current rue Jean-Baptiste-Pigalle. It was first called Rue Nationale and then the Rue de lÉgalité.
After the annexation of Montmartre to Paris in 1860 it was given the name of the French sculptor, Jean-Antoine Houdon, known as the ‘Sculptor of the Enlightenment’. In 1785, after the American war of Independence, Houdon travelled to the newly independent United States of America and sculpted a statue of George Washington.
He is known for his busts of Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and Napoléon Bonaparte.
Louise Michel moved here in 1865 at a time when she was beginning to secure a reputation as a feminist and republican.
During the Paris Commune, artillery was placed across the street between Nos. 1 and 2, its corner with the boulevard de Clichy, to protect the hill.
Auguste Renoir and Aline Charigot, who began modelling for him in 1880, lived at 18 rue Houdon at the time their first son, Pierre-Auguste, was born in 1885. They married in 1890 and had two more sons together.
At No 15 a plaque on the outside of the school informs us that 700 Jewish children from the area were deported under the German occupation, and inside the school another plaque makes it precise: 13 children on the school registers of the 1940s were deported and never returned.
In pouring rain one morning in 1809, trying to get up the Montmartre hill to reach the new telegraph installed in the bell tower of the Saint-Pierre church, Napoleon was forced to finish the climb on foot. So he ordered the building of the new rare (for Paris) curving road up the hill from the customs post called La Barrière de la Place Blanche.
Initially called ‘Chemin Neuf’ (the ‘New Way’) his nephew (Louis-Napoleon) renamed it the Rue de l’Empereur after he seized power in 1852. In 1864 he changed it again to commemorate Napoleon’s cavalry general, who just happened to be the father of one of Napoleon III’s strongest supporters.
During the defence of the Commune in 1871, one of the four most important barricades in Montmartre, according to the government report of June 1871, was across Rue Lepic at the crossroads with la rue des Abbesses, close to number 31.
It was at the southern end of Rue Lepic, on the Place Blanche in May 1871, Hazan (HB) notes, that the famous women’s barricade, commanded by the Russian revolutionary Elizabeth Dmitrieffand made up of militants from the Union des Femmes, held out for several hours.
In 1887 Vincent van Gogh lived at 54 rue Lepic and painted his now famous view from this window and other works.
Félix Fénéon, living at number 78, reviewed Van Gogh in 1889. While writing snottily that ‘A general exhibition of his work will show what a powerful and unique artist he is’. He had also described his former near neighbour in another article as ‘a diverting colourist’.
Fénéon moved round the corner in 1894 five days after a police search on 5 April 1894 that only found visiting cards from Pissarro, Octave Mirbeau and Tailhade. His concierge had denounced him to the police for receiving too many visitors and foreign mail.
Those who climb the winding road up to its very top will be nearly opposite the large second floor window of the Montmartre studio of Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), who spent three months at 49 Rue Gabrielle in 1900.
The square was originally laid out as a square in 1853, by flattening the mounds of gypsum quarrying debris. It was laid out as a garden in 1877 and named the Square Saint-Pierre after the nearby Saint-Pierre de Montmartre church.
Today’s Square Louise-Michel lies just below the Sacré-Coeur basilica. Building the basilica began in 1875 but was only completed in 1912 and finally opened after World War 1 in 1919. It represented a 17th century Catholic cult that celebrated the heart of Jesus, and had the aim commemorating the victory over the Paris Commune.
inside of the dome a giant figure of Christ appears, David Harvey tells us,
where ‘two words stand out directly from
the Latin motto – GALLIA POENITENS. And beneath this stern admonition that “France
Repents,” stands a large gold casket containing the image of the Sacred Heart
of Jesus, burning with passion, suffused with blood, and surrounded with
The Paris Archbishop who chose the spot and laid the basilica’s founding stone (and eventually had the street next to the Sacré Coeur named after him), only accepted the post when, a month after the May 1871 Bloody Week of the Commune, Thiers, the mastermind of the massacres, wrote to Monsignor Guibert:
The ‘reds’, totally vanquished, will not recommence their activities tomorrow; one does not engage twice in fifty years in such an immense fight as they have just lost.
June 1871 Thiers writes to the prime candidate as Archbishop of Paris
later, with the 2001 election of the first socialist as mayor since the Commune,
Paris’ municipal council began to look at remembering the left history of
Paris. There are now three plaques commemorating the Commune. Two are in
Belleville, near the sites of the last barricades, and one is in the Town Hall,
remembering Commune’s elected representatives.
In 2005 the Paris municipal council decided to change the name of the Square Willette to the Square Louise Michel.
Adolphe Willette had been a local artist who had designed the famous mill on top of the Moulin Rouge in the Place Blanche. He stood in the 1889 municipal elections as the Antisemitic Candidate. Nonetheless, the year after his death, the Saint-Pierre Square below the Sacré Coeur was renamed the Square Willette.
Hidden at the lower western edge of the Square walking up a gravel path to the left of the carousel, is the Fountain of the Innocent, sculpted by the anarchist Émile Derré and placed in the Saint-Pierre Square in 1907.
Around the mother and children are Rabelais’ words, loosely translated by me as ‘It’s easier to write laughing than with tears’ (Mieux est de ris que de larmes escrire). And the next well-known line of the poem continues: ‘Because [the capacity to] laugh is unique to man’. When the fountain is on the water shoots out of the baby’s penis.
It was given its slightly marginal position
and name by the local Catholic authorities who disapproved of it from the
start. Below the basin is Derré’s quizzical face of another mother. She is
asking, perhaps, whether the French Republic is as happy as the smiling faces
Derré also sculpted Louise Michel’s gravestone in the Levallois-Perret cemetery and the Column of Kisses (moved from the Luxembourg Gardens and now in Roubaix). A little higher up the Louise-Michel Square on the other side of the main stairway in the garden/hill on the pathway near the rustic bridge are Derré’s two lovers in the Grotte de l’amour.
The sculptor answered the nearby mystical reactionary philosophy of the Sacré Coeur with humanity, laughter and physical joy, without forgetting the tears.
Named because it was an old road that headed towards Montmartre village where, legend had it, St Denis, the first Paris bishop, and his followers were beheaded. It was temporarily renamed the ‘Field of rest’ road (rue du Champ-de-Repos) from 1793 to 1806 at the moment during the French Revolution when the cult of Reason was on the rise.
Victor Schoelcher spoke at a meeting on February 4 1879 at the Paz gym at No. 34 about education reform.
An art gallery at No. 65 was owned by the antique dealer Père Soulier that was a meeting place for Spanish artists. In 1901 Picasso bought a Douanier-Rousseau painting there that he kept throughout his life.
Picasso was also a regular at the Café du Grand Hôtel des Deux Hémisphères at No. 79, along with Appolinaire and many others. The photograph above was taken in the 1900s looking southwards towards where the road crosses the Boulevard de Clichy.
Cemetery was opened in 1825. Like the two larger Parisian cemeteries, Père
Lachaise (1804) in the east and Montparnasse (1824) in the South, it was
located just outside the Paris Farmers-General Wall after laws were passed
banning the burying of corpses within the city.
The cemetery was laid out in an abandoned gypsum quarry that had been used as a mass grave for the bodies of the Swiss Guards killed when the Tuileries Palace was stormed in 1792. Its official name is Cimitière du Nord.
Philippe Buonarroti (1761-1837), the Italian revolutionary who resurrected Babeuf’s communist and insurrectionist politics in France from 1830 onwards, is buried here.
This is also where on May 23 1871 Louise Michel sheltered behind the tombstone of Henri Murger as the Versaillais troops shelled the Communards. From there she made her way to top of the Montmartre Hill, to the National Guard post at the corner of the old Rue des Rosiers and Rue de la Bonne, now 36 rue du Chevalier de la Barre, to exchange herself for her mother as a prisoner.
Émile Zola (1840-1902) was one of the many other radicals who was buried in Montmartre Cemetery. His, however, was, only a temporary burial. Six years later his remains were moved to the Panthéon. During the ceremony, Alfred Dreyfus (who had been pardoned two years earlier) was shot twice and wounded in the arm by a nationalist who was later acquitted on the grounds that it was ‘a natural nationalist act’.
His wonderful art nouveau tomb designed by Frantz Jourdain and sculpted by one of Zola’s oldest friends, Philippe Solari, can still be seen near the entrance to the cemetery.