The road gets its name from the alms houses for the respectable poor whose income was too low to pay taxes – the ‘road of the too poor to pay tax bourgeois’. They were built where Nos. 32 to 36 are today, probably in the 17th century. Before then it was called the road of old pulleys (Rue des Viez-Poullies). Part of the the road was renamed the Rue des Francs-Citoyens during the French Revolution.
The road still shows off several of Paris’ oldest buildings and now separates the third and fourth arrondissements. At Nos. 14-18 you find the Carnavalet Museum of Paris’ historical collections the museum’s official address is at No. 23 Rue de Sévigné. No. 25 is the best-preserved 16th century Hôtel de Lamoignon, now a public library of the history of Paris. There are vestiges of the Philippe august wall at Nos. 31-33 and No. 57 and several other grand town houses.
When the SFIO and then PCF theoretician Charles Rappoport first arrived in Paris from Russia in 1895 he lived at No. 50.
The magnificent private mansion built on the site of the Hôtel de Guise at No. 60 was known as the Hotel de Soubise. It became the National Archives in 1794 and was saved from being burnt down by shell fire from the Versaillais troops attacking the barricade at No. 61, and by the 125th battalion of the National Guard of the on May 25 1781 by Louis-Guillaume Debock and André Alavoine. They were later pardoned for their support of the Commune because of their actions that day.
While he was studying at the Lycee Charlemagne in the 1880s, Leon Blum lived as a boarder in the Rue des France-Bourgeois.
A short very old street that used to run along the Philippe Auguste wall around Paris, it was once named ‘the street of the Priests of Saint-Paul’. It was renamed under Louis-Philippe in 1844 after King Charlemagne, the French king who became Roman Emperor in 800 AD. Bits of the old wall remain at numbers 9 and 15.
Organiser with Blanqui of the republican Rights of Man society, he was wounded in the 1839 insurrection and sentenced to life imprisonment. Called ‘the scourge of the establishment‘ by Marx , in 1892 perceptions had changed. The 18th arrondissement’s Boulevard Barbès and in 1903 the new Barbès metro station were named after him as a republican icon.
Barbès was one of the many left political prisoners who were jailed in the Sainte Pélagie prison from 1831.
On June 2 1836 several members of the Society of Seasons led by Barbès and Blanqui were arrested in their secret workshop at 22-24 Rue Dauphine where they were making gunpowder.
On May 9 1839 Barbès arranged for a trunk to be left that evening with the 55-year-old Catherine Rouchon, a widow who made trimmings for furniture, at 23 Rue Quincampoix. On May 12 when she wasn’t there some of the Society knocked down her door and collected its contents, ammunition. After the insurrection she identified Barbès to the police in the infirmary at the Conciergerie.
When the Society of Seasons insurrection finally took place on May 12 1839 Barbès and Blanqui took part in the pillaging of the Lepage armoury at 22 Rue du Bourg l’Abbé. Today, after the Haussmann rebuilding of Paris under the Second Empire, this is where the buildings stand at 64-66 Boulevard de Sébastopol.
Blanqui’s headquarters during the insurrection was in a café at 1 Rue Mandar. Barbès led another column to seize the Palais de Justice on the Cité island on the Seine, where they also attacked the police station, killing its commander.
The insurrectionaries, in the low thousands, including an estimated 200-300 students, occupied the Hotel de Ville. During the attack Barbès was wounded in the head. He was arrested outside 79 Rue des Gravilliers (now 248 Rue St Martin) at about 7 pm on May 12.
In 1848 Blanqui and Barbès were both released from prison, but they were no longer close allies. They did, however, found the Political Prisoners’ club at a meeting in the Salle Valentino at 251 Rue St Honoré with Barbès as President and Blanqui Vice-President.
On March 21 Barbès founded the Club de la Révolution at a meeting in the Salle Molière at 159 Rue St Martin. At the same time he was meeting Proudhon, Pierre Leroux and Étienne Arago. With Leroux at 12ter Rue Coquilliere Barbes founded the newspaper, The True Republic, whose first issue stated: ‘Without labour reform, there is no true Republic‘. It produced 104 issues before being banned in August by Cavaignac.
On May 15 1848 the Republican left (Barbès, the worker Albert, Louis Blanc, François-Vincent Raspail and others) organised a demonstration in Paris to the Palais Bourbon, the Chamber of Deputies in support of the Polish revolution. While not being planned as an insurrection, Barbès took centre stage in the Constituent Assembly and announced the formation of a new government. Soon after they are all arrested.
Born in Tuscany, a direct descendant of Michaelangelo’s brother, he was enthused by the French Revolution and moved, first to Corsica, then to Paris. Nominated by Robespierre as a Commisioner responsible for newly conquered territories to the East of France, after Robespierre’s overthrow in 1794 he was imprisoned in the Plessis prisonin Rue Saint-Jacques for allegedly having decided illegal to confiscate the land of a Genoan wealthy man.
Prison was where Buonarroti first met Gracchus Babeuf (1760-1797). Arguably, Babeuf was the first revolutionary socialist.
As Buonarroti’s biographer, Jean Marc Schiappa wrote, the Paris prisons at this time were “real schools of political confrontation and education”. After many political prisoners were amnestied in October 1795, Babeuf’s supporters became active in the political ferment of the Club du Panthéon in Rue Clovis.
In 1795 Buonarroti attended meetings of the future Conspiracy of Equals at 54 rue de la Ville l’Évêque. There, they organised what the “Conspiracy of the Equals” of 1796 (“Conspiracy” was the name given to the organisation by the government that repressed it.
Babeuf and Buonarroti aimed to agitate as openly as possible. Buonarroti was an organiser, but also wrote one of the key documents of the organisation, the remarkable Draft Economic Decree, which proposed full citizenship for both sexes a hundred and fifty years before it was achieved in France.
After a ninety-six day trial in Vendôme (the authorities were afraid that holding the trial in Paris would lead to disorder) Babeuf was guillotined, but before he died Buonarroti promised his comrade that he would tell the story of the “conspiracy”.
Buonarroti was imprisoned for six years, and then exiled, first to Geneva and then to Brussels, Grenoble (then in Savoy) and back to Geneva. He lived in considerable poverty, working as a music teacher, accompanied by his faithful partner Teresa Poggi. But he continued to try to organise, though the organisations he formed, sometimes concealed within Freemasonry, were of necessity highly secretive in form.
In 1828 he published his History of Babeuf’s Conspiracy for Equality, which circulated widely in Paris, and established a continuity between Babeuf’s ideas and a new generation of activists.
Utopian socialist and influential propagandist for Babeuf in Paris, he was a strong influence on Auguste Blanqui. He returned to Paris in August 1830, and spent his last years developing contacts with the new generation of revolutionaries.
One of his associates described him then as “a man of seventy… with a Prometheus-like energy, bidding defiance to the powers of the earth, arousing all far and near to break the chains of despotism”.
1814 Restoration of the Bourbon dynasty in the figure of Louis XVIII and his
reinstatement after Waterloo saw the near disappearance of the French left.
Accounts of the egalitarian ideals of the Revolution were kept alive by
handfuls of teachers, defrocked priests and former revolutionaries. It was only
in the late 1820s that historical studies of the French Revolution started to
In April 1814 Louis XVIII, brother of the executed Louis XVI, rejected a constitution drafted by the provisional government set up after Napoleon’s first abdication. The Charter of 1814 he then imposed was only implemented after foreign troops again occupied Paris after the June 1815 battle of Waterloo. The Charter reaffirmed the idea that the French King was the central authority by divine (birth) right. Nevertheless, it also endorsed some of the elements introduced since 1795.
1815 Constitutional Charter was a decree issued by Louis XVIII. It declared
that all French men are equal before the law and that their individual freedom
is guaranteed, including the right to religious choice – while declaring
France’s state religion to be Roman Catholic.
It offered to overlook the opinions and votes given before the Restoration
(excepting those of the Regicides who had voted to executive Louis XVI and
The Charter left in place most of the administrative and legal changes introduced by Napoléon.
new constitution closely and consciously mimicked the British monarchical
structure. Louis XVIII shared legislative power with a Chamber of Peers made up
of aristocrats nominated by the King, and a Chamber of Deputies.
The Chamber of Deputies was made up only of men aged over 40 who paid over 1,000 francs a year in direct tax, and who were elected by men aged over 30 who paid over 300 francs a year in tax. Just 15,000 very rich Frenchmen were eligible to become deputies and only about 94,000 wealthy Frenchmen were enfranchised (out of a French population of approximately 35 million).
Opposition to the authoritarian regime came from both republicans and Bonapartists. In 1821 the poet songwriter Pierre-Jean Béranger was jailed in Sainte-Pélagie prison for three months for publishing political song lyrics.
1822 four soldiers who were allegedly members of the French Carbonari were
executed for plotting to overthrow the king.
In 1824 Louis XVIII died and his younger (67-year-old) and still more reactionary brother, Charles X, became king. Still a firm believer in the divine right of kings he claimed the right to rule by decree whenever he felt it necessary.
In 1827 Parisian protests became more frequent. Demonstrations took place against the growing influence of the Jesuits, for greater press freedom and when the opposition to Charles X won a majority among the Paris deputies. Blanqui was wounded three times that year.
In 1829 Béranger was jailed again for nine months, this time in La Force prison, for publishing songs advocating freedom of speech.
To try and win nationalistic support Charles X ordered his army to seize Algeria on July 5 1830. At the same time, refusing to respond to growing pressure for political influence from the few wealthy voters, his government issued four new decrees on July 26 1830.
Charles X banned freedom of the press, dissolved parliament, halved the numbers of deputies and gave the richest 25% of electors in each constituency a veto over which deputies would actually sit in parliament. The July Revolution broke out the next day.
On 27 July 1830, the day after Charles X’s four decrees were printed, four newspapers appeared illegally. Print workers resisted the seizure of their presses by the police. In that afternoon’s protest riots, encouraged by republicans like the student, Auguste Blanqui, broke out near the Palais-Royal. In the early evening troops shot and killed some of the demonstrators.
The next morning, 28 July, barricades
appeared across the centre and East of the city. An estimated 10,000 protestors
raided local armouries. The Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall) was seized. The French
revolutionary anthem, La Marseillaise,
that had been the official national song from 1795 to 1804, was sung
everywhere. The plain white Bourbon French flag was pulled down and the
Tricolour flag raised. Charles X still rejected any compromise and called on
his troops to stand firm.
On the morning of 29 July 1830 many new
barricades appeared. But the 5th and 53rd foot soldier
regiments at the Place Vendôme) went over to the people. The royal Tuileries
Palace (finally destroyed in 1848) came under attack. Charles X’s remaining
troops left Paris to defend the king at the Chateau of Saint-Cloud.
Over the next two days Charles X slowly
realised he could not continue and tried instead to get his young grandson
endorsed by the parliamentary deputies to reign under a regent. The republican
deputies were few in number, and the majority of deputies, constitutional
monarchists, played upon the fear of a new republic.
Not trusting Charles X, some deputies then entered negotiations with the 57-year-old Louis-Philippe, Duke of Orléans, Charles’ cousin. On July 31 Charles X fled from Saint-Cloud and – seeing the throne vacant – Louis-Philippe d’Orléans agreed to accept the Tricolour flag and to rule as a constitutional monarch as ‘king of the French’ rather than as ‘king of France’.
Roughly 800 Parisians and 200 soldiers were killed during the three July days of riots, barricades and fighting. Delacroix painted his famous Liberty leading the People soon afterwards.
One reason for the small number of troops (8,000) at Charles X’s disposal in July 1830 was his decision to send soldiers to take over Algeria through seizing Algiers on July 5 1830. The invasion succeeded, but still failed to win him rapidly enough the popular support that he craved in France. What it did was to initiate a military pacification campaign that lasted the following 45 years before the struggle for national independence was renewed in the 1950s.
Orléans monarchy, republicans, socialists and feminists
The cartoon above of Louis-Philippe blowing soap bubbles of the broken promises of the 1830 July Revolution led to its creator’s arrest and trial for ‘insulting the king’ in May 1831
On August 7 1830 Louis-Philippe issued a new Constitutional Charter. This promised freedom of the press and declared that censorship would never be reestablished. Within weeks there was an explosion of papers with political cartoons.
On November 4 1830 Charles Philipon launched a weekly newspaper, La Caricature, whose four pages of text were accompanied by two of lithographs.
Within weeks the government reacted. On December 4 1830 it restored the stamp duty tax on newspapers and re-introduced censorship. Philipon’s response in the Foam of July cartoon above showed Louis-Philippe blowing bubbles of many of the unfulfilled promises in the Charter: popular elections, mayoral elections, an end to ‘jobs for the boys’.
Philipon was acquitted for this cartoon but was arrested again. On November 14 1831 he first drew Louis-Philippe as an image transformed into a pear. He was jailed for a year in January 1832 at Sainte-Pelagie prison, where he was joined by Daumier for his cartoon, Gargantua.
The Orléans monarchy deceived those who had hoped the relatively bloodless July Revolution would lead to a constitutional monarchy and deeply angered the Republicans who had been sceptical from the outset. At the same time, industrialisation was beginning to transform small bits of France, particularly its major towns and Paris. The scene was being set for the re-emergence of French radical republicanism and its more edgy components, socialist and feminist thought and organisation.
The Brasserie du Commerce and its Auger Restaurant at No. 48 were a regular meeting place for left groups in the mid and late 1930s. The Young Socialists (Jeunesses socialistes), ‘Bolshevik-Leninists around ‘Truth‘, and the Communist-dominated Secours Rouge (Red Cross) that changed its name to Secours populaire (People’s Help) all used to meet there.
No 48 was also the place where Pivert’s new left revolutionary socialist party, the PSOP, decided to exclude the small numbers of Trotskyists including Lambert who had started to ‘enter’ it in 1939.
In 1808 the National Archives were placed in the Hôtel de Clisson at No. 58. It was built first in 1371 (its turreted gateway survives) and then acquired by the Duke of Guise who changed the name to the Hôtel de Soubise.
One of the barricades erected during the brief insurrection of May 12 1839 by the Seasons Club led by Blanqui and Barbes was based at No. 76, across the road at what was then the junction of 18 Rue du Grand Chantier with the Rue Pastourelle.
This street with an amazing history was named after a café sign of a crescent moon with gold stars that hung outside No. 12 way back in 1612.
More recently it became a major centre of left republican and socialist publications. The office of Le Charivari (1832-1893) where Honoré Daumier and other caricaturists worked was at No. 16. This was also the address of Le Siècle, whose office was used for the historic meeting on February 21 1848 that decided to resort to arms if troops were used against the banqueteers.
On September 9 1870 Henri Rochefort printed the first issue of La Marseillaise at No. 16. At about the same time Auguste Blanqui was printing La Patrie en Danger at No. 13.
Under the Commune in 1871 the street became full of daily and weekly newspapers. Henri Rochefort published Le Mot d’Ordre at No. 8. La Mère Duchêne was printed at No 10.
L’ami du Peuple (originally the title of Marat’s publication in the French Revolution) was also printed at No. 13, where people could also buy Le Cri du Peuple and La Fédération, the journal of the National Guard’s Republican Federation. Its press also printed the newspapers La Sociale and La souveraineté du Peuple. Le Père Duchêne was launched at No. 16 and then banned a week later on March 12 1871. The satirical paper Le Grelot was published at No 20.
Later, under the Third Republic in 1884-1886, the L’Intransigeant, involving Rochefort and Nathalie Le Mel, was published at No 12. This initially left paper evolved rapidly towards the extreme right.
In 1910 the building at No 16 housed the editorial and business offices of l’Humanité. This was where its founder, Jean Jaurès , was about to go when he was assassinated on July 31 1914 at the Café du Croissant on the corner with rue Montmartre.
The rue des Écoles was the first of the broad streets driven through the Latin Quarter of Paris by Haussmann as a major East-West carriageway. It was given this name in 1852 since it crossed the Paris district with the highest concentration of universities/ colleges (Schools). Hazan reports (IOP) that the second, more successful attempt to create an East-West road on the left bank was the Boulevard Saint Germain. Its final section was only opened in 1877.
From 1816 until 1843 the Institute of Young Blind Persons was located at No. 2, on the site of a 13th century gate in the Philippe-August wall that was finally demolished in 1684. A plaque dating from 2002 records this as the address where Louis Braille (1809-1852) developed what became the braille reading system.
On 7 September 1870, after Napoleon III‘s defeat and capture at Sedan on September 2 in the Franco-Prussian war, Blanquipublished the first edition of a daily, La Patrie en danger (‘The country in danger’). Initially he supported the new Republican government, formed on September 4. The daily’s editorial offices were based then at No. 34, but the paper only published for five days until September 12.
On May 24 1871 during the Paris Commune the Versaillais installed a canon inside the Café Soufflet to be able to fire on the communard barricade at the Collège de France.
The barricade at No. 45 was quickly destroyed and the defenders executed. Priority in the executions was given to soldiers who had supported the Commune, considered deserters from the Versaillais army, and foreign fighters.
As early as 1873, however, students who later included Jules Guesdebegan to discuss Marx’s ideas at the same Café Soufflet on the corner of the Rue des Écoles and Boulevard St-Michel.
The poet Paul Verlaine lived at No.5 in the apartment belonging to Rachide Eymery in November 1886.
In 1902-3 Lenin gave three lectures on the Russian agrarian question to the Sorbonne University’s École pratique des Hautes études at No. 47 and at 16 rue de la Sorbonne, round the corner. Trotsky attended all three of them.
A secret printworks was placed in the basement of the Sorbonne’s Science Faculty at No. 47 in 1941. It printed the paper, Defence of France from September.
Hazan (IOP) adds: ‘Between the river and Rue des Écoles, a number of old bookshops-cum-publishers remain to remind you that until the end of the ancien régime, Rue Saint-Jacques had a virtual monopoly of printing – from the time that the three Gering brothers, who came from Konstanz, established their presses at the sign of the Soleil d’Or in 1473.’
The street was opened in 1780 and named after a nearby building called the Hanover Villa that was build by the 3rd Duke of Richelieu with the profits he made from the 1757 invasion of Hanover during the Seven Years’ War.
Blanqui was involved in the fighting in this street in July 1830. No. 6 is its only notable building, an office block now listed as a historic monument, thanks to its art nouveau style. It was built in 1907.
Before the construction of the boulevards Saint-Germain and Saint-Michel, the 13th century narrow road went all the way to the southern gates of Paris (today’s Place Edmond-Rostand). It was named after a café sign of a harp.
Towards the end of his life the poet elected ‘Prince of Poets’ by the French literary world, Paul Verlaine (1844-1896), lived in poverty at the Hôtel de la Harpe at No. 6.
No 11 was a very old bookshop and printworks, where Philippe Buonarroti printed his influential works on Babeuf in 1830. Blanqui lived at No. 85 rue de la Harpe while fighting in the 1830 Revolution. Much earlier, in 1746, another printworks, Le Breton, at No. 16, printed the first volume of Diderot’s Encyclopedia.
This garden is where I’ve spent many hours watching speed-chess and slow-boules (pétanque – from the old Occitane word meaning feet planted on the ground). I have even once waded in January into the half-frozen circular basin to rescue my ten-year-old’s sinking electronically-controlled boat (I hadn’t followed all the assembly instructions entirely correctly).
Hazan (WTP) writes ‘Few places in Paris have inspired so many writers and poets, not to mention cineastes’.
The Medicis Fountain on the west side of the Palace that is now the French upper chamber, the Senate, can be a beautiful spot when it’s not overflowing with tourists.
The Luxembourg Gardens also have a darker side.
On 29 November 2016, the French National Assembly (Parliament) passed a resolution to pardon all ‘the victims of the repression of the 1871 Paris Commune‘ – the 10-25,000 people who were shot, imprisoned, exiled, deported or otherwise punished by the French Government for their part in the Paris Commune between May 1871 and 1877.
Sadly, commemorations appear to be about the only positive thing that Hollande’s socialist government did from 2012 to 2017.
There is now one very small plaque referring to the thousands killed in the Paris Commune. Not at all obvious, it is on the wall facing the Palace to the South-East of the basin, often obscured from view in the Spring and Summer by couples profiting from the Luxembourg’s reclining chairs in the warmth of the sun.
I wrote what follows after walking for perhaps the thousandth
time through the Luxembourg Gardens. It is strange what you don’t see when you
‘This time I quite quickly found the tiny memorial plaque
beneath the Queens’ Terrace for those shot in the terrible week 21 May to 28
May 1871 that I’d first seen online two days ago. There were three burial pits
dug in the gardens, where perhaps a third of the estimated 2,000 summarily
executed prisoners across Paris were buried.
One of those given a military trial on the spot was a doctor, Tony Moilin, who had been jailed by Napoleon III for writing a futurist socialist book titled Paris in the Year 2000. Released with other political prisoners with the abdication of the Emperor in 1870, Moilin briefly became mayor of the 6th arrondissement. Taken prisoner on the 27th May he admitted helping the wounded on the barricades.
A few hours before he was shot on the 28th, he was allowed to
marry his pregnant partner. His body was never recovered. The inscription on
the plaque doesn’t even get the dates of the murders right.
Michel had given the funeral oration to Blanqui in 1881 and Derré was an anarchist sympathiser and pacifist. In 1906, when he first exhibited it the sculpture, Derré (1867-1938) called it Dream for a House of the People. The column was then placed in the Luxembourg Gardens.
After being lost for several years it is now in the square in front of the Roubaix town hall in France’s old northern mining area that used to be a stronghold of socialism.
I too have a soft spot for Pierre Mendès-France (1907-1982). The university named after him in Grenoble was where I first did any teaching in France. He did end France’s Vietnam War in 1954, and then began decolonialisation in Tunisia.
Mendès-France was also a consistent opponent of De Gaulle’s 5th Republic constitution, that concentrates power very dangerously (as Macron began demonstrating in 2018) in the hands of the President. He had also served in Leon Blum’s Popular Front government of 1936.
From 1896 to 1898 the future Jewish first minister of France, Blum (1872-1950), lived at No. 36 rue Guynemer (then rue de Luxembourg) on the western edge of the Garden.
But the Mendès-France statue is far from being about dreams of social change. Surely Mitterrand could have moved one of the hundreds of memorials to France’s ruling class power in the Jardin du Luxembourg rather than take away the beautiful and romantic Louise Michel column.
Mitterrand’s easier option was to replace one politically ‘left’
public object by another. Sad.
The Luxembourg Palace was also the site of the last armed German resistance in Paris at Liberation in August 1944. All round the Latin Quarter there are memorial plaques to the courageous French men and women who died in the uprising between August 19 and August 29. Altogether some 1,500 Parisian resistance fighters were killed, including some 600 civilians.
On August 25 1944 Pierre Georges (Colonel Fabien), who had fought in the International Brigade in Spain, commanded 300 resistance fighters around the Luxembourg Palace. Fighting was intense and the SS, who were concentrated there, only finally surrendered when given an hour’s notice of an aerial bombardment.
On May 12 1839 the café at No 1 was used as Blanqui’s headquarters during the Insurrection against King Louis-Philippe staged by the Four Seasons secret society.
It was one of the few streets that saw a barricade built on December 4 1851 in a weakly-supported attempt to stop Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte’s coup d’État.
The street was opened in 1790 and named after its architect, Charles-François Mandar. Unlike many contemporary architects, he actually lived in the street he designed. Deliberately, in pursuit of egalitarian ideals, all his neighbours’ houses were built with identical facades.
Mandar (1757-1844) lived at No. 9. During the revolution he got several commissions as a result of his brother knowing Danton and Robespierre, and the rue Mandar was built as a speculative housing development.
It was on the road to Montreuil towards the north- east of Paris that Blanqui’s highly supportive mother, Sophie de Brionville, bound his wounds in 1827 at number 96 and took him and his wife in from 1830. His only son was born there.
In 1783, in the back yard at number 31 the Montgolfier brothers first stayed on their hot-air balloon as it took place off at the Royal wallpaper factory that six years later helped trigger the 1789 revolution.
In 1789 the wallpaper factory’s owner and designer of the balloon’s wallpaper decorative covering, Jean-Baptiste Réveillon, was a candidate in the upcoming elections for the General Estates forced on Louis XVI. Réveillon argued that his workers’ wages could be reduced if bread prices were lowered and the workers stopped spending their wages on drink .
On 28 April 1789 workers sacked and pillaged the factory and his house, while Réveillon took refuge in the Bastille fort. The army then killed somewhere between 25 and 100 people in quelling the riot. It was the first of several workers’ riots that led up to the July 14 storming of the Bastille.
From the left’s perspective the Palais de Justice could perhaps be better named the Palace of Injustice.
Located at Nos. 4-10 boulevard du Palais, the Boulevard was only given that name in 1864, after Haussmann bulldozed broad streets through potentially barricadable medieval streets.
The earlier names of the road in front of the Palace were the rue de la Barillerie (street of wine cask makers) and the rue Saint-Barthélemy (named after the nearby Church Saint-Barthélemy that in 1791, like the nine others on the ile de la Cité, lost its parish status to Notre-Dame cathedral, was nationalised and then sold and demolished. The site was initially a theatre and from 1865 the current Tribunal de Commerce de Paris).
In 1830Blanqui was involved in fighting outside the Palais de Justice as the insurgents moved to topple Charles X. He was back there, inside, in 1832 as one of the defenders in the ‘trial of the 15’. This was of the leading members of the mainly student republican ‘Society of Friends of the People’ including Raspail. On January 10 1832 all were acquitted except for Blanqui who was found guilty of an offence against the public peace.
During the May 12 1839 Four Seasons insurrection against Louis-Philippe, Barbès led a column of 600 men to the Palais de Justice where he urged the troops on duty to join him. A refusal led to fighting and the guard-post and Palais were taken, but they failed to capture the Prefecture opposite.
The Palais de Justice was one of the many historic buildings set fire to or bombarded in May 1871 during the ‘Bloody week’ at the end of the Paris Commune, when orders were given to burn the Tuileries Palace and other symbols of government authority in retaliation for the summary executions of Communards taking place all over Paris. In total 238 buildings were burnt down or damaged during the fighting.
In 1878 the young lawyer, Jules Guesde, appeared at the Palais de Justice to defend members of the illegal International Workingmen’s Association.
François Ravachol (1859-1892), an anarchist who had placed bombs at the homes of the three judges who had jailed the three Clichy May 1 1891 demonstrators, was sentenced to death here after two trials. He was publicly guillotined on 11 July 1892.
One of the anarchists charged but who went to live in Britain under an assumed name (Georges Guyot) was Paul Reclus, the nephew of Élisée Reclus. In his absence Paul was sentenced to 20 years hard labour. Paul moved to Brussels in 1903 to help Élisée with the publication of his anarcho-geographer testament, L’Homme et la Terre.
In 1913 the Palais was where Victor Serge and the Franco-Belgian anarchist Bonnot gang were tried, with Serge being sentenced to five years for robbery, three were guillotined and three others had their death sentences commuted to life imprisonment.
In 1927 eight PCF leaders including Jacques Duclos and André Marty were tried here following the demonstrations in support of Sacco and Vanzetti., Italian-born migrant anarchists who were executed on trumped up charges in the US on 23 August 1927.
On September 2 1941 only one of the Palais de Justice judges and magistrates, Paul Didier (1889-1961) refused to swear an oath of personal allegiance to Pétain as then required by the Vichy Government. He also refused to work in the Special Sections set up in the Palais de Justice to try Jewish people and those accused of ‘political crimes’. Didier was arrested the following day and then interned before being fired from the judiciary. Reinstated in 1944 Didier then chaired appeal court hearings, including that of PCF leader Jacques Duclos in 1952, being held in La Santé prison.
After the Second World War the Palace was again used to try and jail strikers (in 1950), Communists (1952) and supporters of Algerian independence (the Jeanson network was put on trial onSeptember 5 1960, with 14 sentenced to 10 years imprisonment each, of which just four were suspended sentences).
Ten years later, in November 1970, the leading Maoist was jailed at the Palais for two years for re-establishing the banned Proletarian Left (Gauche Prolétarienne) group.
The Justice Palace we see today dates back to the earliest years of the Roman occupation after the defeat of the Celtic Gauls under Vercingetorix by Julius Caesar in 52 BC. The already inhabited islands in the River Seine, now merged into the l’île de la Cité, were then just about the only pieces of defensible dry land around that also allowed soldiers and traders to cross the river.
The Romans set up a seat of government on the site of the Palais de Justice from where they ruled France for over 500 years. The mixture of Latin and local Celtic dialects created what became the French language.
From the 10th to the 14th centuries, the quarter of the island covered by the Palace of the Cité was the seat of every French monarch. During that time all the king’s constitutional and judicial courts were based there, including the Paris Parliament until Charles V moved to the right bank of the Seine in 1358 after Etienne Marcel and other important Paris merchants invaded the palace and murdered the Dauphin’s ministers on 22 February.
After Charles V (Charles the Wise) and the court left the Palace, however, all its principal administrative and judicial functions remained. In 1371, during the 100 Years War, the first public clock in Paris was installed at No.2, boulevard du Palais, on the corner tower that carried the Palace’s alarm bell. Over the centuries several major fires destroyed large parts of the royal palace. In 1630 the Sainte Chapelle spire burnt down followed, in 1776, by all the buildings between it and the Conciergerie (the offices and residence of the appointed caretaker in charge during the king’s absences that became a prison from 1391).
The neo-classical colonnade entrance to the Palais de Justice was built between 1783 and 1786, and the Revolutionary Tribunal (Tribunal criminel extraordinaire) with just five judges was located here from 6 April 1793 to 31 May 1795. While it was in existence the Revolutionary Tribunal decided to guillotine 2,585 people and to acquit 1,306 (including Jean-Paul Marat on 24 April 1793).
Besides Marie-Antoinette and Robespierre and others condemned with whom it is more difficult to feel sympathy were those like Anaxagoras Chaumette, who had campaigned for the abolition of slavery, the journalist Camille Desmoulins who had criticised Robespierre, and Desmoulins’ wife, Lucile, as well as Olympe de Gouges, the author of the 1791 ‘Declaration of the Rights of Women and Women Citizens’ – a feminist answer to the 1789 Déclaration des droits de l’homme et du citoyen. She was arrested at the gates to the Palais de Justice on 20 July 1793.
The Palais Royal (at No. 204 Rue St. Honoré) was the personal residence of Cardinal Richelieu (1585-1642), who ordered its building to the north of the Louvre in 1628. Richelieu gave it to Louis XIII in 1636, after which its name changed from Palais-Cardinal to Palais-Royal.
It was given to the Orléans junior branch of the Bourbons in 1692, and in 1780 its garden was transformed into an arcade square of galleries comprising some 400 boutique shops. Among the products available were gambling (up to 1836), luxury jewelry and watches, pornographic prints, and (until 1830) prostitution.
Under the French Revolution in 1792 the Square was renamed Place de la Maison Égalité
During the 24 February 1848 revolution against the Palace’s’ owner, King Louis-Philippe the square saw major fighting between the army, defending its position inside the Château d’Eau ( not much more than a facade resembling the Palais Royal on the south side of the Square) and the revolutionaries. The Château d’Eau was finally seized and burnt down, while the Palais Royal was sacked, its paintings were burnt or cut up and its furniture thrown into the street.
Under the second Empire Napoléon’s youngest brother, Jérôme Bonaparte, was allowed by Napoléon III to live there until his death in 1860. On the night of 23 May 1871, the Commune ordered it to be burnt down. Three fires were lit, but all were put out in the early hours of the next morning. Less damage occurred than in 1848.
After 1871 the Palais-Royal became administrative offices for different parts of the French government. Today it hosts the State Council and since De Gaulle’s 1958 introduction of the Constitutional Council, both it and the Culture Ministry (initially under André Malraux).
Opened in 1804 this world famous cemetery gets its name from Louis XIV’s Jesuit priest confessor from 1675 to 1709, François d’Aix de La Chaize. This was the period when the Sun King, having decided that anyone who was not a Catholic was the ‘enemy within’, revoked the 1598 Edict of Nantes that had tolerated protestants. While discriminatory measures took off from 1661, persecutions intensified from 1679 leading up to the 1685 revocation in the Edict of Fontainebleau. One per cent of the population, some 200,000 Huguenots were then forced out of France.
In 1780, finally, all cemeteries within the city walls were closed. As Consul Napoleon decreed that cemeteries should be open to all faiths and to the poor as well as the rich. In 1803 the land on the hill was acquired by the Prefect of the Seine department and the design of the cemetery entrusted to Alexandre-Theodore Brongiart.
No-one knows reliably the origin of the name of this really old road. It was already called the rue Quiquempoist in 1292.
From a left point of view it is notable simply because you can imagine Blanqui and other young men using the narrow street to their advantage when fighting the cavalry and soldiers in November 1827. That was where, on the corner with the rue aux Ours that Blanqui was shot in the neck at the demonstration against Charles X that took place celebrating the high vote for Republican candidates in the Paris elections.
This was also the street where in preparation for the 1839 Four Seasons insurrection, Barbès had left a trunk of cartridges with a friend, Mme Roux. She wasn’t at home on the afternoon of Sunday May 12 when the insurrection was launched, so Barbès broke down the door to get hold of it. He then led a few hundred of the insurrectionists down the street and to the banks of the Seine shouting ‘Down with Louis-Philippe – Long live the Republic‘.
A lengthy 3 kilometre-long street, it was initially opened under Bonaparte in 1802 and 1804 and then extended by Haussmann between 1852 and 1860 to provide a major east-west axis for troop movements – as well as to attract high-priced speculative building developments.
It was first created and named in 1804 after Napoleon Bonaparte’s success over Austria at the January 14 1797 battle of Rivoli in Northern Italy and runs the whole way alongside the Louvre Palace and Tuileries Gardens.
The road’s most significant building is the Paris Town Hall at No. 29, the Hôtel de ville de Paris, which on several occasions over the last 250 years has also doubled as the location of the French government.
Blanqui’s headquarters on October 31 1870, when he unsuccessfully attempted to capture the Town Hall virtually opposite, was the National Guard’s Café, then called the Café du Gaz at No. 31.
His second, equally unsuccessful attempt on January 22 1871 was also headquartered at the same Café du Gaz. Under the Commune this was also the meeting place of the Central Committee of the National Guard.
When working in the Hotel de Ville in September 1871, Paul Verlaine describes using the Café as an ‘annex’ to his office and meeting Arthur Rimbaud there.
An important barricade was built across the street between Nos. 39 and 86 when the Versaillais troops entered Paris. The area saw considerable fighting on May 24 1871. In its aftermath some 200 Communards were shot without trial, and many were buried in quicklime at the Lobau (or called the Napoleon) barracks at Nos. 39-41.
Where Nos. 66-68 stand today another barricade was erected in June 1848 on the now demolished Rue de la Tixanderie. The fighting there saw the Garde Mobile’s General, Duvivier, mortally wounded, as he defended the Hotel de Ville against workers protesting the government’s closure of the unemployed workshops.
On May 22 1871 there were some 900 barricades in Paris. This one, built in a day at No. 98, was 6 meters high, part of the defence of the Town Hall.
The history of No. 172 is pretty gruesome. During the Occupation the Hotel du Louvre there was the headquarters of the Heydrich’s SS Death Squads.
Perhaps in order to make detection less likely, two meetings of the National Resistance council took place at No. 182 in the spring of 1944 after the assassination of Jean Moulin and after several other resistance leaders had been arrested.
On the railings of the Tuileries gardens opposite No. 228 there is a plaque that marks the location of the National Assembly that met in the Salle du Manege (the riding school) there through the revolutionary days from 1790 to 1794.
Ironically, No. 228 was also from 1848 to 1854 the home of Harriet Howard, the English red-haired mistress and financial backer of Louis Napoleon who, when he was Emperor, was given the title of Comtess de Beauregard, and ownership of the accompanying chateau.
During the Occupation of Paris the Hotel Meurice at No. 228 was also the headquarters of the German High Command. It was besieged briefly on August 25 1944 before its commander, Dietrich von Choltitz, surrendered.
On November 26 1941 the Youth Battalion of the French Communist Party exploded a bomb outside the offices of the German military bookshop at No. 248.
Among the first barricades built in both June 1848 and May 1871 were at the corner of No. 254 with the Rue St Florentin. Under the Commune it was one of just 18 that had canon defending them, and it was the only one not taken from behind.
In 1780 the huge 16th century town house at numbers 2-4 that had once belonged to the Duc de La Force was bought by Louis XVI and rebuilt as a modern prison in two sections, one for men and the other for women. Under the French Revolution it became a holding prison, and from 1815 to 1828 a prison used mainly for prostitutes.
In 1828-29 Pierre Jean de Béranger, the Georges Brassensof his day, a highly popular song-writer critical of Charles X was jailed there. In 1831 this was where Blanqui entered his first prison.
Falling down and dirty and disease-ridden the prison was demolished in 1845, with just one wall still surviving in the rue Mahler, where it now joins the Historical Library of the city of Paris.
This is one of the earliest known streets in Paris. It was named after an abbey built on the site of a Roman Villa directly to the north of the Roman city of Lutetia. Many believed the villa was the burial site of the Italian evangelist Denis who came to Paris between AD 250 and 270, and was its first Bishop and martyr. So in 630 King Dagobert (of the Franks in what is now northern France) started to build a huge basilica on the spot and called it Saint-Denis. When he died in 639 he was buried there.
From that year on until the French Revolution when the body of the guillotined Louis XVI was disposed off in a quicklime pit, all French kings were buried in the St Denis Basilica. The church was also used to crown the King’s Queen and the road from it into Paris was also always used by the royal family for their processions into Paris, and so was known as the ‘royal route’.
Today the St Denis road begins its journey to the north of Paris at the Place du Châtelet where it is crossed by the Avenue Victoria. It used to go right down to the ‘Grand-Pont’ (Big Bridge) that from the 9th century crossed the wider reach of the Seine and accessed the central island, the Ile du Cite. That bridge was washed away several times and finally replaced by the Pont au Change.
The northern end of the road is at the magnificent Porte St-Denis, a huge triumphal arch created by Louis XIV in 1672 on the site of a major fortified gateway through the (now demolished) Charles V defensive wall that protected the right bank of Paris. The photograph of the arch above was taken in the 1930s.
On June 23 1848 one of the main barricades of the workers’ insurrection against the closure of the national workshops blocked the Boulevard Bonne-Nouvelle from being used to move troops from West to East Paris where the movement was strongest. It was defended by engineers who worked on the Northern Railway Company, and was only taken by the government’s troops after their canon had fired 80 shots at the barricade.
The Rue St Denis continues beyond the Porte’s Arch northwards towards the Saint-Denis suburb. From this point it becomes the Rue du Faubourg St-Denis which runs as far as the Boulevard de la Chapelle.
Number 20 used to be the entrance to the Halles Centrales café and concert hall, where Blanqui spoke at several meetings in 1870.
The weekly anarchist journal Le Libertaire that had resumed publication on December 21 1944, thanks to the financial support of Georges Brassens, was able to install itself alongside the Libertarian Communist Federation in an office at No. 79 in March 1954. Series 5 of the paper finally stopped publication on July 12 1956.
Subsequently, from 1960 to 1976, No. 79 became the headquarters of the exiled Spanish anarcho-syndicalists who believed that the Confederación Nacional del Trabajo should work with the exiled government.
One of the few barricades built by the leftists who participated in the Society of Seasons uprising on Sunday May 12 1839 led by Blanqui and Barbes was at No. 90. It blocked the road at the junction with the Rue de la Grande Truanderie.
The 1839 barricade was just next door to the one built at No 92 bis in front of the St Leu church on November 19 1827. This was the first barricade in Paris since 1795 and was put up after troops were ordered to remove all signs put up in houses celebrating the liberal victory in Paris in the November 17 legislative elections. The resulting riot was put down with a cavalry charge and some gunfire in which a young Blanqui was wounded by a bullet in the neck.
At the principal barricade built across the road at No. 120 on the same day the 18th regiment fired at the defenders, killing four of its defenders.
No. 151 (or No. 153 or No. 243 where the family lived soon afterwards as is suggested in the Paris birth records) was the birthplace of Léon Blum on April 9 1872. Then, like today, it was in the heart of the Parisian textile and clothing industry. But where once it was predominantly Jewish, today the businesses in the area are largely of North African origins.
The bloody week that ended the Paris Commune took its toll at No. 199. This was where a barricade was built across the corner with what is now the Rue Réaumur saw serious fighting on May 24 1871. Another barricade at No. 237/239 that crossed to the Passage du Caire covered alleyway was defended by the Commune’s 92nd battalion.
As long ago as the Middle Ages the central Paris area around Rue Saint-Denis, Rue Grenata, the Rue aux Ours and the Rue de Saint-Martin was known as the ‘Huleu’ (screeching) quarter because of the prostitutes calling out for clients as men passed by. The women used to hire covered wooden stands, and men climbing on to the stand went ‘en bords’ (onboard). This was the origin of the now internationally recognised word ‘bordel‘ (brothel). Paris counted some 50,000 prostitutes by the mid-19th century.
For me, the southern part of the road near what used to be the huge Les Halles market still conjures up memories of that night in 1962 when I and my close school friend David walked on a cool dark summer night, with money in our pockets, determined to lose our virginities. I was quite amazed to find that more than 50 years later, despite the removal of the Halles market and the gentrification of central Paris, Tripadvisor is actually still selling the area as the place to go to see ‘Paris nightlife’.
This café was also where Marx and Engels met on August 28 1844 and agreed to work on ‘The Holy Family‘ together. Further along the street, at No. 251, was the Valentino Hall, which Engels entered on one occasion in his brief 1844 visit to Paris to escape the police spies who were following him.
Upstairs the Café de la Régence was the centre of French chess for over a century. It was where Robespierre, the young officer Napoléon Bonaparte and Louis Philippe all played their chess (no not together!). The café also doubled as one of Paris’ four cafe/shop post offices in the early 19th century.
The Café was well-positioned. It was close to the Palais Royal before the Revolution and afterwards it was on the route of those being taken from the Conciergerie prison to the Place de la Concorde to be guillotined.
At 10.30 pm on the evening of December 3 1973 one of the cartoonists for the French satirical paper Le Canard enchaînéreturned to its offices at No. 173 to find a government DST ( Direction de la surveillance du territoire) team of spies installing microphones. The French State has always believed it has the right to spy on dissidents.
Nearly two hundred years earlier the French state still believed in its right to execute dissidents. One issue was how this done. Should it be a lengthy process by strangulation (hanging) or a lengthy process by chopping at your neck with an axe?
Dr Joseph Ignace Guillotin, a humanist who opposed the death penalty helped develop a quicker, more efficient way of killing people. One of those who drafted the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, he died on March 26 1814 in his medical office at No. 209. This was on the route of those travelling to be ‘humanely’ executed at what is now the Place de la Concorde.
On November 29 1847 Bakunin spoke to the 1,500 people who attended a commemoration banquet of the 1830 Polish uprising against Russia at the Valentino Hall. Before Haussmann’s re-modelling of Paris its address was No. 359 rue St Honoré. This was where Valentino, the orchestra conductor and violinist, introduced the polka dance to Paris that same year, 1847.
The size and central location of the Hall attracted many revolutionaries to hold meetings there. In 1848, in February Cabet held a meeting of the Icarians there.
In March, Blanqui organised meetings of the Central Republican Society he chaired at Valentino’s. The Club of Political Prisoners presided by Armand Barbès with Blanqui as its vice-president also met there.
The Socialist Workers’ Club whose honorary president was Louis Blanc also met there until the May 15 1848 demonstration when it was dissolved after the failure of a left insurrectionary attempt to defend the socialist aspects of the February 1848 revolution.
On January 27 1871 the Valentino Hall was used by the Officers of the 1st Battalion of the National Guard to protest against the Armistice signed by the Thiers government with the Prussians.
Olympe de Gouges, opponent of slavery and author of the 1791 Declaration of the Rights of Women and Women Citizens, lived at No. 270. A History of Paris marker post has been put by the front foor to mark this feminist pioneer and martyre.
The main entrance to the second Jacobin monastery in Paris was at No. 328. Its side entrance in the Rue St Hyacinthe led to the monk’s canteen where the anti-royalist Breton Club began to meet in 1789. After the closure of the monasteries in 1790 the convent was rented to the Friends of the Constitution, who later took the name the Jacobin club .
General Lamarque died at his home at No. 368 of cholera. His funeral procession that left from here on June 5 1832, sparked the 1832 uprising against Louis-Philippe’s increasingly authoritarian rule that features in Hugo‘s Les Misérables.
When Robespierre was himself guillotined on July 28 1794, the cart carrying him to the scaffold stopped outside No. 398 (formerly No. 366) where he had lived for three years since he moved there secretly on July 17 1791 to avoid arrest after the Champs de Mars massacre. The house’s walls had been dripped with the blood of butchered cattle.
Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863) showed his bare-breasted Liberty-Marianne in a Phrygian cap walking across a barricade thought to have been at 8 Rue de Saint-Martin in his iconic painting Liberty guiding the People. He wrote to his brother soon after the July 1830 Glorious Revolution:
‘I’ve embarked on a modern subject—a barricade. And if I haven’t fought for my country at least I’ll paint for her.’
Delacroix’s painting was shown in the Salon
of 1831 and bought by the French government. Its intention was to hang it in
the throne room of the Luxembourg Palace. But after the June 1832 insurrection
it was returned to Delacroix as being ‘too revolutionary’. It was only
exhibited again briefly after the February 1848 Revolution, and then next in
the Salon of 1855.
John, the designer of Left in Paris, borrowed from Delacroix the bearded rifle-wielding bourgeois revolutionary and the pistol-waving working-class teenager seen on our menu pages.
Hazan (WTP) tells us that the two-day 1832 Republican insurrection that followed the dispersal of the huge crowd behind a red flag at the Republican General Lamarque’s funeral on June 5 saw the first use of artillery against Parisian insurgents. The demonstrations followed opposition deputies accusing the government of breaking its promises and refusing to support oppressed people like those in Poland.
There were three barricades protecting the Rue de Saint Martin headquarters of the Republicans at what was then number 30. Writing a novel about the events ten years later George Sand makes this address the home of her working-class hero.
The reality was that the defenders of the 1832 barricades killed around 75 soldiers and National Guardsmen sent by Louis-Philippe. Over 90 insurgents were killed, 200 wounded and 1,500 prisoners were taken. Eighty-two people were subsequently deported.
Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables fiction places Gavroche’s death at 107 Rue de Saint Martin at the barricade with the Rue Aubry le Boucher. In his Comédie humaine Balzac (1799-1850) has the republican Michel Chrestien killed at the Rue Saint-Merri barricade across the street.
Louis-Auguste Blanqui’s first
insurrectionary attempt was made in 1839 with the Society of the Seasons, and its
first barricade built was across the entrance to the Rue de Saint Martin, from
numbers 1 to 2 on 12 May 1839. The conspirators used to meet in a wine seller’s
shop at 10 Rue de Saint Martin.
Blanqui and Armand Barbès were also present at what was probably the most important barricade erected in 1839, at number 78 Rue de Saint-Martin, the St Merry barricade. Barbès was wounded outside number 248 and arrested at the end of the insurrection.
Another barricade appeared at the beginning
of Rue de Saint-Martin during the workers’ uprising against the closing down of
the schemes for unemployed workers on 23 June 1848.
In July 2018 I spent a couple of days at a sociological conference at the Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers at 270-272 Rue St Martin. A 19th century costumed film was being shot there using the 19th century buildings as a backdrop, with a portable guillotine added for good measure. Strange to think that Karl Marx supposedly gave a speech there on March 5 1848 to the Central branch of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen Club immediately after his explusion from Brussels.
The Conservatoire (before 1794 the priory of Saint-Martin-des-Champs) was also the location of the National Convention organised by Ledru-Rollin a year later, on 13 June 1849, to try and stop the war on the Republic of Rome.
Further up the street, the old Molière Theatre at No 159 provided a venue for many meetings and organisations. Ledru-Rollin and Barbès were among those who held meetings of the Revolutionary Committee for the elections to the Constituent Assembly in March 1848. On November 14 1869 the Parisian Federation of Workers Societies was formed there.
During the bloody week of May 1871 the Conservatoire was fortified, and the last fighter is supposed to have been a woman defending it with a machine gun. Another barricade that saw fierce fighting was built at 145 Rue de Saint-Martin.
The street’s cobblestones again came in handy in August 1944. One photograph looking down Rue St Martin shows the barricade built outside number 135 (now next to a Monoprix shop). It was one of some 600 built in Paris after the resistance FFI (French Forces of the Interior) called for them to be built on August 19 to stop German troop movements.
Today, the left side of the street exists no longer: it was demolished to make room for the Beaubourg (Pompidou Centre) as was the 1832 battleground of the Rue Saint-Merri. From barricades to shopping opportunities.
But at least there is still some art nearby – although as Hazan (WTP) reminds us, the architects’ original democratic, accessible concept for Beaubourg “for people to meet here, in a certain everyday way, without having to pass through a gate and being checked like in a factory” has now been ‘renovated’ out of existence. Today access is only for ‘the right class of people’.
64-66 Boulevard Sebastopol is the location of the Lepage Frères arms depot, before 1854 it was 22 Rue du Bourg-l’Abbé. The warehouse was pillaged by a few hundred men from the secret Seasons Club set up by Blanqui and Barbès for weapons and ammunition on May 12 1839. Many carried three or four pistols and rifles out with them. .
In 1854 the boulevard was initially built as part of Haussman’s redesign of Paris as the Boulevard du Centre. It was then quickly renamed Sebastopol after a year-long seige finally ended in the successful storming of Sebastopol on September 8 1855 by a joint Franco-British force during the otherwise disastrous Crimea War.
One of Paris’ oldest streets it now runs for 1.3 km from the Rue Rivoli up the the Place de la Republique, with the Square du Temple garden created in 1857 leading off it at No. 158.
The name Rue du Temple comes from the Templars district, a large area of land given to the Knights Templar military religious order around 1170. In 1240 the 50 metre high keep was built within a walled enclosure. It initially housed the king’s treasure, and then became a prison. Its most famous occupants from August 13 1792 were Louis XVI and his family.
On December 18 1795 Marie-Thérèse Charlotte de France, their daughter, was the only Bourbon to leave the Tower alive and without a trip to the guillotine. Louis XVI was guillotined on January 21 1793. Marie-Antoinette on October 16 1793. Elisabeth, the king’s sister, on May 10 1794. Louis, the king’s son, died from tuberculosis in the keep on June 8 1795.
On June 29 2017 the Square’s name was changed to Square du Temple – Elie-Wiesel in honour of the human rights campaigner and Holocaust survivor.
The Templar Tower was knocked down by Napoléon Bonaparte in 1808 partly to prevent Royalist pilgrimages to the site and partly, some argue, to spare his future wife, the sight of her aunt’s last address. The garden and Square was one of 24 laid down under Haussmann’s plan for giving Parisians a little more air.
On February 27 1871 the Square at No 158 was the meeting point of the National Guardsmen on their way to the Champs-Élysées to try and stop the Prussians from entering Paris. Every Saturday during the Commune the band of the National Guard played there to raise funds for the widows and children of men who had died in the war.
Former soldiers who had joined the Commune and foreigners were the first to be executed in the Square on May 25 1871.
Women Communards such as Elisabeth Dmitrieff and Nathalie Le Mel used to meet in a women’s club at the Grand café de la Nation at No. 79, the 17th century Hotel de Montmor. On International Women’s Day March 8 2007 under the recently elected Socialist Paris mayor, a small triangular square at the meeting point of the Rue du Temple and the Rue de Turbigo was named the Place Elisabeth Dmitrieff. It is just outside the entrance to the Temple metro station.
In October 1870 Blanqui was in hiding at No. 191. The flat belonged to Eugène Cléray, a clockmaker and follower of Blanqui who was deputy mayor of the Third arrondissement during the Siege of Paris. Blanqui stayed in the flat on October 31 before going to the Hotel de Ville to see how the insurrection against the new republican government’s indifferent handling of the war with Prussia was going.
Jean-Victor Schnetz‘s painting of the July 28 1830 battle outside the symbolic Paris Town Hall shows both the Tricolor and a Red flag – with the words’ ‘Long Live the Charter’ on it. The July Revolution was about restoring a semblance of democratic bourgeois rights, with the threat of workers’ rights behind it.
At the next successful insurrection on February 25 1848, Henri Philippoteaux painted the republican Lamartine outside the Town Hall rejecting the Red flag and endorsing the Tricolor.
Citizens, for me, the red flag, I am not adopting it, and I’ll tell you why I’m against with all the strength of my patriotism. It’s that the tricolor has toured the world with the Republic and the Empire with your freedoms and your glory, and the red flag was that around the Champ-de-Mars, dragged into the people’s blood.
On March 22 1848 a delegation of women activists from the ‘Women’s voice’ group went to the Town Hall to demand women have full citizens’ rights including the right to vote.
On May 15 1848 demonstrators against French intervention in Poland, including Blanqui, the worker Albert, Blanc, Cabet, Leroux and Raspail occupied the Town Hall and declared a new provisional government before being arrested.
Lamartine went on to order the brutal suppression of the June 1848 workers’ insurrection sparked by the government’s closing of the world’s first unemployment system with national workshops offering work paid by the state.
On September 4 1870, after Napoleon III’s capture at the battle of Sedan, Léon Gambetta stood on the Town Hall balcony and announced the end of the Second Empire and proclaimed the creation of a new Republic.
On 31 October Blanqui and others demonstrated in front of the Town Hall demanding more action against the Prussian army from the new government led by Jules Favre. A supporter on the inside unlocked the doors and the demonstrators occupied it.
On January 22 1871 Louise Michel was one of many who protested outside the Town Hall at the government’s inertia in face of the Prussian siege of Paris. the demonstrators were fired on and Louise Michel later wrote that this was the first occasion that she had fired back with her rifle.
On March 18 1871 the Thiers government first placed a regiment loyal to to it into the Town Hall overnight, and then attempted to seize all the canons in Paris. These events sparked the creation of the Paris Commune by the Central Committee of the National Guard on March 29 1871.