Rue Charlemagne

Arrondissement 4

Number 13-14

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.

Among the men who attended the Lycée Charlemagne at Nos. 13 and 14 were Blanqui, Blum, Ledru-Rollin , Leroux, Jospin and in 1816 Honoré de Balzac.



Armand Barbès

1809-1870 • France

Republican Insurrectionist

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 most important of the barricades erected on that Sunday in May 1839 was across the Rue de St. Martin. The insurrection was able to seize one local town hall at 43 Rue des Franc-Bourgeois.

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.

The 15 arrested after the May 1848 protests against government inaction over the Polish revolt against the Russian colonisers included insurrectionary revolutionaries like Barbes and Blanqui alongside socialist republicans like Blanc and Raspail.

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Le Maitron


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.


Rue des Bourdonnais

Arrondissement 1

Numbers: 11, 32

This road owes its present name (finally decided in 1852) to the brothers Adam and Guillaume Bourdon, provost of the merchants of Paris and wealthy Parisians in the 12th century.

On July 29 1843 Alexandre Ledru-Rollin and Louis Blanc together with François Arago, Ferdinand Flocon and Godefroi Cavaignac met at Ledru-Rollin’s office at No. 11 and decided to set up a radical newspaper that would campaign for democracy,  La Réforme. The photograph above of Rue Bourdonnais was taken ten years later by Charles Marville.

This was where on February 21 1848 the Republicans around the Reform paper took the decision to resort to armed resistance to the King’s decision to ban the Paris banquet in their national campaign to extend the franchise. Among those meeting were the Worker Albert, Ledru-Rollin, Etienne Arago and Marc Caussidière.

The office became the headquarters of the February Revolution, and was where on February 24 1848 Ledru-Rollin, Blanc, l’ouvrier Albert, Flocon, Arago and Cavaignac drew up the left’s list for membership of the provisional government.

A century later, No 32 was the home from 1954 to 1958 of the Catholic priest, Henri Grouès (called l’abbé Pierre), who had been in the resistance and then a deputy, and was the founder of the Emmaüs charity.



Rue de Clignancourt

Arrondissement: 18

Number 42-54, site of the Château Rouge

The entrance to Rue Clignancourt where a barricade blocked the road in May 1871

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.

A drawing from the early 19th century of the Château Rouge banqueting, meeting and dance hall

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.

The reformist political banquet of 9 July 1847 at the Château Rouge attended by 200 people including Ledru-Rollin among the 86 deputies

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.

Théo Ferré (1845-1871), close friend of Louise Michel, and follower of Blanqui. He became Prosecutor during the Paris Commune and was tried and shot for approving the execution of six hostages held by the Commune.

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.


Avenue Denfert-Rochereau

Arrondissement 14

Numbers: 65-73, 81, 83, 91

The Rue de l’Enfer (Hell Road) was only given its current name, Avenue Denfert-Rochereau, after the 1878 death of Colonel Pierre Philippe Denfert-Rochereau. This military hero was known as the ‘Lion of Belfort’ for his holding out against the German army in 1870-1871.

The Monastery at Nos. 65-73 originally hosted the end of the Rungis aqueduct that provided the water supply for the Luxembourg Palace – and then for the rest of the area. It was shelled and burnt down on May 23 1871 during the battle of the Communards against the Versaillais troops.

Ledru-Rollin lived at No 81 Rue de l’Enfer in 1848 while he was organising the first elections in France by universal suffrage

While Ledru-Rollin was in exile, another former political prisoner, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, moved in with his family to No. 83 during the 1850s.

Simone de Beauvoir moved from home in 1929 to a small flat at No. 91 owned by her grandmother, initially to escape her all-present mother. She stayed there until 1931 when she moved to teach in Marseille.

In June 1940, after having spent four weeks outside Paris, De Beauvoir returned to stay for a few more months in the flat at No. 91 until the winter got too cold for her. She occupied herself during the day reading Hegel at France’s National Library in the Rue de Richelieu.


Palais du Luxembourg

Arrondissement 6

Numbers: 15-17 Rue Vaugirard

During the Revolutionary Terror (April 6 1793 to July 28 1794), the Palace became an overflow prison, holding among others Danton and Desmoulins who were both executed on April 5 1794.

In December 1830 a demonstration against the clemency shown to Charles X’s former ministers, was violently put down outside the Palace.

The Palace was the location of the Workers’ Commission set up after the February 1848 revolution. Workers had demanded a Minister of Labour, calling the post a ‘Minister of Progress’, but this had been turned down and Louis Blanc accepted the position of President of the Commission instead.

Others nominated to the Commission included Albert and the followers of Fourier, Victor Considerant and François Vidal.

Pierre Marie de Saint-Georges, the Minister responsible for the National Workshops set up in 1848 was also based at the Palace. On June 22 Louis Pujol was nominated spokesperson of the 56 delegates chosen by a workers’ meeting at the Panthéon to negotiate with Pierre Marie.

The meeting took place at the Luxembourg Palace, and Pierre Marie’s attack on the delegation, asking if they were ‘slaves’ to Pujol, fueled an anger that observers credited with sparking the huge June 1848 workers’ uprising.

In May 1871 the military tribunal set up in the Palace summarily sentenced hundreds of Communard fighters and supporters to be shot in the Luxembourg Garden at the back of the palace, just below the statues of French queens.

On July 3 1880 Victor Hugo finally got the amnesty for the Communards through the Senate, based at the Palace more or less continuously since 1805.

After the Germans occupied Paris in 1940 they made the Palace the headquarters of the Luftwaffe, where it was visited by Hermann Goering. His Luftwaffe Field Marshal was also given a luxurious apartment there. It also served as an administrative centre covering prisoners of war.

The Palace was one of the last bastions of German opposition at Liberation in August 1944. Its soldiers only finally surrendered on August 25 to the resistance fighters led by Colonel Fabien, when they were faced with 5 tanks detached by General Leclerc and the threat of air strikes.


Rue de Tournon

Arrondissement 6

Numbers 4, 5, 6, 10, 19, 33

This Paris street widens as you walk up it towards the Luxembourg Palace in the Rue Vaugirard. It was once the home of several of France’s wealthiest people who built small palaces outside the confines of the inner Paris wall.

But it also has a left history. André Gide lived at No. 2 for eight years, from 1875-1883.

Ledru-Rollin lived at the Hotel de Montmorocy in June 1848. Alphonse de Lamartine stayed in the same mansion.

Next door, Alexandre Ledru-Rollin at the Hôtel de Montmorency at No. 4, was followed to his home from the assembly on June 24 1848 and threatened with death after he was denounced for being too supportive of the workers’ insurrection. Sharing the same address at the time was Lamartine, another leading campaigner for the extension of the suffrage.

Jacques Prévert moved to the fifth floor of No. 5 for a year in the winter of 1910 when he was ten years old. Fifteen years later he married Simone Dienne, three years younger than him, whose family lived on the ground floor in 1910.

In 1840 Charles Fourier, the early utopian socialist, edited the revue in the offices of La Phalange (sucessor paper to the Phalanstère) at No 6.

During the 1848 revolution, the anarchist Bakunin stayed at the Republican Guard barracks at No. 10.

In May 1871 the barracks offered a different menu: it was where some Communards fighting in Paris’ National Guard were court-martialed during the bloody week.

The Foyot Restaurant at 33 Rue de Tournon before its demolition in 1938 was a favourite haunt of senators and Parisian personalities. It had been bombed in 1894 with the damage visible in the Rue de Condé on the other side of the restaurant shown in this photograph.

The Foyot restaurant that was bombed in 1894 where Laurent Tailhade, ironically a supporter of the ‘propaganda by the deed’ anarchist movement, lost an eye was also used by the painter Gustave Courbet and other Commune supporters in 1871.

A scandal broke out at Foyot shortly before Verlaine died when in rags he was invited to dine there by a symbolist poet and dandy.

The Communist and writer Louis Aragon was hidden during the German occupation by the bookseller Lucien Scheler in his flat at No. 19 in 1943.

Initially bits of the boggy land on a narrow country lane through Abbey land were sold by Saint-Germain-des-Prés Abbey to builders, and it was called the Saint Sulpice lane in 1517. The road was soon renamed Rue de Tournon in 1541, after Cardinal François de Tournon (1489-1562) who ran the abbey.

Under the Second Republic in 1849 the government decided to allow the road to take its current unique bell-shaped dimensions, running from 13.5 meters wide up to double that when opening up to the Luxembourg Palace.

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