Lenin also showed up there on January 12 1910 to see a play called ‘The Barricade‘ by the catholic reactionary Paul Bourget.
During the Paris Commune‘s final days on May 22 1871 a barricade with 12 canon crossed the road at the Place de L’Opéra.
The first Pan African Congress was held at the Grand-Hôtel de la Paix at No. 12 on February 19 1919. Fifty black representatives who had been excluded from the Versailles Peace Conference met together, closely watched by the police. The American William du Bois and Senegalese Blaise Diagne were its joint chair persons.
The Café de la Paix on the ground floor of the hotel on the northwest corner of the junction between the Boulevard meets the Opera Square opened on June 30 1862. On July 14 1937 it was attacked by striking waiters.
Throughout the German occupation a notice was displayed saying: Jews not allowed (Interdit aux juifs).
The radical democratic German poet Georg Herwegh put up Marx and Jenny von Westphalen at No. 13 when the couple first arrived in Paris on October 12 1843.
The victorious Austrian Emperor Francis 1 stayed at the Colonnade private mansion at Nos. 37 to 43 in 1814 and again in 1815, when it became the Foreign Ministry. It stayed that until 1853.
On September 7 1831 a demonstration outside the Hotel de la Colonnade, the Foreign Ministry at Nos. 37-43, was dispersed violently by the army. The demonstrators shouted: ‘Long Live Poland, Down with the Ministers’.
In the early evening of February 23 1848 another demonstration outside the Ministry sparked the 1848 Revolution. The 14th Line Regiment, protecting the sacked reactionary prime minister Guizot, fired directly into the crowd killing 52 people and wounded many more. The bodies were then paraded throughout Paris and by the morning most arms shops had been looted and some 1,500 barricades erected.
A big meeting room at No. 39 saw several political meetings at the end of the Second Empire in 1870 and 1871. On September 22 1889 Louise Michel and Maxime Lisbonne, known as the d’Artagnan of the Commune, organised a meeting there in that year’s election campaign. Lisbonne’s manifesto stated:
‘ENTERTAINER I am! ENTERTAINER I remain! Give me your votes to swell the numbers of those who dare to say the same, and you will see that if I hesitate, like a real entertainer, the words on the paper that will come out of the hat will be ‘DEMOCRATIC SOCIAL REVOLUTION’.
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.
Leading up to the Saint-Lazare station built in 1837 the road was called du Havre in 1845 after the port in Normandy that the station served. The name was extended to include a section of the Rue de la Chaussée-d’Antin with its reference to the Duke of Antin whose town mansion was built there.
The earlier name had been changed during the French Revolution first to Rue Mirabeau le Patriote from 1791 to 1793 and then to Rue du Mont-Blanc from 1793 to 1816. With the Bourbon restoration it had gone back to Chaussée-d’Antin.
The odd numbers in the road are in the 9th arrondissement and the even numbers in the 8th.
Emile Zola was often seen walking in this road, since in 1897 he rented an apartment at No. 3 for Jeanne Rozerot, his mistress and mother of his two children.
At No. 8 the Lycée Condorcet, opened in 1803, in the relatively recent monastery of the Capucin monks built in 1780 and nationalised in the Revolution, is one of the four oldest secondary schools in Paris.
Besides three former presidents of the Republic, among the leftists who were educated there were Victor Schoelcher and Paul Verlaine, and much more recently Alain Krivine. Jaurès and Sartre both briefly taught philosophy there while Mallarmé taught English.
Until the 1960s the narrow road climbing up from the Boulevard St Germain towards the Boulevard St Michel was much as it had always been in the 19th and 20th centuries: a very low-cost area for students, artists and revolutionaries to live amid cafes and bookshops.
The road originally skirted the Charles V city wall and was called after the court title of the Prince of Condé, whose palace grounds bordered the road. From 1793 to 1805 during the French Revolution the road was renamed ‘Rue de la Liberté’.
To get an idea of the wealth and stature of the Condé branch of the Bourbon family, you can take a look at the door to No. 4 – built on the site of the stables of the Condé town house.
The black American writer Richard Wright lived at No. 14 from 1948 to 1959, the year before he died in Paris aged 52. A plaque has been put up to his memory, not mentioning the reports he gave to the American embassy on Nkrumah and French communists he met, arguably doing so to ensure the renewal of his passport. The building has another interesting door built under the Second Empire.
Next door, at No. 16, there used to be a very long-lasting anarchist bookshop. It survived from 1908 to 1932 and before the First World War was a regular meeting place for anarchist trade unionists.
A couple of doors further up the road, the Communist Party owned the Racine/Social publications bookshop at No. 20 in 1938.
No. 20 was also where, after midnight on December 5 1986 a young student, Malik Oussekine, coming out of a jazz club, was chased down the road to the entrance where he was beaten to death by riot police who attacked him because he was an Algerian and young. The previous day hundreds of thousands of young people had taken part in the day’s demonstrations against the Devaquet election reform. The police tried to cover the murder by calling an ambulance that took the dead body to hospital. Three years later two of the three police were found guilty of wounding Oussekine so badly that he died, and given suspended sentences of five and two years in prison.
Paul Verlaine, moving frequently in the last years of his life, lived in No. 21 in 1894, while much earlier, Arthur Rimbaud had a room at No. 41 in May 1872.
Over the years Verlaine and many other writers and artists like James Joyce, Hemingway and Max Ernst used to eat at the Polidor restaurant on the ground floor of No. 41. Until recently its old style benches on which basic French food is served was commanded over by a stereotypical in-your-face French waitress. Now, however, it has even expanded and set up a wine shop.
In 1920, Nguyên Ai Quôc, the future Ho Chi Minh, lived at No. 56. He would have been not at all pleased by the coincidence that led the Indochinese section of the Trotskyist Communist League to meet at No. 65 in 1930.
The first cheap room where the teenage Émile Zola lived on arriving in Paris in 1858 was at No. 63.
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.
The short narrow road was named Royard-Collard in 1867 after the nearby road given the same name in 1846, the year after the death of a liberal philosoper-politician Pierre Royer-Collard.
The Hotel de la Paix at No. 5 was where Sigmund Freud stayed when he first came to Paris in 1885 to follow the courses of Professor Martin Charcot on hypnosis. It is now called the Jardins du Luxembourg. Naturally it has a plaque!
When Émile Zola started to work at the Hachette bookshop in 1862 he lived in a room at No. 7 cul-de-sac St Dominique, now called the Impasse Royer-Collard.
One of Paris’ oldest streets the road was the main north-south route through Paris under the Romans, who paved it and widened it (to half its present 20 metre width).
Use of St Jacques in the road’s name dates from the 1218 founding of a monastery of Dominican ‘brother preachers’ with a Saint-Jacques chapel. The location of the Jacobin brothers’ monastery was approximately around No. 158. It was closed in 1790 and its building gradually demolished over the first half ot the 19th century. In the early 17th century a second monastery for ‘reformed Jacobins’ was built on the Rue Saint-Honoré.
The road was definitively named the Rue Saint-Jacques in 1806 and variously widened and extended out to the Boulevard de Port Royal in the 1860s and 1900s.
No. 2 used to stand with other houses and shops in front of the Saint-Sevérin church was finally pulled down in 1907 for the last road-widening.
But on June 23 1848 workers resisting the closure of the world’s first workshops for the unemployed took shelter in the novelty shop No. 2 (not unlike the one I photographed in 2017 in the Rue des Petits Ponts a few metres away and shown here). The bourgeois armed guard entered the shop after them and massacred all of them.
The Saint-Sevérin church itself at No. 10 witnessed the summary execution of Communard supporters within the Church’s domed apse on May 24 1871. Many had been defending the barricade across the street at No 54 that was helping protect the Versaillais troops from attacking the Panthéon further up the hill.
Another barricade across the road at No. 195 was bypassed by the Versaillais troops and all its defenders killed on that same day during the ‘bloody week’ of the Commune.
The first student demonstration against the German occupation took place on 8 November 1940, when students gathered at the cross roads of the Rue des Écoles and Nos. 44-46 Rue St Jacques to protest against the arrest of Paul Langevin.
The Jesuit-origin Lycée Louis-le-Grand at No 123 has helped train French ruling elites since the 17th century now includes the site of the old Collège du Plessis at No. 115.
From 1792 to 1799 the Collège de Louis-le-Grand was renamed the Collège de l’Égalité. Its alumini included Danton, Desmoulins and Robespierre, but also before the Revolution, Moliere, Voltaire, Sade and after Victor Hugo, Delacroix and Marc Bloch.
Part of the Plessis college was used as a prison, initially keeping those sent to Paris to be tried or executed by provincial towns lacking a guillotine, and then as an overflow. It was here that Babeuf met and influenced Buonarroti, Joseph Bodson (or William Bodson), Claude Fiquet, Jean-Baptiste-Antoine Lefranc, Morel, Claude Menessier, Jean-Baptiste Cazin, Guillaume Massart and Mathurin Bouin and other future members of Babeuf’s “conspiracy”. They were rounded up as Robespierre’s supporters in the summer of 1794 but used the months together to develop a more radical, communistic revolutionary politics.
The Academie d’ Absinthe café used by Arthur Rimbaud and Paul Verlaine was situated at No. 176. Absinthe was banned in 1914 in France but it remained the only European country not to allow the name to be used when it was approved by the European Union in 1988.
In 1888 Verlaine restarted his Wednesday literary meetings at the Grand Hôtel des Nations at No 216 where he was living. Later, in 1891, he lived at the dancer Eugénie Krantz’s flat at No 272 before moving to No. 187, which was where in 1893 he asked her to come and live with him.
When she came back to France in October 1910, the Bolshevik Inessa Armand first lived at No. 241 before moving to a flat next to Lenin’s in the Rue Marie-Rose.
Half a century earlier, No. 241 had also been one of the addresses where the teenage Emile Zola had stayed in 1859-1860 soon after arriving in Paris.
Zola moved to the sixth floor of No. 278 in 1864-1865 when he was 24 and worked in a bookshop. This was where his first novel, Contes à Ninon (Stories for Ninon), was published.
The school for deaf children founded by Charles-Michel de L’Épée at No 254 became a centre for revolutionary republican clubs in 1848. Those based here included: the Club des Intérêts du Peuple, the Club démocratique Ibérique and the Comité électoral démocratique du 11ème arrondissement.
Further south down the street is a plaque outside No 260/262. This honours Emile Durkheim, the ‘founder of sociology’, who lived there from 1902 to 1912.
In 1979 the military teaching hospital in the old abbey was moved to a new building with an entrance in the Boulevard de Port-Royal. It was finally closed in 2016, after having treated people like Jacques Chirac, Nicolas Sarkozy and the Algerian president from 1999 to 2019, Abdelaziz Bouteflika. Marc Blondel died there in 2014.