Monday, September 21, 2009

Journées du Patrimoine

I've spent many a Sunday afternoon looking at open houses at home. Yesterday we looked at a different kind of open house here. It was the annual Journées du Patrimoine, "Heritage Days" in French, in which the public is invited into buildings which are ordinarily not open. The lines to get in can be quite long, but are usually worth it if you're interested in architecture or history or are simply nosy and like to snoop where you're not allowed. I fit all three categories and was in my element.

The first hôtel particulier we visited was the Hôtel Amelot de Bisseuil, usually known as the Hôtel des Ambassadeurs de Hollande, in the rue Vieille du Temple in the Marais. This street has become a major artery of today's hip Marais, and the doors to this building are firmly closed, with Medusa heads carved on them to scare intruders away. I'd always wanted to see behind them, and now we could.

This building, as were many in the Marais, had been left to deteriorate and become tenements and workshops until renovations were undertaken in the mid-20th century. The pretty lady in the photo above is only one of the faces carved onto the now cleaned interior facade.

The fellow lurking over the Roman tub is still covered with the grime that remains on the walls of the front entry court. There's never enough money to do it all.

The next building is the Hôtel d'Aumont, on rue de Jouy, now the Administrative Tribunal of Paris. Again, the long history of this building, which passed through many hands over the centuries, led to its deterioration, until at last it was a dormitory for students of the Lycée Charlemagne, a high school nearby. Rescued from the teenage boys, the city of Paris has restored much of its beauty, which contrasts a bit with the modern technology found on the desks and tables throughout. Seventeenth century computer terminals must be hard to get.

This little fellow looks like he's had a great time all along the way.

This ceiling is original to the building and carries the arms and monogram of the owner at the time.

An organization called Paris Historique is responsible for trying to preserve much of the architectural heritage of the city and gave very interesting tours of these and other buildings yesterday. They offer other tours all year long, and we intend to take advantage of them. They're in French but if your language skills allow you to take one, I'd say do it. You won't regret it.

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