There’s a Canonball in my Wall!

Hotel de Sens, 1 rue de Figuier Paris 75004

The Marais district of Paris is a goldmine of really old buildings, and the Hotel de Sens, situated next to the Seine; has the honor of being one of the oldest original gangstas of flamboyant gothic Paris architecture still standing.

Before it came to be known as the LGBF/Jewish quarter of Paris, this area was home to French royalty and the medieval palace and domaine of Saint Pol, which was eventually demolished when the Louvre became home to the Kings.

Location of the now gone hôtel Saint-Pol on the Bale map from 1552

The Hotel de Sens was built from 1475 to 1519 by Tristian de Salazar as the residence for the Archbishop of Sens. Now, what the hell is an archbishop you ask? There’s a lot of boring religious vocabulary to sort through to understand this, but to dumb it down for my special readers, here’s a little summary I’d like to call

RELIGIOUS CATHOLIC HIERARCHY VOCAB MADE EASY – to start with, we got the head honcho- THE POPE, elected by God, the College of Cardinals, and Chuck Norris. Now the title of POPE is just a fancy way of saying the Bishop of Rome, who controls all the other bishops/archbishops thus leading the Catholic Church. (You still with me?) So since the 2nd century, in the Roman Catholic church; each geographical area is divided into a diocese/archdocese, which is controlled by either an Archbishop or Bishop. An Archbishop has an Archdiocese of importance, where a Bishop simply controls your regular Joe Shmoe diocese. This is just the basics, there’s obviously more finer details but I don’t want to bore you to death.

ANYWAYS, back to 16th century France- Paris wasn’t a big enough hotshot in the Catholic community to be its own Archdiocese, so it was under the jurisdiction of Sens; which is a quaint and old AF city about 100km south-west of Paris. The Archbishop of Sens had his main digs in Paris until 1622 when Paris took over the Archdiocese reigns, thus reducing the power of the Archbishop of Sens who eventually handed over ownership of the hotel to the new Archbishop of Paris Jean-Francois de Gondi, who preferred to reign over Paris elsewhere.

Jean-Francois de Gondi, the first Archbishop of Paris, 1622

The Hotel was then rented to wealthy nobles before it became national property in 1790 at the start of the French Revolution. There are a few remarkable things to take note abou the history of this cute little fortress, but one of my favorites is the small canon ball embedded into the façade of the hotel.

This is from the July Revolution of 1830 AKA the 2nd less carnal but still pretty bloody French Revolution where the people overthrew the government and King Charles X. They besieged the neighborhood area the Hotel de Ville and shot canons into the old royal part of the city.

Why this dinky little canonball found itself embedded here, I don’t exactly know- but it was gracefully preserved, maybe to remind Parisians that it ain’t cool to attempt to destroy your own history. The Hotel de Sens stubbornly remained standing throughout the 19th century and was home to various factories, including one that fabricated jam.

The Hotel de Sens was declared a national historical monument in 1862 and eventually bought by the city of Paris in 1911, who financed restorations in the 1930’s. Today, it houses the Forney Library, a research library dedicated to decorative and graphic arts.

Hotel du Sens from the back where you can relax in the beautiful public garden

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