Passage du Clos Bruneau

Passage du Clos Bruneau Paris 75005

I’m going to let you in on a little secret about Paris topography. The streets you see in front of you are just the surface; there are often entire old worlds discreetly hidden behind the facades of elegant Haussmann buildings that line the streets today- especially in the older areas of Paris like the Marais or the 5th arrondissement.

Walking through an open doorway or passage like this one can often give you the impression you stepped back into time. Here on the Rue des Écoles between Rue Monge and Rue Saint Jacques there is a secluded staircase only a few steps high, marked by a sign that says Passage du Clos Bruneau.

All that remains today is a short alleyway, but prior to the 12th century this was the location of a vineyard before becoming the Rue Judas in 1248, and finally the Rue du Clos Bruneau in 1838. Eventually the grapevines were replaced by books and printers to serve knowledge hungry students as more and more universities popped up in this neighborhood.

Rue Judas seen from the Delisle map dated 1716

When the Latin Quarter found itself modernized in the mid-19th century, the wide and illustrious Rue des Écoles bulldozed through the narrow medieval streets that once used to run through here, erasing them and all the history they were built on.

Rue du Clos Bruneau in 1865 during construction of Rue des Ecoles, taken by Charles Marville.

The Rue du Clos Bruneau was fortunate and instead of being entirely demolished; it was just shortened and hidden behind the grand Haussmann buildings you see on the Rue des Écoles today. But not all was lost!

If you look at old photos taken before this area was leveled, you can still see a few surviving buildings that were spared, giving you a rare glimpse into pre-Haussmann Paris when you take this hidden passage detour. Look closely at the old photo and see if you can recognize the same buildings that remains today from the 1865 photo taken by Charles Marville. Match and compare the colored arrows.

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