latin quarter, Maps

Royal Mistress Un-Finishing School

16 rue Tournefort Paris 75005

You know what I freaking love about Paris history? How limitless it is. Recently I discovered I live in the same area where a teen pre-royal mistress spent a few years in boarding school.

I’ve been in the 5th arrondissement 6 out of my 8 years here and I’m still discovering new historically significant locations like this one at 16 Rue Tournefort, a street that I use almost daily. Running laterally to the Rue Mouffetard, this quiet rue is Quaint AF with its cobblestone pavement and 16th/17th century buildings. But what is behind these doors is even better..

A secret garden oasis that dates back to the 17th century.

Rue Tournefort, not a modern building in site!

See the maps below to compare how little this area has changed in 300 years. 

La communauté des Filles de Sainte-Aure was founded by a priest in 1637 to “rehabilitate promiscuous young girls by offering them an education and putting them on a righteous path to God”. They would move to this hotel particulier in 1707 where the program to put working girls on the “straight and narrow” would grow until they were replaced with more respectable young ladies. 

This whole area encompassing the current Rue Tournefort/Rue Amyot/Rue Lhomond/Rue Pot de Fer in the 5th arrondissement would eventually welcome a few different convents dedicated to the upbringing of young society ladies. 

If you can get inside the door, you’ll see a beautiful wood beamed entry

However if its true that Good Pious Girls go to Heaven, you could say that Bad Girls go Everywhere Else. Even into the beds of Kings!
Not every Sainte Aure pupil would graduate with honors; a certain Jeanne Bécu would be expelled in 1758 after spending nine years here. Eventually she would go on to become the mistress of King Louis XV and later be known as Madame du Barry.

Madame du Barry in 1782, painted by Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun
Madame du Barry portrayed by Asia Artengo in the Marie Antoinette film

The school was sacked during the French Revolution but later returned to its religious roots at the start of the 19th century. The old chapel and a basilica that was built in the 1930’s would be destroyed in 1976 (Gallo-roman era wells were discovered there at this time) after the government gave up the rights to take care of it. The remaining buildings were modified into apartments in the 1980’s. 

Sure everyone wants the quintessential Paris balcony for the views, but if you are smart you know that a terrace is peanuts compared to your own semi-private garden oasis like this one here hidden from street view. Most Parisian buildings have some sort of small communal outdoor space, but having a backyard with a 300 year old history is worth more than a tiny balcony in my opinion!

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