Maps, The Marais

“Hey There’s a Cannonball in My Wall!”

Hotel de Sens – 1 rue de Figuier Paris 75004

The Marais district of Paris is a goldmine of old buildings and history. The Hotel de Sens, which is 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 of Saint Pol, which was eventually demolished when the Louvre became the official digs of Kings.

Map of the Marais in 1450. You can spot the original Hotel de Sens a bit to the left of the green circle indicating the Hotel Saint Pol

The Hotel de Sens we know today 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 and the College of Cardinals. 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/archdiocese, 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.

1841 and 1914
photo from Paris Marais

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 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.

The Hotel was then rented to wealthy nobles before it became national property in 1790 at the start of the French Revolution. One remarkable thing to take note of is the rather unremarkable cannonball embedded into the façade of the hotel.

I admit my cannonball knowledge is subpar at best, but this guy seems a little.. small?

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 of the Hotel de Ville and shot cannonballs into the old royal part of the city. How one of these iron ballz found itself embedded here, I don’t 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. It 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, the Hotel de Sens houses the Forney Library, a research library dedicated to decorative and graphic arts.

Rear view © Pline

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