Essential Architecture-  Paris

Place des Vosges


Louis Métezeau




Henri IV 1605


French Renaissance




Outdoor space
  The Pavillion de la Reine at Place des Vosges

The Place des Vosges is Paris's oldest square. It is located in le Marais, and is part of the 3rd and 4th arrondissements of Paris.

Originally known as the Place Royale, the Place des Vosges was built by Henri IV from 1605 to 1612. A true square (140 m x 140 m), it was the first program of royal city planning, built on the site of the Hôtel des Tournelles and its gardens. At a tournament at the Tournelles, a royal residence, Henri II was wounded and died. Catherine de Medicis had the Gothic pile demolished and moved to the Louvre.
Arcades at Place des Vosges
Arcades at Place des Vosges
The Place des Vosges is the prototype of all the residential squares of European cities that were to come. What was new about the Place Royale in 1612 was that the housefronts were all built to the same design, probably by Baptiste du Cerceau, of red brick with strips of stone quoins over vaulted arcades that stand on square pillars. Only the north range was built with the vaulted ceilings that the "galleries" were meant to have. Two pavilions that rise higher than the unified roofline of the square center the north and south faces and offer access to the square through triple arches. Though they are designated the Pavilion of the King and of the Queen, no royal personnage has ever lived in the aristocratic square. The Place des Vosges and subsequent developments of Paris created a suitable urban background for the French aristocracy.

Before the square was completed Henri ordered the Place Dauphine to be laid out. Within a mere five-year period the king oversaw an unmatched building scheme for the ravaged medieval city: additions to the Louvre, the Pont Neuf, and the Hôpital Saint Louis as well as the two royal squares.

Cardinal Richelieu had an equestrian bronze of Louis XIII erected in the center (there were no garden plots until 1680). The original was melted down in the Revolution; the present version was replaced in 1818. The square was renamed in 1799 when the département of the Vosges became the first to pay taxes supporting a campaign of the Revolutionary army. The Restauration returned the old royal name, but the Commune of 1870 restored the revolutionary one.

Today the square is planted with clipped lindens (lime trees) set in grass and gravel.

Residents of Place des Vosges

No. 1bis Mme de Sevigné was born here 
No. 6 Victor Hugo from 1832 - 1848, in what was then the Hôtel de Rohan-Guéménée, now a museum devoted to his memory 
No. 7 Sully, Henri IV's great minister 
No. 8 poet Théophile Gautier and writer Alphonse Daudet 
No. 9 (Hôtel de Chaulnes) the Academy of Architecture 
No. 11 occupied from 1639-1648 by the courtesan Marion Delorme 
No. 14 (Hôtel de la Rivière). Its ceilings painted by Lebrun are reinstalled in the Musée Carnavalet 
No. 17 former residence of Bossuet 
No. 21 Cardinal Richelieu from 1615 - 1627, 
The Place des Voges was built on the site of the Hôtel des Tournelles, which was abandoned by Catherine de Médicis after her husband, Henry II, was mortally wounded in a jousting tournament there. It was Henri IV who decided to built a royal square on the site, ceding all the peripheral residences save those on the southern side to private individuals, all of whom had to accept the following stipulations: no parcels could be subdivided; all facades had to adhere to a uniform, brick-and-stone design (probably conceived by Louis Métezeau); and each owner had to allow for a circulation gallery on ground level in accordance with a preconceived model. These rules were respected, even during the Revolution, when some of the residences became government property. Note, however, that total uniformity does not reign among the various pavilions, especially regarding their dormer windows. Furthermore, some owners saved money by substituting painted masonry for brick. But these differences do not compromise the uniform effect produced by the whole, which has miraculously survived intact. A bronze statue of Louis XIII stood on the center between 1639 and the Revolution, when it was melted down; in 1819, it was replaced by the present stone statue.

Text and illustration quoted from- "Paris, Buildings and Monuments" An Illustrated Guide with over 850 Drawings and Neighborhood Maps. By Michael Poisson. Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 463 pp, 1999.