Essential Architecture-  Paris

Galerie Vivienne (originally Galerie Marchoux)


Francois-Jacques Delannoy


6 Rue Vivienne, 2nd.






masonry, steel and glass


Passages Couverts- Covered Shopping Arcades 

Berlioz in Paris

 Galerie Vivienne

    The Galerie Vivienne was constructed in 1823 by Marchoux, at the time president of the Chambre des Notaires; he acquired for this purpose no. 6 rue Vivienne, no. 4 rue des Petits Champs, and the Passage des Petits-Pères, which were all joined together in a single complex just behind the Bibliothèque Nationale. Initially called after Marchoux, the arcade soon changed its name to Galerie Vivienne and was opened to the public in 1826 as a commercial area that housed fashionable shops. Because of its central location it quickly became very popular and was much frequented.

    While Berlioz was locked in the buildings of the Institut de France writing his cantata La Mort de Sardanapale for the Prix de Rome of 1830, the July revolution broke out; as soon as he had finished his cantata, Berlioz went out in the streets of Paris to share in the extraordinary atmosphere. In his Memoirs (ch. 29) he gives a vivid description of those heady days. One event he relates in detail is his leading of the crowds assembled in the Galerie Vivienne, recently opened, in a singing of the Marseillaise, which he had just arranged for chorus and orchestra. At first the crowd did not respond to the singing of Berlioz’s small group, but then, as Berlioz relates: 

At the 4th stanza I could no longer contain myself and shouted "For God’s sake, sing!" The crowd then roared their Aux armes, citoyens! with the precision and power of a trained choir. You must remember that the arcade which ends at the rue Vivienne was full, that the one leading to the rue Neuve-des-Petits-Champs was also full, as was the area of the central dome, and that these four or five thousand voices were packed in a reverberant area that was closed, to the right and the left by the wooden shutters of the shops, above by the glass of the roof, and below by the flagstones of the arcade. Remember also that the majority of these men, women, and children were still breathless with the excitement of the previous night’s fighting. You can then imagine the impact of this electrifying refrain. For myself, I literally fell to the ground, and my little band of singers, terrified by this explosion, was struck completely dumb, like birds after a thunderclap.

Inside the arcade

The entrance on the side of rue des Petits Champs

The entrance to the arcade on the side of rue Vivienne

The above entrance in 1825

A historical notice on the Galerie 
outside one of the entrances

© 2000-2006 (unless otherwise stated) Michel Austin and Monir Tayeb for all the photos, engravings and information on this and other Berlioz in Paris pages 

Special thanks to the Hector Berlioz in Paris website.

This is the best-preserved of the famed 19th-century shopping arcades in Paris. The Neo-classic bas-reliefs and luxurious star patterns in the Italian mosaic floor are particularly impressive to modern eyes. But watch your step: the different varieties of stone have worn unevenly over the past 160 years. The floor’s creator, G. Facchina, cleverly tiled his name and Paris address into several thresholds around the Galerie in a decorative act of self-promotion. I often wonder if it worked. Above his floor, the walls are decorated in a celebration of commerce, with carved cornucopia, anchors, wheat, and beehives; unlike many Paris arcades, which have fallen into shabbiness, here the paint is fresh and the glass roof is clean. Structurally, the arcades’ iron frames support panels of glass that allow light into the interior space, much like a greenhouse. Several of the roof panels even open to allow fresh air to circulate. Iron beams are really the first artificial construction material introduced into European building, which makes architecture of the 1820s and onwards consistently revolutionary. These passageways were especially radical at night, when they were illuminated by the very latest technology: gas lamps. Artists and writers of the time were amazed and delighted by these “worlds in miniature,” where Parisians could escape the dangerous and muddy streets, show off their fine clothes, and window-shop for the first time. When the Galerie Vivienne first opened, its tenants included a bookshop, a printshop and an elegant restaurant called the Grignon; today, not that much has changed. There are luxury boutiques and a bookshop nestled under the clock flanked by winged Grecians. Sadly, these passages didn’t hold sway for very long; they were soon displaced by the much larger and more alluring department stores. But even today, the largest French department store has kept an arcade reference in its name: Galeries Lafayette.


By Lisa Pasold (Special thanks to