Chasing Normandy’s Medieval and Jacques Garcia’s Baroque

A day in Normandy for me means visiting my favorite Baroque folies, and seeing my dear friend, the fiery shepherdess Constanze.  On this particular beautiful Norman day in July, Constanze became the tour guide for my traveling companion and I.  Constanze knows all to well when I visit exactly what my intentions are…to see as many chateau and other French heritage sites as possible.  That is of course how we met…two years prior I was on a precise chase to find the folies she is the guardian of.  If it wasn’t for her, my dream of seeing the little Chateau de Morsan would never have been.


We started our tour in the countryside at Morsan, then made our way to the medieval commune of Le Bec-Hellouin to see the Bec Abbey, which dates to the 11th century.   During the Anglo-Norman 12th century, Bec Abbey was once a very influential abbey.  It became a ruin during the French Revolution (like most French places of dignity and heritage) and didn’t see a revival until the 20th century when Olivetan monks resettled it and made renovations.  Today it is known for it’s works in Anglicanism and the beautiful pottery produced by the monks that call Bec Abbey home.

Morsan France

Le Bec-Hellouin France

Tour Saint-Nicolas Bec Abbey

Bec Abbey France

Bec Abbey France

Tour Saint-Nicolas Bec Abbey

Bec Abbey France

Bec Abbey Church

Bec Abbey Church

Bec Abbey

From Bec Abbey we made our way to Château du Champ-de-Batailleand into my favorite era in time, the Baroque.  I’ve known about Château du Champ de Bataille for sometime.  It’s been on the list of chateaux to chase for years.  I’ve heard stories of it’s larger than life famous French interior designer owner, Jacques Garcia, from his contemporaries that are quite amusing, so naturally the idea of finally experiencing his realm was quite exciting.  Château du Champ de Bataille is of course private, so the inside and it’s exquisite antique furnishings are off-limits to photographs, so there are none to show.  There were times I was very tempted, but didn’t want to risk the confiscation of my Canon.  I can say that as an admirer of Versailles and my dearest Marie Antoinette, there are furnishings that in my opinion should be donated back to their place of origin.  I completely understand they have been collected and acquired by legal means, and if placed in the situation of letting go of one of Marie Antoinette’s pieces of furniture, I might think differently…

A detailed tour of the garden was not possible, as we arrived an hour before closing.  A tour of the chateau was the priority as the gardens are contemporary in their creation and not from time period.  Nonetheless they looked equally charming.

To understand what I’m talking about, follow this link:    The author of this blog was allowed to photograph the exquisite collection.

 Château du Champ-de-Bataille

 Château du Champ-de-Bataille

 Château du Champ-de-Bataille

 Château du Champ-de-Bataille

 Château du Champ-de-Bataille


And this is where the chase comes to a close… until the next one.

Flight to Varennes began this day 1791

In France, 222 years ago, at exactly the hour I type this post, the Royal family had finished their evening meal and were sitting in the salon of the Tuileries.   Talking in low voices, they all awaited the looming hour of ten o’clock.  Once the clock struck ten, the orchestrated plan of escape was underway and everything was left to fate.  A fate that would topple the monarchy and send Europe into a frenzy of constant struggles for the next 150 years.

It was a quarter before one in the morning of June 21st before Marie Antoinette arrived at the Place du Petit Carrousel (now the intersection of rue de Rivoli and rue de l’Echelle next to the Louvre) where the luxurious yet cumbersome berline of dark green with yellow wheels being driven by her supposed lover, Count Axel Von Fersen, awaited to whisk her and the rest of the royal family off to safety.  A feat that required them to travel over 300km from Paris in a lumbering blinged out (cadillac) of a carriage to the fortified small community of Montmedy near the eastern border with Luxembourg.  They would indeed travel over half way there before the entire venture collapsed in the little village of Varennes near the Argonne Forest.    

One of the most detailed books on the escape is by Stanley Loomis–The Fatal Friendship: Marie Antoinette, Count Fersen and the Flight to Varennes.   Every time I read an account of the flight, I have that glimmer of hope the ending turns out different–and that the little family, slowly lumbering along the countryside of France, somehow makes it to safety.  Oh how the world would have been drastically altered…yet it wasn’t mean to be.  

My route to Varennes was quite unexpected really.  While chasing WWI ghosts through the Argonne forests with my husband and mother-in-law, our guide got wind of how fascinated I was with Marie Antoinette and the monarchy.  While on our drive through the countryside, I spotted a sign that read “Varennes“.  Instantly, I knew there was a connection from my history books, but for some odd reason it didn’t register within my conscious as to why it was so familiar.  As our guide kept driving, I kept thinking— “why do I know that name, what happened in that town?”  And then there  it was…as we crossed the bridge into the village it hit me like a ton of bricks.  The flight of the royal family!  Our guide had been on the route there the entire day while showing us WWI sites…it was a surprise for me, the chasing French history fanatic!  

And this my dear readers, is how you chase history— quaint villages and chance happenings!  

Varennes France spot where royal family was stopped







Is the Past Just a Carriage Ride Away?

Originally posted to The Traveling Pear blog– July 10, 2011 after attending the first annual masked ball at Versailles….

If you had the opportunity to travel back in time would you?  What century would you chose?  As a student of history, I’ve learned, contemplated, observed and fascinated over various periods of human history.  Everything from the ancient Greeks to Napoleon and more recently—the early 19th century world wars.  If there’s one piece of human history that I’m pulled to like a magnet, it’s the 17th and 18th centuries.  Anyone who knows me would agree that if I had one wish, that wish would be to live during the days of Enlightenment when women would charm with their wit as well as with their beauty (no different from today really) and where frivolousness, big hair and even bigger dresses reigned supreme.  I’m looking at it from an aristocrat’s perspective…because that’s of course who I would have been…*wink wink*.  It’s completely ridiculous–I understand–but its my *thing*.

Knowing good and well that time machines are not real, I’ve had to make do with the occasional “dress-up and pretend.”  I’ve dragged my poor husband to every carnival, festival and “period” *shindig* Texas had to offer.  He’s dressed in a leprechaun green suite and top hat to attend a Charles Dickens ball.  He’s sweated his butt off in a fur and leather costume to be my Robinhood at a Renaissance festival.  So I knew exactly what his reaction would be if I asked to play dress up again—a look of “oh no, now what?”  He really does like playing dress-up no matter his initial reaction.

Apparently our arrival to France couldn’t be more right on.  The Palace of Versailles had just began hosting what they call Chateau de Versailles Spectacles.  Over the course of the summer each weekend the Chateau and its gardens and fountains come alive with musical events.  On select weekends the Grand Canal hosts a show called the Vivaldi Venice Versailles.   This weekend was the Le Carnaval de Versailles Nuit blanche au Château—a masked ball from midnight until 8am held in the L’Orangerie (a venue large enough for a party of 1500 of your best friends) Marie Antoinette would be so proud!  If there’s one place in the world who knows how to put on a masked ball it’s Versailles.  Louis XV’s most famous ball, Bal des Ifs or Yew Tree Ball, was given in 1745 in the Hall of Mirrors.  It was here that the king’s future mistress, Madame de Pompadour, worked her charm and claimed his heart.  Balls at Versailles were always the most splendid of all in Europe!

So, for the past few weeks I’ve done everything possible to organize this once in a lifetime dream fantasy event.  My poor husband didn’t have a chance to even complain; he wouldn’t anyway because he knows what an event like this means to me.  After tracking down quality costumes from a 100-year-old costume shop here in Paris and making reservations to stay at an exquisite hotel in Versailles, the Chef and I had a date with the past.  Here was how 2011 gave way to the legendary 17th and 18th centuries…

Trianon Palace Hotel before history takes over…

Touring the gardens and fountains of Versailles…

And when night takes the day…the past of Versailles returns to show all its grandeur, splendor and glory.

A firework show that Marie Antoinette would have loved to have witnessed on her wedding day–

May 1770

Louis XIV would be amazed at the sights, sounds and colors that were bounced around his Orangerie…

And this is where history bids adieu and the 21st century world returns.  If only the past was a carriage ride away…would you return???  I might just stay in for the ride.  

Elissa’s Personal Chase…A folie d’amour.

Originally posted to the French Market Maven May 15, 2012 as Chasing Normandy 

Photos & Story: Marie Z. Johnston

Having spent many a childhood summer on the vast and dramatic Normandy coastline, it wasn’t difficult to say ‘YES’ when invited along on an expedition to the area. The purpose of this trip?  To locate, once and for all, a lovely little ‘Folie’(maddness) built as a hunting lodge for Louis XV that my friend had seen in a book and obsessed about ever since!

Normandy Sheep
We really had no plan, just a general idea of the direction we were headed in and a desire to see as many chateaux as we could, time permitting. Our first stop was the12th century Chateau d’Hartcourt.  An impressive example of medieval architecture, this chateau not only is one of the few remaining examples of it’s kind, it is also home to the oldest arboretum in France with 230 acres of trees and walking paths.
View of the moat at Chateau d'Hartcourt

View of the moat at Chateau d’Hartcourt

Entering the grounds of the Chateau d'Harcourt

Entering the grounds of the Chateau d’Harcourt

'medieval' stairway

‘medieval’ stairway

View from the chateau to the garden

View from the chateau to the garden

Wandering paths and inviting benches of the arboretum

Wandering paths and inviting benches of the arboretum

Gates in the walls to lure you deeper in the forest

Gates in the walls to lure you deeper in the forest

Mind you this was a spontaneous stop on the way to ferreting out the ‘folie’, and while quite an impressive place, it was not the chateau Elissa had in mind.  We climbed back in the car and set off to find the ‘nearby’ hamlet where said illusive chateau is perhaps in hiding.  Elissa had done her homework well! After a couple of false starts we eventually found ourselves on theRue du Chateau and there, behind a massive, locked gate and a bank of trees, we could just make it out.

Glimpsing the infamous 'folie' amongst the trees

Glimpsing the infamous ‘folie’ amongst the trees

After driving around and around the property trying to find a way in better view of the place, we saw something red on the road, in the distance by the main gate.Given that we were driving and the something red was walking, it took but a moment for our big grey van to pull up beside a red haired woman in a red jacket with three dogs.  A few moments of conversation, a couple of questions answered and lots of big smiles later we were standing smack in front of the ‘folie’ withConstanze and her friendly canine companions.

Elissa and the 'folie'

Elissa and the ‘folie’

Pan before the fountain

Pan before the fountain

An ancient tree on the property

An ancient tree on the property

To our surprise and amazement, Constanze invited us in (provided we removed our shoes which we gladly did) she then gave us a grand tour from the ‘cave/cuisine’ to the tippy top bedrooms.  Each room was more fantastic than the next, some had the original painted and gilded wood paneling complete with portraits of people who must have loved the house in times past.  “Madame’, who owns the place, is obsessed with the 18th century and some 25 years ago spent a great deal of time, effort and money recreating the 18th century in this gracious retreat not too far from Paris.

The kitchen in 'la cave'

The kitchen in ‘la cave’

The spiral staircase cares not a lick for windows

The spiral staircase cares not a lick for windows

another view of the spiral staircase

another view of the spiral staircase

The yellow room through the grey rooms door.

The yellow room through the grey rooms door.

Constanze allowed us to take as many photos as we wanted, that said, we promised her not to publish anything particularly identifying or revealing.  So the images I am sharing with you, my readers, are only some of the beautiful details of this rather  fantastic house.

Details, details

Details, details

After viewing the house, we put our shoes back on our (now frozen) dusty feet and Constanze took us to see the much older towers standing guard independently of the house and to meet her sheep.
Open to the elements, the stone walls have turned mossy

Open to the elements, the stone walls have turned mossy

Ancient graffiti - a sketch of the village church.  Was this a stonemason's home?

Ancient graffiti – a sketch of the village church. Was this a stonemason’s home?

Constanze and her sheep

Constanze and her sheep

The sun was getting low and we had kilometres to go before reaching our bed for the night. Tomorrow was to be another day of Chasing Chateaux and a visit to Omaha beach.
We said good-bye to Constanze, the sheep and the dogs and headed off, literally, into the sunset.
A grand and satisfying adventure to be sure…. and more to come.
Horse stables of the 'folie'

Horse stables of the ‘folie’

A Bientot,
To get a better sense of what this folie d’amour truly looks like on the inside, check out the blog Trouvais.  Trish, the creative mind behind Trouvais, is as smitten with the 18th century as Elissa.  Many interior design books of the late 90’s and early 2000’s featured this chateau.  One in particular titled, Classic Style, by Judith Miller may still be available for purchase.

Versailles Private Tour…by Marie Z. Johnston

More than 70 million people visit Paris each year. That’s a lot of people.  Of that, only 3 million venture out to the Chateau of Versailles (one million in July alone!) making the odds of sharing the Hall of Mirrors or the Queens Bed Chamber with 1000 strangers highly likely.

Versailles Jump

So, of course we said “YES!” when Elissa, who happens to be an 18th century historian called and asked if D and I wanted to go on a private tour of the Mistress’s apartments. Just how private?  We were 4, plusMonsieur P (our bilingual guide) and ‘the guy with the keys’. Plus, we were going in a private car… who says no to that?

Versailles Guide

You can’t even imagine how many times I’ve been through the Chateau of Versailles– not only in the last 3 years with visiting friends and family, but over my life time. In part because my Oncle Jacques worked on the restoration; Gold leafing the molding in Marie Antoinette’s bedroom among other things  (You know the one, with the gate that kept those 200+ curious ‘nobles’ away from the bed while she gave birth) and, because it’s a fabulous (and very easy) escape from Paris by RER. (the RER is a train that runs daily to the town of Versailles every 30 minutes or sofrom various locations in Paris)

It was raining at 8am when Aladdin (I know, I know) whisked us off in his brand new mini van to the palace and dropped us at the ‘Tour Privée‘ entrance where we waited for our guide, Monsieur P. Then, we all followed the ‘man with the keys’ who led us through passageways, up staircases and down long hallways while unlocking dozens of doors in front of us and carefully locking each of them behind us. (BTW, all the light in these photos is natural as I was not allowed to use flash, and there are no electrical lights in these apartments).

versailles guide tour of mistress apartments

hidden versailles stairs

Initially I wondered what a person could possibly see to make a private tour worthwhile… it didn’t take long to find out.  The first and perhaps most striking difference is your guide.  Monsieur P is, to say the least, passionate about his work.  He first visited Versailles at the age of 11 and from that moment on, all he ever wanted to do was be a historian at the Chateau.  When Monsieur P is not giving private tours, he’s in ‘the stacks’: researching for scholars and others.  He gets to read people’s journals and private correspondence; literally snooping though reams and volumes of private papers and books saved from revolutionary fires,hidden, rediscovered, collected over time then donated or sold to the Versailleslibrary much to the delight of men and women like him.

Library book Madame du Barry Versailles

Because of his ‘all access pass’ into the intimate details of everyday chateau life beyond the public eye, Monsieur P was able to share many stories and minor scandals as only an insider can.  He knew the origins of this chair and that desk, the rather juicy gossip surrounding various portraits hanging in the private apartments, and who used the secret staircases to Mme de Pompadour‘s inner sanctum.  All of this was fuel for Elissa’s questions, which of course opened doors to places we normally wouldn’t have seen, and allowed us to look under furniture for makers marks; Monsieur P was happily on the floor with us.

Versailles furniture

What struck me the most about our visit was glimpsing the very private life of these very public people.  The personal apartments were not at all like the immense visitors rooms on the lower floors.  The rooms themselves are more intimate in size and the decor, while very beautiful, reflects personal taste not intentional displays of great wealth and luxury intended to impress foreign dignitaries.


Another interesting point is that the all of these private rooms are on the upper floors, under the roof tops where one would expect to find servants quarters.  The views are spectacular, over courtyards, gardens and rooftops.



Every stick of furniture, every painting, wood paneling and artifact is original. Pretty much all of the pieces have been donated to the Chateau of Versailles by private collectors or foreign countries.  Many have not been restored and are in remarkably good, if a bit threadbare condition.  I was impressed to learn that when a set of chairs is reupholstered or curtains replaced it is the original maker of fabrics, using the original dye formulas and patterns,who provides the replacement cloth!

The rooms which made the greatest impression on me were the places Louis XVI frequented:  The bookshelf lined, very spacious Private Council Room and the very personal Lock Making Room.  It was in the Council Room that Louis XVI decided to fund the American Revolution which ultimately bankrupt France and brought an end to the French Monarchy.  No one knows what happened to the thousands of books which lined the walls of this great room; Burned most likely.  The huge carpet covering the parquet floor is the actual one that Louis XV and XVI (and probablyGeneral LaFayette, among others) paced.  It is a recent acquisition and we were among the first to actually see it – but not walk on it.

V11 (1)

Louis XVI forge

Versailles hidden stairs and halls

versailles door  to Hall of Mirrors

Three hours goes by very quickly when you are lost in a time capsule and all too soon it was time to rejoin the real world below.  We had passed through what had once been royal bathrooms – the tubs long gone…We had traveled back in time through passageways and up/down stairways never seen by the general public.  We eventually returned to the ground floor, the final door unlocked as we were ushered back out to the main hall then locked tight behind us; No longer sheltered from modern life in an 18th century cocoon… We were free to wander the rest of Versailles, to mingle with visitors from all over the world, gathered here to experience what once had been beyond reach for the ‘common person’.  Talk about a harsh return to reality!  We headed toward the garden canal for lunch and a glass of wine at La Flotille to soften the shock.

La Flotilla Versailles


By the time 4:30 arrived, Aladdin was waiting at our pre-arranged rendez-vousoutside of Le Petit Trianon. He whisked us home to Paris with no fuss or muss after our long day of time travel.

In case you are wondering, yes, Elissa is available to assist with private tours ofVersailles.  Trust me, Elissa is a fabulous font of 18th century knowledge and while the private tour is pricey, it’s worth every centime in her company!

A bientot mes amis,
Originally posted to the French Market Maven September 24, 2012
Photos: Marie Z. Johnston

Madeleine’s Chase

Here’s a mostly photographic blog post about our Chase around Paris with 18th century French history blogger, Madeleine, from Important to Madeleine Blog.

It was a blistery cold March day, so cold I had to buy a new pair of boots just to keep my feet from turning into blocks of ice.

Day 1 was about chasing just random places…from the old Cour du Dragon passage on rue de Rennes to the Temple Prison site.

saint germain des pres


Designed in 1732 by Pierre de Vigny, the passage (where the aqua door is) became home to a mini-metal works shops.  During the Rev of 1830 the metal objects were taken to be used as weapons during the uprising.  The passage succumbed to urbanism and demolished in the early 1920s.  The winged dragon that sits above the door was dismantled in 1957 and carried off to the Louvre.

Designed in 1732 by  architect Pierre de Vigny, the passage (where the aqua door is) was home to  metal-works shops. During the Rev of 1830 the metal objects were taken to be used as weapons during the uprising…(resourceful nonetheless) The passage succumbed to urbanism and demolished , yet the entry with the dragon stood for 30 years while developers discussed it’s use.   It was finally dismantled in 1957 and carried off to the Louvre–see it in Cour Puget.  A reproduction of the dragon is the only clue to what originally was.  How many Parisians walking past each day know the dragon’s significance?

Cour du Dragon take by Eugène Atget
(1857-1927)  Looks much different today…2013.

We made our way down boulevard Saint Germain des Prés turning corners until we found the Cour du Rohan.   I had ventured here in the summer of 2011, only to find it locked.  Luck was on our side this day.

cour du rohan

A little nervous at first



Cour du Rohan

The significance of the Cour du Rohan besides the fact it’s a comprised of 3 inner courtyards all nicely hidden between rue du Jardinet and Cour du Commerce Saint-Andre (my favorite street in Paris), is that it dates to the 14th century. Inside courtyard #2 was the residence of Diane de Poitiers, mistress of Henri II (1550).  It’s also the courtyard directly behind what was once the 13th century wall of Philip II Augustus.  A tower is still visible insideUn Dimanche a Paris chocolate shop.   This was also the residence of the Bishops of Rouen when they visited Paris.  It’s also where the last pas de mule or step for mounting a horse can be found.  Interesting stuff.

pas de mule

cour du rohan

cour du rohan

From there we ventured down my favorite street and on to Place Saint-Michel

Cour du Commerce Saint Andre

Cour du Commerce Saint Andre

Take on the day we first discovered it....summer of 2008.

Photo taken on the day we discovered Cour du Commerece Saint Andre  summer 2008.

Fountain completed in 1860 and is part of Haussmann's aesthetic of grand boulevards with perspectives--each having an end point.

Fountain completed in 1860 and is part of Haussmann’s aesthetic of grand boulevards with perspectives–each having an end point.

From here we crossed Blvd Saint-Michel and headed over to the oldest tree in Paris.

In Square Viviani is the oldest tree in Paris.  An acacia planted in 1601 and damaged during WWII went it was hit by a shell.

In Square Viviani  is  an acacia tree that was planted in 1601 and damaged during WWII when it was hit by a shell.  The old gal needs a little assistance being held up.  After 412 years of producing oxygen and providing shade she looks quite healthy despite her leaning.

And on a warmer note...summer 2011

And on a warmer note…summer 2011

Across the street is this rather imposing door.  Any time you see an entry such as this, there’s always a pretty good story behind it.

This was once the entrance to the home a a really importance person of the 17th century-- Issac Laffemas.  Chief of Police under Cardinal Richelieu and later executioner for Louis XIV.  The reclining woman with her scales of justice and olive branch are the clue...

This was once the entrance to the home of  a really important person in the 17th century– Issac Laffemas. Chief of Police under Cardinal Richelieu and later executioner for Louis XIV. The reclining woman with her scales of justice and olive branch are the clues.

Crossing the street and the Pont au Double we literally had to do a double take.  We spotted this enchanting sistah as she made her way to Notre Dame.  I couldn’t help but follow a little close to snap a few shots.  438

My new interest in medieval France has led me to discover (among many things) the various areas around Paris that the formidable wall, built during the reign of Philippe Augustus II, could still be seen.  Madeleine was eager to see it too.

What I find so interesting is that this wall, which took 20 years to build, was 3 meters thick at ground level, 10 meters high, was to have 33 towers north of the Seine and 34 to the south —can actually still be seen some 800 years later!!!  That’s mind blowing to me, no?  Do the teenagers who play soccer beneath it understand the importance?  Without this wall Paris might not have been…It kept the invading barbarians out but also established an absolute monarchy.  The city itself was free to build peacefully for centuries to come, all nicely protected by these walls.

Paris wall of Philippe Augustus

behind me is what remains of one of those north towers…

what remains of one of those 34 north towers

As we left Medieval Paris and the wall of Philippe Augustus and headed for the 18th century, I suddenly remembered where to find the last remaining pieces of the once beautiful  Palais  des Tuileries that was built by Catherine de Medicis, wife of Henri II, whose mistress’s residence we visited in the Cour du Rohan earlier.  Catherine fled the Marais where she and Henri had their residence after he was accidentally killed in a jousting event in 1559. She moved to the Louvre, but then decided to build her own residence nearby in 1564.  It was actually built on the outside of another wall that surrounded Paris–known as the Charles V wall…built after Philippe’s between the years 1356-1383.  Catherine never lived at the Tuileries and actually left it unfinished.  She was frightened by a prediction that she would die near Saint Germain and well…the Tuileries was in the vicinity of the Saint Germain parish across the river.  She actually ended up dying in the Loire valley while visiting Blois, and was attended to by a priest named Julien de Saint-Germain…go figure!  She could have completed the Tuileries after all! Silly woman.


what little is left of the Palais des Tuileries.  Home to Henri IV, Louis XIV, Louis XV as a child, Louis XVI & Marie Antoinette during the Revolution, Napoleon & Josephine, Bourbons during the Restoration and 2nd Empire.  Set on fire by idiots during the suppression of the Paris commune in 1871.  It stood for 11 years after the fire until it was finally decided that it needed to come down.  Their justification was that it stood for royal power and imperial regimes.  France is awesome at trying to rewrite their history.

What little is left of the Palais des Tuileries…just facades.   Home to Henri IV, Louis XIV, Louis XV as a child, Louis XVI & Marie Antoinette during the Revolution, Napoleon & Josephine, Bourbons during the Restoration and 2nd Empire. Set on fire by idiots during the suppression of the Paris commune in 1871. It stood for 11 years after the fire until it was finally decided that it needed to come down. Their justification was that it stood for royal power and imperial regimes. Sorry but you can’t erase or rewrite history.  Why French revolutionaries couldn’t understand that is beyond me!

File:Tuileries vers 1860.jpgTuileries 1860 on the side facing the Louvre. The LeNotre gardens are to the backside facing the Arc de Triomphe Photo: from the Wikimedia Commons

And so it was fitting that once we left the Tuileries remains we find the site of where Marie Antoinette was imprisoned before her confinement at the Conciergerie.  It was after all where she and Louis XVI, their children and Madame Elisabeth were sent after the Tuileries was stormed in August of 1792.

I'm walking on what would have been one of the 4 towers of the Temple.  The blue outlines on the street are the outlines of where it stood.

I’m walking on what would have been one of the 4 towers of the Temple. The blue outlines on the street are where it stood.

Marie Antoinette and the Temple Prison

The Temple was actually a Medieval fortress of none other than the Knights Templar who built it during the 12th century as their European headquarters.  It was just one part of their compound that also included a church, garden, and various other structures.  Louis XVI brother,the Comte d’Artois had his Paris residence there…however, not in the menacing and foreboding Grand Tower known to history, but in a 17th century palace also on the property.  None of which survives today.  It was from the Grand Tower on September 3, 1792 that Marie Antoinette watched her friend’s head, that of the Princess Lamballe, be paraded around on pike.  During the Napoleon years,  it was used yet again as a prison.  In 1808 however, Napoleon finally had it razed because it had become a place of pilgrimage for royalists.

File:Tour du Temple circa 1795 Ecole Francaise 18th century.jpg

It was by this point in the day that my feet were quickly turning to ice and Madeleine was exhausted so we parted ways., and thus ended day 1 of Madeleine’s “Chasing Paris” adventure.