Disregarded Angels and Hidden Gardens
Yesterday at Parler Paris Après Midi, Rosemary Flannery talked with enthusiasm about her discovery of angels in Paris that all began with a sculpture she saw regularly of a winged woman at the top of a column in the Parc Monsouris. Intrigued by the majestic sculpture, with its colossal wings, a feminine figure, capped by a fetching helmet (I take liberty in using some of her elegant description), she began to research other sculptures of a similar nature, their angel-like character being the basis for her investigation.
The ‘not-a-seat-in-the-house’ crowd was enthralled by her slide show of angels of the Marais and tales of those we often don’t even notice even when passing them daily — true for me as on my corner are a pair of boy-girl angels I pass many times a day and never have noticed before…until Rosemary pointed them out in her book, “Angels of Paris.”
The point is, we should all be paying a lot more attention to our beautiful environment! No one questions that Paris is one of the most beautiful cities in the world (if not the most), and there is so much more to discover that it takes many lifetimes, not just one.
Coincidentally in Rosemary’s talk, she mentioned a hidden garden within the walls of the National Archives that I discovered just two days earlier, thanks to two other friends who also came across it, independently of one another! (Things do seem to happen in ‘threes,’ don’t they?)
This is where one can meditate or make love, right in the very heart of Le Marais, hidden behind the tall walls of the National Archives. Again, another spot on my constant route never to have been seen before now, although it opened to the public in 2011. Inside the Hôtel de Soubise, the 8,000 square meters of gardens is made up of four gardens, formerly owned by different mansions: the Hôtels of Rohan, d’Assy, Breteuil, Fontenoy and Jaucourt.
Louis Benech, a well-known French garden architect, reshaped the gardens for the city. He can also boast of having worked on more than 250 projects, including the Tuileries Gardens, the gardens of the Elysée Palace, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs gardens and many others around the world.
One may enter the National Archives garden from any of the four bordering streets: Enter at 60 Rue des Francs-Bourgeois and cross the impressive courtyard of the Hôtel de Soubise to take the entrance on your right. Go through the small alley (ruelle de la Roche), which is one of the oldest streets of Paris — once a passageway between the current rue des Archives and rue Vieille-du-Temple. Or enter from rue Vieille-du-Temple on the east, from rue des Quatre-Fils on the north and as we did, from rue des Archives on the west.
You will feel you have entered into another world at another time…romantic, yet urban, wild yet refined. And it’s historical ground. The archives themselves are scheduled to move into a new building in Pierrefitte-sur-Seine, in the northern suburbs of Paris sometime this year, but these buildings currently include the original Declaration on the Rights of Man and of the Citizen dating from 1789, letters from Louis XVI and a papyrus dated AD 625 issued by King Chlotar II.
Pools of water will separate the offices from the archives the new building designed by Italian architects Massimiliano and Doriana Fuksas, but will that contemporary design compare to the secret gardens of the Hôtel de Soubise? Fortunately, the Marais facility will remain the center for pre-French Revolution archives as well as for Paris notarial records, whereas the new building will keep 60 kilometers of contemporary serial archives and the gardens will be around for a long time to come…as long as we don’t forget they are there!
Note: To read all about yesterday’s Après Midi and see the photos, visit Parler Paris Après Midi.
A la prochaine…
Director of The Adrian Leeds Group, LLC
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