ONTAIGNE, the celebrated French moralist of the sixteenth century, loved Paris with the devotion of a child for his mother. "Paris," he wrote, "has had my heart since my youth; and it has been with it, as with all good things, the more I have seen of other fine cities, the more this one has gained and chained my affections. I love it tenderly; I love even its warts and stains."
And why, at that time, did Montaigne so greatly love Paris? The splendid boulevards, created in our day as by magic, then were not. There were no such streets as those of Rivoli, La Paix, Quatre Septembre, and a hundred more equally beautiful; no gigantic hotels, symmetrical in design and rich in architectural adornments; no parks comparable to those of the Bois de Boulogne and Monceaux. The actual Louvre, the façade of which was begun in 1666, after drawings by Claude Perrault, and finished in 1670, — then presented the far from attractive aspect of a feudal castle, defended on the side of Saint Germain l’Auxerrois by a moat fed from the Seine. The Chateau des Tuileries, built by Catherine de Medicis in 1564, and deserted by her at the instance of we know not what astrologer, was then separated from the garden by a street; and the garden itself—in no wise suggesting what it would become in 1665, under the hands of André Le Nôtre — Was protected by a strong wall and a bastion. The Marché aux Chevaux, where the minions of Henry II. fought the retainers of the Due de Guise, was still unaltered, waiting for the accession of Henry IV. to become the Place Royale. The Palais du Luxembourg, founded some years later by Marie de Medicis, was not even thought of, and a far from pretentious dwelling marked the site of the to be stately pile. Nor was any hint given of the Palais Royal which was to arise in 1625, on the invocation of the architect Jacques Le Mercier, for the habitation of the Cardinal de Richelieu. The Quais, built of coarse brickwork, were as meagre in extent as they were poor in quality; there were only three on the right bank of the Seine, one on the left, and on the island of La Cité none at all. Bridges were mainly conspicuous by their absence; but four crossed the river — the Pont Notre Dame, the Petit Pont, the Pont au Change, and the Pont Saint Michel. Besides the two Italian theatres of Albert Ganasse and of the Gelosi, there was one French theatre, — the Hôtel de Bourgogne, — at which the "Confrères de la Passion" and the "Enfants Sans Souci" played under the direction of the "Prince des Sots." But what a theatre! To compare it even to the present Folies-Dramatiques" would be flat blasphemy. The public squares were little better than common thoroughfares, and the only walk planted with trees was the Pré aux Clercs. As to cafés, the very name was unknown: the first establishments of the kind in Paris were not opened until near the end of the seventeenth century by the Armenian Pascal and the Sicilian François Procope. Lastly, the streets were, as a rule, too narrow to permit carriages to pass in them, were wretchedly paved, and very frequently were not paved at all.
Such was the Paris of which Montaigne wrote with so much reverence and love! How poor it was in comparison to the Paris of to-day needs not to be pointed out. And yet, does not his strong affection for it, poor as it was, prove that there is about cities another and more potent charm than that which comes from splendid palaces, magnificent buildings, wide streets, beautiful gardens and parks, and the many luxurious appliances and accessories which have grown to be a part of this present nineteenth century life?
Undoubtedly such added quality, which may not be defined, but which possesses an attraction above all others, exists, and exists in a high degree in Paris. This it was which acted upon the Roman Emperor Julian, — under whose rule, let it be said in passing, the name Paris replaced the old name "Lutetia," — when he wrote, "Formerly my winter quarters were in my dear Lutetia." And if Paris was such as we have shown it to be in Montaigne’s time, what must it have been in the fourth century? It was under the same delightful but mysterious fascination that, much later, the Emperor Charles V. said, "Rouen is the largest city in France: Paris is a world." At all times, and with all peoples, the queenly city has been an object of profound admiration, and, it must be remarked, admiration of an entirely moral character. During the eighteenth century, scarcely one of the great men who made that century an epoch in the history of the world, but sojourned for a time within its gates; and none — not even the recalcitrant English — but paid it homage. Horace Walpole, John Wilkes, Richardson, Gibbon, Hume, Sterne, — all breathed with delight its rare and bracing intellectual atmosphere. "Ah," wrote Gibbon, with a sigh, "had I been rich and independent, it is in Paris that I would have fixed my residence." Hume, in the same spirit, and in drear sadness that his wish was dead, wrote, "I had thought to go and live there to the end of my days." It is hardly necessary to say that neither the great historian of England, nor the greater historian of Rome, loved Paris for its mere sensual beauty and delight; their brilliant minds were inthralled by the charm of the intellectual life there to be led: life in a society, the foundation of which was scholarship, and the cap-stone of which was wit.
But let us come down from the eighteenth to the nineteenth century, and quote the opinion held by Goethe concerning the city so loved by Gibbon and by Hume. Thus, on the third of May 1827, he wrote to Erckmann, his familiar friend, "Imagine, now, a city as Paris, where the most intelligent men of a great empire are gathered closely together, and, by continual contact with each other, are constantly spurred to the acquirement of, and are constantly acquiring, fresh information, thus fitting and forcing themselves continuously to rise to higher levels of thought; where all the most important products of nature and of art in every portion of the globe are congregated, and rendered easily accessible to study — imagine such a universal city, where every step upon a bridge or a square recalls a great past; where every street corner has witnessed a fragment of history. And, withal, do not imagine the Paris of a narrow-minded and insipid century, but the Paris of the present era, broadened and enlightened by the spread of liberals and elevating ideas, during three generations, by such men as Molière, Voltaire, Diderot, and their great following; and so imagining, you will understand how Ampère, growing up in the midst of such intellectual and actual riches, can have become something at the age of twenty-four."
The history of Paris begins with its burning by a legion of Julius Cæsar, B. C. 53, and ends with its burning by the Communists, A. D. 1871. It has been written often, but a truly impartial writing has yet to come. Here it would be over-ambicious to attempt aught but the barest outlines, for the space devoted to each country in this work is absolutely limited, and scarcely have we room to more than glance at Paris as it is now.
The new Opera House, designed by Garnier, begun in 1861 and finished in 1875, is probably the handsomest building in the world of its kind, and it occupies the finest site in a city which is pre-eminently the home of taste and the home of pleasure. There are few sights upon earth more picturesque and splendid than the first view of this magnificent temple of music. A traveller who would see it to the best advantage should walk up the Rue de la Paix, on a spring evening, and look at the last rays of the setting sun falling upon the golden lyre held aloft on the summit of the roof by Apollo, while angels spread their radiant wings, and seem to sing aloud to heaven upon every side. The gorgeous scene will burst upon him all at once, as he turns the corner opposite the Rue du Quatre-Septembre, and certainly it has no equal in architectural and sensational beauty.
The principal façade consists, in the first place, of a lower story, pierced with seven arcades, against the piers of which are placed four groups of sculpture and four statues. These are, beginning in the left, Music by Guillaume, Lyric Poetry by Jouffrey, Idyllic Poetry by Ancelin, the Cantata by Chapus, Fable by Dubois and Vatrinelles, Elegy by Falquieres, Tragedy by Perrault, and Dance by Carpeaux. Above the statues are medallions of Cimarosa, Haydn, Pergolese, and Bach. On the first floor is a gallery with a Corinthian colonnade, composed of sixteen monolith columns in veined marble, also monoliths with gilded capitals. The seven bays have balconies in green marble from Sweden. Above the colonnade, on slabs of colored marble, are medallion busts of great composers in gilded bronze. This façade terminates in an attic, richly sculptured and embellished with gilded masks. From the two corners of the building project circular frontons, surmounted with colossal gilded groups by Gumery, representing Lyric Poetry, with the Muses on one side and Fame on the other. In the centre of the building rises a low dome, and behind it a huge triangular pediment above the stage, crowned with an Apollo in the middle by Mïller, and two Pegasi at the sides by Lequesne. The lateral façades also have projecting wings at each end, and a pavilion in the centre: that on the right side, which is seen in our general view of the building, having a double carriage-approach, which was to have been the "Pavilion de l’Empereur." The entrance at the back is somewhat dwarfed by the huge mass of the pediment.
The most sensational of the groups of art which adorn this sumptuous building, is "La Dance," by Carpeaux. It has been so enthusiastically praised and so fiercely condemned, that the admirers and detractors of the famous sculptor have more than once come to blows on the subject, and there have been duels without end about it. In the latter days of the Empire it was surrounded by mobs of hooting and applauding spectators, and one night the principal figure was wantonly stained by a quantity of black ink. The sculptor’s party photographed the group in this state, and tried to rouse general indignation; but when it was found that the stain could be effaced, the riot around it gradually subsided, though not till a ministerial decree, issued in 1869, ordered the finest piece of sculpture in France to be withdrawn from the public gaze, and removed to the interior of the building. The order, however, was not executed, for M. Gunery, who was employed to carve another group to replace it, died before his work was finished.
The great staircase, of which we present a view, has also been much talked about. It is broad and stately, but the whole effect is somewhat wanting in artistic excellence. Its steps are of the white marble of Seravezza, bordered by a balustrade of onyx, and banisters of red antique marble reposing on the green stone of Sweden. The system of secondary staircases has been carefully planned. They are supported by thirty columns, made, by turns, of red granite, of speckled granite of Aberdeen, of the rose-colored granite of the Vosges, of the red granite of the Jura, and the jasper of Mont Blanc.
Ornamentation and gilding have been used in the interior of this building with an astonishing prodigality. The rarest marble and the most beautiful bronze have been freely used, and the first artists in France have been employed on its decoration. It is beautiful, from the mosaics on the floors to the paintings of the roof. The great foyer, or lobby, literally blazes with gilding, and is, perhaps, the finest room in the world. It is fitted up with brilliant upholstery, specially made for it at the looms of Lyons, and lighted by twelve chandeliers. Around it are twenty columns, surmounted by allegorical statues of the different virtues and qualities necessary for an artist. Each of these statues is executed by some French sculptor known to fame. The chief objects of interest, however, are the immense mural paintings of Baudry, the most extensive work of the kind which has been undertaken since the days of Raphael and Michael Angelo. In large medallions, above the doors and mirrors, are groups of children with musical instruments. The ten vaulted spaces above the cornices contain an imposing cycle of lyric and choregraphic scenes, completed by two long compositions on the vaulting at the ends, termed Ancient Parnassus and Modern Parnassus, respectively. These scenes lead up to the imposing ceiling paintings, the principal part of the whole scheme of decoration. On one side is Comedy, escorted by Satire, Wit, and Love; on the other, Tragedy, accompanied by Fury, Compassion, and Terror; between these, and enclosed in a rich architectural framework, is the culminating tableau, representing Glory and Poetry soaring aloft on winged steeds, with Harmony and Melody hovering above them.
No less beautiful is the "Foyer de la Danse," which is adorned by some exquisite paintings of the queens of the ballet. Here are portraits, life size, of Miles de la Fontaine, the first lady who ever danced at the opera; Taglioni, Ellsler, Vestris, Duvernay, Carlotta Grisi, Cerito, and others, with allegorical pictures by Boulange, Saint-Leon, and other celebrated painters.
The interior of the Theatre itself is decorated with similar magnificence. The ceiling paintings, by Lempriere, executed in copper, attached to the vaulting, form a circular series one hundred and thirty-two feet in length, of allegorical groups illustrative of the history of the Drama; in the midst appears the chariot of Apollo, borne by a wave of light which illumines the whole composition, and produces some striking effects of light and shade.
The New Opera House is one of the most solid structures in the world. It was used as a fire-proof magazine during the siege of Paris, and many valuable paintings, and other works of art, were deposited there. It is lighted by eight thousand five hundred jets of gas, and heated by thirteen calorifères. Its size is nearly three times greater than that of the grand theatres at St. Petersburg, Munich, Turin, and Berlin. It is nine times larger than the Berlin Opera House.
If Paris is the home of pleasure, if its latest effort has been the erection of an unrivalled temple to the heathen gods of Music and the Dance, the towers and spires of its numerous churches proclaim that it is also a Christian city. Dearest, to every true Parisian, of all its sacred monuments, is the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris, built upon the lower end of the Ile de la Cité, — the island which cradled the infant town, the Lutetia of Julius Cæsar and Julian. If the pillars of this noble temple could speak, they would narrate all of French history, from the reign of Philip Augustus down to our own time. How many great historical events they have witnessed! What a volume would such narration be! It was in the vaults of Notre Dame that the fiery Saint Dominic preached the crusade against the unfortunate Albigenses, and there, too, Raymond VII., Comte de Toulouse, kneeling in his shirt before the altar, abjured his heresy. In the cathedral proper, in 1431, Henry VI. of England was crowned, — the stately ceremonies attending his coronation being rivalled in state, and exceeded in solenmity, five years later, when an exultant Te Deum was sung on the occasion of the expulsion of the English from Paris. There, also, in 1804, the first Napoleon clutched the crown from out the hands of Pius VII., and crowned himself Emperor of France. Marriages, baptisms, obsequies, eternal oaths and vows, soon to be contradicted by other oaths and vows, apologies and anathemas, funeral orations over dead kings, who nursed tyranny and made freedom a byword, and funeral orations over the popular heroes who died at the storming of Tyranny’s stronghold, the Bastille, — all have passed from the unsearched-out into the unsearchable, beneath the groined arches of Notre Dame. Misery and splendor, joy and sadness, have crowded upon each other beneath the sacred roof. Is it to be wondered at, having such a history, that to Parisian eyes and hearts the very stones of the old cathedral are holy things?
How strange has been the history of the building itself! Where now stands the church dedicated to God, once stood a temple where ministered the priests and prayed the people to Olympian Jove. In the year 365 the heathen power was overthrown, and the building, purged by holy rites, was dedicated to Stephen the Martyr. Ohildebert, the son of Clovis, added to the original structure a Lady Chapel, and henceforward the whole edifice took its name from the royal foundation. Robert, the son of Hugh Capet, raised the main portion of the splendid church, and the apse of the choir was built in 1177. In 1182 the high altar was publicly consecrated, and Heracius, Patriarch of Jerusalem, who came to Paris to preach the third crusade, performed high mass, for the first time, in the choir of the cathedral. The interior and façade were completed early in the thirteenth century. The building has undergone many vicissitudes, having been frequently injured, and as frequently altered and restored. It has recently been judiciously renovated, and purged of most of its unsightly additions, under the direction of the celebrated architect, Viollet-le-Duc.
After those of Chartres, Amiens, and Rheims, the Cathedral of Paris is the finest specimen of Gothic architecture in France. Although some portions of it were erected so late as the fourteenth century, so exact is the resemblance between the new and old parts, that no distinction, springing from a discordance of style, is observed. From whatever side this imposing structure is approached, it at once arouses a lively appreciation of the stability and grandeur to which the mediæval architects attained, and a corresponding depreciation of the condition to which the art has now fallen. The church is cruciform, having at the western end two towers, which rise to a height sufficient to give airiness to the general effect, without diverting attention from the chief objects of the design, or overpowering by their altitude. Three great doors of entrance give access to the lower story, over which ranges a rich Gothic balustrade. The soffits of these fine doorways consist of three series of pilasters, arches, and panels, retiring within each other, and affording a depth of shadow that constitutes an essential beauty in the design. The countless sculptures with which the panels and roofs are enriched, have long occupied the attention of antiquaries and of literary men; and it has been the good fortune of Victor Hugo to decipher their mysterious meaning with more success than any of his competitors. The portal of the central entrance is adorned with bass-reliefs, representing the Day of Judgment, the work being divided into three compartments. The tombs are opening, and giving up their dead, at the sound of the last trumpet, the just being grouped upon the right, and the unjust upon the left. Upon a throne is seated the Redeemer, before whom the Virgin Mary, St. John the Evangelist, and a group of angels, are bowing in the act of adoration. On the arch overhead are Moses and Aaron, various saints, and the Saviour, treading sinners beneath his feet; the devil, the while, dragging the outcast down to hell. On the side walls, between the separated clusters of pilasters, is represented the history of Abraham; Job looking upon the destruction of his flocks by a torrent, and, in a second subject, submitting to the reproaches of his wife. The sculptures of the Porch of St. Anne include, besides many incongruous designs, the history of Joseph and Mary, and the offering of the Wise Men. The Porch of the Virgin is equally rich in carving, while the double doorway is divided by a statue, life size, of the holy personage whence comes the name, bearing in her arms the infant Saviour; on the pediment is represented the death and coronation of the Virgin. There are also bass-reliefs of profane subjects — the Signs of the Zodiac, the Labors of the Twelve Months, the Six Stages of Human Life, and the Six States of Temperature of each Year. This story is separated from the one above it by a gallery, or series of niches, containing modern statues of twenty-eight kings of France, — from Childebert I. to Philip Augustus,— copied from those at Rheims, the originals having been destroyed, with many other sculptures, when, in 1793, the church was converted into a "Temple of Reason." The chief ornament of the second story is the magnificent Rose Window, forty-two feet in diameter, on each side of which are a pair of pointed windows, surmounted each by a small closed rose. The third story is a gallery, composed of pointed arches in pairs, about twenty-six feet in height, borne by very slender columns, each arch being crowned by an open trefoil. Above this gallery runs an open balustrade, surmounted by figures of animals and monsters, and the façade finally terminates in two massive towers, some fifty feet in width by fifty-five feet in height, pierced on each side by a pair of elongated windows. In these towers were suspended two great bells. The one in the south tower still remains, and is one of the largest in existence, weighing sixteen tons, with a clapper of nearly half a ton in weight; the other was broken, and melted down in 1792. It was at the same period that the spire, rising from the transept, was pulled down, the lead covering it being cast into bullets. That spire was replaced in 1859 — nearly seventy years later by a like structure; it is constructed of oak, with a lead sheathing, and is a hundred and forty feet high. The lateral portals consist of vaulted bays, enriched with sculptures and crowned with painted pediments. Above each is an open gallery, with stained glass windows, a large rose window, — like that of the façade, — and a lofty pediment pierced with a smaller rose, the whole being flanked by two turrets. One peculiarity of the exterior of Notre Dame, which cannot escape the notice of the visitor, is the great length of the flying buttresses. These, rising from crocheted finials in the outer walls, span the whole breadth of two ranges of side aisles, with their chapellets, and reach the highest part of the clerestory walls. As an architectural achievement, their execution is admirable; but too great a sacrifice has been made to science, for they conceal the graceful proportions of the building as a whole, and convey very much the idea of permanent scaffolding.
The interior of the church, which was restored during the first half of the present century, is less impressive than the exterior, and the central vaulting not being sufficiently subdivided, the general effect is somewhat heavy. The view from the towers, the finest in the city, embraces the course of the Seine, with its numerous bridges, and. the principal public edifices in the environs. -------------------
At a short distance from Notre Dame rises the arrowy spire of the Sainte Chapelle, "the completest, perhaps the finest, specimen of the religious architecture of the middle of the 13th century." On the morning of the 22d of May, 1871, Raoul Rigault, the "procureur" of the "Commune de Paris," ordered petroleum to be poured out in different parts of the Palais de Justice, and set on fire. In consequence of these preparations, the fire spread with fearful rapidity, and before the close of the day the greater part of the palace was reduced to a heap of ruins. The Sainte Chapelle, which is situated in the south court of the Palais, fortunately escaped destruction, although almost entirely surrounded by a blazing mass of buildings. This was the ancient Palace-Chapel, erected in 1245, by Pierre de Montereau, for the reception of the sacred relics which St. Louis is said to have purchased from Jean de Brienne, King of Jerusalem, and his son-in-law, Baldwin, Emperor of Constantinople, for the sum of three million francs. These relics, consisting of fragments of the true cross, crown of thorns, &c., are now preserved at Notre Dame. The interior consists of two chapels, one above the other, the upper having been intended for the court, the lower for the attendants. The elegant windows, with their richly sculptured mullions and mouldings, are forty-eight feet in height, and filled with beautiful stained glass, representing scenes from the life of St. Louis, coeval with the foundation. The portal of the upper chapel is surmounted by a large rose window, and a fine gable, flanked with two graceful turrets. The slender, gilded spire which crowns the chapel was restored in 1853, and is eighty feet in height. The interior is richly decorated. The lower chapel consists of nave and aisles, borne by clustered columns. The upper chapel, which is sumptuously gilded and painted, contains the fine stained glass already mentioned, the statues of the Twelve Apostles against the pillars, and a handsome altar, recently restored, behind which is the Gothic canopy in wood, where the sacred relics were formerly preserved.
After the opera, which enters more into the life of every Parisian, what the fashionables of Paris prefer, above all things, is a religious ceremony; but it must be a religious ceremony full of pomp and dramatic effect: for instance, a burial, a marriage, or, better still, a sermon. There is, in Paris, more than one church — the Madeleine, St. Roch, the most aristocratic Ste. Clothilde, also La Trinité, built less than ten years ago, in the latest Renaissance style, and of which we give a view — which is quoted to you for the brilliancy of its lights, the perfume of its incense, the beautiful voices of its singers, and the number of its choristers. They tell you of the curate’s laces, of the richness of his ornaments, and the embroidery of his surplice, just in the same way as they would speak of the shawls and dresses of some great coquette. What would you have? The church does not choose to be abandoned for the theatre; she therefore defends herself in the best way that she can, and even with worldly arms. You wish for singing, music, beautiful ladies, fine dresses, good authors; here you will find them all. The church will become a theatre, the chapel a boudoir. Let us enter one of these places of worship, where everything is arranged to please the eye. It is a high day; the bells have been ringing since morning. The porters have put on their fine liveries, the ushers have decked their proud necks with the silver chains, the whole church is loaded with hangings, and chandeliers filled with wax candles; the choristers are dressed in white, the Levites have assumed their most beautiful robes; by degrees arrive the most amiable devotees of the neighborhood, — some among them but very little accustomed to devotion. The street is filled with carriages and horses, the church with the prettiest and handsomest Catholics; and wherever there are ladies, men, as a matter of course, make their appearance. For the church the costume is not the same as for the opera; the dress is less striking, the figure less shown. They do not look full at each other, but only sideways; they speak in a low voice, and hardly dare to bow to each other. They are the same people, but at this moment they are playing a different part; they are playing at the game of hearing mass, or chanting vespers. In what atmosphere are you? You yourself do not know. The thousand perfumes that fill the sacred spot have no resemblance to the incense which the priests are burning. The patchouli, the eau de la Maréchale, the sweet smells, exhale a thousand odors, which are of themselves sufficient to distract you from any idea of God. But, silence! they are about to sing — not to sing the psalms which contain so much Christian austerity, not to recite the lamentations of the awful prophets; they have wisely suppressed all these terrors; or, at least, if they still sing them, it is to new airs, little melodies, full of grace and brilliancy. That the illusion may he more complete, it is the opera singers who become the church singers. The evening before they were exclaiming, in their loudest voice, I love you; I adore you!" In the morning they sing the "Dies iraœ, dies illa !" or the "Super flumina Babylonis, illic flevimus," &c. And, wonderful to relate! if they were entirely occupied with love while in their amorous ecstasy, they are now equally taken up with melancholy and mourning in their chanted lamentations. At these delicate sounds, our young catechumens suddenly beat time by a charming little nod. If, unfortunately, one of the invisible singers happens to insert a note which is not in the scale, suddenly you see all the brows knitted; and, with a little more, the house of the Lord would resound with those sharp sounds of which artists have so much fear! This is what is called, by courtesy, a religious ceremony! Then, when divine service is finished, each leaves, looking, meantime, very curiously at his neighbor. Immediately the conversation becomes louder and more animated. People ask each other if Mr. Such-a-one did not sing well? or if he did not sing better at the opera the other day? if the curate is well? The curate passes, and is saluted with a smile, which seems to say, "The mass has been very fine."
At the bottom of these frivolities, however, you will find not only religious ideas, but religious influence, such as it is. This man, who has lived a graceless life, wishes to have, at his death-bed, a priest who will pardon his sins in the name of God, close his eyes, and say to his soul, "Depart, Christian soul!" Proficiscere, anima Christiana. Another, who has led the wildest life, suddenly, some fine morning, discovers that this is not life, — that life is a serious thing, and that he must become honorable and devout; then he recalls with transport his father’s house — the domestic roof— the white hairs of his grandfather — the smile of his mother — the happy darlings of his father, and his own joyous infantile cries, when he was but a spoiled child. Sweet and holy vision of domestic happiness and glory! At first he repulses these remembrances, as a man repulses the first approach of remorse; but again comes the sweet domestic vision, showing him, in the distance, a young and pretty wife, and lively, charming children. It is done; our man is half conquered; he does not yet acknowledge his defeat, but he does better than acknowledge it,— he loves it — he is proud of it. For, in the midst of his reform, he has already discovered the beautiful young girl of whom he dreamed — the pure and innocent youth, who will shed upon his name the sweet éclat of her beauties and her virtues. . . . And now, the altar is decorated, — the church is filled with incense and harmony, — the organ bursts forth in a thousand joyous sounds, — the wax lights diffuse their uncertain clearness; a crowd of beauties have run to assist at this marriage, of which the whole city is full. At last, here is the young couple. How pretty is the bride! What grace in her carriage! What taste in her dress! With what serious joy does her delicate little head bow under the blessing of the priest! Now all conversation is stopped — every one listens; every one looks and prays. Even the freethinker himself is moved, from the bottom of his soul. The fact is, that on the great occasions of life, the united prayer, the brilliancy of the altar, the voice of the priest, the sound of the organ, the display, the pomp, and the majesty of the Catholic Church. are not without having their influence on the destinies and the future happiness of the man who summons to his aid religious ideas. Every mind feels the need of this assistance; and in France it has always been so. When, in the height of his pride and his glory, Napoleon I. summoned Pope Pius VII. from Rome itself, and from the heights of the Vatican, there was excited around his Holiness a unanimous enthusiasm. The whole of France, the France of Voltaire and Diderot, of Robespierre and St. Just, prostrated itself before the steps of the holy old man. The pontiff, melted even to tears, no longer recognized the awful kingdom of unbelief and storms. He asked himself if these were the same Frenchmen who had caused a woman of infamous character to ascend the high altar of Notre Dame de Paris — the same Frenchmen who had, by the hand of the executioner, put to death the heir of St. Louis, the King of France; and not only the King of France, but his wife, his sister, and almost all his friends. Yes, it is the same France, — revolutionary and Christian France, — the France of the Crusades and the Pastoureaux, of Marat and M. de Chateaubriand, of Raoul Rigault and M. de Montalembert.
But we have wandered far from our subject. Not so far, however, but that we have arrived at the very temple of religious music, the Church of St. Eustache. This curious and beautiful structure, situated in the busiest part of Paris, at the south end of the muddy Rue Montmartre, opposite the Halles Centrales, is one of the most frequented churches in the city, especially on festivals, on account of the excellence of its musical performances. The organ, constructed by Cavalie, is one of the best in the world. St. Eustache presents a strange mixture of degenerate Gothic and Renaissance architecture. Its erection occupied upwards of a century, — 1532 to 1637, — while the west portal, with its Doric and Ionic columns, was begun in 1752, and has only recently been completed. The ground plan is a Latin cross, the choir having a circular apsis, beyond which is a Lady Chapel, similarly terminated, and lighted by a mock dome. The arches of the nave, choir, aisles, and vaultings, are all circular, with the exception: of the apsidal termination of the choir, in which the arches of the lower tier are pointed, but of the upper are elliptical. The proportions of the interior are graceful and lofty, and produce a good general effect. The arches of the nave and choir sustain a trifolium gallery, with double openings, having spacious and lofty clerestory windows above them, by which the church is principally lighted. The transepts, in addition to large clerestory lights, have also magnificent marigold windows in their gables. Much art has been employed, much labor bestowed, on the vaulting of the roof. The ribs spring from Corinthian capitals, false ribs being continued down to the pavement, in front of each solid pier, and three stories of beautiful and delicate columns are attached on either side.
Let us leave the Quartier des Halles, and go, for a breath of purer air, to the Garden of the Tuileries — a garden, than which, in all the world, may hardly be found one more charming. On our way along the Rue St. Honoré we pass the Temple de l’Oratoire (see page 58), a large church erected by the priests of the Oratoire in 1621, but now used as a Presbyterian place of worship. Turning thence to the left, we soon reach the Place St. Germain l’Auxerrois, and — after saluting the old Church of St. Germain l’Auxerrois, formerly the parish church of the kings — we see before us the Colonnade of the Louvre; that chef-d’œuvre, which would be reckoned in the list of wonders, save that the dry practical nature of this nineteenth century fails to take cognizance of, fails almost to admit, that such things as wonders any more exist. Delicate, and at the same time majestic, the Colonnade unites in so eminent a degree the two greatest beauties of architecture, — grace and strength, — that one is never weary of admiring it. A gate, so large that it seems to have been made for giants, admits us to the Court du Louvre. This court, if considered only in detail, is perhaps the richest and most beautiful thing that Paris contains; for it is decorated, from top to bottom, by those fairy hands, which, in the sixteenth century, Italy sent to France, as the choicest gift which one nation could make another. On every part of these noble walls the genius of Jean Goujon shines and sparkles. Caryatides, bass-reliefs, festoons, statues, colonnades! You can scarcely believe your eyes. Fancy a whole poem spreading out before you; not one of those primitive poems, which are worth but little, save for a certain wild naïvete; which shows genius without eloquence, passion without restraint, and enthusiasm utterly uncontrolled by discretion, — but one of those beautiful works in which art and taste meet and perfectly agree, in which invention is controlled by order, and enthusiasm bows, but does not wholly bend, to reason. Such a poem in stone is the court of the Old Louvre. The Old Louvre, we may mention in passing, was first occupied by Catherine de Medicis and her son Charles IX. Since the Revolution of ‘89 it has been used as a museum of the fine arts, and its picture gallery is now the most extensive in the world.
From the court of the Old Louvre we pass into the court of the New Louvre, or Place Napoleon, which opens on the Place du Carousel and the Tuileries. The absolute completion of this immense edifice, — the Louvre, — in the construction of which so many generations had taken part, was reserved for Napoleon III., by whose order the work was resumed in 1851, and completed in 1856. These immense buildings, which, together with the Tuileries, cover an area of twenty-four acres, constitute one of the most magnificent palaces in the world. Although deficient in uniformity of design, they present an harmonious aggregate, and form a most imposing monument of modern French architecture.
On the twentieth of May, 1871, the Communists, still masters of Paris, but aware of their desperate position and impending destruction, determined at one of their secret meetings to wreak their vengeance upon the ill-fated city by firing all the principal buildings. The prelude to the appalling scene which ensued consisted in the placing of combustibles, soaked with petroleum, and barrels of gunpowder, in the buildings doomed to destruction. The Palais des Tuileries was one of the first edifices subjected to these ominous preparations, and it was set on fire at several points on the twenty-second and twenty-third of May. — after the Versailles troops had forced an entrance into the city, but before they had gained possession of the palace. The whole of the west side of the building, or Pavillon de l’Horloge, facing the Jardin des Tuileries, and the Pavilion de Marsan, on the north side, next to the Rue de Rivoli, were speedily reduced to a gigantic heap of smouldering ruins, while the Pavilion de Flore, on the south side, escaped with comparatively little injury. The palace will doubtless be rebuilt, but no steps have yet been taken for its restoration, beyond the repair of the wings connecting the Tuileries and the New Louvre, the restoration of the Pavilion of Flore (shown in the accompanying engraving), and the removal of the rubbish from the ruins gutted by the fire. No edifice in Paris was so rich in historical associations as the Tuileries; but, apart from its large dimensions, it was a building entitled to no architectural consideration. Its chief defect was the great length and monotony of its façade, but it will, perhaps, be restored in accordance with the plan of Philibert Delorme, the original architect, who intended the building to consist of a handsome central mass, with wings of moderate height.
The Garden of the Tuileries, that we have entered at last, retains the same general features as when first designed, in the reign of Louis XIV., by the celebrated landscape gardener, Le Notre; and, although seriously injured during the fearful scenes enacted in and around it in May, 1871, it has now regained its former smiling aspect. A gravel, brilliant as gold, carpets the long alleys, which form a promenade, throughout the year, for the most beautiful women in the city; in the summer, because the garden abounds in shade and flowers; in the winter, because it is one of the few places where the sun shows himself, — pale and watery it is true, but still the sun. In this sweet spot, at each season of the year, all ages of life have their favorite walks, where you are sure to meet them every day, at the same hour. A long terrace, bordered with trees carefully trimmned, runs parallel with the Rue de Rivoli, and is the daily resort of the sun and the old men. The sun, banished from the garden by the large trees, or by the winter, takes possession of this terrace, which is still left to him; the old men, banished far from the large trees by the cold, come to this terrace to enjoy the sun and the lively bustle of the adjoining street. At two o’clock the scene is gay and animated in the highest degree. All the rich carriages of Paris stop and put down — not their masters, they are still at business, but — their mistresses, clad in that careless half-dress for which the Parisian lady is so celebrated. On this terrace the old man walks slowly, with his friend the sun, amusing himself, at the same time, by looking at these young women, who glide before him without deigning to bestow a glance upon him. A young girl dreads equally the sun and the old man; the sun, because of the blemishes he produces; the old man, because of his smile; she therefore flies, not, indeed, to the shade of the limes, — for Galatea chooses to be seen, — but to the long alley, called the Great Walk, where all the young men pass and repass, and which is the only portion of this large and magnificent garden which the young men and women will consent to visit. The ladies, carelessly seated upon rustic chairs, talk about fashion, or the latest book or play; they tell each other what is the newest dress material, what novel has made them weep, and interchange those charming confidences which are delivered with a wondrous air of secrecy, and which, for all of privacy they require, might be trumpeted from the house-tops. The Parisian lady, it may be remarked, has at least two styles of conversation; gossiping in the open air, and the rambling, sarcastic eloquence of the salon. In the Garden of the Tuileries, for instance, or at the theatre, they say nothing but what all the world may hear. No slanders, no jokes, nothing bitter; it is a harmless discourse, in which no one is concerned, and in which all may join. In the garden they are constantly met and saluted, in passing, by gentlemen of their acquaintance, the courtesy, although but the affair of an instant, being considered a visit. At home the Parisienne is full of grace, but, withal, rather serious; when visiting at the house of a friend she is cautious and demure: it is only in the Great Walk of the Tuileries that she is unreserved and artless. For the Great Walk she reserves her most simple attire — a fact which causes the promenade to be preferred by many to the more fashionable, or, rather, more showy one, in the Bois de Boulogne. Her object in going there is not merely to be seen, but to see; not to be admired, but to please. There she abandons luxury, and exhibits only taste, and, devoid of rivals, she has only friends.
Beyond this oasis of decorum and good taste, quite at the end of the garden, is a wood of large trees, melancholy in winter and dark in summer. This distant forest forms, so to speak, the desert of the garden. Many diligent walkers do not even know that there exists such a cluster of silent trees. You can hardly believe yourself in the centre of one of the most populous, and, above all, one of the noisiest cities in Europe, when you happen to find yourself within the shade of this almost Druidical forest. No one visits it, for the simple reason that there is nobody to be seen there.
The garden is full of statues. Ancient and modern times, — Greece, Rome, Paris; marble, stone, bronze; copies and originals are all scattered here in profusion. Continuing our course, we leave upon one side the large basin in which red-fish are playing, and, ascending a large flight of steps, we find ourselves upon the terrace which runs by the side of the water, parallel with that of the Rue de Rivoli. This terrace is cheerless and solitary; the Seine flowing gently beneath it, forming a striking contrast to the noise and bustle of the street upon the other side of the garden, where ever ebbs and flows the busy tide of human travel.
Once upon a time Paris was flanked by two great woods; we might almost say forests; the one at the eastern, the other at the western extremity of the city. They were natural woods, with roads and by-ways that had no other pretension than that of leading from one place to another. The one was the Bois de Boulogne, the other the Bois de Vincennes. The first-named was the favorite resort of the upper classes for riding and driving. Aller au bois was to act in conformity with the usages of fashion; but the aristocratic walkers came only at fixed hours; and beyond the two or three avenues which they honored with their presence, the great wood was given over to the enjoyment of folk of less social standing, who, on Sundays and holidays, after having worked hard all the week, came en famille, or with friends, to take their pleasure beneath the arching trees. Their vehicle — called a tapissière — was a whole world; the father, the mother, the children, the young people, the old dog, and the puppy, all had room upon the seats hung by leather straps. The whole was drawn by a trusty horse, ill-fed and well-beaten, which, by carrying all these people, rested from the hard work of the previous week. They set out at a hand trot, to arrive walking. What delight! What enjoyment! They hunted butterflies and lizard; they chased each other, laughing and singing the while, over the soft turf between the trees; they made nosegays, plucking the flowers, and breaking down the branches without fear of reproof or hinderance. And then, at the appointed hour, suddenly a whole banquet was drawn forth from the all-holding carriage. O happiness! All that culinary art could prepare in a citizen’s household was found in this vehicle of abundance: cold fowls, hams, salad, biscuits, pies, a nice light wine of Macon, the Brie cheese, cherries; even hay and oats for the horse, and a stray bone for the dog — no person nor thing was forgotten. The feast ended, the innocent revellers would return to their homes, having breathed air, health, and hope for a week’s work.
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© 2001, by Lynn Waterman