Assemblee Nationale – Palais-Bourbon, the seat of the Parliament

Assemblee Nationale - Palais Bourbon
Riverside facade

The Assemblee Nationale is the French Parliament’s Lower House – Chamber of Deputies (the Senate is the Upper House).

Its origin goes back to the French Revolution.

The representatives of the Third Estate formed a revolutionary assembly.

The Assemblee Nationale Constituante ruled from June 17 to July 9, 1789. 

The Assemblée Législative – Legislative Assembly replaced it on Sept. 30, 1791.

Corridor and tapestries - Assemblee Nationale in Paris
Corridor and tapestries

The name Assemblee Nationale was re-instated during the Franco-German War of 1870-71.

It remained until the foundation of the Third Republic in 1875.

Assemblee Nationale became the joint name given to the Senate and Chamber of Deputies from 1875 to 1940.

The constitution of the Fourth Republic (1946–58) renamed the Lower House (Chamber of Deputies) Assemblee Nationale.

The Upper House became known as Conseil de la République.

Palais-Bourbon and Place du Palais-Bourbon

Assemblee Nationale - Salle des Conferences
Salle des Conferences

The Assemblee Nationale is also known as Palais Bourbon.

The Duchess of Bourbon, the daughter of Louis XIV and Madame de Montespan, commissioned Mansart with the design of the Palais-Bourbon.

The Italian architect Giardini, then Gabriel and Aubert were in charge of the construction that was completed in 1728.

In 1776, The Prince of Condé, the Duchess’ grandson, entrusted Soufflot (the architect of the Pantheon) with the enlargement of the building and the opening of Place du Palais-Bourbon to facilitate access to the palace.

The identical Neoclassical mansions that frame the semicircular square owe their architectural unity to the fact that they were all built at the same time.

Hôtel de Lassay

In 1768, the Prince de Condé acquired the next door Hôtel de Lassay to extend his palace.

However, the mansion was declared national property at the French revolution, 21 years later.

It fortunately escaped demolition and was altered to accommodate the revolutionary assembly – Conseil des Cinq-Cents – Council of the Five Hundred until 1798.

Conversion of the Palais-Bourbon

Assemblee Nationale - Hôtel de Lassay
Hôtel de Lassay

The sober riverside facade dates from the early 19th century and matches the Madeleine Church.

Twelve Corinthian columns support the portico, which is accessed by a flight of steps.

Cortot sculpted the imposing pediment in 1842,  Rude and Pradier  the low reliefs of the wings.

A gallery was erected during the same period to link the Palais-Bourbon to the Hôtel de Lassay.

The Hôtel de Lassay was eventually returned to the Prince de Condé under the Bourbon Restoration.

The prince lived in the mansion, but bequeathed the Palais-Bourbon to the French State to accommodate the Assemblée Législative.

The State purchased the Hôtel de Lassay from his son in 1827.

Assemblee Nationale - Palais Bourbon decoration
Palais Bourbon decoration

Major reconstruction work was undertaken to adapt the building to its new purpose. 

The corridors and chambers we therefore re-laid out.

The decoration of the library’s ceilings was entrusted to Eugène Delacroix who adorned it with the splendid History of CivilizationVernet painted the equally beautiful lobby.

The new Chambers of Deputies was inaugurated in 1832. 

The gallery that links the Palais-Bourbon to the Hôtel de Lassay was reinforced and an additional floor added to the Palais-Bourbon.

The Hôtel de Lassay, since known as Petit Bourbon, became the official residence of the President of the Chamber of Deputies in 1843.

Furnishing the Assemble Nationale

Assemble Nationale Library with painted ceilings
Library with painted ceilings

The Assemblee Nationale regularly modernizes its decoration.

It also buys new art objects to complement and enrich an existing collection of 1200 pieces (925 paintings and 325 sculptures).

It has an annual budget of €100,000 to €150,000.

As any other major French republican institution, it can borrow furniture from the Mobilier National or the National Fund of Contemporary Art.

N.B. The building is open to the public once a year, during the Journées du Patrimoine, a European cultural event that takes place on the 3rd weekend of September.

Directions: 7th District – No.128 Rue de l’Université
Metro: Assemblee Nationale on Line 12
Coordinates: Lat 48.862299 – Long 2.318813

Photos via Wikimedia Commons:  Riverside facade

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