The Arts et Metiers Museum was founded in 1794 in the buildings of the Abbaye de Saint-Martin-des-Champs.
All that remains of the abbey are the church, the refectory and a section of the crenelated wall and a tower visible in Rue du Verbois.
The church was built in 1130 to replace a 6th century basilica.
The Romanesque chancel dates from that period and is the oldest part of the church; the Gothic nave, apse and chevet date from the 13th century.
Restoration work conducted in 1993 unearthed a necropolis dating from the 6th century.
The first sarcophagus then uncovered is now on exhibition in the ambulatory.
A triumphal arch with painted columns delineates the apse from the nave, which is also adorned with carved capitals and a stunning painted ceiling.
Saint-Martin-des-Champs, the first Paris church to have diagonal ribs, is a perfect illustration of the transitional architectural styles.
Pierre de Montreuil, the architect of the Sainte-Chapelle, reinforced the impressive 43m long and 12m wide refectory with external buttresses.
Additional monastic buildings were built in the 18th century.
The abbey became State property at the Revolution (1790).
The forerunner of the Arts et Métiers Museum
Fortunately, most buildings escaped demolition at the initiative of Father Henri Grégoire, who in 1794 had the brilliant idea of founding the:
‘Conservatoire pour les Arts et Métiers où se réuniront tous les outils et machines nouvelles … On y réunira tous les Arts ‘.
’Conservatory for Arts and Crafts will gather all the tools and new machines…where we will bring all Arts together’.
The forerunner of the Arts et Metiers Museum opened to the public in 1802.
The architect Vaudoyer conducted the restoration work in 1845, and in 1862 the church and some monastic buildings were classified Historical Monuments.
The church was restored once more before WWI to accommodate the over sized collections; the latest restoration took place in 1993.
Arts et Metiers Museum in figures
The 10 000m2 Arts et Metiers Museum is essentially devoted to Industrial Design and Arts and Crafts, with 6000m2 to permanent exhibitions.
It divided into seven sections, spread over 3 floors; scientific instruments; materials; energy; mechanics; communication; construction and transportation.
The Arts and Metiers Museum gathers over 80,000 objects and thousands of drawings.
It is impossible to name all the exhibits, but here’s a quick overview of some that caught my attention.
3 –Lavoisier’s Laboratory has been one of the museum’s key exhibits since 1866; Lavoisier is considered the undisputed ‘father of modern chemistry’.
4- The Automatons section contains many exceptional works of art, such as the Joueuse de Tympanon created by the German watchmaker Pierre Kintzing.
The mechanism represents a young woman whose arms, head and torso move in perfect sequence, as she hits the keys of the instrument that can play eight different tunes!
5- Cugnot’s steam driven Fardier was the first self propelled road vehicle, and is considered the forerunner of all motorised transport vehicles.
6- In 1870 Watt invented a steam engine that provided machines with a reliable source of energy more powerful than water.
7- In 1883 Marinoni delivered his rotary letterpress-printing machine to the daily newspaper La Liberté.
The machine increased printing speed by using a press cylinder and plates rolled around a cylinder.
8- The Couvreux excavator dates from 1870; it could cut into dry or wet soil and ran along a special 3-rail service channel that moved forward, as work advanced.
9- No need to introduce the loom with Jacquard mechanism that was invented circa 1810!
10- The Telstar satellite was placed into elliptic orbit on July 10, 1962, and allowed the first transatlantic live television broadcast!
11- The robot Lama was created by the LAAS – Laboratoire d’Analyses et d’Architecture des Systemes de Toulouse; it was designed to move around autonomously on the surface of an extra-terrestrial planet.
12- The ‘huge’ size of Cray-2, a supercomputer created in 1985 clearly shows the technology has since progressed at the speed of light!
13- Let’s not forget the Multiplication machine invented in 1889 by Léon Bollée.
Exhibits in the church
The church is fully integrated to the Arts et Metiers Museum and exhibits the over-sized items.
Flying machines, such as Aeroplane Blériot IX (crossed the English Channel on July 25, 1909) are suspended in mid-air in the nave.
Motor vehicles stand on a gigantic metal structure created in 2000 by the architect Francois Deslaugiers.
A staircase takes you up to the different platforms, where you can get a close look at a De Dion Bouton from 1899; a Panhard Levassor from 1896; the Helica with propeller built by Leval in 1921; a Grand Touring Peugeot car from 1909 or a Beam Engine invented by Scott 1860, to name a few!
You’ll also find a bronze replica of the Statue of Liberty by Bartholdi, but a look at its stand, it’s superb!
By then you’ll have already come across the several other models exhibited in the museum’s ‘Construction section’ and the entrance courtyard.
And… you’ll find Foulcault’s Pendulum in the apse!
The physicist Léon Foucault was the first to use a pendulum to prove that the Earth rotated on itself.
He conducted his experiment in the dome of the Pantheon on March 31, 1851.
Foucault attached a 67m long cable to the keystone of the dome and suspended a 28kg lead sphere.
The pendulum in the Arts et Métiers Museum has a 25kg brass, steel and lead sphere suspended from the apse’s keystone by a 18m long cable.
The pendulum’s oscillation period is 8,5s; it completes a full circle in 31h 47mn at the latitude 48° 50′.
It is subjected to two forces, the gravity force and the Coriolis force.
Have you seen the replica of Foucault Pendulum in the dome of the Pantheon?
Opening hours: 10am-6pm
Open at Easter Sunday-Monday, Ascension, 8Mai, Pentecost Sunday-Monday, 14July, 15August, 1st and 11 November
Free entrance on 1st Sunday of the month and Thursday after 6pm
Have a look at Foucault’s Pendulum in the short video below, its’ amazing!