Cimetière des Innocents, Paris’ oldest cemetery

The Fontaine des Innocents marks the centre of Place Joachim du Bellay near Les Halles.

Fontaine des Innocents
Fontaine des Innocents

It was formerly known as Place du Marché des Innocents, as it accommodated the vegetable market created on the site of the Cimetière des Innocents.

The cemetery dated from the 9th century and was the oldest cemetery in Paris.

It was attached to the modest chapel that stood at the junction of the current Rue Saint-Denis and Rue Berger.

The Eglise des Saints-Innocents replaced this chapel in the 12th century.

Both the church and its cemetery were dedicated to the children killed in Judea by order of King Herod.

The Cimetière des Innocents was decommissioned in 1780.

It had indeed become far too small to serve the 22 surrounding parishes and posed obvious sanitation issues.

The bones of over 2 million people were therefore transferred to an underground necropolis in the Catacombes.

The church was demolished in 1788.

Fontaine des Innocents, a French Renaissance masterpiece

The fountain initially flanked the Eglise des Saints-Innocents.

This three-side fountain, designed by Pierre Lescot and sculpted by Jean Goujon in 1549, was disassembled in 1860.

Fontaine des Innocents in Paris
Fontaine des Innocents in Paris

It was transferred to the vegetable market (current location) and a 4th facade, matching the other 3, was built.

The Fontaine des Innocents is a square pavilion topped with a cupola roofed with fish-scale shaped metal sheets.

Water overflows from a bronze cauldron and lands in the superimposed basins that form its base.

An arch, flanked by two naiads and two Corinthian columns, opens each facade.

This masterpiece of the French Renaissance was listed Historical Monument in 1862.

Directions: 1st District – Place Joachim du Bellay
Metro and RER A,B,D : Les Halles-Châtelet on Lines 1, 4, 7
Coordinates: Lat 48.860627 – Long 2.348097

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