Square René Viviani

The Fontaine Saint Julien le Pauvre is located in the Square René Viviani.

Fontaine Saint Julien le Pauvre
Fontaine Saint Julien le Pauvre

The small public garden was landscaped in 1928.

It replaces the former enclosure of Saint Julien le Pauvre Church.

It stretches between the church and the Quai de Montebello along the river Seine, and therefore boasts prime views of Notre-Dame Cathedral.

In 1995 the City of Paris commissioned George Jeanclos Mosse with the creation of a new bronze fountain in order to replace a Fontaine Wallace.

The sculptor found inspiration in the legend of Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre, or Saint-Julien L’Hospitalier, the patron saint of the neighbouring church.

He gave his fountain the shape of a tree trunk in order to symbolize the forest where the hermit Julien lived.

This forest had grown among the ruins of the town the Romans built some 2000 years on the Rive Gauche of the river Seine.

This town was destroyed during the barbaric invasions of the 3rd century AD.

 Fontaine Saint Julien le Pauvre

The Fontaine Saint Julien le Pauvre is the centerpiece of the Square Viviani.

Fontaine Saint Julien le Pauvre with N.D. Cathedral in the background
Fontaine Saint Julien le Pauvre with N.D. Cathedral in the background

The themes of the sculptures symbolize forest, hunting and water.

The sculptor shaped his fountain like a three-side tree trunk to represent the forest where the hermit Julien lived.

Water flows out of three deer heads and symbolizes the river, the passage used by the ferryman to take the deceased to the Afterlife.

A sculptural group representing people adorns each face of the fountain.

They symbolize the altruism and extreme devotion of Saint Julien le Pauvre, the hermit who cared for those in need.

By extrapolation, they express support and care for the others as an act of love, tenderness and compassion.

Fontaine Saint Julien le Pauvre
Fontaine Saint Julien le Pauvre – detail

These sculpted characters help their children to fly away to a better world.

The Fontaine Saint Julien le Pauvre can be quite disconcerting at first.

It might not be to everyone’s taste.

However, you might change your mind once you take a closer look.

Indeed, the details of the sculptures are simply amazing!

Find a seat on one of the benches near the fountain and take the time to look for them.

Finally don’t forget to look for Paris’ oldest tree!

In 1601 the botanist Jean Robin planted an acacia or Robinier.

Struts now support this ancient tree; you’ll find it by the front corner of the church.

Directions: 5th District
RER B station: Saint-Michel Notre-Dame
Coordinates: Lat 48.852306 – Long 2.347748

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