Galeries Lafayette, a Parisian icon

Galeries Lafayette - Main hall under the cupola
Main hall under the cupola

The Galeries Lafayette is one of the great Parisian temples of fashion and luxury!

It is also one of the most popular stores with the foreign clientele, mostly from Asia and America.

Indeed, tour operators from all around the world traditionally organize a shopping spree at the Galeries Lafayette for their clients to stock up on luxury goods!

They also rave at the store’s stunning stained-glass cupola!

So let’s forget shopping for 5 minutes.

There’s plenty information about this on the Galeries Lafayette’s official site.

Instead we’d like to tell you about the history and exceptional beauty of this once modest store that has become one of Paris’ icons!

Quartier de la Chaussée d’Antin

The Galeries Lafayette are located in a block of buildings encompassed within Rue de la Chaussée d’Antin, Rue St. Lazare and Rue Caumartin.

It’s therefore located right in the heart of the Chaussée d’Antin District.

This enclave on the Right Bank remained a vast marsh until the 17th century when the first mansions were built.

Galeries Lafayette loggias

Among these was the property of the Duc d’Antin.

The Chaussée d’Antin (chaussée is an obsolete term for street) was his property’s private access lane.

Louis Antoine de Pardaillon de Gondrin Duc d’Antin was the Surveyor General of the King’s Works.

But most of all, he was the son of King Louis XIV and Madame de Montespan!

His estate was declared State property during the French Revolution.

It was then developed with middle class accommodations in the decades that followed. The Quartier de la Chaussée d’Antin soon became to expensive for small trades.

Innkeepers and craftsmen were therefore forced to move farther north, towards the more affordable Boulevards de Clichy and Pigalle.

Paris expanded and developed rapidly during the 19th century!

New buildings and new shops and stores appeared; the Galeries Lafayette were among those!

Galeries Lafayette – From a modest shop to an iconic department store

It all started in 1893 when Théophile Bader and Alphonse Kahn bought a modest fashion shop in the Quartier de la Chaussée d’Antin.

This store stood at the corner of Rue de la Chaussée d’Antin and Rue Lafayette.

Galeries Lafayette loggias and cupola
Loggias and cupolas

The two associates founded the Galeries Lafayette in 1894 and simply named their newly founded store after the street!

The store boasted a fantastic location.

Indeed, it was just at the rear of the Opéra Garnier and a stone’s throw from the Grands Boulevards, the Paris Mecca of entertainment.

It therefore enjoyed immediate success.

In 1896 the founders bought the building at no1 Rue Lafayette in order to enlarge their store.

Bader and Kahn registered the brand name Galeries Lafayette in 1900.

In 1905 they purchased the buildings at nos38-40-42 Boulevard Haussmann and no15 Rue de la Chaussée d’Antin.

They then commissioned the architects George Chedanne and Chanut with the design of the current store.

This store boasts the stunning Art Nouveau stained-glass cupola that was unveiled on October 8, 1912.

Galeries Lafayette’s stained-glass cupola

Nothing was spared for the decoration of the building!

Galeries Lafayette cupola

We can easily say that the interior of the Galeries Lafayette is a tribute to Art Nouveau!

The breathtaking stained-glass cupola – or verrière in France – caps the central hall and rises 43m above floor level.

Amber and vermilion coloured lighting was placed at the rear of the bays in 2012 on the occasion of the cupola’s centenary.

The artist Yann Kersalé created this lighting.

It projects a soft yet warm light that immediately attracts you towards the centre of the Grand Hall.

Then you look up and discover the breathtaking neo-Byzantine cupola and suddenly forget about the surrounding shops!

The 10 bays of the cupola are adorned with translucent stained-glass panes decorated with elaborate patterns.

The arched metal frame supporting the bays consists of double branches adorned with floral motifs that enclose colourful stained-glass panes.

Galeries Lafayette - Detail decoration
Detail decoration

The centre of the cupola is topped by a small dome adorned with coloured stained-glass panes .

It resembles a giant flower.

Ten concrete pillars, that form ten loggias laid out over four floors, support it.

Each loggia ends with a wrought iron balcony overhanging the main hall.

Balconies and ceilings are lavishly decorated with a profusion of carved and painted floral patterns.

The decoration is simply amazing and you can’t appreciate its quality and sophistication in a glance.

You keep looking back and suddenly discover a detail you previously overlooked, then you notice more as you scan the place…

The best artists of the Art Nouveau era were commissioned for the creation of this masterpiece.

Galeries Lafayette - Behind the glass cupola
Behind the glass cupola

Edouard Schenck (who also worked on the Samaritaine) designed the floral motifs of the cupola’s metal arches.

The master glassmaker Jacques Grüber created the wonderful stained-glass panes.

We owe the ironwork of the balconies and banisters to Louis Majorelle.

Grüber and Marjorelle were the co-founders of the Ecole de Nancy, an art school considered the spearhead of French Art Nouveau.

The stained-glass cupola of the Galeries Lafayette is obviously classified Historical Monument.

So when you visit the Galeries Lafayette, shop till you drop, but don’t forget to look up!

Opening hours: Mon-Sat: 9.30am – 8pm – Thur until 9pm

Directions: 9th district – no4 Boulevard Haussmann
Metro: Chaussée d’Antin-Lafayette on Lines 7,9 or Trinité on Line 12 or Opéra on Lines 3,7,8
RER A station Auber
Bus 21/21/22/42/53/68/81/95
Coordinates: Lat 48.873389 – Long 2.330794

Discover the stunning cupola on the short video below…

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