Quartier Saint Paul – Quartier de l’Arsenal
The Quartier Saint Paul is part of the historical Marais district.
The Rue du Petit-Musc, Rue Saint-Antoine, Rue de Fourcy, Rue des Nonnains d’Hyères and the river Seine encompass it.
Most of the Rive Droite once was a vast marsh or marais, left by an ancient meander.
King Philippe-Auguste built a rampart between 1180 and 1210, before setting off for the 3rd Crusade.
This wall encompassed open land, meadows and vineyards, an area of just over 250 hectares.
It included also the few hamlets that developed in the vicinity of the bridge that linked the Rive Droite to the Ile de la Cité.
However, the Rive Droite remained scarcely populated until the 14th century, when King Charles V built a new rampart that encompassed additional land.
Philippe-Auguste Wall protected Paris for nearly 150 years, but became eventually redundant.
However, it was not pulled down and new buildings were built against it. As a result many vestiges are still standing!
You’ll find two watchtowers and a large section, all superbly restored, in the Quartier Saint-Paul. They stretch from the junction of Rue de l’Ave Maria and Rue des Jardins Saint-Paul to the rear of St Paul St Louis Church.
They are part of the Lycée Charlemagne and delineate the western side of the school playing area.
These vestiges turn the Quartier Saint Paul into one of the most picturesque and historical districts of Paris.
The area owes its name to the former Hôtel Saint-Pol, the residence of Charles V.
The king, who was passionate about architecture, bought several mansions located around the current Rue Charles V.
He drew a series of plans in order to convert them into a new royal palace.
He eventually left the old Louvre fortress for his newly built Hôtel Saint-Pol.
He also commissioned the provost of Paris, Hugues Aubriot, with the extension of Philippe-Auguste Wall towards the Seine.
Aubriot built the Bastille fortress on the eastern side of the rampart in order to include and protect the new palace.
King François I demolished the Hôtel Saint-Pol in the early 16th century and developed the district.
This enclave of the Marais fortunately escaped destruction during Haussmann‘s renovation of Paris in the mid 19th century.
It was even classified ‘protected area’ in the 1960’s.
André Malraux, the minister of Culture of the time, indeed passed an act that put a stop to the abusive re-development of the historical Marais.
Sadly, by then a few mansions had already been pulled down!
The Quartier Saint-Paul has therefore retained much of its 17th century Classical architecture and medieval character.
It boasts a plethora of ancient buildings, such as the Hôtel de Sens, but also picturesque courtyards, alleys, lanes and passages.
Medieval lanes of the Quartier Saint Paul
Rue Charles V was opened in 1522 through the site of the Hôtel Saint-Pol; the Hôtel d’Aubray at no.2 dates from 1620.
Rue Beautreillis was created in 1555 and has retained the memory of the royal gardens in its name.
The houses at no7 and no9 date from 1596 and are the oldest buildings in the Quartier Saint Paul.
The portal at no6 is one of two vestiges of the early 17th century Hôtel Raoul, which was named after Jean-Louis Raoul who acquired it in 1810.
The mansion was unfortunately demolished in the early 1960s (shortly before the promulgation of the Loi Malraux) and redeveloped with the hideous current building!
The mansion’s second vestige, the Clock with Dolphins, which dates from the 1850s, is now affixed on the facade of the new building.
Rue des Lions-Saint-Paul was either named after the lions painted in 1364 on the entrance door of the Hôtel Saint-Pol, or after the royal zoo.
The Hôtel de Launay at no12 and the Hôtel des Parlementaires at no3 date from the 18th century.
The picturesque Rue Eginhard is one of the tiniest, narrowest and oldest lanes in the Quartier Saint Paul; it indeed dates from 1367!
The Hôtel Fieubet in Rue du Petit-Musc is the district’s most iconic mansion. The architect Hardouin-Mansart built it in 1680, but it was restored in Rococo style in the 1860s.
The Village Saint-Paul is encompassed within Rue des Jardins Saint-Paul, Rue Saint-Paul, Rue Charlemagne and Rue de l’Ave Maria.
It was thoroughly restored in the 1960s and is today considered the Parisian Mecca of antique shops.
Several entrance porches lead to over 80 art galleries, designers, home decoration and antique dealers shops.
These are scattered along a lovely maze of alleys, narrow passages and interconnected courtyards.
Definitively a nice visit out off the beaten track!
Directions: 4th district
Metro: Saint-Paul on Line 1 or Sully-Morland on Line 7
Coordinates: Lat 48.852620 – Long 2.363273