Square Gabriel Pierne – an unusual public garden
The Square Gabriel Pierne is located at the rear of the Institute of France.
Urban work took place in 1937 to free of the area around the Institute.
This sadly necessitated the demolition of a 16th century building that stood at the junction of Rue Mazarine and Rue de Seine.
The Square de la Rue Mazarine was landscaped on its site.
The 644m2 public garden was renamed in 1969 in order to pay tribute to the organist, composer and conductor Gabriel Pierné who lived nearby.
The square is small and quite different!
Indeed, its ground is not covered with sand, as most public gardens of Paris, but with sandstone and granite slabs.
It also contains a couple of unusual sculptures.
A controversial bronze statue, representing a naked girl, was also placed in the garden in 1968.
The Florentine sculptor Marcello Tommasi is said to have used his own daughter as model when he created “Carolina”.
Alexandre-Evariste Fragonard, the son of the painter Jean-Honoré Fragonard, sculpted the stone fountain that marks the centre of the garden.
This fountain, created in 1830, was listed Historical Monument in 1952.
The Fontaine de Fragonard is a column topped with an allegorical sculpture representing two faces that symbolize Trade and Abundance.
This fountain was initially created for the Marché des Carmes near Place Maubert in the 5th district.
It was transferred to its present place when the market was demolished in 1930.
Square Gabriel Pierne – book-shaped benches
However, the most unusual feature of Square Gabriel Pierne are its two limestone benches.
They are indeed shaped like open books resting on two closed books!
These benches are not only an implied reference to the next door Bibliothèque Mazarine, the prestigious library of the Institute of France, but also to the district.
Saint-Germain-des-Prés was indeed worldwide known as the haunt of artists, philosophers and intellectuals of the mid 20th century!
More over, this iconic district is adjacent to the Quartier Latin, the Mecca of literature and knowledge.
The Square Gabriel Pierne is therefore a secret garden; you’ll discover it if you step out of the beaten track!
The two benches and sculpted fountain are nestled among ornamental plants, magnolias and rhododendrons.
If you visit it in spring, you’ll fall under the charm of its pink cherry blossoms that stand out against the limestone rear facade of the Institute.
A few weeks later, you’ll fall for those of a sixty-year old catalpa.
Directions: 6th district
Metro: Pont Neuf on Line 1 or Saint-Germain-des-Prés on Line 4
Coordinates: Lat 48.856972 – Long 2.336749