St-Michel Fountain, a student’s rallying spot
St Michel Fountain and its square are major landmarks of the Latin Quarter, as they served as a rallying spot during the students’ up-rise of May 1968.
They are indeed round the corner from the prestigious Sorbonne University and other colleges.
The fountain was built during Haussmann’s renovation of Paris in the 1860s, when the Latin Quarter district was deemed insalubrious and redeveloped.
It boasts impressive dimensions – 26m high by 15m wide – as it flanks a 6-storey building’s gable wall.
It was unveiled on August 15, 1860 and listed Historical Monument on March 16, 1926.
A neo-Renaissance fountain
Davioud, Flament, Simonet and Halo contributed to its neo-Renaissance architecture and nine sculptors to its lavish decoration.
The facade is split into four horizontal sections that frame a central niche flanked by four Corinthian columns.
Each column supports a statue representing one of the cardinal virtues.
Prudence, by the sculptor Jean-Auguste Barre, holds a serpent and a mirror; Power, by Claude-Jean Guillaume, is represented with a lion and a club; Justice, by Louis-Valentin Robert, holds a scale and a sword; Charles-Alphonse Guméry sculpted Temperance.
Auguste-Hyacinthe Debay sculpted a 5th statue – Power and Moderation that holds the coat of arms of the City of Paris.
Finally, the artist Noémie Constant carved the intricate foliage patterns that embellish the pediment’s cornice.
Archangel St. Michael – the centerpiece
Francisque-Joseph Duret sculpted the Archangel St. Michael wrestling with the devil of the central niche.
The bronze statue of the patron saint of France stands on top of a rock-like base sculpted by Félix Saupin.
The water flows out of that base into a series of superimposed shallow bowed basins that are framed with two bronze winged dragons by Henri-Alfred Jacquemart.
The fountain’s red and green marbles and blue and yellow stones harmoniously showcase the many architectural and decorative features.
That said, this unconventional mixture of colours was not to the taste of all then!
St Michel Fountain was listed Historical Monument on March 16, 1926.
Directions: 5th District
Metro: Saint Michel on Line 4
Coordinates St Michel Fountain: Lat 48.853232 – Long 2.343902