The wonderful Hôtel de Ville. I remember seeing it for the first time. Coming from Perth, Western Australia where the majority of the buildings are either modern or mid-Victorian at the earliest the sheer size and extent of the decoration astounded me.
The wonder of Paris is that it has managed to avoid the faults of most capitals by forbidding high rise building within the city centre and stopping the marvellous architecture being overshadowed by foul glass monoliths or gherkin shaped monstrosities.
It is possible to get wonderful shots of the Hôtel de Ville with ever changing light and different cloud effects and I wondered at is Renaissance exterior only to find out later that the whole building was reduced to a stone shell after it was burnt out by Comunards in the 1870’s. It took 19 years to reconstruct and was rebuilt on the outside to resemble the original exterior with lavish interiors in the style of the late 19th Century.
It is hard to believe that until the late 17th Century the large square in front of the Hôtel de Ville, then known as the Place de Grève was the principal place of execution in Paris. Swanning about on the square you are probably walking where the public pillory and the Gallows originally stood and where a number of notorious executions occurred. The unsuccessful Regicides François Ravaillac and Robert-François Damiens were torn apart by horses there and the bandit-rebel Guy Éder de La Fontenelle was broken on the wheel. One of the later executions was of the famous French fortune teller, poisoner and alleged sorceress La Voisin who on the 22nd February 1680, was burned to death in the square.
Oh dear! When I started this post I didn’t expect it to become so macabre.
Well happy French Friday everyone, and should you be enjoying a stroll in the square in front of the Hôtel de Ville, do try not to think of this post.
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