Fontaine des Innocents, Paris

3.5
#723 of 2,938 in Things to do in Paris
Louvre, Paris. Brooklyn Museum Archives, Goodyear Archival CollectionThe Fontaine des Innocents is a monumental public fountain located on the place Joachim-du-Bellay in the Les Halles district in the 1st arrondissement of Paris, France. Originally called the Fountain of the Nymphs, it was constructed between 1547 and 1550 by architect Pierre Lescot and sculptor Jean Goujon in the new style of the French Renaissance. It is the oldest monumental fountain in Paris.HistoryThe fountain was commissioned as part of the decoration of the city to commemorate the solemn royal entry of King Henry II into Paris in 1549. Artists were commissioned to construct elaborate monuments, mostly temporary, along his route, from the Port Saint-Denis to the Palais de la Cité, passing by le Châtelet, the Pont Notre-Dame and the Cathedral. The fountain was placed on the site of an earlier fountain dating to the reign of Philip II of France, against the wall of the Saints Innocents Cemetery, at the corner of rue Saint Denis (where the King's procession passed) and rue aux Fers (today's rue Berger), with two façades on one street, one façade on the other. It was to serve as a fountain as well as a grand reviewing stand for local notables; it resembled the walls of a large residence, with water taps along the street at the street level, and a stairway to the loggia on the upper level, where officials stood on the balcony to greet the King. Its original name was the Fountain of the Nymphs.
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  • Originally called the Fountain of the Nymphs, the Renaissance Fountain of the Innocents was built during the reign of King Henry II as a replacement for an older fountain. Classified as a historical monument since 1862, it is the work of architect Pierre Lescot and sculptor Jean Goujon, who gave Paris its first architectural public fountain. Originally backed by the Church of the Saints-Innocents, at the corner of Rue aux Fers (now Berger Street) and Saint-Denis Street, it consisted of three facades with Corinthian ordinance arches enclosed in pilasters with each a nymph. The fountain was moved and rebuilt from scratch in the middle of the Place des Innocents (now Joachim Square of the Bellay) transformed into a fruit and vegetable market after the destruction of the Church of the Saints-Innocents and the transfer of the bones of the cemetery at the Catacombs, and four architects, assisted by the sculptor Antoine Pajou, gave it the form of a small quadrangular temple set on a very high base, a temple pierced by four open arches whose axes intersect, completing the fourth façade by new naiads inspired by Jean Goujon. Each of the facades has a triangular pediment topped with an attic with a bas relief paying homage to the deities of the fountains, and the monument ends with a hemispheric dome. Eight beautiful dwarfs occupy the inter-columns, which frame, in the middle of the temple, a bronze cauldron on a pedestal, from which escapes in tablecloths the water that falls over the threshold of each arcade, descending a series of 6 half-tanks in stairs attached to the base, to feed a circular basin whose fountain occupies the mitan. After the transfer of the market to the Halles de Baltard, the architect Gabriel Davioud moved the fountain a few meters so that this small monument would become the central ornament of the square. The fine features of the characters, the rendering of the drapes of their clothes, the grace and elegance of the naiads, the admirable sculpture work it represents, make the Fountain of the Innocents a small architectural masterpiece. It is a pity that no cleaning of the fountain is carried out in order to rid it of all its stains (including tags) and to bring to light all its beauty.
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  • Not far from the church of Saint-Eustache, in the heart of the old Halles, this fountain, several times moved, is worth a stop to admire the sculptures of Jean Goujon
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  • A must see historical landmark in Paris. It’ amazing when the water running, and amazing the fact how many centuries it survived.
  • Landmark in a lively neighborhood. Good to sit around the sides with a beer on a sunny summer day or with a hot chocolate during wintertime
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