Snail's Postcard Post

Le Quatorze Juillet


On July 14, 1789, the people of Paris signaled the end of the French monarchy. Not only does this date mark a huge celebration in France, but, like its revolutionary contemporary in the United States, July 4, 1776, the date sent a message to the world that countries could exist without royal rule, and continues to inspire us to pursue equality for all. 

In May 1789, the house of the French parliament representing 97% of the population (those who were not nobles or clergy), the Third Estate, declared itself a separate government. Yes, it was quitting the band and going solo, swearing its fame would drown out the old group. Of course, the First (clergy) and Second (nobles) Estates and King Louis XVI tried to crush the Third Estate’s new National Assembly, prompting many revolts, particularly in France’s intellectual and impoverished center of Paris.

Supposedly to enforce order in the capital, the city leaders formed a military police force, the Permanent Committee. But one wonders where the Permanent Committee’s loyalty lay when, on July 14, the officers organized the Paris populace to capture the Invalides and the Bastille, two royal armories, so the Permanent Committee could steal the arms therein.

The Bastille had previously been, not only an armory, but a state prison. Though it only held seven prisoners by the summer of 1789 (five forgers and two lunatics), the storming of Paris’ symbolic prison was a self-freeing act representing triumph over despotism. (In this spirit, modern French presidents have spent Bastille Day pardoning people for minor violations.) In response to the storming of the Bastille and the Invalides, Louis XVI resigned his kingship, and you know the rest. 

IMG_6109The Pont Neuf with the Court of Cassation and the Conciergerie. 

These two buildings are part of the Palais de Justice, Paris’ governmental complex since Medieval times. Still used by France’s high court, the Court of Cassation was home to the Parlement (no typo) of Paris (the government before the French Revolution’s National Assembly). From 1793-95, in the Reign of Terror, the Revolutionary Tribunal set up shop in the neighboring Conciergerie, a prison then, as it had been since the Middle Ages. Whether prisoners were to be freed or beheaded (there were no in-between sentences), with the Tribunal under the same roof as the prisoners, verdicts could be carried out rapidly. The Tribunal sent nearly 2,600 prisoners directly from the Conciergerie to the guillotine, including Marie Antoinette, and, ironically, Robespierre, who’d sentenced Danton, who’d sentenced the Girondins.

The famous Pont Neuf, despite its name (New Bridge), is Paris’ oldest existing bridge across the Seine, completed in 1607. 


IMG_6122This public park, modeled on thematic English gardens, was commissioned by Phillippe d’Orleans, Duke of Chartres, a cousin of King Louis XVI. It was completed in 1779, just ten years before the Revolution. 

IMG_6140IMG_6142I absolutely love this portrait, and yet I can’t say the same for either the painter or the subject. Born in 1748, Jacques-Louis David was involved in the French Revolution at the extremist, retroactive end. A friend of Robespierre, he was essentially a dictator of art during the French Republic. Imprisoned after Robespierre’s beheading, he found another political idol in Napoleon I, leading to the development of his masterful Empire Style.With the defeat of Napoleon in 1815, David exiled himself to Brussels where, like many of Napoleon’s loyalists, he lived for the rest of his life (till 1825). This postcard features his portrait of fellow ex-pat, Turenne, one of Napoleon’s officers.

IMG_6112Hermes with Pegasus at the Place de la Concorde



Completed in 1914, the Sacré-Coeur (Sacred Heart) Basilica was not able to be consecrated until WWI was over. 

IMG_6115Gargoyles of Notre DameIMG_6116The gargoyle seems to be taking a timid look at the city below to see if the Nazis are gone. This French Ministry of Culture photograph was taken around 1945. The German occupation of France would have just ended. IMG_6118

South Rose Window of Notre Dame de Paris

One of the finest examples of Gothic architecture in Europe, Notre Dame was built over the course of a century and a half, from 1163 to 1345. It was one of the first buildings in the world with flying buttresses, and it is graced with three rose windows. The windows are very precious because all the other rose windows in France have been ravaged by war and weather. Some have been taken out completely, while art historians have restored others. Notre Dame’s Rose Windows, however, each still contain original glass. IMG_6119

Nave of Notre DameIMG_6120

View of Notre Dame from the Square René Viviani, named for the Prime Minister who served the first year of WWI. Viviani sought to protect the rights of socialists and union workers.  IMG_6121Paper-good souvenir stalls outside Notre Dame photographed for a souvenir paper-good (a postcard). I’m tickled by the post-modernism.IMG_6125IMG_6126From a former French teacher. 
 For breakfast I ate pain au chocolat(chocolate filled croissant), raisin bread toast, a croissant and two baguettes with jam and butter. For lunch I ate a good macaroon at a cafe called Carette that I went to with my  girlfriend Fiona.IMG_6127IMG_6128

(from a French tutor’s advertisement postcard)IMG_6129IMG_6130IMG_6131

From Grandma and Grandpa Snail’s friends in 1977IMG_6132IMG_6133IMG_6134IMG_6138IMG_6139

This entry was published on July 14, 2013 at 7:06 pm. It’s filed under Europe, Historical and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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