Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Paris - The Fountain of the Innocents

A fountain can be decorative, but its main use is to provide water.

This fountain pictured below we discovered on one of our walks in old Paris. Commissioned for the royal entry of King Henry II into Paris in 1549, the free-standing version below is a representation of the original. The Fountain of the Innocents (Fontaine des Innocents) is the oldest monument fountain in Paris.


Fontaine des Innocents, Paris, by DG Hudson


The Fontaine des Innocents located in the Les Halles district of Paris was inspired by the architecture of ancient Rome. Its first incarnation was a grand viewing stand for the elite as well as a fountain complete with taps at street level for the public. It was called the 'Fountain of the Nymphs' when originally constructed  between 1547 and 1550. The architectural style in Paris at that time was French Renaissance.





Fontaine des Innocents, water flowing, by DG Hudson



For sanitary reasons, the cemeteries of Paris were moved in 1787 to a location outside the city walls and the former cemetery of the Church of the Saints-Innocents (on the other side of the supporting wall) was transformed into a public square. The fountain was saved by the efforts of a writer, Quatremere de Quincy, who urged the preservation of what he called 'a masterpiece of French sculpture'.




Fontaine des Innocents embellishments, by DG Hudson


This public square was a peaceful spot to sit and contemplate the history that this fountain had seen. Raised seating around the perimeter provides a place to sit and few tourists haunt the area. I tried to imagine the common folk of Paris coming to collect their water centuries before.  The cemeteries were moved outside of the city due to the huge collection of dead bodies that had been interred inside the walls of the church. After centuries of this practice, toxins leached into the soil and the ground water supply. This caused cholera and many deaths. See links below about the original church and its mass graves.


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Have you visited any historical fountains in your travels or in your own city? OR Have you heard of the mass graves and associated disease?  Please share in the comments. Thanks for stopping by.


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References

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fontaine_des_Innocents
Fountain of the Innocents

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quatrem%C3%A8re_de_Quincy
Quatremere de Quincy wiki

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saints_Innocents_Cemetery
Saints Innocents Cemetery

18 comments:

  1. Fascinating! I had no idea that happened with the stored bodies and water supply/disease issues! I've seen fountains in several cities but I guess I never really stopped to think about any historical or memorial significance they had unless it was pointed out in a travel guide. The one that really stands out in my mind is the unusual design of the fountain at Justin Herman Plaza in San Francisco.

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    1. At first in the cemetery, the graves were individual, but later became mass graves.

      I don't remember that plaza, so guess I'll have to visit San Fran again, JoJo. It's been a while since I've seen my 3rd fave city.

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  2. I hadn't heard of the mass graves and the disease soaking into the groundwater, but yikes. After they moved the bodies, was the fountain officially decommissioned for drinking use right away, too?

    Shannon at The Warrior Muse

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    1. I would hope so, but I'm sure the news traveled through the city. There were other sources of water, but this was the oldest well. Now, it's there for historical and decorative purposes.

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  3. Wow, that is beautiful. But how awful to learn about the source of the water contamination. Blech.

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    1. Never build your well too close to the graveyard - that's the moral of that bit of history. I'm glad we know more about sanitation now.

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  4. I just found a picture of a fountain at one of the California Missions I have been writing about. There's an inverted fountain at UCLA that is pretty neat. I'm trying to remember if there is one in Stockholm, I'm sure there must be but I can't think of one right now.

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    1. I love the fountains, especially when we know the history behind them. Most large cities have commemorative fountains, especially in Europe, Inger, so likely Stockholm does too.

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  5. I'm so glad they preserved this fountain. It's beautiful!

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    1. And it happened, in part, because a writer was supportive. . .how nice is that?

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  6. I really need to seriously explore Paris some day. I've only spent a weekend there about 20 years ago so I don't know the city at all.

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    1. Paris is full of things to see that aren't on the guidebook radar, Sean.

      In 2010,we found that Parisians (for the most part) have become more accepting of tourists. Try it again, Sean. There's more to that city than designer fashion.

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  7. Great to meet you at Susan's blog today. That fountain is beautiful. I enjoy fountains. To me they're peaceful.

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    1. I sometimes need that peacefulness, too. Thanks for stopping by, Carol, and good luck with your book!

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  8. Beautiful structure. It's good that they preserve these and amazing that so many old structures still survive. The only historical fountain that I've noticed around here is the drinking fountain in the church I attend. It's pretty old and gross and really needs to be replaced--forget about preservation.

    Lee
    Wrote By Rote
    An A to Z Co-host blog

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    1. That's funny, Lee. A lot of those in-house drinking fountains ought to be replaced. There are a few in our parks here that I don't trust, either.

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  9. Beautiful photos. I don't think I've visited any famous fountains.

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    1. Look up fountains in the next city you visit with a water source. Bridges are the same - many nice ones just aren't known.

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