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.


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.


Fountain of the Innocents
Quatremere de Quincy wiki
Saints Innocents Cemetery