AT on the edge of rue de Rivoli, adjoining the Louvre Museum, the place du Louvre enjoys an exceptional location and should be one of the must-see places in Paris. It would not have been created without the will of a king, Henri IV, who, anxious to consolidate his power and unify the kingdom after the wars of religion, wanted to convert the defensive enclosure of the Louvre into a palatial complex of ‘exception.
This king had understood the importance of opening the Louvre to the city and its inhabitants, in this district marked by the Saint-Barthélemy massacre (August 24, 1572). His son, Louis XIII, and his grandson, Louis XIV, will try to continue his “Grand Design”, preparing for the breakthrough of the compact urban fabric that still surrounded the Louvre. Twists and misses in history have followed one another in this place.
Before becoming one of the emblems of French classicism with the superb colonnade by Perrault, the eastern facade of the Louvre should have inherited a completely different style, that of the leader of Italian Baroque, Le Bernin. Winner of an international consultation launched by Colbert, Le Bernin arrived in Paris in 1665 to carry out this great project.
Today without unity
He was distracted by an order from Louis XIV who demanded a bust of his effigy, and ended up abandoning the Louvre project, giving Claude Perrault the opportunity to reaffirm the sober French line of antique inspiration that we know him today. today. It was a waste of time: the king himself ended up shunning the Louvre in favor of Versailles, where the magnificence of royal power would then be concentrated.
From then on, the ambition to create a real square around the colonnade came up against unsuccessful attempts. The objective desired by Napoleon Ier then Napoleon III to complete the “Grand Design” of the Louvre fails. Admittedly, the surroundings were definitively liberated and restructured thanks to the construction, by the architect Jacques Hittorff under Baron Haussmann, of the future town hall of 1er district, twin building of the Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois church. But the square thus enlarged will never see any development project succeed.
On the contrary, the digging of the ditches at the foot of the Colonnade, undertaken by Minister Malraux in the 1960s – a project once dreamed of by Mansart – failed to give the expected new impetus. Worse, the plan led to the disappearance of the gardens that bordered the eastern facade of the Museum. On the other side of the square, the construction of an underground car park, a few years later, then the installation of an elevator in 2015, completely disfigured this square by depriving it of all intelligibility.
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