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The Saint Jacques Tower

2015-07-13

jacques1.jpgFrom June 5th till September 27th the city of Paris and the association „Des mots et des Arts“ enable the public to visit the Saint Jacques tower. Groups of visitors are limited to 17 people. Accompanied by a guide, you climb up 300 winding stairs and you find yourself on a terace with probably the most charming panoramatic view on Paris. 

Two young guides, in spite of the fact that they see this overwhelming view several times per day, are fascinated and comment how everything appears to be close, we have a feeling that the whole Paris belongs to us. With eyes and our cameras we move over the roofs of Haussmannian buildings, through orange chimneys so typical for Paris, from the basilique Sacré Coeur, through the boulevards bordered by the greenery, thousands of windows, balconies, teraces, above the waters of the Seine rjacques2.jpgiver, its bridges guarded by the Eiffel tower, the Châtelet theatre, the Notre-Dame cathedral. Together with us, the stony faces of the gargouilles look on Paris, under us the textile shelters of the coffee places and restaurants, people reduced to the ants size walking in the streets, cars slowing down, breaking and accelerating, permanent noises of ambulance and firemen sirens.
 
The guide explains to us that in the 12th century Paris was divided in three zones: „La Cité“ with the seat of political, legal and religious power, „l’Université“ with Sorbonne and Parisian abbeys and „la Ville“ (Town), jacques3.jpgwhere the merchants settled. In the part „la Ville“ was built also the church Saint-Jacques. In the Middle Age the merchants and craftmen were grouped in the corporations. Construction and extension of the church were financed by merchants and bourgeoisy. In the 14th and 15th centuries the church was extended thanks to the gifts from the corporations, in particular the corporation of butchers „la Grande Boucherie“ and that’s why it was called in 1259 „Saint-Jacques-de-la-Boucherie“. Ijacques4.jpgn 1501 the town decided to replace the old church tower by a new one. After 14 years of works the new late Gothics tower has 12 bells. And it is said that their ringing was the nicest in Paris.
 
After the Revolution in 1797 the church was sold as a stone quarry. However, in the sale contract there was a clause saying that the tower cannot be destroyed.  In the 19th century the tower was damaged and worn, in 1836 the town bought it. Napoléon III started the restauring works and around the tower there was a park created. It was a first square park within the Haussmannian architectural changes in the town. 900 stone decorations were restaured.
 
In 1862 the tower became a decorative tower and is declared a Historical National Monument. In 1891 there was installed a meteorological station in the tower, with the offices on the second and third floors and on the terace on the top of the tower there were measuring instruments. In 2001 the town launched the restauration works on the facade, which was damaged by the pollution and there was a risk of falling stones.
 
With the head in the Parisian sky, composed from several layers of the clouds, we look on the town with the view that helps to relativize. Everything personal becomes tiny, unimportant, irrelevant in front of the beauty of Paris, in front of its architectural perfection.
  
Paristep
 
Reservation for a visit: desmotsetdesarts.com
The guided tour takes about 50 minutes.Children under 10 not allowed. Entrance: 10 €.
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