Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Notre-Dame: Square Jean XXIII

Square Jean XXIII: The neo-Gothic Fountain of the Virgin (1845)

Square Jean XXIII is located east of Notre Dame, between the Seine and the cathedral. It is a quiet place to enjoy views of the 14th century buttresses, the Seine and its bridges and the neighboring island of Île Saint-Louis to the east.

Since the 17th century this setting had been the site of the Archbishop's Palace and garden. In 1831, the palace was looted and vandalized by rioters and later demolished. In 1844, the Prefect of Paris, Rambuteau, designed and built the present-day square, named in honor of Pope John XXIII (pope 1958-1963). The centerpiece of this garden is the neo-Gothic Fountain of the Virgin (1845). There is also a bust of Carlo Goldoni, a Venetian dramatist who died in Paris in 1793. The bust was placed here in 1907, the bicentenary of his birth.


The main part of the square is shaded by lime and elm trees, and every spring there is a spectacle of blossoms from the cherry trees from Japan. The square offers a magnificent view of the flying buttresses that support the walls and roof of Notre Dame. For the comfort of tourists, there is shade, numerous benches and (best of all) toilets.


At the extreme southeast tip of the island is the Mémorial de la Déportation (1962), a crypt that honors 200,000 French citizens who perished in Nazi camps. Following Jewish tradition of placing a pebble on a grave, there is a room adorned with 200,000 quartz stones.

Dramatic illumination of 200,000 quartz pebbles.

The easternmost tip of the Île de la Cité is the location of the Mémorial de la Déportation. The blank gray square shown on the map to the right of the cathedral is the Jardin Jean XXIII. Click to enlarge.

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