Around 'Fearless' Jean's Place

photo: cafe noir, r montmartre

At the western side of Montorgueil, this
café on Rue Montmartre.

The Montorgueil Pedestrian Area

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 7. February 2000:- For early February, the weather is pretty good. Yesterday was grey with a chill breeze from the west. On Saturday, the sun was out at times and it was a bit like fall, except now the trees are bare. The daily temperatures are nudging 10 C.

Last Wednesday it was a bit of both; with greyness until the sun came out in mid-afternoon. Taking the grey part, I decided to officially visit the 'Jean Sans Peur' tower.

This mediaeval fortress is the only one remaining in Paris and visiting it on a grey day makes it easier to contemplate grey times 600 years ago.

Mediaeval times. These were not too cheerful for the people who lived in them. There was famine for peasants and plague for everybody. On top of these, French nobles were being nasty to each other - and for fun they were chopping off the heads of peasants with wild abandon.

The king, Charles VI, was crazy. The nobles collected taxes at sword-point and spent the money on parties. Whenphoto: pass grand cerf the nobles sobered up enough, they had three great battles with the British and they lost all three. There was no governor anywhere.

Parisians, who were civilians and mainly unarmed, just wanted to get along - and had sufficient numbers to call the shots sometimes. They chose to 'forgive' Jean Sans Peur's contracted assassination of Louis d'Orléans, and let him run Paris for a short time.

The gleaming interior of the Passage du Grand-Cerf.

Starting with the tower in the Rue Etienne-Marcel, you can take a walk around nearby streets, and imagine those times. Motor traffic has restricted access to the area, so it is safe enough in the middle of the narrow roads.

There isn't much to actually see that is as old as Jean Sans Peur's tower. The streets north of Etienne-Marcel were outside the Philippe-Auguste wall when many were laid out in the 13th century. The Rue Saint-Sauveur dates to 1285 and the Rue Dussoubs was called 'Gratte-Cul' in 1241.

The street parallel to Etienne-Marcel is the Rue Tiquetonne and it was named after a rich baker who lived in it in 1272. In the 14th and 15th centuries it had several names with 'Lion' in them, and for a while around 1372 it was called Denis-Le-Coffrier. It became Tiquetonne for good in 1647.

It was a trail outside the wall, and the Arbalétriers used it as a practice crossbow shooting range. Inphoto: pedicure shop the Rue Dussoubs which starts from it, Goldini, the 'Italian Molière,' died in 1793. The street was named after Denis Dussoubs who was killed on the barricade in the Rue Montorgueil on Thursday, 4. December 1851.

The Rues Montorgueil and the Petit-Carreaux were sort of an extension of Les Halles. Lower Montorgueil was Nicolas-Arrode in 1271 and then it had its usual half-dozen name changes up to 1830.

Personal services: pedicure, barbers, tatoos and body-piercing.

This street received the fresh fish brought into Paris from the Channel ports. It continues this tradition of being a market street and fish and oysters are still sold in it.

At the sign of the Cheval-Blanc, the weekly 'Journal des Savants' was first published on Monday, 5. January 1665, by Denis de Sallo. After 123 years of publication it ceased, but restarted again in 1816.

In 1763, Marguerite Stock opened her second 'maison de rendez-vous' near the corner of the Rue Mauconseil. One of her employees, 'Mlle Lange' - also known as 'Jeanne Bécu' - 'l'Ange du Harem' - later became the Countess du Berry.

After a fire, Madame Stock moved her establishment in 1774 to the Hôtel de Famini, located at the corner of Rue Dussoubs and Saint-Sauveur. She was known as Paris' unofficial 'superintendent of fun' and her third place was very fancy, well-known and appreciated by a certain class of people.

The café Au Rocher de Canale was at the corner of the Rue Mandar from 1794 to 1845. A group of customers formed a literaryphoto: charcuterie and hard drinking society, that was 'inaccessible à tout buveur d'eau claire...' The café Au Rocher de Canale moved up to the corner of the Rue Greneta, where it is today.

The Rue Montorgueil has never become foodless like Les Halles.
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