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Free Paris Walks
Walk 1: From Sainte Rita to Saint Lazare
A trip into the female experience of the city
http://www.invisibleparis.net - http://www.freepariswalks.com
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Walk 1 Theme: Women in the City
France has long since suffered with an image of being a male dominated country, with Paris
being its tainted heart. From the age of kings to the modern day, it is a country where
women have never been allowed to rule. Worse still, women were not even given
involvement in the electoral process until 1944, many years after her near neighbours! This
domination was also seen in the institution of marriage, and it wasn’t until 1965 that married
women could open a bank account or take a job without their husband’s permission.
In this country of contrasts though, it is also a place that has seen generations of strong,
brilliant independent women who have fought to break down these boundaries, some of
whom will be discussed during this walk.
Wandering through the middle ages up to the modern day, this walk shows how women
have managed to survive and find their place in a city dominated by men. The chosen area
is rich with images and anecdotes on the female condition, mixing art, religion and work. It
investigates places linked to women, where women have tried to live freely or where women
were forced to do things against their will. Naturally this often involves discussion of men
too, either as individuals or as a group, and their role in the repression or liberation of
women, as well as how they chose to represent them.

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Map of the Walk
The map provided in this guide is courtesy of Google and as such is rather limited. I have
added the route and the location of the principal points mentioned but I do recommend that
you use a more detailed map of your own to ensure that you do not get lost!

O Chapelle Sainte Rita O Place Saint Georges
O Pigalle O Notre Dame de Lorette
O Le Sans Souci O Le Square Montholon
O La Nouvelle Athènes O Caserne de la Nouvelle France
O Le Square d’Orléans G Hôpital St Lazare

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La Chapelle Sainte Rita

C Start at La Chapelle Sainte Rita, 65, Boulevard de Clichy near the Blanche Metro
Directly opposite the Moulin Rouge, this small, modern chapel is situated on the ground floor
of a building purchased by the diocese of La Trinité in 1955. It has recently been renovated,
and with its white walls and polished pine furniture it looks more like a venue for marketing
seminars. It is only the simple, stained glass windows and the flickering candles at the feet
of a statue of the Saint Rita that let us know that we are inside a place of worship.
Saint Rita, a 15
century Italian, was married at the age of 12 to a man who beat her and
was unfaithful. He was eventually murdered, and their two sons declared revenge on the
perpetrators despite their mother’s pleadings. Bizarrely, she asked God to take their lives
instead of allowing them to commit murder, and both apparently died within the year of
natural causes. Her difficult life has seen her become an immensely popular figure for the
downtrodden, and her cult was widespread long before the Catholic Church decided to
canonise her in the early 20
century. She is known as the patron saint of lost and
impossible causes and her story of abuse and suffering lead to her being adopted by
prostitutes. This discrete chapel is well situated here in Pigalle, and many of the female
working population pop in to pray or to place written messages and requests in a basket at
the statue’s feet.
Before going back outside, take a look at an older, more attractive stained glass window
through a doorway further back on the left. This one is based on a peacock theme rather
than anything religious.
C Exit the chapel and step back outside onto the Boulevard de Clichy.
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This street was previously known as both the 'Allée des Veuves' (Widow's Alley) or the
'Boulevard des Allongés' (Boulevard of Lays), simply because there were always ladies of the
night looking for trade in this area. Despite the seemingly seedy nature of this environment,
little remains of the original spirit of the district which has become largely a decor for
tourists. It is still an area of high employment for 'hotesses' (scantily clad women used as
bait to attract men into frighteningly expensive bars), but the area is clearly far calmer and
more upmarket today.

C Take the Rue Pierre Fontaine.

“Pigalle ne se visite pas. Il n'y a rien à voir. C'est un quartier comme les autres. Quelques
façades de bars en plus, les monuments en moins et une réputation du tonnerre. On ne
montre pas Pigalle aux touristes. On veut leur montrer l'âme de Pigalle. Et l'âme est invisible.
Elle a une odeur. On commence à la percevoir après quinze jours d'aubes, de nuits et de
René Fallet “Pigalle”, 1949
The Pigalle area is named after Jean-Baptiste Pigalle, a rather respectable 18
sculpter who had lived at number 17 of the street that was later named after him. An
accident of street naming has seen him now associated with a red-light district, but the
unsavoury reputation of this area did not really begin until the end of the 19
century. The
first bar to open and which would start the entire Pigalle myth was Le Chat Noir (at 84 Bd
Rochechouart in 1881 – not featured here). The Moulin Rouge would appear 8 years later in
1889. This Pigalle, bordering Zola's world of poverty and suffering further east, was certainly
not a pleasant place, but the bars and clubs, the dancers and absinthe surely provided an
attractive distraction.
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This almost picturesque singing and dancing Pigalle attracted people from all over the city,
from all backgrounds, and is still the vision that most tourists have of the area. However, as
well will see shortly, the twentieth century brought a nastier, sleazier Pigalle.
C Continue down the Rue Pierre Fontaine.
Comedie de Paris
(42 rue Pierre Fontaine)
This theatre, designed in a pure modernist style by the architect Georges Henri Pingusson,
opened in 1929. Despite French and Swiss architects (Mallet-Stevens, Perret, Le Corbussier)
being at the forefront of the modernist movement, it is still comparatively rare to come
across such a building in Paris.
The surrealist André Breton also had an apartment at this address, a flat that was turned
into a research centre after his death in 1966. His third wife, Elisa, preserved his collection of
works, but his daughter from a previous marriage, Aube, decided to sell his personal items in
2003 after the French government refused to buy them.

C Stop at the Place André Breton, named to celebrate the fact that he lived nearby. Two
buildings are visible from this point.
La Nouvelle Eve
(25 Rue Pierre Fontaine)
A typical Pigalle cabaret which has been in existence since 1949. It is situated in an old
theatre dating from 1898.
Georges Bizet’s Appartment
(22 Rue de Douai).
The composer lived at this address during a difficult period in his marriage from 1869 to
1875. A passionate man, he died later that year in the suburb of Bougival of a heart attack,
aged only 36. It was at this address that he began working on his most well-known work,
Carmen, although he was to die before it ever became truly successful. Indeed, during his
lifetime it had been roundly criticised, mostly for its daring portrayal of such a lewd heroine.
Bizet’s wife was Geneviève Halévy, the 19 year old daughter of his teacher. The marriage
was never a simple one, firstly because she was considered to be socially above Bizet who
was struggling at the time, and secondly because of her Jewish origins. She did not convert
to Bizet’s Catholicism when they married though, saying that she had “trop peu de religion
pour en changer” (too little religion to change it). Because of their limited means, they lived
in this property with their son Jacques and with Geneviève’s cousin Ludovic Halévy, his wife
Valentine and their two sons. Composing cannot have been easy in these conditions!

C Turn left onto the Rue de Douai, also known as Guitar Street (for reasons that will
become clear!). Stop when you arrive at the crossroads with the Rue Jean Baptiste Pigalle
(sometimes written as Rue Pigalle), and look at the bar on the corner on the left.
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Le Sans-Souci

The period between 1930 and 1960 was an era of gangs and mafia activity, a kind of
permanent warfare between a local group and a newly arrived Corsican posse. These groups
were known as the ‘pègres’. Most of their business was based around alcohol and
prostitution, fighting over the control of around 2000 girls working in 177 brothels in the
area. Each side had its territory and haunts, many of which have now disappeared.
One that has survived though is the Sans Souci (65, Rue Jean Baptiste Pigalle). Run by a
famous figure in the district, Georges Rapin, otherwise known as ‘Monsieur Bill’ because of
his privileged background (he was raised in the chic 16
arrondissement). He was fascinated
by this world of small-time criminals and was desperate to become a part of it. In an attempt
to earn respect he pretended that he’d got the money to buy the bar by robbing banks, but
instead it was money that his grandmother had given him. This rather pathetic figure would
later gain fame after being beheaded in 1960 for the murder of his mistress, a stripper in
one of the local bars.
Today it is a fairly traditional Parisian establishment, and a safe and rather pleasant place to
Chez Moune
(54 Rue Jean Baptiste Pigalle)
On the left-hand side as you walk down the street you will see the entrance to a true
Parisian curiosity. Amongst all the striptease bars in the neighbourhood, here is one that
since 1936 has catered uniquely for women! It was the first lesbian cabaret in the city, and
still offers a show every half an hour throughout the evening today. Men are welcome,
except on Sundays when it is strictly women only!

C From the Sans Souci, walk down the Rue de Rochefoucauld.
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La Nouvelle Athènes
You are now entering an area known as la Nouvelle Athènes. The term ‘new Athens’ was
first used by the journalist Dureau de la Malle in 1823 to describe the new buildings that
were springing up south of Pigalle in an area previously known for its rustic balls and
drinking establishments. It was also later the name given to a café on the the Place Pigalle,
famous for being the establishment where Degas painted his haunting ‘L’Absinthe’ (1876).
The term came to be used to describe an entire area and artistic spirit, as well as the neo-
classical mansions that had been built to house the nascent artistic community.
Victor Hugo’s house
(66 Rue de la Rochefoucauld)
The first place of note is a building where Victor Hugo lived for a year between 1871 and
1872. The building courtyard is behind a firmly shut door, but you may get lucky if you give
it a push or follow the postman in.
Victor Hugo was something of a ladies’ man, but had only two significant relationships in his
life. He was married to Adèle Foucher for 46 years, but his relationship with his mistress
Juliette Drouet lasted even longer. The relationship began in 1833, but she would not live
with Hugo in Paris until 1874, six years after Foucher had died. Whilst Hugo lived at this
particular address, Drouet lived in her own appartment in a building opposite (55 Rue Jean
Baptiste Pigalle, today a hotel).
Drouet was an actress, but one without any particular talent. Nevertheless, after meeting
Hugo she gave up her profession and dedicated her life to becoming his mistress. For nearly
forty years she lived in often small spaces and simply waited for Hugo to arrive to take her
out. Indeed, he forbade her from going out without him! She apparently spent most of her
time writing him letters, approximately 20,000 in total, many of which showed that she had
true talent with the pen.
Almost next door, you should have more luck gaining access to the numbers 58/60 of this
street. Push the door and walk through to the end to see a pair of surprising, wonderful rural
looking cottages.
C Continue down the Rue de la Rochefoucauld to the crossroads with the Rue Notre
Dame de Lorette.
Take a few steps down the Rue Notre Dame de Lorette to see the impressive house of
Eugène Delacroix at number 58. Delacroix worked here on his famous ‘Liberty Leading the
People’ a painting celebrating the July Revolution of 1830, and one which has been used
ever since as the image of Marianne. Marianne represents liberty and reason for the French,
and is almost the unofficial symbol of the country, appearing on coins, stamps and official
logos. Her bust can also be seen in all schools and town halls alongside a photo of the
President. The bust changes regularly and is based on whoever may be a well-known and
respected female figure of the time. Previous models have included Brigitte Bardot and
Catherine Deneuve.
C Turn back to the Rue de la Rochefoucauld then continue down to the crossroads with
the Rue La Bruyère. Turn around and look to your right to see a building where Pierre-
Auguste Renoir lived for several years at the dawning of the 20
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The Atelier of Gustave Moreau

(14 Rue de la Rochefoucauld)
C Continue down the Rue de la Rochefoucauld until you reach number 14 on the left-
hand side. Opening times of the museum are fairly restrictive, so if you are thinking of
visiting, plan accordingly! (10am to 12:45 then 2pm to 5:15pm daily except Tuesday)
A bizarre and almost ugly mix of stone, brick, columns and carvings, Gustave
Moreau’s house and atelier offer a fascinating and slightly strange visit. He was
incredibly prolific, producing upwards of 8000 paintings, many of which were
heavy with sensual, mystical scenes. He often worked on mythological and
ancient themes, creating large works in thick, dark colours. What is the
connection with women and this walk though?
Moreau has been criticised for his depiction of women, often choosing the characters who
throughout history have made men suffer. He painted many of the famous mythical or
biblical ‘femmes fatales’, such as Helen of Troy, Salome and Bathsheba, portraying them in
such a way that we can only wonder about his opinion of women and the relationship he had
with his mother. For his inspirations, I will leave the last word to the man himself, describing
his painting of Salome.

“When I want to render these fine nuances, I do not find them in the subject, but in the
nature of women in real life who seek unhealthy emotions and are too stupid even to
understand the horror in the most appalling situations”.
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Rue de la Tour des Dames
C Turn right on to the Rue de la Tour des Dames.

Many of the names of the streets in this area refer back to a period when there was an
Abbey and nunnery (de Montmartre) here. Catherine de la Rochefoucauld was the head
sister at this establishment and the Tour des Dames (tower) was one of the abbey windmills.
This place of worship and assumed aristocratic privilege sheltered generations of ‘Abbesses’
(another street name in this part of Paris) and nuns until revolution came at the end of the
eighteenth century. The last sister was named Louise de Montmorency-Laval, and neither
her position nor her age, nor even the fact that she was blind, deaf and handicapped
prevented her from joining thousands of other female representatives of the previous order
at the guillotine. Worse, she was in fact condemned for having ‘plotted silently and blindly
against the Republic’.
The Rue de la Tour des Dames was at the heart of the Nouvelle Athènes and it is here that
you will see many of the most impressive surviving houses. It was an area where the
constructions were built with artists in mind, being close to the livelier areas of the Grands
Boulevards, but which still offered a quiet, bucolic retreat. Two well known actresses of the
early 19
century bought property here, both being linked to the the Comedie Française
theatre. Madamoiselle Mars lived on the corner at number 1, whilst her neighbour at number
3 was Madamoiselle Duchesnois, a sometime mistress of Napoleon. These buildings are
worth investigating from the exterior, but unfortunately cannot be visited today. Indeed,
what was an artistic area has now become a district dominated by lawyers and solicitors.
Women had only been allowed to act in France from the beginning of the 17
century, but
enabling them to perform had also transformed the nature of the literature and material of
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the period. With actresses now available, playwrights wrote a greater range of parts for
women, with a good example being Molière’s ‘Ecole des Femmes’. It is not clear whether
they earned as much as the leading actors of the time, but it is interesting to note that two
independent actresses had managed to buy and run property of their own here.
C Turn back onto the Rue de la Rochefoucauld then turn right to the Rue Saint Lazare. A
series of brightly coloured houses can be seen on the right, but turn left and continue to
the Rue Taitbout. At number 80 on the right-hand side, enter the Square d’Orleans.
Square d’Orleans

This rather English looking ‘square’, hidden away from surrounding thoroughfares, is
picturesque and quiet, with the silence broken only by the noisy splashing of a large
fountain. Built by an English property developer, Edward Cresy, in 1830, it quickly became
fashionable in artistic circles. Alexandre Dumas had a property here, but the major points of
interest for this walk are the buildings where Fréderic Chopin (Number 9, on the left as you
enter) and George Sand (Number 5, in the opposite corner behind the fountain) lived.
George Sand (real name Amantine Aurore Lucile Dupin) was perhaps the first female public
figure to live truly freely and independently, and yet she still chose to be known by a
masculine name and often dressed up as a man in public. Taking her pseudonym from one
of her early lovers, the writer Jules Sandeau, she began by writing sometimes risqué, erotic
texts, before going to publish more respectable, well recieved texts later on. In many ways
though it is for her life and the way that she lived it that she is best remembered. She had
many lovers during her life, and was constantly looking to push back the boundaries that
separated men and women. She constantly tried to enter places that did not allow women to
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visit, such as certain libraries, museums and particular areas of theatres. To do so, she
would dress up in men’s clothes and would often smoke a cigar or pipe.
Sand and Chopin lived in separate apartments at this address between 1842 and 1847. Their
initial meeting was an awkward one with Chopin reportedly saying afterwards "What a
repulsive woman Sand is! But is she really a woman? I am inclined to doubt it". However,
they were to become friends, then lovers before ending up closer to mother and son as the
health of Chopin, always a weak and tortured soul, declined.

Place St Georges

C Exit the Square d’Orléans then continue up Rue Taitbout until you reach the Rue
d’Aumale, then turn right. You will pass by one of the apartments where Richard Wagner
lived in Paris, before joining the Rue Saint Georges. Turn left to the Place St Georges.
Hotel Thiers and the Commune
The Place Saint Georges is in reality little more than a roundabout, but it is surrounded by
fascinating buildings steeped in history. On the left-hand side, behind the entrance to the
Metro is the Hotel Thiers. This area became associated with the ‘Lorettes’ (of which more
later), a certain class of ‘kept woman’, but this building is proof that there were kept men
too. Adolphe Thiers, later to become French Prime Minister, was given the house that stood
here, as well as the hand of the daughter, by Madame Dosne, wife of the promoter who
developed most of this area. The house was later destroyed during the commune in 1871 as
Thiers was seen as an enemy of the people when he became head of state. He moved
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himself and government to Versailles and the people of Paris declared themselves
independent, but Thiers planned, then executed a savage but successful attempt to take
back power which left upwards of 30,000 dead in the city.
Several famous Communards were women. Indeed, there was a female movement during
the commune which had claimed equality in battle, saying that it should be organised “sans
distinction de sexe - distinction créée et maintenue par le besoin de l'antagonisme sur lequel
repose les privilèges des classes dominantes” (without distinction of sex, a distinction which
has been created and maintained by the need to antagonise, on which the privileges of the
ruling classes lay). Groups of women fought and sometimes died on the barricades, amongst
them Louise Michel, (who will be mentioned in more detail later). She went to Versailles to
kill Thiers but then changed her mind.
The Gavarni Statue
In the centre of the ‘Place’ is the Gavarni statue. Paul Gavarni was a famous caricaturist who
was also known as the illustrator of Balzac’s novels. He created mainly humourous portrayals
of all levels of society, some of which can be seen around the pedestal of the statue. One of
these, facing the Rue Notre Dame de Lorette, is a ‘Lorette’.
The Païva House
At number 28 is a building known as the Maison Païva. The house was built for a famous
courtesan, Esther Lachmann, otherwise known as the Marquise de Païva or just La Païva.
She was born in Moscow to poor Polish parents, but managed a quite staggering cross-
continent ascension up the social ladder. Starting off in a Moscow brothel, she would later
marry three times, have many other relationships, as well as two children who she
abandoned. This particular house was built after she married a Portuguese noble (the
Marquis de Païva, a name she chose to adopt and later keep ‘because it sounds nice’, but
which also led to her nickname in society: ‘paie y va’ – or he who goes there must pay!) She
soon got bored of this house and her husband though and swiftly married again and had an
even larger house built on the Champs Elysées. The Marquis de Païva, shunned because of
the marriage then shamed when his wife left him, chose to shoot himself.

Behind Notre Dame de Lorette
C Take the Rue Notre Dame de Lorette towards the church at the bottom of the street.
The Lorettes
In 19
century Paris, women who chose to live somewhat independent lives were divided
into two types; the Grisettes and the Lorettes. The Grisettes were those without independent
means, hard-working girls who nevertheless chose to spend more than they earned and had
to rely on older sugar daddies to see them through the week. In many ways, the Grisette
was the inspiration for Emile Zola’s Nana and Victor Hugo’s Fantine. The Lorette though was
different. Named by Gavarni after the area in which many of them lived, he imagined them
as fashionable young women who were free from the pressure of men and financial worries.
As you walk down the Rue Notre Dame de Lorette, look at the mostly unchanged streets
around you and try to picture how the writer La Bédollière described them; “the swish of silk
as she walked and the careful adjusting of clothing as she passed a mirror made her easy to
recognise”. No woman would have used one of these slightly patronising and judgemental
terms to describe herself, but we can imagine that Gavarni had such characters as
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Madamoiselle Mars and Madamoiselle Duchesnois (see Rue de la Tour des Dames) in mind
when he coined the phrase.

Montholon to Messageries
C Take the Rue Lamartine on your left. You are now entering a fairly non-descript part of
the city with little to mention or point out. The area becomes more distinctly working
class, a fact that is celebrated a little further along.
The Ecole Elementaire, Rue Buffault

The only exceptional features of this school complex are the art nouveau ceramics, but as
you walk past (it is on the corner of Rue Lamartine and Rue Buffault) you will notice signs
above the doors that show that it was previously a (secular – ‘laïque’) school for girls only.
Before the 1960s, almost all education above a certain age in France was to classes
separated distinctly into groups of boys and girls, generally in the same building, but often
with different entrances and rooms. Schools slowly began to mix classes during the 1960s,
but it wasn’t until the 1975 Haby law that mixed classes were made obligatory in the
country. Today single sex classes are only found in a select few private schools, mostly for
religious reasons.
The Square Montholon
C Continue along the Rue Lamartine then on to the Rue de Montholon. As the street joins
on to the busy Rue Lafayette, enter the Square Montholon park.
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This small park is one of the 24 gardens created par Adolphe Alphand in Paris during the
Second Empire in the 1860s. In the centre of the park are two magnificent trees, the only
survivors from the original park and both with trunks of over 4 meters in circumference. The
park offers a pleasant green space in a rather grey area, but the reason it features on this
walk is because of the Lorieux statue which stands in the gardens.
A la Sainte Catherine – Julien Lorieux

Julien Lorieux (1876-1915) was a French sculpter who worked mostly with bronze. As with
many men of his generation, he was to die prematurely during the First World War,
unfortunately before this statue was unveiled. Lorieux had created the sculpture in 1908,
and although it was bought by the city of Paris in 1913, it wasn’t displayed to the public until
The sculpture shows five young working-class women celebrating the Sainte-Catherine. This
French tradition states that on the 25
of November, any unmarried woman aged 25 should
wear a specially decorated hat for the day. This tradition was very popular in French cities in
the 19
century, giving young working women the opportunity to break away from harsh
working conditions and attend specially organised balls and parties. These events were
sometimes considered to be the last chance a woman would have of finding a husband.
In this sculpture you can see that the five women are wearing working clothes of a certain
form that indicates that they probably worked as seamstresses nearby. Each woman has a
specially made hat, and two or three also have orange blossoms or papier-mâché oranges.
These young women have probably been caught by the sculptor at the moment they left
their place of work and before the evening ball, something that they seem to be very much
looking forward to.
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The tradition obviously has little relevance today, but any unmarried 25 year old women may
sometimes still receive a small gift and a reminder from relatives on the 25
of November!
Karine Arabian
C Cross the Rue Lafayette, then take the Rue Papillon.

The Rue Papillon takes its name from one of the ‘Menus-Plaisirs du roi’, Pierre Papillon. The
‘menus’ were members of the king’s administration who were responsible for the
organisation of ceremonies, parties and special events. The name is used here as the
headquarters of the organisation was situated on the nearby Faubourg Poissonière, and
Papillon was one of the last ‘menus’ (he was executed during the ‘terror’ aged 70). His son
later assumed the recreated role during the restoration in 1820.
Along this street you will also see the principal shop of the young designer Karine Arabian, a
boutique that would not look out of place in St Germain or on the Avenue Montaigne.
Arabian produces mostly bags and shoes, many of which would be very suitable for a party
with a King!
This street also hit the news in 1995 when all the buildings along it were evacuated during
the creation of the RER E underground train line. Paris sits on very unstable terrain, and a
large hole formed underneath the buildings, causing some of them to move and crack. The
hole was filled with 85 tonnes of cement, and the SNCF was left with a large repair bill to fix
the damaged houses.
Caserne de la Nouvelle France
C Continue along the Rue Papillon then turn left on the Rue du Faubourg Poissonière. On
your right you will see the Caserne de la Nouvelle France.
The original structure on this spot was built in 1772 and housed recruits, often press-ganged
from local taverns, who would be sent to work in Canada (Nouvelle France). This structure
was knocked down and rebuilt between 1932 (the brick buildings at the rear) and 1941, but
some original sculptures can still be seen on one side of the building at 80 rue du Faubourg
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Today the building houses the Garde nationale, a kind of military police working for the
protection of French institutions and the city of Paris. A uniquely male institution for
centuries, the first women only joined in 1983, mostly as musicians in the orchestras at first.
It is now estimated though that women make up around 10% of the workforce here, in both
military and civil posts.
In 2007, this was also the scene of an act of poor planning or even sheer stupidity. A
jewellers opposite was raided by two armed men who seemingly did not realise that the
large building facing them was filled with heavily armed city guards! They were quickly
caught and arrested.
Rue des Messageries
C Turn back and follow the walls of the Caserne de la Nouvelle France down to the Rue
des Messageries.
A fairly non-descript street, the Rue des Messageries nevertheless has two points of interest
and relevance to the theme of this walk.
In the 1920s, it was the location of one of the largest private feminist libraries in the city,
run by a passionate collector of books and texts in her own small flat. Marie-Louise Bouglé
was the eleventh child of a brickmaker, and after becoming an orphan at the age of 16, she
moved to Paris and found a position as a shopworker. After taking evening classes, she later
became a slightly better paid typist, a job that gave her the means to pursue her passion for
books. After attending a feminist conference in 1926, she decided to open her flat to visitors,
but only in the evening after she had returned from her day’s work. She had managed to
accumulate a collection of some 10,000 volumes, books, dossiers and press cuttings on the
themes of women and feminism throughout history.
She explained her collection in the following way; “J’ai deux passions au monde, les livres
parce qu’ils embellissent la vie et rendent meilleurs; le féminisme, parce qu’il est une religion
en marche et qu’un jour, il rendra à ses sœurs opprimées la place qu’elles méritent dans ce
monde”. (I have two passions in this world, books because they make life more beautiful
and make us better people ; feminism, because it is a functioning religion which one day will
give back to our oppressed sisters what they deserve in this world).
Today her collection is held at the Bibliothèque historique de la Ville de Paris.
The second point of interest is the Café Panique, a two-floor restaurant in an old textile
workshop. It is easy to imagine the groups of women who would have worked in this
building previously, but today the focus is on one particular woman in the kitchen. Odile
Guyader was previously a teacher of German, but today she is a successful chef in a male
dominated industry, and runs this delightful and original venue.

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Hopital St Lazare
C Follow the Rue des Messageries to the end then left on to the Rue de Hauteville. On the
corner you will see the rear of the Caserne, here in a solid 1930s brick design. Turn right
when you reach the Rue de Chabrol and continue to the Marché St Quentin.
Marché St Quentin
The Marché St Quentin is the largest covered market in Paris, but very infrequently open. If
you would like to visit, try to make your walk coincide with these opening times; Tuesday to
Saturday from 8.30am until 1pm, then from 3.30pm until 7pm. On Sundays, from 8.30am
until 1pm only.
Built in 1866 in an elegant mixture of patterned brickwork, iron and glass, the Marché St
Quentin is still one of the best and liveliest in the city. Such markets were an integral part of
the Haussmannian regeneration of the city, and this one is positioned in a prime spot on one
of the typical Boulevards (here the Boulvard Magenta). It would probably have been an
integral part of a stroll around the Boulevards, and would have catered more for an
upmarket clientele (and their servants!)
The Hopital St Lazare

C Cross the Rue de Chabrol and take the small and difficult to spot Passage de la Ferme
de St Lazare, then turn right on to the Cour de la Ferme St Lazare. Turn left when you
come to the impressive electricity sub-station and enter the small park facing the St
Lazare site.
This quiet and haunting destination marks the end of the walk. Sit on one of the benches
invisible paris

here and contemplate the buildings in front of you. In some respects we have now come full
circle from our starting point. In Pigalle, prostitutes worked and prayed, but here they came
to be punished, inspected, or worse still, to die.
The city of Paris has been pondering the question of what to do with this site since 1999,
when the Hopital St Lazare was finally shut down. How can this site be renovated and
brought back into the heart of the city, and how can they remove the scars, wipe away the
pain and tidy up the memories?
Defining what this site was is difficult enough; a prison, hospital or asylum? One thing is
certain and that is that name was well chosen. The use of Lazare for this spot dates back to
the 11
century, and how prophetic it would prove! The name was chosen as it was
originally a shelter for lepers, for whom Lazare (Lazarus) is the patron saint, but with the
subsequent history of the site, the constant destruction and rebuilding, the name has
assumed a second resonance.
The majority of buildings you can see today are mostly 20
century hospital structures, but
Louis-Pierre Baltard’s early 19
century Chapel still survives today. The empty structures feel
faintly threatening, with renovation in the area (a new school and playground) currently
confined to a zone outside the main site. Even the playground though gives a slight sense of
unease, as it is often empty and features three cowering pigs and a cat hiding from a wicked

It is not the individual buildings of this site that offer most interest, but rather what this site
has represented and who has passed through the buildings. To a large extent, it is a site
that will forever be linked to women, mostly to the cruel and degrading treatment they have
received here. This began with the French Revolution, when for the first time the structure
became a prison.
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It was here that the poet André Chénier wrote the poem ‘La Jeune Captive’ a handful of days
before his eventual execution and only 19 days before the fall of Robespierre and the end of
the terror. La Jeune Captive (the young (female) prisoner) was Aimée de Coigny, an
aristocrat who was said to have had a remarkable culture and intellect, and who obviously
had quite an effect on the men she met. She was to survive the terror and her spell in
prison, later saying that “Robespierre aimait peut-être le peuple, l’humanité, etc, mais guère
les hommes et pas du tout les femmes” (Robespierre perhaps loved the people and
humanity, but men only a little and women not at all).
Religious influence had been banished from the site during the revolution, but by the 19

century the site had assumed a bizarre triple role. It was transformed into a prison for
women, but also contained a hospital wing and a Chapel. Nuns ran the service, but it was
difficult to make any clear distinction between treatment and punishment.
Conditions were harsh inside, but they were little better outside the walls. Working class
women in the 19
century had tough lives ridden through with malnourishment and
alcoholism which often led to the reasons for their being locked up, the petty crimes and
casual prostitution that they resorted to simply to survive. The hospital wing was used
mostly for sick prostitutes, but how to tell the difference between this and the prison? They
never left and had few visitors, and were kept here mostly to protect the city. They were the
lepers of the period.
Other female prisoners were more political, notably the anarchist and communard Louise
Michel who was here in 1883, and later Mata Hari in 1917. The latter underwent what was
said to be a humiliating interrogation here during which she confessed to receiving money
from German officers in Madrid. Whether this was a simple form of prostitution or the spying
she was tried for is not clear, but it was rendered irrelevant by her execution later that year.
In 1935 the prison wing was finally closed down, but even when the site became a simple
hospital again, the calm did not return. The hospital had a curious speciality; all city
prostitutes were taken to this hospital for obligatory medical check-ups, and even after this
law was removed (1946), a service ‘Saint Lazare’ still existed. It was here that prostitutes
were taken after being rounded up by the police (until 1975), and we can imagine many
being forced to do our walk in reverse and head back to Pigalle in the early hours of the
To the credit of the city, they have not taken the easy path of destruction and rebuilding, but
are attempting to recreate a more positive environment within these haunted walls. The
Chapel will become a performance space and galleries will be placed in the wings. There will
also be a nursery, an infant school, a gymnasium, park and a library. This may not be able to
right the wrongs of the past, but it does provide hope for the future.
The End of the Walk
If you feel that you have earned a drink after this walk, you can try the Escalier bar on the
Rue du Faubourg St Denis (although it will probably not be to everybody’s taste). It has a
small terrace under the interesting metallic portrait of Saint Vincent de Paul, and a wonderful
staircase inside (l’escalier!). It was previously a school and a bookshop and is a protected
building today.

The nearest Metro station is Gare de l’Est, just across the Boulevard de Magenta.