Palais Bourbon

Paris, France

The Palais Bourbon is the seat of the French National Assembly, the lower legislative chamber of the French government. The palace was originally built for the legitimised daughter of Louis XIV and Françoise-Athénaïs, marquise de Montespan - Louise-Françoise de Bourbon, duchesse de Bourbon, to a design by the Italian architect Lorenzo Giardini, approved by Jules Hardouin-Mansart. Giardini oversaw the actual construction from 1722 until his death in 1724, after which Jacques Gabriel took over, assisted by L'Assurance and other designers, until its completion in 1728.

Rather than a palace, for it was not a royal seat of power, the French termed it a maison de plaisance overlooking the Seine, facing the Tuileries to the east and the developing Champs-Élysées on the west. At the start it was composed of a principal block with simple wings ending in matching pavilions. Bosquets of trees—planted in orderly rank and file—and parterres separated it from the nearby Hôtel de Lassay. In 1756 Louis XV bought it for the Crown, then sold it to the grandson of the Duchess, Louis Joseph, Prince of Condé, for whom Jacques-Germain Soufflot directed an enlargement in 1765.

During the French Revolution the Palais Bourbon was nationalized, and the Council of the Five Hundred met in the palace from 1798. Then, as part of Napoleon's plans for a more monumental Paris, Fontanes, the president of the Corps législatif as it was now called, commissioned the magnificent pedimented portico by architect Bernard Poyet, added to the front of the Palais that faces the Place de la Concorde from the south. It mirrors the similar classicizing portico of the Madeleine, visible at the far end of the rue Royale.

In a symptom of the political tone of the Bourbon Restoration, the returning exile, the prince de Condé took possession, and rented to the Chamber of Deputies a large part of the palace. The palace was bought outright from his heir in 1827, for 5,250,000 francs. The Chamber of Deputies was then able to undertake major work, better suiting the chamber, rearrangement of access corridors and adjoining rooms, installation of the library in a suitable setting, where the decoration and one of the salons were entrusted to Delacroix, later a Deputy himself. The pediment was re-sculpted by French artist Jean-Pierre Cortot.

Delacroix, with the help of some assistants, painted the entire vault of the long gallery which was to house the library. His work there was completed by the end of 1847 and immediately hailed as a masterpiece by the critic.

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Eketorp is an Iron Age fort in southeastern Öland, which was extensively reconstructed and enlarged in the Middle Ages. Throughout the ages the fortification has served a variety of somewhat differing uses: from defensive ringfort, to medieval safe haven and thence a cavalry garrison. In the 20th century it was further reconstructed to become a heavily visited tourist site and a location for re-enactment of medieval battles. Eketorp is the only one of the 19 known prehistoric fortifications on Öland that has been completely excavated, yielding a total of over 24,000 individual artifacts. The entirety of southern Öland has been designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The Eketorp fortification is often referred to as Eketorp Castle.

The indigenous peoples of the Iron Age constructed the original fortification about 400 AD, a period known to have engendered contact between Öland natives with Romans and other Europeans. The ringfort in that era is thought to have been a gathering place for religious ceremonies and also a place of refuge for the local agricultural community when an outside enemy appeared. The circular design was believed to be chosen because the terrain is so level that attack from any side was equally likely. The original diameter of this circular stone fortification was about 57 metres. In the next century the stone was moved outward to construct a new circular structure of about 80 metres in diameter. At this juncture there were known to be about fifty individual cells or small structures within the fort as a whole. Some of these cells were in the center of the fortified ring, and some were actually built into the wall itself.

In the late 600s AD the ringfort was mysteriously abandoned, and it remained unused until the early 11th century. This 11th century work generally built upon the earlier fort, except that stone interior cells were replaced with timber structures, and a second outer defensive wall was erected.

Presently the fort is used as a tourist site for visitors to Öland to experience a medieval fortification for this region. A museum within the castle walls displays a few of the large number of artefacts retrieved by the National Heritage Board during the major decade long excavation ending in 1974. Inside the fort visitors are greeted by actors in medieval costumes who assume the roles of period artisans and merchants who might have lived there nine centuries earlier. There are also re-enactment scenes of skirmishes and other dramatic events of daily life from the Middle Ages.

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