Thursday, December 30, 2010

Jardin des Tuileries, Paris

Image: The Tuileries Garden, Paris: a stark winter landscape of bare trees, and light snow

During my visit to Paris earlier this month, I spent some time walking through parts of the massive Jardin des Tuileries (Tuileries Garden).

I say ‘parts of’ deliberately, because like many locations in Paris – the Louvre, Palace of Versailles, Musée d’Orsay, and other popular attractions – you need a lot more than a few hours to explore and appreciate these historic sites. The Tuileries Garden is wonderful to experience on cold winter days, when the snow covers the ground, your breath hangs in the freezing air, and most of the trees in the garden have shed their leaves and their dark, rain soaked trunks and branches stand out starkly against the frigid landscape.

The Tuileries Garden seen from the west- the Fer à cheval (horseshoe), Grand Bassin Octagonal, and the Grande Allée ending at the Louvre [Source: Wikipedia… ]

The Jardin des Tuileries (Tuileries Garden), is a public garden located between the Louvre Museum and the Place de la Concorde. Created by Marie de Medicis as the garden of the Tuileries Palace in 1564, it was first opened to the public in 1667, and became a public park after the French Revolution. Since then it has become the place where Parisians come to promenade, meet, celebrate, and relax.

The garden’s name comes from workshops called tuileries, which used to exist on the current site, and which made tiles for the roofs of Paris’s buildings.

Image: Winter colours of the Tuileries Garden, Paris

The Garden of Catherine de Medicis

In July 1559, after the death of her husband, Henry II, Queen Catherine de Medicis decided to move from her residence near the Bastille, to the Louvre Palace, along with her son, the new King, François II. While there she decided to build a new palace for herself, separate from the Louvre, with a garden modeled after the gardens of her native Florence.

The garden of Catherine de Medicis was an enclosed space five hundred meters long and three hundred meters wide, separated from the new chateau by a lane. It was divided into rectangular compartments by six alleys, and the sections were planted with lawns, flower beds, and small clusters of five trees, called Quinconces; and, more practically, with kitchen gardens and vineyards.

The Tuileries was the largest and most beautiful garden in Paris at the time, and Catherine used it for lavish royal festivities honoring ambassadors from the Queen of England, and the marriage of her daughter, Marguerite de Valois, to the future Henry IV.

Tuileries Garden of Le Nôtre in 17th century, looking west toward the future Champs Elysees, Engraving by Perelle. [Source: Wikipedia… ]

And so it went. One Monarch after another overseeing the planting of hedges, hundreds of trees, shrubs, flowers and other plants, landscaping and reshaping the grounds, adding sculptures here, water features and fountains there, as well as vast terraces and a Grand Allée – rivaled only by the 1500 metre Grand Allée at the Palace of Versailles.

Following the deaths of Catherine de Medicis and her successors, the Kings, Henry III and IV, responsibility for the upkeep and maintenance of the garden fell to that other great line of kings, King Louis XIII (13th), XIV, XV and then King Louis XVI (16th), until finally the French Revolution of October, 1789 brought a stop to the whole circus – for a while at least.

Image: Evergreen shrubs in the Tuileries Garden, Paris

The French Revolution and Beyond

On October 6, 1789, as the French Revolution began, King Louis XVI was brought from Versailles to the Tuileries Palace. He was subsequently found guilty of high treason for his part in the insurrection of August 10th, 1792, and executed by guillotine in January 1793.

When Napoleon Bonaparte (who was about to become Emperor), moved into the Tuileries Palace in February, 1800, he began making improvements to the gardens and the cycle of building, landscaping, plantings and so on began all over again. Eventually, the long suffering citizens of France and Paris had had enough, and following the fall of Napoleon, and the subsequent reigns of the Kings, Charles X and Louis-Philippe, and the Emperor, Louis Napoleon, the whole imperial edifice of the French Republic was brought to the ground by the uprising of the Paris Commune in 1870.

When the army arrived and fought to recapture the city, the Communards deliberately burned the Tuileries Palace, and tried to burn the Louvre as well. The ruins of the Tuileries Palace were not torn down until 1883, and the empty site of the palace, between the two pavilions of the Louvre, became part of the Tuileries Garden you see today.

Image: Footprints in the snow: Tuileries Garden, Paris

More Information

As always, my indispensable source of historical information continues to be Wikipedia. Read more about the Jardin des Tuileries here…


You can see more of my photographs of the Jardin Des Tuileries via my Flickr page here... Or see all my Flickr images by following this link...

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