Post by Jenny Bailey
Whilst world-renowned landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and the Arc de Triomphe are well worth visiting, discovering some of the other monuments in Paris that are slightly off the beaten path is just as rewarding. For a fascinating piece of history, tourists staying in Paris hotels near the Les Halles district should check out the Fontaine des Innocents (Fountain of the Innocents).
This beautiful Renaissance structure was designed by French architect Pierre Lescot, before being sculpted by architect Jean Goujon. Created between 1546 and 1549, the fountain was built into a wall at the intersection of Rue St Denis and Rue au Fers (now Rue Berger) and originally had just three façades.
Commissioned as part of the decoration of the city to welcome King Henry II into Paris, the Fontaine des Innocents is the oldest monumental fountain in Paris. It was designed not only to be a fountain, but to be a grand reviewing stand for local notables. It is decorated with Henry II’s Coat of Arms, as well as nymphs on each side of it, typical of the Mannerist style of the time. The arch is covered by angels and traditional ‘putti’ – naked, plump little boys with wings, which was very common in Renaissance works.
In 1788, the fountain was moved to a newly created square, known as the Square des Innocents, to make way for a market. A fourth façade was then built to match the three original ones before it was placed on a pedestal and topped with the dome that is there today. The fountain did not have water running from it until 1812, when a system of canals was put in place to bring water to the public fountains in the capital.
As one of the lesser known landmarks in the city, a trip to see the Fontaine des Innocents is a great way to spend an afternoon in Paris. Combine a visit to the fountain with other attractions in the area such as the Tour St-Jacques – the remains of an old 16th century church – and Les Halles Market with its large underground shopping mall, meat, fruit and vegetable market and the largest underground subway station in the world. Travelers staying in hotels in the area can then head back for a quick change before going out for a delicious evening meal.