Parisian Life

The Paris of Napoleon’s dreams

Amongst his many grandiose plans, Napoleon wanted the Louvre to be linked to Trône (today, Nation) by a grand avenue. At the centre of this, the Palais Municipal was to be built, intended to replace the Hôtel de Ville at Boccador, which itself was to become a… library!

In his imperial frenzy, the Emperor envisaged things “of the ancients”:  he dreamed of building a Temple of Peace at the top of the hill at Montmartre (which until then was dedicated to Mars, god of war…). He wished that the pre-revolutionary project for the construction of a church dedicated to Mary Magdalene in the Ville l’éveque neighbourhood, be transformed into a temple dedicated to glory. Which explains why the Madeleine is shaped like a Greek Temple…

So far as the Arc de Triomphe at Etoile was concerned, it was to find itself at the beginning of the Boulevards, at the level of St Antoine. And if its construction had not been thwarted at the fall of the Empire, a certain Bruyère suggested transforming its foundations (which had already been built at the time) into the base of a giant water tower (fed by the Ourcq canal!) from which a river would flow down the Champs Elysées to Concorde!

And then, of course, there’s the huge statue of an elephant that the buzzing Corsican wanted to see built in the centre of place de la Bastille…

Then there’s another elephant – an older one – that Ribart had begun building on the mound at Etoile, in 1758. Unlike that at Bastille, this pachyderm never moved past the planning stage:  gigantic and hollow, it was supposed to contain concert halls, dining rooms, and an artificial river surrounded by a fake forest, the water flowing from the statue via its trunk. The ears would have been huge “speakers” intended to project the sound of concerts given inside the animal all over town… Oh what poetry!