The Steeple of Saint-Germain-des-Prés
The steeple of Saint-Germain-des-Prés (Paris - May 2006)

Taking photos of monuments and places in Paris is often discouraging: wherever you go for a stroll in the city, you see hundreds of postcards on display, whose pictures are identical or (most often) better than yours. Nevertheless, I've never seen something similar to the pic above, of which I must admit I am quite proud. It is the steeple of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Paris' oldest church, seen between the bronze slabs of a fountain situated on the opposite sidewalk of the Boulevard Saint-Germain.

Image Home to a number of famous cafés, such as Les Deux Magots and Le Café de Flore, where artists, writers and philosophers would meet, Saint-Germain-des-Prés area used to be the centre of gravity for the surrealists painters and writers (André Breton especially) in the 1920s and 1930s, then the headquarters of existentialists Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir in the 1950s and 1960s. The area is much older though: the first parts of the church were built as an abbey in the 6th century.

There is a fountain in front of the church, in the Place du Québec, at the crossing of Boulevard Saint-Germain, Rue de Rennes and Rue Bonaparte (see Wikimapia location).

ImageIt's a modern fountain, the work of a Québecois artist named Guillaume Daudelin. More than an ordinary fountain, it is a sculpture, given in 1984 as an hommage from Quebec to the city of Paris. It is called L'Embâcle, which means Ice Jam (that is, obstruction of a river bed with blocks of ices). There is no gap between the sidewalk's large paving stones and the fountain's four slabs of bronze, so that the pavement seems lifted up by the water that sprays through it.

Image L'Embâcle beautifully conjures up break-up of ice in Québec when springs arrives at last. It is famous because of its artistic value, and functional originality as well. Among kids, it is well known also... as the best slide in the neighbourhood!

The day I took the photo on top of this entry was my lucky day: the fountain had been switched off because the weather was cold. No spray any more, no water inside, only little puddles on the ground. I could sneak into the fountain as a housebreaker, kneel down in there, and steal a couple of shots.

3 comment(s):

    wonderful!! As you know, I know this neighbourhood VERY well. I did wonder how you got that shot and would have loved to be strolling along just as you were squirming into that fountain, hahaha. Did you get odd looks from the fashionistas?


    Great photo, Billy. I remembered this fountain from my first visit to Paris over 20 years ago. When I got the opportunity to return last Spring, I went in search of it not remembering exactly where it was. I was in front of the church of Saint-Germain-des-Prés and knew I was close, but never crossed the street to find the fountain. I am so glad you have given me a name and the history. I will return next June, and you can bet I will make a bee-line for the place. Finally!! DLM


    Nice story, Deanna. Glad I could help!


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