Sunday, 30 December 2012

Sab's Paris Quirks & Curios: "One Of Our Towers Is Missing"

Sab's Paris Quirks & Curios
by Sab Will,  wannabe offbeat Paris street guru

The title says it all: quirks and curiosities. And as luck would have it, Paris is packed with them; you just have to know where to look!

In this on-going series I offer you some hand picked, photographed and commented oddities which particularly interested me, and I hope will do the same for you.

I'm an avid collector of such items so any comments and suggestions you may have would be very welcome. So, without further ado, let's get straight onto...

Sab's Paris Quirks & Curios
1st Arrondissement: Quirk 13 ~ "One Of Our Towers Is Missing"

For some reason it never occurred to me until someone pointed it out to me: the superb Saint Eustache church is seriously missing a tower!

From the side, the one facing Les Halles, it looks rightly splendid. Flying buttresses support an impressive tower and the whole thing is mightily breathtaking, even during the works in 2012 you can see in the picture below.

When you move round to the front, however, the aspect changes. There's no doubt about it. Either someone's nicked the right-hand, most southerly tower, or it weren't never there...

The present Saint Eustache replaced a more modest chapel dedicated to Saint Agnès, constructed by rich bourgoies Jean Alais. This had been enlarged several times over the decades but was having problems coping with the growing Les Halles population.

Finally construction on the new church was started in 1532, the first stone being placed by François I himself. He didn't see it finished, though, as it was only completed and consacrated in 1637.

That's enough exciting history, names and dates, methinks. What about the missing tower?!

Well, it appears that the facade we can see here wasn't the first, which was still uncompleted when another one was offered thanks to a generous donations but which also remained and remains unfinished.

This recalls another church, the vast Saint Sulpice, larger than Notre Dame, which also boasts a very dodgy right-hand tower.

The thing is, from around these times onwards wars, political strife and above all revolutions and counter revolutions were rife. This meant that funds for fancy but frivolous things like a church's new facade were likely to be sidelined when there were battles of various kinds to be fought.

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Poor old Saint Eustache's right-hand tower, therefore, remains a glorious, gory stump, in stark contrast to its renaissance-style left-handed brother.

So next time you're in the Les Halles area, whether the brand new design has been completed or not, cast your eyes upward in the direction of Saint Eustache's western facade.

Clear evidence that Paris isn't as perfect as some make it out to be, but laden down with the weight of history and all it has to teach us and remind us of. Maybe one day.

* Sab Will runs Photo and Curios Tours in Paris, and also manages a variety of Paris and photography-themed sites and blogs. He writes an illustrated Paris Chronicle every day, runs a Meetup group for Paris lovers, interviews Paris personalities and reviews Paris books (on this blog), and even contributes to the city's street art (shh), so feel free to browse some of the links below and in the right-hand column to find out more about what he gets up to out there...

© 2012 Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free - Suggestions, questions, requests and offers always welcome!

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