Communard Manifesto

The Musée du Louvre, the most famous art museum in the world, sits at the east end of Tuileries Garden inside what was, until the French Revolution, the Palais du Louvre, the Louvre Palace.

The Louvre Palace was built and modified over the centuries and in 1564 its open western courtyard was enclosed by the building of a new palace within a palace there, the Palais des Tuileries, which continued as the royal residence until the building of the palace at Versailles (about 12 miles southwest of Paris) and the removal of the court of King Louis XIV, the “Sun King,” to that place in 1682.

The Sun King’s successors, Kings Louis XV and Louis XVI, also resided at Versailles, but, at the start of the French Revolution in 1789, King Louis XVI was forced to return to Paris where he and his family were detained in the Tuileries Palace until they were ultimately executed in 1792. The Louvre was then converted into a museum in 1793 and it has remained so ever since.

In 1800, after the French Revolution, Napoleon Bonaparte, about to become Emperor, moved into the Tuileries Palace which became, once again, the royal residence throughout the reigns of the Napoleons and the temporary restoration of the Bourbon monarchs – until 1871 when it was gutted by fire following the Franco-Prussian War.

As we left the cafe in Tuileries Garden, we headed east toward the Louvre. On our left (the north side of the Garden) there is a temporary carnival along the Rue de Rivoli, ending at the western end of the northern wing of the Louvre:

Looking straight ahead, standing between us and the Louvre we could see the triumphal arch that Napoleon had built in honor of his army’s victories. This Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel also served as the ceremonial entrance to the Tuileries palace.

That white gravel area in the photo, above, is where the Tuileries Palace stood until its destruction in 1871 by the Paris Commune (the French word, “Commune,” is generally used to describe a municipality or city council).

The story of the Paris Commune is a fascinating one, undoubtedly familiar to most Europeans, but virtually unknown to Americans. I’ll do my best to give you a summary of what happened.

After the Napoleonic Wars of the early 1800s, Europe experienced political upheaval, culminating in the “Year of Revolution” in 1848. According to Wikipedia, “Five factors were involved: widespread dissatisfaction with political leadership; demands for more participation in government and democracy; the demands of the working classes; the upsurge of nationalism; and finally, the regrouping of the reactionary forces based on the royalty, the aristocracy, the army, and the peasants.” Encyclopedia Britannica characterizes it as a time of “republican revolts against European monarchies,” concluding that “they all ended in failure and repression, and were followed by widespread disillusionment among liberals.”

In France, however, the Revolution of 1848 did sweep away the monarchy in favor of France’s Second Republic, which became France’s Second Empire In 1852 when Napoleon Bonaparte’s nephew (who was then President of the Republic) took over as Emperor in a coup d’état. Napoleon III (as he was called) ruled France as its final monarch until 1870, when he was deposed (Napoleon III was also the expansionist that led France into colonial expansion in the 1860s).

The undoing of Napoleon III was the result of his loss to Prussia (the forerunner of modern Germany) in the Franco-Prussian War. Napoleon III, fearing an alliance between neighboring Prussia and Spain that would encircle France, had declared pre-emptive war on Prussia in 1870, but the war immediately went badly for France, ending quickly with a Prussian victory that included a brief triumphal march in Paris down the Champs-Élysée, infuriating Parisians.

Parisians, in particular, called for Napoleon’s removal and elected their own government in Paris called the Paris Commune, a socialist-leaning group (probably inspired by the writings of Karl Marx). The Commune raised its own “National Guard” to defend the city from further perceived abuse by the Prussians and then took the extreme measure of asserting that it, the Commune, should become the new national government.

In a state of frenzy, supporters of the Commune, called Communards, set out to destroy all of the monuments of the former monarchy, starting by setting fire to both the Tuileries and Louvre palaces and other public buildings. The fire gutted the Tuileries palace, but miraculously not the Louvre.

The provisional government that existed after the removal of Napoleon III as Emperor fled to Versailles and, from there, commanded the French Army to retake Paris from the Commune, a feat accomplished over the course of a single week in May 1871. Many of the Communard revolutionaries were executed.

The French government decided to repair the Palais du Louvre, but the remains of the Palais des Tuileries were knocked down in 1883 and the area leveled to form the plaza upon which we were standing.

Looking to the right from our view of the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, the view across the gardens toward the southern wing of the Louvre was quite pretty. It is now, essentially, a memorial garden to the great palace that once stood here.

We walked around the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, construction of which, like the Arc de Triomphe, was begun in 1806; however, the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel (which is half the size of the Arc de Triomphe) was completed in just 2 years, whereas it took nearly 30 years to finish the Arc du Triomphe!

From the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel we looked east at the Louvre and its glass pyramid, the new entry to the museum that was constructed in 1989.

From here, we turned north and left the Gardens, off in search of the Colonnes de Buren in the courtyard of the Palais Royal, an art-in-public-places installation…

…which is across Rue de Rivoli from the north wing of the Louvre.

We continued our walk east on the Rue de Rivoli, stopping to look in the window of a shop filled with tin soldiers,…

…then continued past the Tour Saint-Jacques, all that remains of the 16th century Church of Saint-Jacques-de-la-Boucherie that was destroyed shortly after the French Revolution.

The sun was starting to go down as we reached the Hôtel de Ville, Paris’ City Hall building, the location of City Hall since 1357. The City Hall building in the photo, below, was originally built in the 16th century, but it was burned by the Communards in 1871 and had to be rebuilt within the remaining exterior shell in 1873; the fire not only gutted the inside of the building, it also destroyed most of the documentary records of the French Revolution.

It was getting late, so we decided to walk over the Ponte d’Arcole to the Left Bank to visit Shakespeare & Company, an English-language bookstore that was supposedly frequented by Hemingway and other luminaries. As we crossed the bridge, storm clouds began to roll in.

About a half hour later, the sky opened up and we made a dash for the Metro station and home. It was an enjoyable day of walking, but our feet were sore and we were glad to be back in the apartment, able to sit and relax.

Being a tourist can hard work.

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