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The Hôtel de Sens

The Hôtel de Sens has a strange destiny: after being the residence of the powerful archbishopric of Sens, this incredible example of medieval housing in Paris became famous for housing Queen Margot. Today, it houses a library dedicated to the arts.

A medieval gem in the heart of Paris

Despite its varied successive functions, the Hôtel de Sens has retained its original architecture.

Built at the end of the 15th century, it features the key characteristics of the medieval style, with corner turrets, mullioned windows (divided by stone or wooden jambs) and a predominantly stone construction - the preferred material for defensive buildings at the time, even if its first occupant, the Archbishop of Sens, had no particular fears for his safety.

This was, however, the case for its 17th-century occupant, the scandalous Reine Margot, who, after the annulment of her marriage to Henri IV, turned it into a party and debauchery center (which did nothing to improve the public's less than virtuous opinion of Marguerite de Valois). 

The hotel was even the scene of a crime of passion: in 1605, her 18-year-old lover was shot in the head by his predecessor, who, a few days later, was decapitated on the spot while his famous mistress looked on. The hotel's current address (1 rue du Figuier) is in fact due to the mistress: an ancient fruit tree in front of the hotel was cut down at her request, preventing her car from coming and going!

A vivid reminder of the July Revolution

This building, listed as a historical monument since 1862, also bears witness to the July Revolution, when rioters fired a cannonball at its façade. This can still be seen today, captioned July 28, 1830, the 2nd day of the event also known as the Trois Glorieuses.
Parisians, who were furious with the absolutist regime of King Charles X, naturally targeted this site strongly associated with royalty, and the preservation of this encrusted cannonball has since become a symbol of the popular struggle for freedom and against oppression.

Perhaps Nostradamus, who was invited to Paris by Queen Catherine de Médicis in 1555 and stayed at the site, had predicted this historic episode? The apothecary, astrologer and physician would certainly be pleased to know that, since 1929, his former Paris address has been a rich library devoted to crafts and their techniques, the fine arts/graphic arts and the decorative arts.

The Forney Library, whose name is a tribute to an entrepreneur who promoted the education of craftsmen, regularly organizes exhibitions around these different arts.

To prepare for your discovery of this monument with its rich history, start by visiting its website.

Valérie from Comme des Français