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Tour Saint-Jacques – A Majestic Monument Not to be Missed


You might have noticed that Paris is a city with many public squares, exquisite little

spots with manicured urban gardens, a few benches and flocks of pigeons that make you feel so

very French. In fact, close to the Apartments du Louvre, you can visit the FIRST public square

created by the city of Paris in 1857. It is called “Square de la Tour Saint-Jacques” at 39Bis rue

de Rivoli. You can’t miss it – the Tour Saint-Jacques, that stands in the middle of it, is a

towering 52 meters (171 ft.) high. So, if you’re having trouble finding it, just look up.


A National Treasure

The 500-year-old Tour Saint-Jacques is an architectural masterpiece, a national

landmark, and a UNESCO heritage site. This belltower was built in rich

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Gothic style

between 1509 and 1523 and, in the beginning, was part of the Church Saint-Jacques-de-la-

Boucherie (St. James of the Butchers). It served as a meeting point on the Via Toronensis (Tours

Route) for Catholic pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela (Saint Jacques de

Compostelle). However, during the French revolution, the church became national property

and its stone was sold in 1797, on the condition that its landmark belltower be spared. At that

time, the Tour Saint-Jacques was the tallest building on the right bank of the Seine.


Who and What are Up There

At the pinnacle of the tower, you can see the 19 th century reproduction of the statue of

Saint James the Greater, created by French sculptor Paul Chenillon. Saint James is depicted as a

pilgrim and stands a noble three meters high. The original figure was destroyed during the

French revolution.

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Saint James is not alone – there are 19 statues of apostles and saints. The

apostles are located at the corners of the summit terrace and are depicted by their respective

symbols – Mark the lion, Luke the bull, John the eagle and Matthew the angel. The rest of the

tower is embellished with gargoyles, chimeras, dragons, scallop shells and curvy, complex

moldings. Very Gothic it is.

Another impressive relic in the Tour Saint-Jacques is a statue of Blaise Pascale. Pascale

was a French scientist and savant who, in 1647, performed atmospheric pressure experiments

from the top of the tower. His statue was added to its base during its first restoration in the

19 th century. In 1885, a meteorology station, which measured climatology and Parisian

pollution, was built on the top of the tower. And now, for the fun stuff.


Mysterious Medieval Alchemy

For Harry Potter fans who visit Paris, the Tour Saint-Jacques is a must-see. Nicolas

Flamel, who lived in Paris in the 14 th and 15 th centuries, and who is considered to be a heavy-

hitter of medieval alchemy, is buried under this monument. Flamel is known (supposedly) for

cracking the mystery of the Philosopher’s Stone. He and his wife Pernelle also are rumored to

have found the secret for turning metals into gold (in fantasy fiction circles, that is). They both

have streets named after them – the rue Flamel intersects with Rue de Rivoli at the Tower

location and the rue Pernelle crosses rue Flamel. The reason for this honor is a result of their

generous contributions to the original Church and other philanthropic actions in Paris.

Around 1407, after his wife’s death, Flamel built a house which is still standing just steps

away from the Apartments du Louvre Marais location. It is a stone house, the oldest one in

Paris. Walk on down to 51 rue de Montmorency to get a glimpse of it, it's now a restaurant so why not have a bite in the oldest house in Paris.


wikipedia.com

As you can see, Apartments du Louvre is surrounded by Parisian history that is well

worth the detour. The summit of the Tour Saint-Jacques is open for visitors from May 18 th to

November 12 th 2023. There are 300 winding, narrow steps to climb to the top, but the

panoramic view of Paris will take your breath away. (Not recommended for anyone suffering

from claustrophobia.) Reservations for guided visits (once they begin in May) are available

online at Tour Saint-Jacques - Office de tourisme Paris (parisinfo.com). The impressive Square

of the Tour Saint-Jacques is open daily from 8:00 - 8:00.

Whether it’s impressive architecture, majestic statues or a sorcerer’s stone link that

you’re looking for while you’re staying at the Apartments du Louvre, the Tour Saint-Jacques is a

French national treasure not to be missed.

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