Cour du Commerce-Saint-André Paris is a picturesque passage stepped back in time. This walkway in the heart of the neighborhood of La Monnaie, in Paris 6, was built along the location of the 12-century walls of King Philippe Auguste that delimited the city (you can still see some remains of a tower on #4). In the past, this walkway was 40 m longer, but the construction of Boulevard Saint-Germain cut it.
This charming street has a fascinating story. In the 18th century, cour du Commerce-Saint-André was a common meeting place for the intellectuals and… the revolutionaries. Indeed, cour du Commerce-Saint-André was one of the main melting pots of the French Revolution!
Café Procope (est. 1686)
It is at Café Procope – the oldest café in Paris – where Voltaire, Rousseau, Montesquieu, and Diderot frequently met, and it seems that Diderot wrote many chapters of his Encyclopedia there. Later, Danton, Marat, Camille Desmoulins, or even Robespierre ate here regularly. From the Procope, the watchword for the Tuileries Attacks of June 20 and August 10, 1792, was given.
Other Sights at Cour-du-Commerce Saint-André
Cour du Commerce-Saint-André has other interesting places, still visible, with a revolutionary past.
On 20 cour du Commerce-Saint-André, today disappeared by the construction of Boulevard Saint-Germain), Danton lived since 1789. He was arrested in his home on March 30, 1794, six days before being beheaded. Danton’s statue on Boulevard Saint-Germain marks the exact spot where he was arrested.
On 8 cour du Commerce-Saint-André, there was the printer from where Marat published L’Ami du Peuple in 1793. L’Ami du Peuple was the most celebrated radical newspaper of the Revolution. A bell, still visible today above the roof of Cafe Procope, was rung to indicate that the newspaper was ready.
Finally, on 9 cour du Commerce-Saint-André, there was the workshop of the carpenter Schmidt. In this workshop, a certain Joseph Ignace Guillotin developed his most famous invention, the guillotine! The first guillotine tests were carried out in this passage, first with bales of straw, then with live sheep. The death machine was then moved for the tests on corpses, and later to the Place de Grève (today Parvis de l’Hôtel de Ville).
But cour du Commerce-Saint-André is not all about the past! It is still a charming place that we recommend to explore when you visit Paris. Along this street, you will find vintage boutiques and lively cafes great for a coffee in the morning or an aperitif in the afternoon.
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