A little history of Vertbois fountain

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Detail - ©Moonik / CC-BY-SA Detail - ©Moonik / CC-BY-SA
Vertbois fountain Fountain Victor Hugo

Our fountain was raised next to the medieval surrounding wall erected by king Philip Augustus... and near Saint-Martin-des-Champs abbey. In the past, it brought fresh water to the abbey, from a little spring called Savies, in the Belleville district.

In the beginning of the 18th century, Saint-Martin abbey suggested to the city of Paris to put up a fountain: so the inhabitants could have drinking water. They decided to raise it on the corner of the rue Vertbois, in the medieval tower. The building site began in 1712.

But in the 19th century, they wanted to destroy it! Oh my gosh, Parisians protested: even the French Antique dealers Society, led by writer Victor Hugo, moaned. He wrote this:

Démolir la tour? Non! Démolir l'architecte? Oui! Cette homme doit être immédiatement révoqué. Il ne comprend rien à l'histoire et par conséquent rien à l'architecture. Sur pied la tour. A terre l’architecte. [...] Tous les vieux vestiges de Paris doivent être conservées désormais. Paris est la ville du passé. Pourquoi? Parce qu'elle est la ville de l'avenir.

"To demolish this tower? No! To destroy the architect? Yes! They have to fire that man. He doesn’t understand history or architecture. Long live the tower! Down with the architect! Vestiges in Paris have to be preserved. Paris is the city of Past. Why? Because Paris is the city of Future."

Thanks to that, the fountain was saved! But it was re-raised in 1882... A plaque says: La tour dépendant de l'enceinte fortifiée du prieuré de Saint-Martin-des-Champs construite vers 1140 et la fontaine du Vertbois érigée en 1712 ont été conservées et restaurées par l'Etat en 1882 suivant le vœu des antiquaires parisiens, which means "This fortified medieval tower used to belong to abbey Saint-Martin-des-Champs, raised in 1140. The fountain was raised in 1712, restored in 1882 by Parisian antique dealers."


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