I’ve discussed the history behind covered passages in Paris. I’ve asked the Parisian tourism expert Ms. Vercier * to describe me the main covered passages essential to visit, and their history, or their cultural inheritance. Here her top 5!
Royal Palace’ Galeries de bois (18th century).
“In 1786, to respond to financial troubles, the Duke of Orléans expanded the Royal Palace and constructed a Galeries de Bois (“wood arcades”). The Royal Palace became the epicenter of commerce and delights in the city : shops, restaurants, attract large crowds.
In 1792, these galleries were extended by a new glass panels gallery : the Galerie Vitrée.
The Royal Palace’ Galeries de Bois are considered today as « the covered passages prototypes“.
Passage Vivienne – 1823
In 1823, notary chambers president Mr. Marcoux bought a private mansion and a plot of land, in which were constructed a passage, called Galerie Marcoux, later renamed Galerie Vivienne in 1825. This passage was a resounding success, profiting the Royal Palace neighborhood. The crowded area facilitated the passage towards the Grands Boulevards.
“Beyond its neoclassical Pompeian style covered by elegant glass, the complement of mosaic, paintings, and sculptures exalted the commerce life: caduceus, abundant anchors, and horns adorn half-moon windows, as well as goddess and nymphs decorating the rotunda.”
In 1832, abbot Gazzara exposed there the “Cosmorama” (an invention allowing to obtain relief illusion) providing some vision of monuments from 4 parts of the world through magnifying mirrors.
In 1826, in view of this success, Adam&Cie speculators is going to create a new passage on the side: known as Passage Colbert.
Passage Colbert – 1826
Adam&Cie company decided to construct a gallery, in the place of Colbert Hotel, the former residence of the Duke of Orléans regent.
The 83 meters long main aisle bounded of shops covered by a canopy, supported by triangular pediments and a 17 meters long rotunda, where the narrow passage permitted to catch up with Vivienne street.
“The architect J. Billaud built a rotunda, enlightened by a glass cupola. At the center was placed a magnificent bronze candelabra, wearing a seven crystal globes crown, enlightened by gas. This was called the “cocotier lumineux “ (or Shining coconut) and became under the July Monarchy, an important gallant meeting place“.
Gradually abandoned, the passage was shut down and demolished in 1975. It was rebuilt, just the way it was, on the behalf of the National Library in 1985.
Passage Vérot-Dodat – 1825
“This passage was constructed in 1826, on the initiative of two architects : Vérot and Dodat.
It became the communication link between the Royal Palace and the market district of St Honoré and Pont Neuf. Moreover, its location is strategic because it was opened in front of Messageries Laffite and Caillard, the place where stagecoaches went across all Europe. Then, vacant travelers could visit this passage et discover trendy and luxury shops.”
Three canopies are covering the passage alternately with fine plaster ceilings and adorned with canvas (Minerve, Mercure). The passage is composed of a succession of uniforms shops with elaborate storefront ornamentation: brass, wood, large lenses decoration where the gas light is reflected, black and white marble pavement.
Passages des Panoramas: 1799-1800
“One of the oldest and most famous passages near boulevard Montmartre. Constructed in 1799/1800 on the parcels, of former Montmorency hotel, this passage permits to link the two rotundas of Panoramas (from James Thayer): 2 large and seven meters high towers, containing large-sized panoramic paintings allowing to set-up the audience at the center. Success was immediate, et the passage became the strollers favorite place.
In 1807, Variétés theater construction closed from the passage was appealing to a lot of spectators, vaudevilles and comic opera. Its proximity is occupied by restaurants, cafés, candy stores, chocolate makers, glover, and so on …“
* Credit to Ms. Vercier for her time, and precious information.
Lecturer certified by the Minister of tourism specialised in Art History.
Responsible for lessons organisation at ENSAD (National school for Decorative Arts)
To get more information about this architectural style, click here.