This was the reality of my morning at Musee Carnavalet in Paris. I had not been able to fit this museum into any of my previous visits to La Ville Lumiere, so finding myself free and alone to wander, I headed straight to the Marais to visit this museum which is the oldest municipal museum in Paris, and dedicated to the history of the capital. It is housed inside two famous 16th century Hotels (mansions). I was in heaven!
The Hôtel Carnavalet was purchased by the Municipal Council of Paris in 1866 and it was opened to the public in 1880. When the museum needed expansion due to the growing collection, the adjacent Hôtel Le Peletier de Saint Fargeau was obtained and the addition was opened to the public in 1989.
In 1560, construction of the Hotel Carnavalet, directed by Nicolas Dupuis, was completed. The mansion was built for the President of the Parliament of Paris. In 1578, the widow of Francois de Kernevenoy, (in French; Carnavalet) purchased the building and it became known as the Hotel Carnavalet.
In 1654, renowned French architect Francois Mansart made extensive renovations to the mansion. The last owner to make the mansion their home was famous Parisian and aristocrat, Madame de Sévigné, wife of the Marquis de Sévigné. She was best known for her letters to her daughter, which were made public and eventually made her famous throughout France.
In 1793, Le Peletier de Saint Fargeau voted for the execution of Louis XVI and was murdered, in revenge for his vote, the same day of the execution of the king on January 20, 1793.
As planned by city officials way back in the 19th century, the story of Paris unfolds inside the museum rooms. The exhibits show the transformation from Gallo-Roman times, through early settlement and the village of Lutèce, which was inhabited by the Parisii tribes, through the great events of French history, culture and art to the grand city of today.
The rooms include an eighteenth century Louis XIV salon decorated with ornate gold-leaf paneling and a lilac Louis XV room with paneling from the Hôtel de Broglie. You'll also find a recreated early twentieth century ballroom with large murals from Paris' Hôtel de Wendel.
The Napoleon collection displaying paintings, sculpture, personal items and even a ceremonial breast-plate, was particularly fascinating!
16, rue des Francs-Bourgeois
Tel : 01 44 59 58 58
Fax : 01 44 59 58 11