The diary of John Evelyn

Regular posts from the diary of John Evelyn

Month: February 1644

Saturday 27 February 1644

Accompanied with some English gentlemen, we took horse to see St. Germains-en-Laye, a stately country house of the King, some five leagues from Paris. By the way, we alighted at St. Cloud, where, on an eminence near the river, the Archbishop of Paris has a garden, for the house is not very considerable, rarely watered and furnished with fountains, statues and groves; the walks are very fair; the fountain of Laocoon is in a large square pool, throwing the water near forty feet high, and having about it a multitude of statues and basins, and is a surprising object.
But nothing is more esteemed than the cascade falling from the great steps into the lowest and longest walk from the Mount Parnassus, which consists of a grotto, or shell-house, on the summit of the hill, wherein are divers waterworks and contrivances to wet the spectators; this is covered with a fair cupola, the walls painted with the Muses, and statues placed thick about it, whereof some are antique and good.

In the upper walks are two perspectives, seeming to enlarge the alleys, and in this garden are many other ingenious contrivances. The palace, as I said, is not extraordinary. The outer walls only painted à fresco. In the court is a Volary, and the statues of Charles IX., Henry III., IV., and Louis XIII., on horseback, mezzo-relievo’d in plaster. In the garden is a small chapel; and under shelter is the figure of Cleopatra, taken from the Belvidere original, with others. From the terrace above is a tempest well painted; and thence an excellent prospect toward Paris, the meadows, and river.

Isometric view of the castle, lower gardens and the city of St. Cloud by Allegrain Etienne (1644-1736)

At an inn in this village is a host who treats all the great persons in princely lodgings for furniture and plate, but they pay well for it, as I have done. Indeed, the entertainment is very splendid, and not unreasonable, considering the excellent manner of dressing their meat, and of the service. Here are many debauches and excessive revelings, as being out of all noise and observance.

From hence, about a league further, we went to see Cardinal Richelieu’s villa, at Ruell1 . The house is small, but fairly built, in form of a castle, moated round. The offices are toward the road, and over against it are large vineyards, walled in. But, though the house is not of the greatest, the gardens about it are so magnificent, that I doubt whether Italy has any exceeding it for all rarities of pleasure.

The garden nearest the pavilion is a parterre, having in the midst divers noble brass statues, perpetually spouting water into an ample basin, with other figures of the same metal; but what is most admirable is the vast inclosure, and variety of ground, in the large garden, containing vineyards, cornfields, meadows, groves (whereof one is of perennial greens), and walks of vast length, so accurately kept and cultivated, that nothing can be more agreeable.

On one of these walks, within a square of tall trees, is a basilisk of copper2, which, managed by the fountaineer, casts water near sixty feet high, and will of itself move round so swiftly, that one can hardly escape wetting. This leads to the Citronière3, which is a noble conserve of all those rarities; and at the end of it is the Arch of Constantine, painted on a wall in oil, as large as the real one at Rome, so well done, that even a man skilled in painting, may mistake it for stone and sculpture. The sky and hills, which seem to be between the arches, are so natural, that swallows and other birds, thinking to fly through, have dashed themselves against the wall. I was infinitely taken with this agreeable cheat.

At the further part of this walk is that plentiful, though artificial cascade, which rolls down a very steep declivity, and over the marble steps and basins, with an astonishing noise and fury; each basin hath a jetto in it, flowing like sheets of transparent glass, especially that which rises over the great shell of lead, from whence it glides silently down a channel through the middle of a spacious gravel walk, terminating in a grotto.

“Wild ducks” by Wenceslaus Hollar (1607–1677)

Here are also fountains that cast water to a great height, and large ponds, two of which have islands for harbor of fowls, of which there is store. One of these islands has a receptacle for them built of vast pieces of rock, near fifty feet high, grown over with moss, ivy, etc., shaded at a competent distance with tall trees: in this rupellary4 nidary5 do the fowl lay eggs, and breed.

We then saw a large and very rare grotto of shell-work, in the shape of Satyrs, and other wild fancies: in the middle stands a marble table, on which a fountain plays in divers forms of glasses, cups, crosses, fans, crowns, etc. Then the fountaineer represented a shower of rain from the top, met by small jets from below. At going out, two extravagant musketeers shot us with a stream of water from their musket barrels. Before this grotto is a long pool into which ran divers spouts of water from leaden escalop6 basins. The viewing this paradise made us late at St. Germains.

“Veue de La Grotte de Saint Clou” by Israel Silvestre. (1636-1691)

The first building of this palace is of Charles V., called the Sage7 ; but Francis I. (that true virtuoso) made it complete; speaking as to the style of magnificence then in fashion, which was with too great a mixture of the Gothic, as may be seen in what there is remaining of his in the old Castle, an irregular piece as built on the old foundation, and having a moat about it. It has yet some spacious and handsome rooms of state, and a chapel neatly painted.

St.-Germain-en-Laye, Château-Neuf by Auguste Alexandre Guillaumot. 1637. (New Château in foreground, old Château behind).

The new Castle is at some distance, divided from this by a court, of a lower, but more modern design, built by Henry IV. To this belong six terraces, built of brick and stone, descending in cascades toward the river, cut out of the natural hill, having under them goodly vaulted galleries; of these, four have subterranean grots and rocks, where are represented several objects in the manner of scenes and other motions, by force of water, shown by the light of torches only; among these, is Orpheus with his music; and the animals, which dance after his harp; in the second, is the King and Dolphin; in the third, is Neptune sounding his trumpet, his chariot drawn by sea horses; in the fourth, the story of Perseus and Andromeda; mills; hermitages; men fishing; birds chirping; and many other devices. There is also a dry grot to refresh in; all having a fine prospect toward the river, and the goodly country about it, especially the forest. At the bottom, is a parterre; the upper terrace nearly half a mile in length, with double declivities, arched and balustered with stone, of vast and royal cost.

In the pavilion of the new Castle are many fair rooms, well painted, and leading into a very noble garden and park, where is a pall-mall, in the midst of which, on one of the sides, is a chapel, with stone cupola, though small, yet of a handsome order of architecture. Out of the park you go into the forest, which being very large, is stored with deer, wild boars, wolves, and other wild game. The Tennis Court, and Cavallerizzo8 , for the menaged horses, are also observable.

Veuë et Fassade du Chasteau de Madrid by Israël Silvestre. (Date unknown, artist lived 1621 -1691)

We returned to Paris by Madrid, another villa of the King’s, built by Francis I., and called by that name to absolve him of his oath that he would not go from Madrid (in which he was prisoner), in Spain, but from whence he made his escape. This house is also built in a park,and walled in. We next called in at the Bonnes-hommes, well situated, with a fair chapel and library.

Veue des minimes de Challiot du Coste de passy : by Albert Flamen. 1664. (Convent of Bon Hommes ) Source:

  1. Richelieu’s palace at Rueil no longer exists. Its beautiful grounds were cut up by the heirs of the Duchesse d’Aiguillon, the niece to whom he bequeathed it, and who beautified it so much as to excite the cupidity of Louis XIV. The fortresslike chateau was destroyed in the Revolution. A memory of the gardens survives in the six views of Gabriel Perelle after Israel Silvestre.  –AD 

  2. The Fountaine au Dragon – source: Richelieu by R J Knecht 

  3. Citron Garden or Lemon Garden -GS 

  4. Rocky – from the Latin rupes – a rock – GS 

  5. A collection of nests. -GS 

  6. shell shape – to have a regular, curving indenture in the margin -GS 

  7. Charles V was known in France as “Charles the Sage” or Charles the Wise -GS 

  8. Italian, Cavallerizza “Riding school” 

Tuesday 9 February 1644

The next day, I went to see the Louvre with more attention, its several courts and pavilions. One of the quadrangles, begun by Henry IV., and finished by his son and grandson, is a superb, but mixed structure. The cornices, moldings, and compartments, with the insertion of several colored marbles, have been of great expense.

We went through the long gallery, paved with white and black marble, richly fretted and painted à fresco. The front looking to the river, though of rare work for the carving, yet wants of that magnificence which a plainer and truer design would have contributed to it.

Detail from Turgot map of Paris showing Louvre, Tuileries Palace and the garden of Tuileries.

In the Cour aux Tuileries is a princely fabric; the winding geometrical stone stairs, with the cupola, I take to be as bold and noble a piece of architecture as any in Europe of the kind. To this is a corps de logis1, worthy of so great a prince. Under these buildings, through a garden in which is an ample fountain, was the king’s printing house, and that famous letter so much esteemed. Here I bought divers of the classic authors, poets, and others.

We returned through another gallery, larger, but not so long, where hung the pictures of all the kings and queens and prime nobility of France.

Descending hence, we were let into a lower very large room, called the Salle des Antiques, which is a vaulted Cimelia2 , destined for statues only, among which stands that so celebrated Diana of the Ephesians, said to be the same which uttered oracles in that renowned Temple. Besides these colossean figures of marble, I must not forget the huge globe suspended by chains. The pavings, inlayings, and incrustations of this Hall, are very rich.

In another more private garden toward the Queen’s apartment is a walk, or cloister, under arches, whose terrace is paved with stones of a great breadth; it looks toward the river, and has a pleasant aviary, fountain, stately cypresses, etc. On the river are seen a prodigious number of barges and boats of great length, full of hay, corn, wood, wine, and other commodities, which this vast city daily consumes. Under the long gallery we have described, dwell goldsmiths, painters, statuaries, and architects, who being the most famous for their art in Christendom have stipends allowed them by the King. Into that of Monsieur Saracin we entered, who was then molding for an image of a Madonna to be cast in gold of a great size to be sent by the Queen Regent to Loretto, as an offering for the birth of the Dauphin, now the young King.

I finished this day with a walk in the great garden of the Tuileries, rarely contrived for privacy, shade, or company, by groves, plantations of tall trees, especially that in the middle, being of elms, the other of mulberries; and that labyrinth of cypresses; not omitting the noble hedges of pomegranates, fountains, fish-ponds, and an aviary; but, above all, the artificial echo, redoubling the words so distinctly; and, as it is never without some fair nymph singing to its grateful returns; standing at one of the focuses, which is under a tree or little cabinet of hedges, the voice seems to descend from the clouds; at another, as if it was underground. This being at the bottom of the garden, we were let into another, which being kept with all imaginary accurateness as to the orangery, precious shrubs, and rare fruits, seemed a Paradise. From a terrace in this place we saw so many coaches, as one would hardly think could be maintained in the whole city, going, late as it was in the year, toward the course, which is a place adjoining, of near an English mile long, planted with four rows of trees, making a large circle in the middle. This course is walled about, near breast high, with squared freestone, and has a stately arch at the entrance, with sculpture and statues about it, built by Mary di Medicis.Here it is that the gallants and ladies of the Court take the air and divert themselves, as with us in Hyde Park, the circle being capable of containing a hundred coaches to turn commodiously, and the larger of the plantations for five or six coaches abreast.

Returning through the Tuileries, we saw a building in which are kept wild beasts for the King’s pleasure, a bear, a wolf, a wild boar, a leopard, etc.

  1. “The principal mass of a building, considered apart from its wings” -Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary. 

  2. “Treasures, things laid up in store as valuable.” – OED 

Monday 8 February 1644

I took coach and went to see the famous Jardine Royale, which is an inclosure walled in, consisting of all varieties of ground for planting and culture of medical simples. It is well chosen, having in it hills, meadows, wood and upland, natural and artificial, and is richly stored with exotic plants. In the middle of the parterre is a fair fountain. There is a very fine house, chapel, laboratory, orangery, and other accommodations for the President, who is always one of the king’s chief physicians.

From hence, we went to the other side of the town, and to some distance from it, to the Bois de Vincennes, going by the Bastille, which is the fortress, tower, and magazine of this great city. It is very spacious within, and there the Grand Master of the artillery has his house, with fair gardens and walks.

The Bois de Vincennes has in it a square and noble castle, with magnificent apartments, fit for a royal court, not forgetting the chapel. It is the chief prison for persons of quality. About it there is a park walled in, full of deer; and in one part there is a grove of goodly pine trees.

Thursday 4 February 1644

I went to see the Marais de Temple, where are a noble church and palace, heretofore dedicated to the Knights Templar, now converted to a piazza, not much unlike ours at Covent Garden; but large and not so pleasant, though built all about with divers considerable palaces.

The Church of St. Geneviève is a place of great devotion, dedicated to another of their Amazons, said to have delivered the city from the English; for which she is esteemed the tutelary saint of Paris. It stands on a steep eminence, having a very high spire, and is governed by canons regular. At the Palais Royal Henry IV. built a fair quadrangle of stately palaces, arched underneath. In the middle of a spacious area, stands on a noble pedestal a brazen statue of Louis XIII.,1 which, though made in imitation of that in the Roman capitol, is nothing so much esteemed as that on the Pont Neuf.

“ Vue perspective de la principale Entrée de l’Hospice des 15-20” by J.-B Mitoyen. 1807. Source: BnF

The hospital of the Quinze-Vingts2, in the Rue St. Honoré, is an excellent foundation; but above all is the Hôtel Dieu3 for men and women, near Nôtre Dame, a princely, pious, and expensive structure. That of the Charité4 gave me great satisfaction, in seeing how decently and christianly the sick people are attended, even to delicacy. I have seen them served by noble persons, men and women. They have also gardens, walks, and fountains. Divers persons are here cut for the stone, with great success, yearly in May. The two Châtelets5 (supposed to have been built by Julius Cæsar) are places of judicature in criminal causes; to which is a strong prison. The courts are spacious and magnificent.

  1. The bronze of Louis XIII., erected by Richelieu in 1639, was destroyed in1792. An equestrian statue by Dupaty and Cortot has now taken its place, and the Place Royale (not “Palais Royal“) is now called the Place des Vosges.  

  2. The Hospice des Quinze-Vingts, founded by St. Louisin 1260, now occupies the old Hôtel des Mousquetaires Noirs, to which it was removed from the Rue St. Honoré by the Cardinal de Rohan.  –AD 

  3. The Hôtel-Dieu was re-erected in 1868-78, on a different site, but still in the vicinity of Notre Dame. – AD 

  4. The Hôpital de la Charité, in the Rue des Saints Pères, is — or is shortly to be — pulled down.  –AD.  In fact the Hôpital de la Charité were demolished around 1935 to make place for the new Faculté de médecine de Paris -GS. 

  5. The Grand and Petit Châtelets are now nonexistent.  – AD 

3 February 1644

I went to the Exchange. The late addition to the buildings is very noble; but the galleries where they sell their petty merchandise nothing so stately as ours at London, no more than the place where they walk below, being only a low vault.

“The Hotel de Soissons” (home of the Paris Exchange at that time) by Israel Silvestre (1621-1691). 1650

The Palaise1, as they call the upper part, was built in the time of Philip the Fair, noble and spacious. The great Hall annexed to it, is arched with stone, having a range of pillars in the middle, round which, and at the sides, are shops of all kinds, especially booksellers’. One side is full of pews for the clerks of the advocates, who swarm here (as ours at Westminster).

At one of the ends stands an altar, at which mass is said daily. Within are several chambers, courts, treasuries, etc. Above that is the most rich and glorious Salle d’Audience, the chamber of St. Louis, and other superior Courts where the Parliament sits, richly gilt on embossed carvings and frets, and exceedingly beautified.

Within the place where they sell their wares, is another narrower gallery, full of shops and toys, etc., which looks down into the prison-yard. Descending by a large pair of stairs, we passed by Sainte Chapelle, which is a church built by St. Louis, 1242, after the Gothic manner: it stands on another church, which is under it, sustained by pillars at the sides, which seem so weak as to appear extraordinary in the artist.

This chapel is most famous for its relics, having as they pretend, almost the entire crown of thorns: the agate patine, rarely sculptured, judged one of the largest and best in Europe. There was now a very beautiful spire erecting. The court below is very spacious, capable of holding many coaches, and surrounded with shops, especially engravers’, goldsmiths’, and watchmakers’. In it are a fair fountain and portico.

The Isle du Palais consists of a triangular brick building, whereof one side, looking to the river, is inhabited by goldsmiths. Within the court are private dwellings. The front, looking on the great bridge, is possessed by mountebanks, operators, and puppet-players. On the other part, is the every day’s market for all sorts of provisions, especially bread, herbs, flowers, orange trees, choice shrubs. Here is a shop called NOAH’S ARK, where are sold all curiosities, natural or artificial, Indian or European, for luxury or use, as cabinets, shells, ivory, porcelain, dried fishes, insects, birds, pictures, and a thousand exotic extravagances.

Passing hence, we viewed the port Dauphine, an arch of excellent workmanship; the street bearing the same name, is ample and straight.

  1. I must not pass by the great pallais, or palace, a great pile of irregular building, and of great antiquity, some part of it below stairs employed as shops and warehouses; part of it above is not unlike our new and old exchanges, where such-like merchandises are exposed to sale. The rest of it is divided into many large chambers and apartments, where the several courts of parliament have their session’ (Reresby in 1654, Travels) –AD 

Tuesday 2 February 1644

I heard the news of my nephew George’s birth, which was on January 15th, English style, 1644.