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 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.
‘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 ↩