Wednesday, October 7
Across the Seine from Tour Eiffel is a grand plaza with fountains and parks on either side. All of this leads your eye to two enormous buildings that reside above known simply as The Trocadero. Echoing all the other heroically scaled architectural gems of the city, although the style is of the Moderne movement of the 1930s, when this gem was built. Not obvious in the picture are the numerous gold leaf statues in that sleek Moderne style.
This building replaced an earlier one known as the Palais de Chaillot, an equally impressive building which held a large auditorium that contained another of those wonderful organs designed by Aristide Cavaille-Coll, the master who built the organs at St. Sulpice and St. Eustache (along with many others throughout France).
The organ survived the destruction of the old Palais de Chaillot to be installed in a theater in the new building. (For organists and fans of organs, this was the instrument that Virgil Fox used to record Joseph Jongen’s titanic Sinfonie Concertante for Organ and Orchestra). This organ still exists, but was moved to Lyons years ago. But the theater remains, so as we passed its entrance, I thought of Virgil and that week of recording sessions way back fifty years ago.
Our purpose in visiting the Trocadero, besides all its obvious grandeur, was to visit the Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine (The City of Architecture and Heritage), a museum of architecture itself. Incredibly interesting and inexplicably unvisited by the many visitors to Paris, this is two floors of replicas of some of the greatest architectural details found on some of the greatest cathedrals and other buildings in France. Where else will you find scaled-to-size details from Notre Dame, Reims and Mont St. Michel all in one room?!?! It’s a rather recent addition to the hundreds of museums found in Paris, having opened in 2007. I’m not exaggerating in saying that the place was nearly empty. No need to worry about pickpockets here. We just laid things down and walked around when we wanted to!
Make no mistake about this. Most of these are full-on detailed replicas of what can be found on the cathedrals represented! The ‘real items’ still exist on each of the buildings that these are copied from. What a project it must have been to capture every chisel mark, all the weathering, the bits knocked off over time, etc. Truly, the two great galleries that take you down this quick stroll through Medieval and Renaissance architecture is pretty startling! I’m no authority on any of this stuff, but I’d have to think that someone knowledgeable in this area would be able to glean great insights from the nameless artisans who created these massive statements in stone.
The upper level of the museum, which features mainly miniature models and blueprint details of dozens of important 19th and 20th century buildings (mostly French, but I saw London’s Crystal Palace represented). I think my architect relatives would have a ball in this place!
Being near Tour Eiffel, this museum was easy for us to do, though we did take the RER train to conserve Mary Ann’s feet. The day was cloudy and seemed like it wanted to rain, but it didn’t.
We were hungry, so enjoyed a nice lunch at nearby Café Kléber before heading home to get ready for our two-day trip out to Chartres. A fun day!