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Musée d'art et d'histoire du Judaïsme

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The hôtel de Saint-Aignan: key dates

Cour Saint Aignan in 2008 Courtyard Saint Aignan in 2008
photo Tim

Completion of a townhouse for the Comte d’Avaux, Cardinal Mazarin’s superintendent of Finances. Its design, by the architect Pierre le Muet, is unprecedented in Parisian civil architecture. Notably, it includes a trompe-l’œil wall with false windows and pilasters, built against and masking Philippe Auguste’s old boundary rampart, which creates an illusion of space and symmetry.

Another original feature is the sculpted ‘colossal’ pilasters running uninterrupted the whole height of the facade. The courtyard’s four identical facades, which do not accentuate the mansion’s living quarters as was customary, echo this continuity. In this way, the architect creates an imposing verticality, whose sustained rhythm imbues the edifice with genuine grandeur. Three centuries later, the architecture has lost none of its intensity and visitors continue to be struck by the building’s power.

The Duc de Saint-Aignan acquires the mansion and undertakes its alteration and modernisation. This includes the enlargement of the garden facade, the creation of a main staircase and the dividing up of the first-floor gallery into apartments. Le Nôtre is hired to design a formal garden with ornamental beds. The 20th century restoration work fixed the late 17th century as its period of reference. .

Sequestered after the Revolution, the townhouse becomes the town hall of Paris’ Seventh District.

The hôtel in 1905 The Hotel in 1905
photo Atget ©DR

The mansion, having changed hands several times, is divided up into workshops. Transformed into a commercial premises, the building’s only living quarters are on the third floor.
Contemporary photographs, in particular those by Eugène Atget, show life in the Hôtel de Saint-Aignan, now lived in by Jewish immigrants from Poland, Romania and the Ukraine.

During the main roundups of the Jews in Paris, several inhabitants of the building were arrested and deported. Thirteen of them died in Nazi concentration camps.

The Hôtel de Saint-Aignan is acquired by the City of Paris.

The restoration programme begins, directed by Jean-Pierre Jouve, Architect in Chief of the National Office of Historic Monuments and Sites. At this point, the mansion is destined for use by the National Archives of Paris.

The hôtel in 1992 The Hotel in 1992
photo M. Goldman ©MAHJ

On the initiative of the Mayor of Paris, Jacques Chirac, the Hôtel de Saint-Aignan is made available to a museum of Jewish civilisation, the Musée d’art et d’histoire du Judaïsme.

Start of the second phase of the restoration programme, directed by Bernard Fonquernie, Architect-in-Chief of the National Office of Historic Monuments and Sites.

© Musée d'art et d'histoire du Judaïsme