Montmartre – a Fascinating History

EpicureanPiranha | May 26th, 2010 - 17:20

Butte Montmartre ~ A Fascinating Warren of Tiny Streets Steeped in History

For someone who’s visiting Paris for the first time, the choice of so many wonderful and interesting places to see and things to do is quite bewildering to say the least! If you are only there for a few days and don’t have time to visit, you’ll still be able to enjoy the beauty of “Sacré Coeur Basilica” from a distance, because it sits so high atop Paris. But if you are planning to spend a little more time visiting this impressive city, then do take the city’s metro up to the Butte  (ie: Butte Montmartre) and  wander around exploring the tiny warren of streets around the Basilica.

Montmartre - Auberge de la Bonne Franquette

Auberge de la Bonne Franquette is housed in a building that is over 400 years old, and has always been an auberge throughout its reincarnations!

What is now referred to as la Butte Montmartre was once a small village. The small place (or square) which you see above, lined with ancient buildings and small cafés, is the oldest part of this village. Below is a smaller image copied from the restaurant’s website [refer to link below].  You will notice the odd angles of the buildings and streets. This is typical throughout the older parts of Paris, where buildings are often centuries old.

Montmartre- A La Bonne Franquette was called Aux Billards en Bois in the past century

‘A La Bonne Franquette’ was known as ‘Aux Billards en Bois’ in the past century. This image is owned by the Restaurant (c) 2008 ‘La Bonne Franquette’ Sa LA MAIN, Tous droits réservés.

La Bonne Franquette, where famous artists including Pissarro, Sisley, Cézanne, Toulouse-Lautrec, Renoir, Monet, Zola et Vincent Van Gogh gathered over a meal and good wine in the last century, is an ancient auberge which is over 400 years old and still in operation today!

It stands at the intersection of Des Saules Street, of Norvins Street (the oldest street in Montmartre), and of Saint Rustique Street, previously the main artery of Montmartre Village and the street built at the highest elevation of all Paris. In the last century, it was called « Aux Billards en Bois » and bore the insignia : “Olivier et Pieds de Mouton”, the names of its original owners.

“La Bonne Franquette est une maison vieille de plus de quatre siècles. Elle est érigée à l’angle de la rue des Saules (menant à la vigne de Montmartre), de la rue Norvins (plus ancienne rue de Montmartre), et de la rue Saint Rustique (ancienne grand’rue du village de Montmartre et rue la plus haute de Paris). Au siècle dernier, cette auberge s’appelait «Aux Billards en Bois» et portait cette curieuse enseigne : «Olivier et Pieds de Mouton» ce qui désignait les propriétaires de l’établissement.” [source:]

Stepping Back in Time to the Romans & the Gauls …

Spending time here is like stepping back in time! Along with the photo snapping tourists [like me that day!], you’ll also see several locals and Parisians, enjoying a glass of wine or an espresso.

This area of Paris is in fact much more ancient than the buildings which stand there, and is steeped in history. On the restaurant’s website, there is a fascinating historic account written in French by Bernard Salmon, deputy Mayor and cultural attaché of the Commune Libre du Vieux Montmartre, of which I have translated this very brief exerpt:

“Under the Gauls, Montmartre’s wine was already famous. A sacred oak grove grew on the top of this hill, where Druids worshiped the god Teutates and taught youths the movement of the stars. Later, during the Roman occupation, Caesar mentions in his writings the presence of a temple of Mercury surrounded by beautiful villas - this was located approximately where the Moulin de la Galette now stands. There was a Temple of Mars built on the present site of St Peter, and the Butte was then called Mount Mercurii.”

Le Consulat - Montmartre

Le Consulat is another of the many charming bistros on the Butte Montmartre.

Le Consulat is a another very old café and bar à vins on the Rue Norvins.

These charming small cafés quickly become packed in the late morning and late afternoons, and are wonderful places from which to savour local life and colours.

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