6 Secrets of the Hotel de la Marine in Paris



6 Secrets of the Hotel de la Marine in Paris

No dungeons or sordid cells in this monument! But the Hôtel de la Marine still has its share of unusual places and secret passages. Here, we reveal the six most surprising places in this historic site. 

1. A secret view over rue de Rivoli

It was around the Place de la Concorde and the Opera that the last battles for the liberation of Paris took place in August 1944.   

The Hôtel de la Marine was then occupied by the German Naval General Staff. Many Nazi soldiers were still holed up there, particularly in the corner living room of the Intendant’s apartment, on the first floor. Located at the corner of Place de la Concorde and Rue de Rivoli, the latter indeed offers a strategic position to observe the arrival of French fighters. Concealed behind the interior shutters of the building, the Germans could discreetly observe their enemies through an eyehole pierced right in the iddle of the shutter. 

Miroirs dansants évoquant les galeries du Garde-Meuble, les bals du XIXe siècle et les événements qui se sont déroulés sur la place de la Concorde, ancienne place Louis XV.

2. The mirror cabinet

Pierre-Elisabeth de Fontanieu, the first intendant of the Garde-Meuble de la Couronne to settle at the Hôtel de la Marine, was single and known for his taste for operatic women with loose morals. He commissioned this intimate living room, revealing his attraction to libertinism.   

Directly connected to his bedroom, the room boasts large wall mirrors framed by magnificent gilded and sculpted decorations. The mirrors are painted with floral decorations, birds, women and little chubby cherubs. Originally, however, it was naked women on pedestals, and not little angels, who adorned the mirrors! It was the wife of Marc-Antoine Thierry de Ville d’Avray, Fontanieu’s successor, who had the paintings changed out of modesty. The decor remains no less delicate and attractive. 

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Cabinet des glaces © Benjamin Gavaudo / Centre des monuments nationaux

3. Spying on the diplomatic office  

No diplomacy without espionage! The walls of the diplomatic salon of the Hôtel de la Marine must have housed many secrets. But did you know they can also disclose them? Indeed, behind the wall along the fireplace is hidden a cramped hiding place into which a discreet ear could slip to listen to the debates, which took place in the diplomatic room. 

Diplomatic salon © Ambroise Tézenas / Centre des monuments nationaux

4. The traces of a spectacular burglary

On a night in September 1792, one of the most important thefts in French history took place. Around forty thieves broke into the Garde-Meuble Palace to steal the Crown Jewels. Under cover of darkness, they climbed the facade of the building to climb onto the loggia of Place de la Concorde. From there, they were able to quietly break a shutter to enter the living room where the jewelry was located. The building still bears the scars of this burglary on the shutter which was pierced. 

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5. The flying table

Pierre-Elisabeth de Fontanieu was a visionary man and he installed the very latest in furniture and decoration in his private apartments. At the time, dining rooms were still rare and people would eat in a living room where the servants installed a board on trestles. But how could one converse quietly with guests in the midst of the comings and goings of the servants to set up the meals? Fontanieu’s solution: a “flying” table that went up and down between the mezzanine living room and the office located on the floor below thanks to an ingenious system of ropes and pulleys! This innovation was so expensive that even King Louis XV gave it up for his Palace of Versailles.

The dining room © Benjamin Gavaudo / Centre des monuments nationaux

6. The valet’s room  

A valet must always be ready! His responsibilities are great and, even in the middle of the night, he must be able to serve his master as quickly as possible. So, during the arrangement of the Crown Furniture Storage, and more particularly the intendant’s apartment, a small room was installed in the mezzanine below the intendant’s bedroom: this is the valet’s room! This small, cramped space had room for only a bed. But thanks to the windows through which he can see the antechamber of the steward’s study, this servant can react instantly, go down a narrow staircase, take a small hidden door and enter directly into his master’s apartment. Clever! 

Don’t miss: a sensory journey through perfume at the Hotel de la Marine

With Odoramento by Chantal Sanier, the Centre des Monuments Nationaux is offering a unique olfactory experience integrated into the usual museum-tour of the Hôtel de la Marine. The artist and creator of perfumes seeks to stimulate the memory and imagination of visitors through unique creations: fragrant cold wax sculptures.  

The sculptures, inspired by 18th century objects from the Fragonard Museum and arranged in six spaces in the apartments of the Hôtel de la Marine, deliver varied olfactory atmospheres to evoke characters from the Garde-Meuble (the intendant Marc-Antoine Thierry of City of Avray, his wife, the servants), and their way of life. Through this experience, visitors can awaken to the olfactory culture of the 18th century.  

Lead photo credit : © Benjamin Gavaudo / Centre des monuments nationaux

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