Read the Signs: Le Quai de l’Horloge in Paris

 
Read the Signs: Le Quai de l’Horloge in Paris

Is this the most punctual street in Paris?

Let us wind the clock back to look at the Quai de l’Horloge, on north-west side of the Île de la Cité, where you’ll find the Palais de Justice courthouse. It owes its name to the famous clock on the courthouse, where the quay meets the Boulevard du Palais. It was the first public clock in France, installed in 1370.

In 1418, the municipal authorities decided it should have an exterior dial “so the inhabitants of the city could regulate their affairs day and night”, or, as the inscription in Latin read on its face, “this machine which makes the twelve hours so fair teaches to protect justice and defend the laws”. The elaborate façade also features two allegorical figures of law and justice.

The street runs from the tip of the island to the corner of the former 14th-century courthouse and prison that housed the Conciergerie, originally part of the former royal palace, which also included the stunning Sainte-Chapelle with its famous stained-glass window.

Many are the turns of fate imprinted on this relatively short street. Perhaps the most notorious of inmates within these walls was Prisoner No. 280 – none other than dethroned queen Marie Antoinette, who was kept in isolation here, summarily tried and sentenced to death.

From France Today magazine

Read other instalments in our “Read the Signs” series:

Read the Signs: Rue du Chat-Qui-Danse in Saint-Malo
Read the Signs: Rue des Dames in Paris
Read the Signs: Rue Vaugirard in Paris
Read the Signs: Rue du Croissant in Paris
Read the Signs: Rue Cler in Paris
Read the Signs: Allée Sonia Rykiel in Paris
Read the Signs: Rue Crémieux in Paris
Read the Signs: Place de l’Europe- Simone Veil in Paris
Read the Signs: Boulevard Haussmann in Paris
Read the Signs: Rue du Chat qui Pêche in Paris
Read the Signs: Rue des Mauvais Garçons in Paris
Read the Signs: Avenue de Champagne
Read the Signs: Rue du Temple in Paris
Read the Signs: Rue Guy-Môquet in Paris
Read the Signs: Rue des Francs-Bourgeois in Paris
Read the Signs: Boulevard Diderot in Paris

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Sylvia Edwards Davis is a writer and correspondent based in France with a focus on business and culture. A member of the France Media editorial team, Sylvia scans the cultural landscape to bring you the most relevant highlights on current events, art exhibitions, museums and festivals.