Jardin des Tuileries
The extraordinary story that is the history of the Tuileries Gardens unfolds like a terrific saga.
Dating back as far as 1564, and at the time, was considered the largest and most beautiful gardens in Paris.
Once home to a Palace, Kings and Queens, a riding school, a menagerie, pageantry, hunting, fire, pillage and a massacre.
The abundant cast of characters, that left their mark on Jardin des Tuileries include; Marie Antoinette, Napoleon Bonaparte, Henri IV, two young Kings taking ownership at the age of 5 and 9 years respectively, and a famous author, to name a few. Each person played an integral part in the development and growth of the gardens of yesteryear and the gardens we see today.
LEAVING THE LOUVRE behind you and entering the Tuileries Gardens, walking under Napoleon’s smaller triumphal Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, with a glance to the left will prove no evidence of where the instigator of the Tuileries Gardens, Catherine de Medici’s Chateau once stood.
As your eyes dance around the park admiring the wide tree lined alleys, shrubs, flowers and water basins it is difficult to ignore the surrounding views of the Eiffel tower and in the distance, at the end of the main alley, in Place de la Concorde, one of only three Obelisks outside of Egypt.
Napoleon’s grand triumphal arch; l’Arc de Triomphe, towering in the distance at the end of the Champs Elysees can also been seen from the gardens, imposing and magnificent.
The long, expansive and elegant gardens with ponds, statuary and cafes, is also home to the museums; Jeu de Paume and L’Orangerie where you will find Monet’s famous water lilies.
We can thank both Catherine de Medicis for the garden’s inception and the famous author of the fairy tales; Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Puss in Boots and Little Red Riding Hood, Charles Perrault, for requesting the gardens be open to the public.
Jardin des Tuileries started it’s life as an area dedicated to ‘tuileries’, or workshops, specialising in tiles for roof tops.
Catherine de Medici commissioned a landscape architect from her native Florence to design gardens consisting of lawns, flower beds, a kitchen garden and vineyards to complement her Tuileries Palace.
Thirty years later the gardens fell into disrepair until Henri IV stepped in with grand plans of creating a silkworm industry and planted an alley of mulberry trees and constructed a covered promenade the length of the gardens. He also installed a large water basin and a new garden which contained a fountain, where once, a moat protected the Palace.
When nine year old Louis XIII became King of France in 1610 and acquired The Tuileries Gardens, the area was transformed into a hunting ground with a supply of animals kept in the menagerie.
His mother Marie de Medici installed a riding school, stables and a large covered arena for training her horses.
LOUIS XIV was responsible for finishing the construction on Catherine de Medici’s Tuileries Palace and installed what became and is now known as; Place du Carrousel. In 1662 to celebrate the birth of his first child, Louis XIV ordered an elaborate pageant to take place in the large square, which was built, for this very purpose.
By 1664, King Louis XIV had commissioned landscape architect André Le Notre, famous for his gardens at Versailles Palace and Fontainebleau to transform the gardens into French Formal Gardens with order and long perspectives.
He installed two large ramps at the Place de la Concorde end of the Tuileries, creating a grand entrance and a different perspective, the ramps enabled a view of the gardens from above, where one could admire the large basin. He extended the main alley by another 350 metres and added parallel alleys and smaller lanes to cross the gardens. Three extra basins were included in the transformation along with various trees, shrubs and flowers. Le Notre’s grand plans which with a team of masons, earth movers and gardeners took 6 years to complete from 1666-1672. In order to enhance the view from the Tuileries Palace, he enhanced the wide tree lined boulevard outside the gardens, which later became known as the Avenue des Champs Elysees.
The famous and original author of the fairytales, Sleeping Beauty, Puss in Boots, Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood requested in 1667 that the gardens be open to the public.
IN 1719, THE FIVE YEAR OLD KING LOUIS XV came to the rescue of the now abandoned gardens, which had sat idle for almost 40 years. Once again the gardens were rejuvenated, statuary was put in place and Place Louis XV, now known as Place de la Concorde was created and the public toilets were added as early as 1780.
The French Revolution brought prisoners and death to the Tuileries Gardens. King Louis XVI and his Queen, Marie Antoinette were imprisoned, or rather under house arrest in the Tuileries Palace.
A mob stormed the palace in 1792, chasing and brutally slaughtering around 700 of the King’s Swiss Guards. Dead bodies were strewn throughout the palace, the gardens and along the Seine River.
By the year 1800, the Tuileries Palace had a new resident, who carried out renovations fit for an Emperor; Napoleon Bonaparte.
Napoleon’s surrounding improvements included a new street between the Louvre and Place du Carousel where he installed a grand ceremonial entrance to his palace, The Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel although the Tuileries Gardens remained reasonably unchanged.
One year later, on the grounds that occupied Marie de Medici’s stables and riding grounds, construction began on a long arcaded street. Napoleon named this street Rue de Rivoli, after his victory in Italy against Austria; The Battle of Rivoli of 1797.
In 1830 King Louis-Philippe cordoned off part of the gardens for his own private use and in 1852 Louis Napoleon extended it further to almost half of the gardens, although when he was not in Paris the entire gardens, including his private section, was open to the public.
Napoleon III, or Louis Napoleon as he was more commonly known, left his mark on the Tuileries by way of two matching pavilions; the Jeu de Paume and L’Orangerie.
In 1870, when Emperor Louis Napoleon was captured by the Germans, one could visit the Tuileries Palace for 50 centimes.
THE COMMUNARDS DELIBERATELY BURNED DOWN THE TUILERIES PALACE and finally in 1883 the remains were torn down. Once again, the ground where the Palace once stood for 300 years, became part of the Tuileries Gardens and returned to the public.
Le Jardin des Tuileries did not escape attention during World War I and World War II. While battles were fought on the grounds, efforts to protect the statuary was successful although the same cannot be said for pieces of art.
The Germans occupied the Jeu de Paume to store hundreds of masterpieces and objects of art that they had looted from the likes of the Rothschilds and other prominent French Jewish Families.
The Germans were not interested in the modern art and a large quantity of it was sold off but some creations by artists such as Picasso and Dali were tossed onto a bonfire. As the flames licked around the so called ‘degenerate’ works of art, the ashes mixed with the soil of the Tuileries Gardens that surround the Jeu de Paume and became the final resting place for treasures we will never see again.
Before and after the two world wars The Tuileries Gardens were free to use by the public and various entertainment items were added to the park for the enjoyment of adults and children. Puppet shows, donkey rides, drink stands, small boats to float on the basins and the hire of chairs to sit on. Most of these entertainments still exist today, although the use of chairs is now free!
It wasn’t until the 1960’s that the Jardin des Tuileries saw any significant change and this came in the way of new sculpture. In 1965 President Charles de Gaulle’s Minister of Culture had the 18th & 19th Century statuary removed from Place du Carrousel and replaced it with contemporary sculpture by Aristide Maillol. Look out for them lurking behind shrubbery and dotted around.
President François Mitterrand also left his mark on the Tuileries Gardens during 1994, when he commissioned Belgian landscape architect Jacques Wirtz to create a new garden for Jardin du Carrousel. Low hedges fan out from the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel.
President Jacques Cirac instigated modern sculpture in 1998 and in 2000, sculptures by living artists were installed.
LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT André Le Nôtre,
no doubt had one of the biggest and enduring impacts on Jardin des Tuileries and French landscape architects Pascal Cribier and Louis Benech have been working towards restoring some of his earlier work.
During 2013, Paris celebrated the 400th anniversary of André Le Nôtre’s excellent designs and work.
JARDIN DES TUILERIES has a number of cafes and kiosks, numerous sculptures, fun for the children, including pony rides and a temporary ferris wheel, ponds and basins, two museums, a bookstore specialising in gardening, public toilets and so many nooks and crannies to explore as you make your way from the Louvre to The Avenue Champs Elysees.
Expect to see Parisians walking their dogs, strolling, having a picnic, jogging, exploring their wonderful gardens or sitting by a basin kissing, reading or contemplating life!
If you find yourself promenading through the Tuileries Gardens, I hope this brief summary but wonderfully rich history will add another level of enjoyment as you recall grand pageants, a lost Chateau, bloody battles, works of art unceremoniously destroyed and a young King hunting in his own personal playground. With the breeze rustling through the leaves and caressing the sculptures, carrying your secrets and whispered words as they slip from your mind and your lips, lingering in the nooks and crannies, leaving a little piece of your own history in the vast gardens … consider how many more unknown stories and secrets have been whispered and shared in the Tuileries Gardens over time.
Please feel free to comment, your feedback inspires me to continue adding more information and may be of help to others planning a trip to Paris. You can follow me on facebook for daily photos, tip and anecdotes.
Jardin des Tuileries – official site Rue de Rivoli Paris 75001 Entry Points: Rue de Rivoli, Place de la Concorde, Quai des Tuileries, Rue des Pyramides Opening Times: Varies depending on time of year but generally dawn to dusk Please check official website above for more information Closest Metros: Tuileries, Palais Royal Musee du Louvre, Concorde CAFES Le Café Diane – official link North-East Kiosk Tuileries Gardens views of the Eiffel Tower outdoor brasserie La Terrasse de Pomone – official link North-East Kiosk (beside the pond) Tuileries Gardens views of the Louvre and Musee d’Orsay outdoor brasserie – open 15th April – 15th October sandwiches, crepes, desserts Menu and official website Le Café Renard – official link South-West Kiosk Tuileries Gardens Menu – official website Tuileries Gardens – Google Satellite Map