The Hôtel de Ville of La Rochelle!!

Ok so here I am indulging myself on government propery but with great architecture and history I like. Bear with me, not yet in my blog, new text , older picture, a bit long text but worth it me think. This is La Rochelle of many memories in the Charente Maritime dept 17 of the Nouvelle Aquitaine region in my belle France. Let me tell you a bit on the Hôtel de Ville or City/Town Hall of La Rochelle!!

This is one of our favorite cities in France , really, that is saying a lot when you have visited zillions of villages here over the years. It was found by chance, as my oldest son studied hôtellerie/restaurant in Paris and needed a semester of on hands study here several years back (see post). He came back very happy of the experience ,and we that had by passed the town on several occassion decided it was time to visit. We did for several days renting an appart hotel just by the museums in Gabut neighborhood. Oh yes I am talking about La Rochelle.The beginning of a beautiful relationship with the town thereafter!

The City/Town Hall or Hôtel de Ville of La Rochelle is the building that has housed the local government since 1298; for this reason, it is the oldest French city/town hall still in operation. Between 1628 and 1748, the building was the residence of the Governor of Aunis and the City before becoming the city’s house again. Widely deteriorated, the building underwent, at the end of the 19C, a heavy restoration, mixing restoration with the identical, transformation and extension of the building. An electrical fire on June 28, 2013 devastated the roofs and frames of the historic part of the building, the restoration of which was completed at the end of 2019.


The first reconstruction of the city/town hall resumed with the construction of the Pavillon Nord. The large gallery began in 1595. The entire body of the building, with its gallery on the ground floor and its attic, was completed in 1606. The following year, the town body acquired, a house overlooking the rue des gentilshommes, the Échevins building, Following the defeat of 1628, Louis XIII suppressed the city hall and confiscated the house to transform it into the king’s house. From then on, the town house became the governor’s house.In 1748, the governor’s house was no longer suited to its role as the governor’s residence and the governor preferred to negotiate with the town body its exchange for the benefit of the hotel. Jouin de la Tremblaye. The building was acquired by the city from Mr. Tremblay. The old alderman was then taken over by the city and again became the City/Town Hall of La Rochelle.

The restoration and expansion projects, carried out from 1872 to 1877, was the reconstruction of the main staircase, the restoration of the gallery of statues and the great gallery. The fragments of the restorations were deposited in museums, the most important part (a skylight and a niche with coat of arms) being in the lapidary collections of the Musée d’Orbigny Bernon, the rest, namely a landing door from the 17C and caissons from the large gallery are in the garden of the Museum of Fine Arts of La Rochelle, In 1878, it was decided to raise the roof of the north tower by adding a belfry with campanile, In 1938, still cramped within its walls, built toutside the islet, an annex for the hygiene services, Even today, a large part of the town’s services are housed in the old arsenal. of the city or scattered throughout the city. The city/town hall only houses the main services within its walls The reopening after the fire and restoration of the city/town hall took place in December 2019 and for its historic part, celebrated with three days of festivities.

The Hôtel de Ville of La Rochelle is made up of a Renaissance-style main building protected by a flamboyant Gothic-style enclosure wall, with towers, battlements with battlements and machicolations and gargoyles erected at the end of the 15C. The belfry tower housed in a Gothic cartouche, the upper coat of arms represents the arms of the Monarchy with the cordon of the Order of St. Michael surrounded by two angels.  The entrance gate portal features rich flamboyant Gothic-style decor featuring pinnacles, kale and some figures of small animals and a human face, The fortress gate opens onto an interior courtyard marked by the influence of the Renaissance and Antiquity, with a monumental staircase, a campanile and a dome occupied by a statue of Henry IV in glazed earthenware, as well as many columns and a heavy decoration.

The Pavillon Nord ; the building was built around 1550, the pavilion has a sober decoration. Of a size comparable to a private house, it has characteristics similar to the houses of the rue des Merciers which date from the end of the 16C, the beginning of the 17C, such as the association of a large central window and two small side windows. of the window lintels is decorated with heads of children on the first floor and satyrs. The Renaissance-style facade forms a tripartite composition combining the Doric order on the ground floor, Ionic on the first floor and Corinthian on the third, the whole being adorned with fluted and ringed pilasters. Paradoxically, during the restoration at the end of the 19C, the first level of the facade was obscured by the arrangement of the Juste staircase, which undermines the unity of the facade that can be seen from our days. The current main staircase is the third version. A final staircase is designed more in harmony with the renaissance-style facade which is achieved during the restoration of the building at the end of the 19C. Much smaller and located in front of the Pavillon Nord, it allows an extension of the main facade with the addition of two new bays. The staircase has a canopy with a statue of King Henry IV in polychrome earthenware.

The Grande Galerie or great gallery was started in 1595, and completed in 1605, The facade is decorated with the arms of La Rochelle and those of Henri IV, as well as numerous statues and carvings. On the ground floor is a gallery formed by nine arcades, arched or twin and richly decorated, resting on eight pillars and two pilasters, and the ceiling of which contains various cartouches, including the monograms of Henri IV and Marie de Medici. Above are the statues of the cardinal virtues in four niches framed by Corinthian columns. The first floor occupies the great ceremonial hall of the city/town hall.  The gallery of statues are nine in number. Four represent virtues and are located on the facade of the great gallery. The other five statues represent allegories and are positioned on the facades of the building, These are Prudence with its attributes the mirror and the serpent. Justice carrying the scroll of the Law and the king’s scepter. Strength breaking the pillar and crushing the lion, Temperance pouring water into the wine.

The building of the Aldermen, the city body acquires a house overlooking the rue Doriderie, and continues the work with a richly decorated facade. The upstairs window is adorned with vessels appearing on the town’s coat of arms. Today the first floor of the building is occupied by the Jean Guiton cabinet which brings together memories of the town’s history. The Pavillon Sud is a building from the end of the 19C on the site of the two houses which served as the governor’s accommodation. These two apartment buildings were very ordinary. They extended from the rue de l’Hôtel de Ville to the rue des gentilshommes , their reconstruction allowed to create a greater harmony with the facades of the great gallery and that of the building of the aldermen. The northern part includes the mayor’s office, on the first floor, and the wedding hall on the ground floor, as well as a communication staircase. The central part is occupied by the anteroom on the first floor, the room allows communication between the great room, and the council room. The ground floor is occupied by the reception. The southern part is occupied on the first floor by the council room which gives access to Jean Guiton’s office located in the Échevins building. The statues adorning the facades, are five in number and are allegories. They were chosen, without consultation of the local Rochelais, by the director of the Beaux-Arts of Paris who imposed subjects and sculptors, They are the Law (loi) with the attribute of the book. Agriculture (or Harvests), Navigation , and Vigilance and Safety.

The main courtyard is freely accessible throughout the year during the opening hours of the City/Town Hall and throughout the weekend. A visit to the interior of the city/town hall is with paid admission, and gives access to the state rooms: the aldermen room, the village hall, the blue room, the council room and Jean Guiton’s office. The visit is carried out by a person from the La Rochelle tourist office at 15h and 16h, on certain days depending on the time of year. (check ahead as things are not normal these days),

The stele in memory of Léonce Vieljeux, attach to the facade of the City/Town Hall is respectfully told here as I must, The stele inaugurated on July 23, 1948 by General de Gaulle which recalls the sacrifice of Léonce Vieljeux, mayor of La Rochelle from 1930 to 1940. When the Nazis entered La Rochelle on the 23rd July 1940, a Nazi lieutenant came to him to hoist the swastika flag of the Third Reich on the city/town hall. The mayor then replied that he was a (reserve) colonel and had no orders to receive from a junior officer, even from a victorious army. In September, he still refused to display anti-British propaganda so that on the 22nd, he was suspended from his functions. Arrested on March 14, 1944, he was executed at the Natzwiller-Struthof concentration camp on the night of September 1 to 2, 1944 at the age of 79. RIP

The La Rochelle tourist office on the city/town hall

The city of La Rochelle on the city/town hall

There you go folks, another dandy architecturally and historically monument of my belle France. In wonderful pretty La Rochelle, the city hall is worth the detour indeed. Hope you enjoy the post as I

And remember, happy travels, good health , and many cheers to all!!!

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