"The visual ordering
of space has become a vehicle for articulating cultural values."
Paris shaped and was shaped by the ideals of its people.
Culturally these ideals were seen everywhere in Paris, in the streets,
the buildings and even in the layout of the city. As the ideals
of the people changed, so too did the city. In Paris, the ideals
of the people turned towards a sort of social liberalism. Practices
that would have been outright taboo at the beginning of the century
were becoming common occurrences, and to add to this, society was
becoming more and more money based. Both of these things signaled
the change to a modern Paris.
Building Names as Social Fad
Probably one of the first examples of how the peoples ideals were
changing during the revolution was the renaming of the Notre Dame
cathedral to the "Temple of reason" in November 1793.
During this time People were rebelling from the Church as well as
the government, mainly because both were symbols of the old regime
and the old social order of France before the revolution. The name
"temple of reason" meanwhile was referring back to ideas
of the Enlightenment that were the driving force behind the
revolution of 1789 and those that were to follow. As the Revolution
progressed, however, many of these "enlightened ideal"
were forgotten as the populous became enamored with their own success
and material culture. This shift in ideals is well illustrated in
the case of the church, Notre Dame de Lorette,
on la Rue Lafitte.
The church obtained its name from the lorettes of Paris, women who
were kept by male members of the upper class. The church became
known as the Notre Dame de Lorette because of the many women of
this social standing who frequented this particular church. Lorettes
were accepted members of society as well as commodities of wealthy
men. The fact that a church was named after them mirrors their importance
in the society as well as the acceptance of this social practice.
These changes were part of a general social revolution, that placed
an emphasis on social status and economic status. The advancements
at the time in paving, gas lighting and glass allotted wealthy Parisians
an opportunity to flaunt their niceties in a public manner by strolling
down paved, lighted streets with their lorettes on streets named
Map of la Rue Lafitte
and the location of Notre Dame de
Lorette. Map from Galignani's
New Paris Guide, 1847
"A seat at Notre Dame de Lorette"
by A. Valentin, from the Dictionaire de Paris, 1964
Image analysis: This image depicts a woman kneeling
at a pew in Notre Dame de Lorette on Rue Lafitte, during
the mid to late nineteenth century. She appears to be reading
her prayer book, but upon closer inspection, it can be seen
that she is glancing at the men behind her. They in turn
are more overtly looking at her. It is also important to
notice the contrast between the coy lorette and the devout
woman sitting behind her, head bowed in prayer. The lorette
wears dark clothing, often a symbol of immorality, whereas
the devout woman wears white, a clear symbol of her purity.
The fact that the lorette is more prominent than the devout
congregation symbolizes the artists contempt for the lack
of devotion and morality in "modern" bourgeois
The Rue Lafitte became known as a place accepting of these
type of immoral social practices. This is an example of
how the social atmosphere was reflected in the physical
geography of Paris.
Change of Address
Another sign of how evolving Parisian culture was
mirrored in the physiognomy of Paris can be seen in the changing
of street names in the northwest
areas of Paris. Until the end of the 18th century streets were often
named for members of the aristocracy. For example, la Rue d'Artois
was named for the Comte d'Artois. However, with the overthrow of
the monarchy came the throwing away of street titles. With the onset
of the revolution members of the aristocracy became less popular
and leaders of the Revolution, such as Abbe Cerutti the editor of
a revolutionary newspaper, gained prominence in revolutionary Paris.
Later in 1815 at the time of the Bourbon restoration, the street
was again given the title of Rue d'Artois. Currently the street
is named for Jacques Lafitte, a wealthy member of society, a politician
and one of the patrons of the 1820s
building boom. However when his political career toppled and
his fortune depleted, he turned to cooperative financial investments
This example illustrates how changing social ideals
influenced the geographic organization of Paris. The shift from
political importance to economic importance is also evident in those
chosen to have a street named after them and reflects the growing
importance of monetary values in Paris.