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Description archivistique
Grande Terrasse Chemin de fer Français
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Description par Harold Clunn de Saint-Germain-en-Laye

« [p. 204] The first railway constructed in Paris was that of the Compagnie du Chemin de Fer de Paris à St. Germain, whose station in the Place de l’Europe was the predecessor of the Gare St. Lazare, opened in 1842. The first train to leave Paris was that which travelled to St. Germain on Saturday, 26 August 1837, on the occasion of the Fête des Loges. King Louis Philippe, who had intented travelling, was prevented by the Chamber from entering this supposed dangerous conveyance, but was represented by Queen Amélie and her children. The duc d’Orléans travelled on the seat next to the driver. It was proposed in the first place to build the railway station near the Place de la Madeleine, but finally the Place de l’Europe was chosen for that purpose. At first the line went only as far as Le Pecq, and thence the journey had to be completed by coach. The line was nineteen kilometres long and the journey occupied thirty-five minutes. The first-class fare in closed or open carriages was two francs fifty centimes, second-class, one franc fifty centimes, and third-class, in the open luggage van, one franc.
[p. 306] The pleasant old town of St. Germain-en-Laye, containing a population of 22,000, dates back to the tenth century and grew round a convent in the forest then known as Ledia. It became a royal residence in the time of Louis VI, and is noted for its delightful situation and the salubrity of its air. On that account it is much favoured by English and American visitors as wall as Parisians. For an old town, St. Germain possesses streets which may be considered fairly wide and well paved, and includes several fines squares.
The real founder of St. Germain was Louis VI, known as Louis le Gros. Previous to that time the site of the town formed a part of the forêt de Laye, where the kings of France came to hunt. The château owes it origin to a dungeon built by Louis le Gros about 1122, which dominated the course of the Seine. During the reign [p. 307] of Saint Louis extensions were carried out, and in 1238 was erected the fine Gothic chapel which is still in existence. The original château was destroyed during the Hundred Year War, when, in 1346, both château and monastery were burnt by the Black Prince. The chapel, however, was spared.
The present palace was commenced by Charles V between 1364 and 1370, but it was Francis I who reconstructed it on a grander scale in 1539. Here he celebrated his wedding with Claude de France, daughter of Louis XII. The architects were Pierre Ier Chambiges and Guillaume Guillain, but the work was not completed until 1555 in the reign of Henri II, who made St. Germain his habitual residence. He built a second château of smaller size which was afterwards enlarged by Henri IV, but this was abandoned in 1660 by Louis XIV in favour of the larger palace, and, after being left to go to ruins, was destroyed in 1776 with the exception of the Pavillon Henri IV.
Louis XIV frequently resided at St. Germain, where he died in 1643, a few months after the death of Richelieu, his great minister ; and Louis XIV was born here on 5 Septembre 1638. After the death of his mother, Anne of Austria, this monarch took up residence at St. Germain, but, finding the palace too small for his requirements, founded the more sumptuous palace of Versailles, and presented that of St. Germain to Mme de Montespan. In 1688 Louis XIV gave it to James II of England as a residence after his exile and there the English king died en 1701. Neglected by Louis XV and Louis XVI it was turned into a military school by Napoleon I, and afterwards became a military prison. Between 1862 and 1902 it was completely restored and transformed into a museum of national antiquities.
On Saturday, 1 Septembre 1854, the palace of St. Germain was visited by Queen Victoria, who displayed a special interest in the apartments occupied by James II, and particularly the oratory in which he was accustomed to pass much of his time in prayer. The tomb of James II, which was erected by Georges IV in 1824, was renovated at the expense of Queen Victoria. On 10 Septembre 1919 the Treaty of St. Germain was signed in the château between the Allies and Austria.
The terrace, which is approached from the park or parterre, was constructed between 1669 and 1673, after the plans of Le Nôtre, and is 2,400 yards long and 30 yards wide. It is situated 190 [p. 308] feet above the Seine, and extends along the borders of the forest. From here a magnificent panorama can be obtained of the valley of the Seine and distant Paris, including Montmartre and the Sacré-Cœur, the Eiffel Tower, and Mont Valérien. The grande allée of lime-trees which separate it from the forest was planted in 1745. The containing wall of terrace was formerly topped with a wooden fence, but this was replaced during the Second Empire, between 1855 and 1857, by the present cast-iron railing. At the end of the terrace, but still in the forest, is the Château du Val, constructed by Mansart in 1673, under Louis XIV, as a rendezvous for shooting. It is now used as a Home for members of the Society of the Légion d’Honneur.
The magnificent forest of St. Germain, which is entirely walled in, comprises an area of about 11,000 acres. It occupies the land enclosed by the peninsula of the Seine extending from St. Germain to Poissy on the west and to the agricultural park of Achère on the north. The roads are straight and well kept, the principal avenue leading to Les Lodges, a country house originally built for Anne of Austria in 1644 and now an educational establishment for the daughters of members of the Légion d’Honneur. Near this spot the Fête des Loges takes place at the end of August and lasts ten days.
In the town of St. Germain, opposite the château, is the church of St. Louis, erected on the site of an earlier church. Building was commenced in 1766, but was interrupted in 1787 and not resumed till 1826. The church was finally completed in 1827 and consecrated on 2 December of that year. The Hôtel de Ville is situated in the Rue de Pontoise near the station, and at the junction of the Rues de la République and de Poissy is a bronze statue of Thiers (1797-1877), who died at the Pavillon Henri IV. The old town contains many narrow and picturesque streets centred round its two main thoroughfares, the Rues de Pologne and de Poissy. Both of these lead to the Place du Marché, which is bordered on its western side by an ancient block of colonnaded buildings and shops.
Several excellent hotels standing in their own private grounds are situated close to the park of the château, notably the Pavillon Henri IV, the Pavillon Royal and the Pavillon Louis XIV. These being principally residential, and so conveniently situated for exploring the forest, make St. Germain a most pleasant place in which to spend a holiday. On 20 March 1927 The Compagnie des Chemins de Fer de l’Etat inaugurated their new service of electric [p. 309] trains from Paris (Gare St. Lazare) to St. Germain, which now perform the journey in twenty-four minutes. »

Clunn, Harold

Récit par Bayle Saint John de sa visite à Saint-Germain-en-Laye

« We crowded into a cab to the station, and went by rail to Saint Germain. Richmond is beautiful, but is nothing to that place. The terrace, bordered on one side by forests, descends on the other to a sparkling reach of the Seine, overlooks a fertile expanse of country dotted with hamlets and woods, takes in the whole varied outlines of Paris, serrated by steeples and cathedral towers and domes, as well as the vast sweep of hills, where villages and palaces peep at every point between masses of verdure, from Argenteuil all round to Meudon. There is no place which the Parisians admire so much, or with such good reason. On Sunday, especially, train after train flies over the wooded country, up the slope (where atmospheric pressure takes the place of steam), and discharges an almost unceasing torrent of people under the red walls of the palace, where a proscribed Stuart had once leisure to repent the obstinate bigotry that forced him to make way for a Dutch prince adventurer.
The Parisian, however, cares nothing for historical associations. Besides, he has never heard what took place before ‘89 ; and if he had, what matters it to him in what room of what big house a discarded king of times gone by spent [p. 5] some gloomy hours ? Our countrymen are note quite so philosophical ; and I rarely go to Saint Germain without seeing some relative of my friend Cockney, or some solid North Briton, guide-book in hand, prowling about the gateway, and trying to look sentimental. There are still a few people who feel an interest in that gross family, and now and then we hear in society innocent young maidens warbling wretched ditties, that appeal to sentiments which they would be ashamed to understand. Why will mothers allow marriageable daughters to make that abominable « Charlie » the hero of their imaginations ?
« What is that great – ? » [the oath had no meaning in her mouth, and so it is unnecessary to repeat it.] « What is that large Englishman looking up into the air for ? » inquired Fifine.
« An English king has apartments there », observed Rose, to whom Guguste had been trying to impart some historical notions. The young man, being in a bookseller’s office, thought it necessary to exhibit his learning, and tried to correct her chronology ; but was interrupted by Fifine, who cried :
« It is no matter ; I don’t care a rush about him. Here is a dealer in macarons : the gentleman must treat us to some. »
Agricole looked a little annoyed, because he had [p. 6] been just telling me that, instead of educating himself, he had been trying to educate Fifine, and had boasted of his success. He admitted, however, that he could not impart to her any proper ideas of chronology, because she could neither believe in the past nor in the future, and could rarely be brought to refer even to the period of their own childhood, much less to the possibility that a time should come when she should cease to be. I believe that to humble, uneducated people, life is much longer than it is to us, who constantly overhaul the years that have gone by, and classify our doings and express them in general formula, and look a-head and analyse life, and reduce it to four or five great events.
I have forgotten to mention that it was fête-day at Saint Germain – to my horror and dismay, for I had been taken away quite unexpectedly. Early in spring the villages in the neighbourhood of Paris by turns begin to celebrate the festivals of their patron saints. In some out-of-the-way places we may still observe the presence of real hearty simplicity on these occasions. Dancing and donkey-races form the amusements. As a rule, however, the fêtes are only means of attracting people to spend money. They take place on Sundays, when all Parisiens indulge in a holiday. »

Saint John, Bayle

Récit par Ludwig Rellstab de sa visite à Saint-Germain-en-Laye

« [p. 372] Auf die blendenden Herrlichkeiten von gestern ließ ich heut einen ganz entgegengesetzten Genuß folgen. Bei dem schönsten Frühlingswetter fuhr ich auf der [p. 373] Versailler Eisenbahn rechten Ufers nach St. Germain. Es ist berühmt wegen seiner schönen Lage, aber doch nicht berühmt genug, denn ich wüßte kaum eine reizenderen, eigenthümlicheren Punkt, wo Natur und Anbau so Hand in Hand gingen, um das Schöne herzustellen. Schon der Weg bis dahin is reizend. Man fährt zwischen Weinbergen, Landhäusern, Gärten dahin, mit immer wechselnden Ausftchten auf die viel gekrümmte Seine. Man benutzt ihren Strom mehrfältig, und hält endlich an demselben, am sogenannten Pecq (den die Franzosen beiläusig Pé aussprechen) einem Oertchen am diesseitigen Ufer, von dem aus wir das Städtchen St. Germain gegenüber an und auf der Anhöhe liegen sehn. Hier nehmen uns Omnibus in Empfang, führen und über die Seinebrücke und das jenseitige, steile, wohl gegen zweihundert Fuß hohe Ufer auf einem zwischen Weinbergen und Gärten hindurch gewundenen Wege hinan. Bei dieser Fahrt bis vor das Thor zu sehn, die uns indeß durch Nichte, als durch einige, recht stattliche öffentliche Gebäude, eine Kirche, ein Stadthaus, ja sogar ein Theater, auffällt. Die Theater siud jetzt wie Brennnesseln, sie wuchern überall. Der Wagen hält vor dem Eingang des Schlosses. Dasselbe ist durchaus alterthümlich, es hat kleine Festungsmauern, ist mit eine und ausspringenden Winkeln [p. 374] angelegt, und von einem röthlich graven Stein erbaut, der das Auffallende und Seltsame des Ganzen noch vermehrt. Mir haben diese Gebäude einen ungleich größeren Reiz, als die neuen, oder frisch erhaltenen Schlösser mit ihrer koketten Pracht, und zur Staffage einer Landschaft vollends siud sie bei weitem günstiger. Dennoch sollte das Schloß von St. Germain nicht grade so verfallen, daß man jetzt ein Militair Gesängniß daraus gemacht hat. Dazu wahrlich bauten sich die Ahnen unsrer Könige nicht an den schönsten Punkten an, dazu schufen sie nicht mit ungeheuren Rosten diese herrlichen Terrassen, daß man, wo die Götter der Erde zu ihrer Lust weilten, die ärmsten Sclaven derselben zu ihrer Strase einwohne. Ist einmal Blut und Schweiß der Menschheit zur Herstellung des Schönen geflossen, so erneuert und verdoppelt sich der Frevel, wenn man es ihr nicht zu Gute kommen läßt. Aber das geschieht auch noch, denn der Garten von St. Germain, offenbar immer das Schönste, und nicht wieder herzustellen, wird der Stadt erhalten. Und wahrlich er ist der reizendste von allen in der Umgegend von Paris, durch seine unbeschreiblich schöne Lage. Ich will der hohen alten Bäumen, der schattendunkeln Laubgänge, der sanften Rasenteppiche gar icht gedenken, denn diese sinden sich auch in den andern Gärten, wiewohl kaum so schön. Aber der Blick von der Terrasse ! [p. 375] Er ist wahrhast italienisch zu nennen ! Weithin überschaut man die freie Krümmung des schönen Stromes, zwischen Weinhügeln und Gärten, eine Menge schimmernder Flecken und Landhäuser blinken aus dem Grün der Umbüschungen. Zur rechten steht man die Wasserleitung von Marly, mit ihren hohen Bogen ; gegenüber die prächtige Höhe der Mont Valerien, in der Ferne den graven Montmartre. Eben so anmuthig und romantisch ist der Bordergrund auf dem steilen Ufer der Seine, der sich in Terrassen abdacht, die mit Gärten und Billen bedeckt stud. Der Schloßgarten selbst zieht sich diese steile Höhe hinunter, und auf vielfach gewundenen und gebrochenen Steintreppen können wir von hier aus die Seinebrücke wieder erreichen, ohne die Stadt zu berühren.
Ich machte heut noch viele Abschiedsbesuche, doch der von St. Germain wurde mir fast am schwersten. Bon allen Landschaften um Paris ist diese unbedingt die schönste die ich bisher gesehn, und sollte ich ein Bewohner von Paris werden, so müßte ich wenigstens den Sommer Hindurch in St. Germain sein ! »

Rellstab, Ludwig