The Hunchback of Notre Dame HTML version

2. The Place De Greve
There remains to-day but a very imperceptible vestige of the Place de Grève,
such as it existed then; it consists in the charming little turret, which occupies the
angle north of the Place, and which, already enshrouded in the ignoble plaster
which fills with paste the delicate lines of its sculpture, would soon have
disappeared, perhaps submerged by that flood of new houses which so rapidly
devours all the ancient façades of Paris.
The persons who, like ourselves, never cross the Place de Grève without casting
a glance of pity and sympathy on that poor turret strangled between two hovels
of the time of Louis XV., can easily reconstruct in their minds the aggregate of
edifices to which it belonged, and find again entire in it the ancient Gothic place
of the fifteenth century.
It was then, as it is to-day, an irregular trapezoid, bordered on one side by the
quay, and on the other three by a series of lofty, narrow, and gloomy houses. By
day, one could admire the variety of its edifices, all sculptured in stone or wood,
and already presenting complete specimens of the different domestic
architectures of the Middle Ages, running back from the fifteenth to the eleventh
century, from the casement which had begun to dethrone the arch, to the Roman
semicircle, which had been supplanted by the ogive, and which still occupies,
below it, the first story of that ancient house de la Tour Roland, at the corner of
the Place upon the Seine, on the side of the street with the Tannerie. At night,
one could distinguish nothing of all that mass of buildings, except the black
indentation of the roofs, unrolling their chain of acute angles round the place; for
one of the radical differences between the cities of that time, and the cities of the
present day, lay in the façades which looked upon the places and streets, and
which were then gables. For the last two centuries the houses have been turned
In the centre of the eastern side of the Place, rose a heavy and hybrid
construction, formed of three buildings placed in juxtaposition. It was called by
three names which explain its history, its destination, and its architecture: "The
House of the Dauphin," because Charles V., when Dauphin, had inhabited it;
"The Marchandise," because it had served as town hall; and "The Pillared
House" (domus ad piloria), because of a series of large pillars which sustained
the three stories. The city found there all that is required for a city like Paris; a
chapel in which to pray to God; a plaidoyer, or pleading room, in which to hold
hearings, and to repel, at need, the King's people; and under the roof, an arsenac
full of artillery. For the bourgeois of Paris were aware that it is not sufficient to
pray in every conjuncture, and to plead for the franchises of the city, and they
had always in reserve, in the garret of the town hall, a few good rusty
arquebuses. The Grève had then that sinister aspect which it preserves to-day
from the execrable ideas which it awakens, and from the sombre town hall of
Dominique Bocador, which has replaced the Pillared House. It must be admitted
that a permanent gibbet and a pillory, "a justice and a ladder," as they were
called in that day, erected side by side in the centre of the pavement, contributed