Obscure Paris / Paris

Seeking History at the Medici Fountain, Jardin du Luxembourg

This post may contain affiliate links. Please check out my privacy policy and disclosure for more information.

Last Updated on 11th May 2018 by Sophie Nadeau

Head to the Jardin du Luxembourg on any given day during the summer months and you can expect to find plenty of people milling about, small wooden sailboats floating across the garden’s main fountain, and oodles of colourful flowers in bloom. Once home to Catherine de Medicis herself, the palace and fountains have since become a popular and chic place where all the French hang out. And in an often forgotten corner of the green space, a water feature, the Medici Fountain is a small reminder of the garden’s Italianate past.

Seeking History at the Medici Fountain (La Fontaine Médicis), Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris, France. Where to find the prettiest water feature in the French capital!

Palais du Luxembourg & Jardin du Luxembourg

Located just steps away from the Latin Quater (so-called because students of the nearby Sorbonne university would converse with one another in Latin during the middle ages) and just minutes away from the Paris Pantheon (an impressive former church which was once dedicated to the patron Saint of the city, Saint Geneviève), the Jardin du Luxembourg is where all the locals come to hang out come the warmer months.

The Luxembourg Palace and its surrounds have royal roots and were inhabited by a branch of the Medici family from the 17th-century onwards. Following the death of Catherine de Medici’s husband, Henry IV, in a riding accident, she could no longer bear the sight of the Vosges Palace. She had the royal residence razed to the ground. In its place, what is now the oldest public square in Paris was created, Place des Vosges.

The Royal Court was transferred to the Louvre. Once at the Louvre Palace, Catherine de Medicis was to govern France as ruling Regent until her son came of age. However, she remained unhappy at the Louvre and so decided to construct a palace which would remind her of her childhood home back in what is now Italy. The Luxembourg Palace was built in the style of Pitti Palace in Florence and the Luxembourg Gardens were constructed in the manner of the Boboli Gardens.

Jardin du Luxembourg

Seeking History at the Medici Fountain (La Fontaine Médicis), Jardin du Luxembourg

The Medici Fountain is the hidden gem of the garden, and one of the most beautiful places to visit in Paris. When it came to her new palace, one of Catherine de Medici’s main requests was that her gardens should have a monumental fountain, just like the gardens of Boboli in Florence. Cue: the Medici Fountain.

First constructed in around 1620, the water feature was meant to resemble a grotto or cave. If you’re looking to visit an impressive man-made grotto in Paris today, then you should head to the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, a 19th-century green space in the 19th arrondissement.

When the fontaine was created in the 17th-century, Italianate influence was all the rage, and so sculptures representing characters from Roman mythology were placed around the fountain and gardens in abundance. Although there was a severe lack of water on the Left Bank of the Seine during the 1600s, the problem was solved through the creation of an aqueduct.

Following the death of Catherine de Medici, the fountain was owned by several different people. Several of the fountains original statues, as well as two water-pouring nymphs disappeared during the 17th and 19th-centuries. The water feature was then extensively renovated in the mid-1800s and moved to its current not-so-prominent position.

Seeking History at the Medici Fountain (La Fontaine Médicis), Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris, France. Where to find the prettiest water feature in the French capital!

Highlights of the Jardin du Luxembourg

Today, the gardens and Luxembourg Palace are both owned by the French Senate, who use the building for administrative purposes. Elsewhere in the gardens as well as nearby, there are plenty of things to do and even more places to see.

Petanque area: The traditional game of boules which is often played in Britain is similar to that of Petanque, a typically French game which is played outside during the summer months. Thought to have originated in the Provençal town of La Ciotat, Jardin du Luxembourg provides ample space to play.

Saint Sulpice: Just outside the green space, the crumbling yet beautiful structure of Saint Sulpice is a beautiful ecclesiastical building which is often missed in lieu of the much more famous Notre Dame. Fans of Dan Brown novels may well also recognise the name ‘Saint Sulpice’ from the Da Vinci Code, where the church was the site of the infamous Rose Line.

 Statues in Jardin du Luxembourg: In total, there are over a hundred statues in the gardens. Some of the most notable ones include a bust of Charles Baudelaire, a sculpture of Theseus and the Minotaur, and a statue of the composer Ludwig van Beethoven.

Seeking History at the Medici Fountain (La Fontaine Médicis), Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris, France. Where to find the prettiest water feature in the French capital!

About Author

Sophie Nadeau loves dogs, books, Paris, pizza, and history, though not necessarily in that order. A fan of all things France related, she runs when she's not chasing after the next sunset shot or consuming her weight in sweet food. Currently based in Paris after studies in London, she's spent most of her life living in the beautiful Devonian countryside in South West England!

1 Comment

  • Ziggy Hirsch
    3rd March 2020 at 5:14 pm

    I have learned a great deal about Paris from your blog.
    However, I am sorry to report that your information about the origins of the Luxembourg Palace (and Medici Fountain) is a jumbled mess and full of false history. You confuse Henry iv with Henry ii and Catherine Medici with Marie Medici. Catherine M. did not build the Lux. Pal. That was Marie Medici. Catherine’s husband was not Henry iv. It was Henry ii. Henry iv did not die in a riding accident. He was assassinated while riding in a coach stuck in traffic near the Fountain of the Innocents. Henry ii died in a jousting accident. There was never any Vosges Palace. You must be referring to the Tournelles Palace. Catherine razed this palace, and the grounds were later used by Henry iv to build the Place Royale, which was later (approx. 1800) renamed Place de Vosges.
    Here is the story in summary:
    Henry ii (of the Valois dynasty) was killed in a jousting accident in 1559 on Rue St Antoine during a celebration at the nearby Tournelles Pal. His wife, Catherine M., who became regent for her young children, moved out from the Tournelles to the Louvre, and had the Tournelles razed. She then built a new palace, but not the Luxembourg. She built the Tuileries Pal.(which was burned down in 1870 by the Communards) and next to it, the Tuileries Gardens.
    Catherine’s and Henry’s daughter, Margot, was married to King Henry of Navarre, who later (in 1589) became Henry iv. This marriage was later annulled because of no children.
    Henry iv then married Marie Medici (a distant cousin of Catherine) and began a new dynasty in France (the Bourbon). One of his major Paris projects was building the Place Royale (today’s Place des Vosges) on the grounds of the previous Tournelles Palace. This was the first planned public square in Paris, although the Place Dauphine was finished first. In 1610, Henry iv was killed while stopped in traffic in a coach. Marie, who became regent for her son, Louis xiii, then built her own palace, the Luxembourg, along with the Luxembourg Gardens and the Medici Fountain.

    Because of the duplication of names and facts, (2 Henrys, 2 Medicis, 2 new palaces, 2 kings killed,) this period can be very confusing. Please correct your website and please double check your facts in the future. I am sure many people, like myself, rely on the veracity of your information.
    Again, thanks for all the great work you have done from which I have learned and gained so much.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.