Philippe-Auguste had the large Louvre Tower erected around 1200
© RMN-Grand Palais (Louvre museum) / Jean-Gilles Berizzi
Publication date: December 2019
Augustus and founder
The name of Philippe Auguste, that is to say Philippe II, is closely associated with the rise of Paris in the 13the century politically, economically and architecturally. In 1841, the painter had more than twenty years of personal career behind him, many royal commissions from Louis XVIII or Louis-Philippe and many scenes exalting the qualities of statesmen who made the history of France.
A monumental heart for the capital
In order for the spectator to situate the scene properly, Mauzaisse adopted a point of view from the west which takes in a row the tower under construction and the church of Saint Germain l´Auxerrois (in its 13e century after the construction of the Louvre) which commands the parish of the kings of France. But the painter reduced the distance between the two monuments and especially omitted the square enclosure, fundamental part to the west of the famous enclosure built in 1890 on the right bank to protect the capital while the king went on a crusade. When Philippe Auguste visited the site around 1200, the Grosse Tour was about to rise above the facade of the place of worship, a symbol of the power of temporal power as well as of its modesty in the face of spiritual power. The king wears the colors of the French monarchy with the coat lined with ermine, but also those of Paris. The painter's imagination gives him fine lines and an attitude that brings him closer to the scholar of the Renaissance than to the warlord. He is accompanied by the queen, who listens attentively to her husband, and two soldiers who make up a small genre scene to the left of the central group. It is indeed easy to imagine the dialogue between these two simple men, but experienced in military terms, before the demonstration of power delivered by the proportions of the tower. If the unknown architect wears the habit of a monk, it is the king who is at the origin of a crucial strategic decision. As the plan from which the project managers plan the site underlines, he opted for a round keep that is less easy to undermine. In addition, this circle, where the archives and the treasure will be kept, symbolizes the hypercenter of royal power in the heart of the elected capital.
The king builder and centralizer
The large Tower of the Louvre is a double marker of the reign of Philippe Auguste. On the one hand, it echoes in gigantic proportions the revolution imposed by the monarch on the cities of the kingdom, whose walls were all flanked by fortified gates with round towers that were easier to defend. This strategic innovation goes hand in hand with the obvious symbolism of royal power: duplicated in a number of cities, it made the architectural link between this network and the capital, inscribing the idea of centralizing power in stone. The king also appears surrounded by the best elements of the population: the ordinary soldiers who helped him conquer many territories - hence the nickname Augustus, which dates back to the Roman emperors - the lower clergy and master craftsmen. On the other hand, the identity of the female character is not clear: in 1200, Philip II seeks to repudiate for the second time a queen - in this case Ingerburge of Denmark - and to impose on Pope Innocent III Agnes of Merania. The irenic atmosphere of the painting avoids the conflict of alliances and operations against the Anglo-Norman kingdom to emphasize the positive legacy of a long reign completed in popular fervor born of the victory of Bouvines (1214). Gravedigger of Frankish feudalism and inventor of the central monarchical state, refounder of Paris as the capital of a stabilized kingdom and a place of monumental embellishment, this model can only seduce Louis-Philippe. He too sees himself as a renovator, has chosen Paris over Versailles but has been forced to return Adolphe Thiers and a reading of the 1830 charter that would set him apart from the affairs of the kingdom.
- Philippe Auguste
- Museum of the History of France
- Middle Ages
- history painting
- Louis XVIII
- Thiers (Adolphe)
- town planning
Maurice Berry (dir.), The Louvre and the walls of Philippe Auguste, Paris, Hachette 1988.
Bruno Galland, Philippe Auguste, the builder of the kingdom, Paris, Belin, 2016.
Denis Hayot, Paris 1200. History and archeology of a capital fortified by Philippe Auguste, Paris, CNRS, 2018.
To cite this article
Alexandre SUMPF, "Philippe Auguste and Paris"