Bourbon palace is the official meeting place of the French National Assembly (Assemblée Nationale, the lower house of the Parliament of France).
The Assembly’s palatial building, done in Versailles’ “Grand Trianon” style, was built from 1722-1728…according to a design by Lorenzo Giardini.
When completed, the building was used as a residence by Louise-Françoise de Bourbon, the daughter of King Louis XIV and Françoise-Athénaïs.
However, despite this pedigree, Palais Bourbon was not a royal residence, but instead, in French terms, a “maison de plaisance“.
The location is, nonetheless, just a stone’s throw from Louvre, the main royal residence until King Louis XIV moved the royal court to Versailles.
PHOTO: Palais Bourbon, as seen from Pont de la Concorde, a bridge connecting the palace to the Place de la Concorde, over Seine River.
PHOTO: View from in-front of palace Bourbon, where you’ll find several monumental statues. The statue in the picture is “L’Hopital le conciliateur”, an artwork of Michel de L’Hopital, one of the most notable 16th century French statesmen.
PHOTO: Palais Bourbon pediment bas-relief by Jean-Pierre Cortot, from 1841. The bas relief is shows an allegorical “France” figure, dressed in an ancient gown and standing in front of a throne, with allegorical depictions of “force” and “justice” beside her, calling for the elite to set laws.
Ownership of the Bourbon palace was transferred in 1756 to King Louis XV, who in turn (that same year) sold it to Louis Joseph, the Prince of Condé…
…who had the palace extended and rebuilt.
Not long after, however, the French Revolution (1789-1799) meant that Palais Bourbon was nationalized (in 1791), with the Council of Five Hundred using the palace as their meeting place, from 1795.
The noble family that had to flee the palace during the revolutionary years, left behind them a vast, still intact library full of historical, priceless documents.
Pearls of the library, which was beautifully decorated during the 19th century by Eugène Delacroix, include:
- rare documents from Joan of Arc’s trial,
- original manuscripts by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and
- the Aztec “Codex Borbonicus”.
After the palace was nationalized, and with Napoleon taking over the reigns (in a coup), a total of 12 classical Greek temple style columns were added to the palace facade (from 1806-1810)…
…as was the monumental portico pediment by Bernard Poyet. The pediment uses many of the same architecture cues that were used to build the Eglise de la Madeleine, at rue Royale.
The Bourbon palace front-yard has four statues, allegorical to the state’s role and organization of the government, depicting…
- Maximilien de Sully,
- Jean – Baptiste Colbert,
- Henri François d’Aguesseau, and
- Michel de L’Hospital.
To the palace sides, you can see further monumental statues, of:
- Athena, the Goddess of Wisdom, by Philippe-Laurent Roland Giustiniani, whose work was inspired “Minerva Medica”, on display at the Vatican museum, (mv.vatican.va), but originally from the ancient temple of Minerva.
- Themis, a Titan, holding scales on his left hand (as an allegory to “justice”), by Jean-Antoine Houdon.
The main palace facade also has two bas-reliefs from 1837. The bas-relief on the right is by François Rude, of Prometheus illuminating arts (architecture, sculpture, painting, music, and poetry)…
…and to the left, you can see the bas-relief by James Pradier, symbolizing public education (with Minerva teaching young children the alphabet, surrounded by 9 muses and an allegory to spiritual education).
After Napoleon’s reign (in the early 19th century), the palace was shortly returned to its original owner, the Prince of Condé. However, the palace was nationalized, again, in 1827.
Not long after, in 1843, the French state also took over the nearby Hôtel de Lassay, today connected to the Palais Bourbon with a corridor.
Both buildings are now used by the Assemblée Nationale, with Hôtel de Lassay being the National Assembly president’s official residence.
Assemblée National has three additional buildings in Paris, all used by the members of the assembly and their assistants.