Fontaine Saint Michel

Fontaine Saint Michel is a monumental fountain within the historic Latin Quartier arrondissement (district) in central Paris.

The triumphal arc shaped fountain was constructed in the period 1858-1860, from plans by architect Gabriel Davioud.

The construction took place during the French Second Republic, as part of Baron Haussmann’s greater project to rebuild Paris.

A requirement for the monumental fountain became evident, as Boulevard Saint-Michel was completed (in 1855), leaving in its wake a large, empty square at Place Pont-Saint-Michel.

Thus, Baron Haussmann requested architect Davioud to develop plans for a monumental water fountain suitable for the square.

Fontaine Saint Michel Paris France

PHOTO: The fountain as seen from Place Saint-Michel. The monument’s facade has four levels, constructed in the shape of a triumphal arc. The four bronze statues (on top of the columns) are allegorical to the four cardinal virtues (prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude).

Saint Michel terrassant le diable Paris France

PHOTO: The central artwork in the fountain: “Saint Michel terrassant le Diable”, or “Saint Michael Slaying the Devil”, by Francisque Duret (from 1858).

Chimere ailee Paris France

PHOTO: The sides of the water fountain are guarded by winged lion-dragon Chimera statues, by Henri-Alfred Jacquemart.

Representing neoclassical architecture style, the fountain has an overall shape of an triumphal arc, underlining the monument’s theme of “good’s victory over evil“.

That theme is also apparent by the central artwork, in which Archangel Michael is slaying the devil under his feet.

However, in the original construction plans from 1856, the central artwork was supposed to be female “Peace” statue.

That plan was first abandoned with another plan to place a statue of Napoleon Bonaparte in the center of the fountain, before the planners settled on the current version…completed in 1860.

You can see inspiration on the fountain taken from various sources, including the famous Medici fountain at Paris’ Luxembourg gardens.

For example, the Medici fountain also has a central vault, with four columns framing the central theme.