Archives Nationales – A National Archives Created During the French Revolution:
One of the most important sites in Paris, and perhaps one that is relatively unknown to visitors, is the Archives Nationales in the Marais District. Created during the French Revolution under the orders of Napoleon, the French National Archives hold one of the largest and most significant archival collections in the world. Miles and miles of public and private documents covering every aspect of France’s complex history are stored here, including a December 23, 695 parchment with one of King Childebert III’s edict.
French National Archives
The Archives Nationales in Paris is one of five French national archival centres, the other four being:
- the Centre for Contemporary Archives (Centre des archives contemporaines) in Fontainebleau
- the Centre for Overseas Archives (Archives nationales d’outre-mer) in Aix-en-Provence
- the Working World Archive Center (Archives nationales du monde du travail) in Roubaix, and
- the National microfilm and digitalization centre (Centre national du microfilm) in Saint-Gilles-du-Gard
A sixth centre has just been completed in Pierrefitte-sur-Seine, in the northern suburbs of Paris and this new centre will be the main centre for the Archives Nationales. When this is operational, 60 km of records from the Paris Archives Nationales will be transferred to Pierrefitte-sur-Seine and the Paris Archives Nationales will be the repository for pre-French Revolution records.
Archives Nationales – Paris
The Archives Nationales Paris are housed in a complex of buildings which are themselves historical and interesting. The Hôtel de Soubise for instance stands on a site where a semi-fortified manor of Olivier de Clisson once stood and which was previously a property of the Templars. At 58 due des Archives you can see the original turreted medieval gateway of the Hôtel de Clisson. The Prince of Soubise bought the Hôtel de Clisson and had it remodelled, with funds believed to have come from Louis XIV. The Princess of Soubise was for some time the mistress of Louis XIV. She gave birth to a son, thought to be fathered by the King, but Prince Soubise acknowledged the child as his own. It seemed that a large sum of money flowed his way at that time.
Beautiful Grounds and Gardens
We came across the Archives Nationales in Paris when we were strolling around the popular Marais shopping streets in the 3rd arrondissement. A peek through the huge classical gateway and we were attracted by the well-maintained grounds of Archives Nationales. It also looked like a peaceful getaway from the hustle and bustle of the Marais shopping streets and we were glad that we went in.
If you love French history and are interested in seeing historical documents, the museum has very interesting changing exhibitions where you can see facsimiles of documents such as a farewell letter that Marie Antoinette composed just before her execution, the last will and testament of Louis XVI, and documents from the likes of Danton, Robespierre, Napoleon I, and Joan of Arc. And even if you’re not interested in seeing these history-making documents, it is worthwhile walking through the complex to enjoy its many peaceful gardens.
60 Rue des Francs-Bourgeois
75003 Paris, France
Tel: +33 1 40 27 60 00