SQUARE DU VERT-GALANT IS AN ECOLOGICAL GREEN SPACE IN THE HEART OF PARIS:
At the western tip of the Île de la Cité, at the Pont Neuf end, is a little green space called Square du Vert-Galant. The square was named after Henry IV whose nickname was “Vert-Galant” (“Green Gallant”). The old king had a reputation of acquiring many mistresses in spite of his advanced age, hence his nickname.
Pont Neuf is the oldest of the many Paris bridges crossing the River Seine. Not only does it perform the function of linking the left bank and right bank of Paris to the Île de la Cité, the bridge itself is a tourist attraction. If not for our stroll across the Pont Neuf, we would not have noticed the attraction of the Square du Vert-Galant.
Near the middle of the bridge is the equestrian statue of Henri IV, who built the bridge. A steep set of steps leads down to the park. This is also where you’ll find the pier where the “Vedettes de Paris” Seine river cruises take off.
The Square du Vert-Galant is a beautiful park and its array of flora and wildlife has earned it an ecological green space award. In the square you can find chestnut trees, weeping willow, gingko biloba, apple flower, etc. Its wildlife include herring gulls, ducks, swans and many other birds. The array of wild life is impressive, considering the park is right in the centre of Paris.
Discovering the Square du Vert-Galant and Pont Neuf
On a sunny day, a common sight is of locals were picnicking in the park. Office workers also take the opportunity to sun themselves during their lunch break. With its idyllic setting, the Square is also a popular spot for romantic strolls. However, young couples seem not to notice the plaque on the wall of the bridge. It marks the spot where the highest dignitary of the Order of the Temple was executed.
Order of the Templars
Jacques de Molay was the last Grand Master of the Order of the Knights Templar. He was arrested in 1307, on the orders of Philip the Fair. Philip accused the Templars of heresy. In reality, what he really wanted to do was curb the power of the Templars and steal their appreciable assets.
According to the plaque, Jacques de Molay was burnt at the stake at this site on March 18, 1314. Interestingly, there is another plaque on Place Dauphine with a similar claim. As de Molay was burning, he cursed Philip the Fair and his three successors, all of whom died in bad circumstances.
We enjoyed the film series, “Les Rois Maudites” (“The Accursed Kings”) and thought that the plaque was an interesting find. Tony even had a go at cursing Philip the Fair.
If you are in the vicinity of Pont Neuf, it’s worthwhile visiting the Square du Vert-Galant and enjoying some quiet time in Henri IV’s green space.