Friday’s Tall Tales #8

Whenever I photograph a door or gate I wonder about its provenance, who and what has happened across said door or gate. I thought I might pick one from #Thursdaydoors and tell you a bit more about it or……maybe even weave a story about it. This rather plain door is the entrance to a building with an interesting history.

This is the Hôtel Roquelaure in 7th arrondissement, built at the beginning of 18th century as the residence of Marshal de Roquelaure, whose name it still retains. It currently houses the ministerial office of the Ministry for Ecological Transition, whose central administration is located in La Défense, in the south wall of la Grande Arche.

Like the whole of the Faubourg Saint-Germain, the plot on which the Hôtel de Roquelaure was built was formerly fields, regularly flooded by the waters of the Seine. It belonged to the abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés until the middle of 16th century, and then housed a modest construction which was subsequently destroyed during the Religious Wars.

At the end of 17th and the beginning of 18th century, the area became rapidly gentrified, a privileged place for the construction of similar buildings, previously concentrated in the Marais. The availability of large undeveloped land, the proximity of the road to Versailles, the repeal of royal edicts prohibiting construction in this space previously on the fringes of Paris, allowed the aristocracy to settle here and build residences such as the Hotel de Roquelaure.

At the end of 17th century, the land belonged to Claude de Sève, who built the first building there, known as the Hôtel de Villetaneuse, named after her husband. Enriched by royal favours after his victories during the Cévennes war, Antoine-Gaston de Roquelaure acquired the hotel in 1709 to transform it into a sumptuous urban residence, also buying the adjoining land to the west in 1711. In 1722 he entrusted entrepreneur Jean Moreau with the task of building his new home. The architect was most likely Pierre Cailleteau who worked on  the nearby Palais Bourbon. His death in 1724 necessitated a change of architect to possibly his son Jean or maybe Jean-Baptiste Leroux.

When Roquelaure died in 1738, his two daughters fought over its inheritance. It was finally sold in 1740 to Mathieu-François Molé, who renamed it Hôtel Molé, and later in 1757 he rented the hotel to the Spanish Ambassador for a few years. but when he retired in 1764, he returned to the hotel and lived there until his death.

During the French Revolution, the hotel still belonged to the Molé family. Édouard-François Molé, son of Mathieu-François, emigrated in 1789, but returned in 1791 to avoid the confiscation of his property. Imprisoned several times, he was kept under surveillance at the hotel, until he was condemned by the Revolutionary Court and guillotined in April 1794.

The building was declared a national asset and handed to the Commission for Agriculture and the Arts by the Committee of Public Safety. By July 1795, the Commission had moved out and the building was returned to Mme Molé. Restored, it passed to the second daughter of Mme Molé, who rented it out, without ever having lived in it.

She sold it in 1808 to Jean-Jacques-Régis de Cambacérès, who turned it into a ceremonial residence. A palace, whose large main building made it possible to give sumptuous receptions and to receive distinguished foreign guests, whom Cambacérès welcomed as Napoleon’s representative. The festivals given in Roquelaure became famous for their splendour. Consequently, Cambacérès completely renovated the interior and acquired the adjoining Hôtel de Lesdiguières-Sully, for his brother Étienne Hubert de Cambacérès.

The building was sold by Cambacérès during his 1814-15 in exile in Belgium to the Duchess of Orléans, widow of Philippe-Égalité. On her death in 1821, her son Louis-Philippe and her daughter Adelaïde inherited the it and, again without ever having lived in it, exchanged it with the government for part of the royal forest of Bondy. The hôtel de Roquelaure, as well as the small hôtel de Lesdiguières-Sully now linked to the former, lost their original function as a ceremonial aristocratic residence, to accommodate public administrative functions.

Aile est sur cour, surélevée d'un niveau entre 1861 et 1866. La balustrade servant de balcon au premier étage est le témoignage de la terrasse sur laquelle donnait le pavillon en saillie de la façade sur cour, à gauche.

Under the government of Charles X, the building was to house the precious furniture and jewels of the monarchy, with the Hôtel de Lesdiguières-Sully serving as the repository for the royal archives. From 1832, the President of the Council of State resided on the first floor and the Secretary General at the Hôtel de Lesdiguidières-Sully.

Cabinet du ministre.

In September 1839, an ordinance assigned “the former Hôtel Molé” to the Ministry of Public Works, consequently the Council of State moved to the Palais d’Orsay in 1840. The building was restored and fitted out for its new function by Félix Duban.


In 1857, the Ministry of Public Works became the Ministry of Equipment, and in 2007, the Ministry of Ecology and Sustainable Development, renamed in 2017 the Ministry of Ecological and Inclusive Transition. Subsequent works were carried out in 1880 and since 1961 all the building’s facades, roof, as well as the gate, the floor of the main courtyard and the garden, have been classified as historical monuments.


17 Comments on “Friday’s Tall Tales #8

  1. I love the stories behind the doors. Some doors that fascinate me are the small doors I see high up in churches and cathedrals – I always ask why are there there, what is behind and how did it work for daily life?

    Liked by 1 person

      • Could be for some, but I see a lot that are not that. I have been to belfries and there are usually stairs internally. But I see doors on some that have no stairs in front of them, curious. I just finished a book on the construction of the Cathedral at Chartes, and learned that some of this was a kind of scaffolding build during construction that is worked into the design, and that some are to small rooms where the canons met. I just bought a book at Saint Chappell about reading churches that I hope has a few answers. Thanks for triggering more thought on the fascinating architecture here in France.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Possibly the most French office building I’ve ever seen. If you must do something, do it beautifully!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: