Rue de Constantine, Paris, ca. 1865 by Charles Marville

That man — do you see him there, on the lower right? — is still standing in his doorway today, looking out at the comings and goings of the street where his shop is found.

It’s not the same man, but an incarnation. It is the same street, but with cars instead of carriages, and new pedestrians…who are, at the same time, in a sense, the same ones that man saw in 1865.

That’s what welled into my heart when I first saw this photograph, which was taken by Charles Marville in 1865 and was featured in a recent exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

But then, when I located the rue de Constantine on a present-day map, it didn’t seem to be the same street at all. It turns out I often used to pass by it when I lived near the 7th arrondissement. It’s a wide boulevard, open on one side where it runs parallel to the Esplanade des Invalides.

A check on Wikipedia shows that there have actually been several rues de Constantine in Paris, and that the one in the photo was on the Ile de la Cité. Today it’s gone, demolished and rebuilt and renamed the rue de Lutèce.

The rue de Constantine remains in the city, jumping around from place to place like a playful ghost.


This piece originally appeared on my dearly departed Open Salon blog.

I thought the piles of things in the middle of the street were paving stones, but the Met’s site seems to suggest that they’re related to its impending demolition…so, explosives?

is a writer & worrier. She lives in Paris with an eccentric Frenchman, a clever toddler, & a charming cat. Besides them, she loves books, travel, & cookies.

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