The 17th century, also known as the Grand Siècle, or “Great Century,” was an era of significant transformation for Paris. Major events and developments that shaped the city include:
Reign of Louis XIII and Cardinal Richelieu: Both Louis XIII and his chief minister, Cardinal Richelieu, worked to centralize power and authority in the French monarchy. Paris was established as the indisputable capital and administrative center of France.
Reign of Louis XIV: Louis XIV, also known as the Sun King, reigned from 1643 to 1715. His reign, one of the longest in European history, saw a major centralization of power and an expansion of absolutism. He moved the royal court to Versailles in 1682, leading to a shift in the political center away from Paris.
Fronde Civil Wars (1648-1653): These civil wars were a reaction to the centralizing policies of Louis XIV’s regency. Paris was a significant site of conflict during this period, and the rebellions’ failure led to an increase in royal authority and a significant shift in the city’s political role.
Major Architectural Developments: Significant architectural and urban planning projects were initiated in the 17th century. These include the construction of the Place des Vosges, the expansion of the Louvre, and the creation of several notable parks and squares, including Place Vendôme and Place des Victoires. The architectural style of this period, characterized by grandeur and elegance, is now referred to as ‘Louis XIV style’ or ‘Classicism’.
Cultural Flourishing: The 17th century was an era of significant cultural achievement, with Paris at the center. Molière, Racine, and La Fontaine were writing their masterpieces, and the Académie Française was founded to regulate the French language.
Religious Developments: The Catholic Church’s influence in Paris was bolstered by the Counter-Reformation. Many religious institutions were founded or reformed during this period, including several charitable organizations, schools, and new religious orders such as the French School of Spirituality.
Growth and Urban Planning: Paris grew rapidly during the 17th century, both in terms of population and urban development. Louis XIV’s superintendent of buildings, Colbert, implemented strict regulations concerning the city’s urban planning and architectural uniformity.