Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Visiting the Banque de France (National Bank of France)

Bar of gold at the Banque de France. Each bar weighs between 10.88 and 13.37 kilos.

I wrote the following post about visiting the Banque de France during European Cultural Days before I learned that it's not open to the public this year. Keep it in mind for 2015! 

Gold bars and ingots aren't all that glisten at the Banque de France. The Central Bank of France, created on January 18, 1800 by Napoléon Bonaparte, is partially located in the luxurious Hôtel de Toulouse in the first arrondissement. Formerly a private residence, it was built between 1635 and 1640 by French architect François Mansart (famous for popularizing the Mansard roof) for King Louis XIII's Secretary of State, Louis Phélypeaux.

During the French Revolution, the residence was confiscated as national property and used as the French National Printing Office. Printing machines were installed in the historic building and the sumptuous Golden Gallery, built to expose Phélypeaux's works of art, was used as a store room for paper.

The Hôtel de Toulouse was purchased by the Banque de France in 1808. The Golden Gallery, which was in a state of disrepair, was used solely for the annual stockholder's meeting and the launch of government bonds.

In the 1870s, the building was totally dismantled room by room before being meticulously restored. Missing architectural elements, paintings, frescoes and statues were replaced by replicas.

La Tasse de chocolat (The Cup of Chocolate) by Achille Leboucher and Charles Rauch. 

If you visit the Banque de France during European Heritage Days, be sure to look at The Cup of Chocolate located in the antechamber. Ever since I first saw this painting in 2012, I've wondered why the painters, or perhaps the Duc de Penthièvre, decided to portray the family with cups and saucers of chocolate in their hands. It almost looks as if it could be an advertisement: "Chocolate, the treat for the elite".


The courtyard garden of the Banque de France

In addition to seeing the interior of the Hôtel de Toulouse (with the exception of the Golden Gallery because it's currently closed for restoration), you'll learn about the history of the Banque de France and how to identify counterfeit bills. A gold bar and ingot are the glittering finale.

Interesting fact: In response to counterfeit photographed bills, the Banque de France issued the first colored notes in 1862. They were blue.

The Golden Gallery at the Bangue National de France is closed for restoration in 2014.

5 comments:

  1. Very pretty, and a good reminder about the Heritage Days even if the bank is shut. I know there's some stuff on in Brussels too, but I miss the neat little booklet you would get in Tours to find out what's on. It's not the same trying to click through dozens of entries on a website.

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    1. There must have been lots of interesting places to visit in Brussels! I agree that the booklets are really helpful. I made a special trip to the Tourist Information Office to pick one up. The upside of the listings on the website (at least for the ones in Paris) is that they gave more in-depth explanations of the monuments.

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  2. Gwan, I quite agree. I've just been to the Ministery of Culture to get the booklet for Ile de France. The Galérie Dorée is currently being refurbished - I have Australian friends coming this weekend and I hoped to take them there. I'm looking for something that won't be too crowded.

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    1. It's a shame that you weren't able to take your visitors to the Banque de France. We were very thankful that you suggested it to us as a place to see during European Heritage Days a couple of years ago. Thanks again for the tip! I hope that you were able to visit some places that weren't too crowded. Most surprisingly, there was only a 10-15 minute wait to visit the British Ambassador's Residence. I think a lot depends on the time that you arrive. We went there shortly before it was due to close in the afternoon.

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