L'orme de Saint-Gervais

The tree of justice, the elm of Saint-Gervais

The tree of justice, the elm of Saint-Gervais

The elm once again displays its spring foliage on the forecourt of the St-Gervais-St-Protais church (4th ) . Biography of a Parisian tree that has traveled through time since the Middle Ages.
The elm sits proudly in front of the Saint-Gervais-Saint-Protais church
The elm of Saint-Gervais
Photo credit: Jean-Pierre Viguié/City of Paris
Visitors often stop to greet it and touch its trunk. Surrounded by a protective chain, at the foot of the Saint-Gervais-Saint-Protais church, the elm is 12 meters high and 1.50 m in circumference. His trunk is marked with a long scar from lightning, but who cares. The tree in Place Saint-Gervais (4th ) survived. It is the successor of a line of elms which have occupied the center of the square since the Middle Ages. So much so that this place is sometimes nicknamed the crossroads of the Orme.

In the Middle Ages, the inhabitants of the district used to gather there, in particular for the settlement of their debts. It was common to hold assemblies and judgments in the open air.

Painted or sculpted representations still remain in four of the stalls of the church or on the balconies of the neighboring building, built under Louis XV, from 2 to 14 rue François Miron.

Cut down during the Revolution, the original elm alone represented several symbols: sacred at the beginning of Christianity for the red color of its sap, like the blood of martyrs, it was also the place where justice was done after the mass, under its branches. People also gathered there to drink and dance on holidays, and they topait for business, sitting on the coping. It is also said that the women of the district took, secretly at night, pieces of bark, useful against fever. It was cut down during the Revolution to be used for the construction of gun carriages.

The current Elm was planted at the beginning of the 20th century . century and perpetuates the tradition as well as the multiple representations that are in the neighborhood. Some stories tell that it was once the privileged meeting place of the Freemasons, and today of the magnetizers of the capital...
Replaced several times but still there


Robert Bourdu, “There is every reason to think that the elm was replaced several times. Indeed, a print from the 17th century century depicts on the church square a young elm tree surrounded by a coping: it is hardly more than 7 to 8 meters high and strongly resembles that of today. On an 18th century manuscript century, it is not much larger, but still surrounded by a low stone wall, a low wall that can be found on all the old representations, on old signs kept at the Carnavalet museum, on a chimney plate rue François-Miron , as the heading for craftsmen's and tradesmen's invoices: “À l'Orme de Saint-Gervais”. This elm has had a profound impact on the life of the neighborhood and the parish. It appears on the wrought iron balustrades of the first floor of the houses in rue François-Miron and rue des Barres, on the misericords of the church stalls, it adorns the parish banner, the seal and the tokens of the churchwardens... (…)
During the revolution, it was violently threatened as a symbol of the Old Regime. First Ventôse, year II: “The popular society of the section of the Common House asks that the tree planted by fanaticism, called the Elm of Saint-Gervais, be cut down.” However, no one is able to specify when he was actually killed: during the Revolution? In 1806? In 1811? Or even more recently? Be that as it may, in 1847, the parish priest requested that the double rows of plane trees that were dying around the square be replaced by an elm. (Source: Robert Bourdu and Michel Viard, Sovereign Trees, Ed. Dumay, 1998)

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