Rue de L’école de Médecine – a street of many names

Rue de L’école de Médecine – a street of many names.

Rue de L’École de Médecine – School of Medicine Street – is a street of many names. It is located in the Odéon and Monnaie districts of the 6th arrondissement of Paris. It meets at Rue Dupuytren and ends at the Boulevard Saint Germain. American Sylvia Beach established the Shakespeare and Company English-language bookstore at 8 Rue Dupuytren in 1919 before moving it to larger premises at 12 Rue de L’Odéon in 1922. 

The area was once the site of two vineyards: Clos de Laas to the north and Clos Gibard to the south. At the end of the 12th century, a chapel located in the vineyards was converted into the church of Saint-Côme-Saint-Damien, and in 1255 the brotherhood of surgeons was established in the church. 

At the end of the 13th century, the street took its first name: Rue des Cordèles, named after the religious Cordeliers, whose convent is located in the street. In 1304, the street took the name of the church located at the corner of Rue de la Harpe and so it became Rue Saint-Côme-et-Saint-Damien.

In a document in 1636, the street was listed as Rue des Cordeliers and sometimes as Rue des Boucheries – Street of Butchers. Until 1672, it was referred to as Rue Saint Germain because it led to the Boulevard Saint Germain. On 19 August 1672, a decision of the King’s Council ordered the widening of Rue des Cordeliers, the street’s new name. 

Formerly the Royal Academy of Surgery, in 1767, the School of Decorative Arts was built at No. 5 Rue des Cordeliers which remained until 1945. It was here at No. 5 that French actress Sarah Bernhardt was born in 1844. She died in 1923. A plaque was placed here on 25 October 1944 for the centenary of her birth. 

At the beginning of the French Revolution in 1790, the street took the name Rue de L’École de Médecine for the first time, following the nationalization of the convent.

Two weeks after Jean-Paul Marat’s assassination on 25 July 1793, admirers of the politician asked that the street where he lived (at No. 20) be renamed after him. The street kept the name Rue Marat only until 27 July 1794, then it took the name Rue de L’École-de-Santé (School of Health Street) until 20 April 1796, after which it reverted to Rue de L’École-de-Médecine.

Today, the main long building at No. 12, formerly the College of Surgery, is the headquarters of the University of Paris-Cité, the Inter-University Library of Health, and the Museum of the History of Medicine.  

If you are near Boulevard Saint Germain, close to the Odéon and the Boulevard Saint Michel, this street, whatever it’s called, is worth a visit.

Published by MaNi

Martina Nicolls is an Australian author and international human rights-based consultant in education, healing and wellbeing, peace and stabilisation, and foreign aid audits and evaluations. She has written eight books and continues writing articles and thoughts through her various websites. She loves photography, reading, and nature. She currently lives in Paris, France.

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