In the 1st arrondissement of Paris, equidistant from the Louvre, the Palais Royal and the Bourse de Commerce, there is an elegant nineteenth-century passage called Galerie Véro-Dodat, with wood-panelled shop fronts, black marble columns and paintings on the ceiling.
The Galerie was named after its developers, who by coincidence were both butchers. Benoit Véro had a butcher shop at 1 rue Montesquieu, just across from what is now the west entrance to the Galerie. His colleague Dodat had a shop in another neighborhood nearby. (Both were pork-butchers, since the selling of horse meat had not yet been legalized.) Together, the two butchers were prosperous enough to start buying and developing real estate, and they opened their newly-built Galerie Véro-Dodat in 1826.
The Galerie was quite deserted on the evening we walked through (and the pleasant-looking restaurant was closed), but in the nineteenth century this must have been a lively place.
Just opposite the east entrance to the Galerie Véro-Dodat, on rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau, was the main departure point for the horse-drawn stage coaches (diligences in French) of a company called Laffitte et Caillard, which by the 1820s had developed a solid reputation for speed and punctuality.
Victor Hugo included a reference to this stage-coach company in his novel Les Misérables. Four young men, in a joint letter to their jilted girlfriends, told them: “We are leaving, we have left. We flee in the arms of Laffitte and on the wings of Caillard.”
Their diligence was pulled by “five fiery horses” running “at full trot, at a rate of three leagues an hour.” (Translated from volume 1, page 208, of the folio classique edition.)
Three leagues an hour would be roughly twelve kilometers an hour in today’s terms, but Victor Hugo would turn over in his grave (in the Panthéon) if he heard me saying that, because he was a fierce opponent of the metric system.
Before the advent of the railroads, the shops in the Galerie Véro-Dodat used to open at five in the morning to serve the passengers of the first Laffitte et Caillard stage coaches leaving for cities all over France.
Smoking was not allowed in the stage coaches, by the way, and prices were often quite affordable because of the ruinous competition between rival stage-coach companies.
Location and aerial view on monumentum.fr.
My photos in this post are from 2012. I revised the text in 2021.
15 thoughts on “Galerie Véro-Dodat”
It is interesting that two people who I suppose were competitors (?) would collaborate like this. Did the original shops move or did they stay where they were?
For long distances I am still bound to miles per hour. I can do conversions for centimeters to inches, and meters to yards, but not for kilometers to miles. I think 12 kph would translate roughly to 10 mph. It is interesting that the horses were trotting (and also that there were five of them). 10 mph is a pretty fast trot.
I compared it to the old eventing pace on Roads and Tracks – phase A was a warmup done at 220 meters per minute (8 mph) for 2.5 miles (4000 meters), and then phase B was steeplechase which was 8-12 fences over 2200 meters at about 23 mph, phase C was a cool down from the steeple chase and was about 6000 meters and was slower than phase A, and then they did cross country which was 30-40 jumps over about 4200 meters at a pace of 20 mph. My daughter competed at the Preliminary level on her old pony when she was 14.
The carriage horses weren’t jumping and jumping takes more energy so they could sustain that speed for longer
I’ve just looked up a conversion website which says that 12 km is not quite 7 ½ miles.
I don’t know exactly where Dodat’s butcher shop was, but I have the impression is was far enough away (further north, in some other neighborhood) that they weren’t direct competitors.
Victor Hugo himself did quite a bit of travelling by stage coach (while the railroads were still being built) and described it in some of his books. (https://operasandcycling.com/in-the-footsteps-of-victor-hugo/). But I don’t recall if he ever mentioned how many horses there were. Five seems to me like an unhandy number. Most of the pictures I’ve seen showed either two horses or four.
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Painting on the ceilings is a difficult art & I wonder how the artists managed it so well in the olden times.
I understand that DaVinci had a scaffolding and he lay on his back on it to paint the Sistine Chapel
I’ve visited a few galeries in Paris, but I must’ve missed this one by accident. Such a stunning interior! Love going to the French capital and checking out the galeries and passages hiding throughout the city. 🙂
Yes, I’m sure I’ve missed a few, too. We were supposed to visit two of them on this tour, but one was closed because it was a French holiday: https://operasandcycling.com/guided-walking-tour-from-palais-royal/
Cour du Commerce Saint-André is a partially covered gallery on the Left Bank where you’ll find Le Procope, reportedly the oldest Paris café in continuous operation. It was opened in 1686 by the Sicilian chef Procopio Cutò, and was a hub of the artistic and literary community in 18th and 19th century Paris.
Galerie Vivienne on the Right Bank near the Palais Royal Gardens is a favorite. It’s very nicely kept up and has lots of pretty shops. One entrance is at 4 Rue des Petits Champs between two sections of Bistro Vivienne. It’s stunning at Christmas. Le Grand Colbert is a really beautiful belle epoque brasserie at 2 rue Vivienne that I think opens into the gallery. We entered from the street. I was told after we ate there that several movies have used it as a setting. The movie that comes up on a Google search is “Something’s Gotta Give” with Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson. We just knew it was pretty and the waiters were wonderful. Had a great dinner there on a rainy night. The Paris galleries are very useful on rainy days! Unlike museums, galleries are free . . .
I’ve been to the Cour du Commerce Saint-André and the Galerie Vivienne on guided walking tours. I didn’t know that films have been set there. Great that you had such a wonderful meal at the Grand Colbert. I’ve been there, but only for coffee.
I don’t think I’ve ever explored this galerie, despite it being in so central a location – it looks very elegant.
Interesting that smoking wasn’t allowed in stage coaches.
Yes, I was surprised when I read that, but I think it was an essential rule because the coaches were highly flammable, and the way they lurched around on the bumpy roads of that era would have made it very dangerous for someone to try to light a pipe or cigarette.
Absolutely, and ashes would have been a constant problem as well.