The family and town of Montmorency

From the tenth to the seventeenth centuries, the town of Montmorency was ruled by an aristocratic family of the same name, one of the most ‘distinguished’ and powerful families of the French nobility.

Generation after generation, members of the Montmorency family were Sires, Cardinals, Bishops, Admirals, Generals, Regents, Constables of France, Marshals of France, Grand Officers of the Crown and Grand Masters of various knightly orders.

Although the name ‘Montmorency’ pops up at every turn in the history of these seven centuries, I must admit that when I see the name I immediately think of the least distinguished member of the family, a notorious duelist named François de Montmorency-Bouteville (1600-1627), who openly boasted that he had killed twenty-one men in swordfights. (More about him some other time.)

Rousseau and Grétry were two of the famous people who have lived in the town of Montmorency, but they weren’t the only ones.

Among the others were Charles Le Brun (1619-1690), who was a painter and the official decorator of the palaces of Vaux-le-Vicomte and Versailles, and later the director of the Gobelin tapestry manufactory in Paris. Le Brun had a palace of his own here in Montmorency, but it was demolished around the year 1810.

In 1847 the German poet Heinrich Heine (1797-1856) lived for a time in Montmorency at 7 rue de la Chataigneraie, in a house which no longer exists.

In 1849 the German composer Richard Wagner (1813-1883) rented a room in Montmorency, in an inn which for some reason was called “Homo”, but he left in a great hurry after his wife found out where he was living.

In 1854, 1856 and 1857 the impressionist painter Camille Pissarro (1830-1903) spent the summers in Montmorency and painted a number of now-famous pictures such as Paysage à Montmorency (now in the Orsay Museum in Paris).

Church of St. Martin, Montmorency

The Church of St. Martin, at the top of a hill in Montmorency, is registered as a historical monument, so the location of the church is shown on monumentum.fr along with an aerial view (from Google Maps) and a photo.

Paris-Nord Station, track 35

Montmorency no longer has its own train station, but there is a station close by at Enghien-les-Bains (French and French-Canadian pronunciation here). Trains leave four times an hour from Paris-Nord, and the journey takes fifteen minutes. Enghien-les-Bains is the fourth stop, after Saint-Denis, Epinay Villetaneuse and La Barre Ormesson. My train departed from track 35, but the exact track number can vary. Look for the train going in the direction of Pontoise or Valmondois.

In the train

Note the blue lights under the seats. I think this is a nice touch and makes the trains look almost elegant, at least while they are waiting in the station.

Arrival at Enghien-les-Bains

The trains run on the left-hand side, for some reason. To get the bus 15M for Montmorency you would have to cross over to the other side of the station.

Bus 15M in Montmorency

From the train station at Enghien-les-Bains you can either walk to Montmorency (which is what I did; it’s not very far) or take the number 15M bus, which leaves from the north side of the station. The buses only run every half hour, so you might have to wait a bit. (There are four trains an hour from Paris, but only two buses an hour to Montmorency.) When I was there, the buses were all running late because of road construction somewhere along their route.

For the Rousseau Museum, get off the bus at the stop called ‘Mairie de Montmorency’ (the Town Hall). If there are no traffic jams the bus ride is only ten or eleven minutes from Enghien-les-Bains. If you buy your ticket from the bus driver it costs two Euros, otherwise € 1.70 (as of 2013).

Deuil-La-Barre

Deuil-La-Barre is a name that is familiar to me because there is a street of that name in Frankfurt, but I never really knew where the name came from.

It turns out that Deuil-La-Barre is a town in France, adjacent to Montmorency. It is twinned with a district of Frankfurt called Nieder-Eschbach, which is why Frankfurt has a Deuil-La-Barre-Straße.

The word deuil means ‘mourning’ in French, but why this town is called that I don’t know. (Perhaps some nice local person can explain this?)

My photos in this post are from 2013. I revised the text in 2017.

 

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