Revolutionizing Street Names

In 1793, revolutionaries wanted to remove all traces of the Ancien Régime’s power from the public space: did the Declaration of the Rights of Men and Male Citizens not proclaim the freedom of consciousness? Accused of influencing minds and promoting superstitions, a large portion of religious symbols (statues of the Virgin, crosses, etc.) were taken down, scratched out, hidden or destroyed. Street names were specifically targeted: here, the “rue des Coutures-Saint-Gervais” became the “rue des Coutures-Gervais.” Its religious influence was thereby removed and the street name’s origin once again became obvious with the word “coutures,” meaning cultivated land.

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Before arrondissements: the revolutionary sections of Paris

During the Revolution, the 21 neighborhoods under the Ancien Régime were transformed into 48 sections: neighborhoods in which a citizens assembly took care of maintaining order, providing supplies as well as dealing with a variety of issues. In order to attend, a person had to have a token. These sections were often named in honor of martyrs (Marat, Lepeletier) or revolutionary principles (Unity, Fraternity)… The Hôtel de Ville section thus became the Town Hall Section from 1792 to 1794, before becoming the “Loyalty Section”…It must have been difficult to keep track.

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