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The Arago line, a mystic stroll along the Parisian Meridian

February 1, 2012

Wandering through the streets of Paris is usually synonym to looking up for architectural details or spectacular views on monuments. Sometimes, it may however be interesting to look down as some details may lie under your feet. Some of them may be hard to notice even though they are perfectly visible to the naked eye. They are made of a little more than 100 golden medallions inlaid in pavements or streets. All of them are aligned on a line running north to south along the Parisian Meridian, also called the Arago line. They are outdoor pieces of art paying  tribute to François Arago (1786-1853), a scientist and politician who defined the exact trajectory of the Parisian Meridian. The Arago line was materialized in 1994 as part of a project launched by Dutch artist Jan Dibbets.

The medallions themselves are very simple. Made of bronze, each of them measures a scant 15 centimeters and is carved with just two letters N for North and S for South and the Arago name. They were made famous by American bestseller “the Da Vinci Code” when the main character, Robert Langdon, follows the “Rose Line” to the Louvre pyramid.

Of the initial 135 medallions, barely 100 remain today as some have been stolen or removed for public works. The Arago line is mainly symbolized by the medallions but a few monuments have also been erected along the way. For instance, an obelisk can be seen in the 18th arrondissement just behind the Moulin de la Galette (it is usually nearly impossible to see it as it is in the middle of a private property). The most famous part of the Arago line is in the Saint-Sulpice Church where the line is engraved on the floor. The end of the line used to be materialized by a statue of Arago standing on the place de l’Ile de Sein in the 14th arrondissement, just behind the Observatory. The statue however no longer exists today, only the base remains as the statue itself was melted during World War Two by the Germans to produce guns.

Following the line makes for a pleasant 9 kilometer walk through Paris as it goes through nice neighborhoods and passes by  famous monuments. It crosses six different arrondissements: the 18th, 9th, 2nd, 1st, 6th and 14th.

Some of the medallions can be seen at these spots:

– 15, rue Dereure (75018)

– 9, boulevard Haussmann (75009)

– 15, rue Saint-Augustin (75002)

– 24, rue de Richelieu (75001)

– Galerie de Nemours (75001)

– Palais Royal (75001)

– Place Colette (75001)

– Rue de Rivoli, on the Place du Palais Royal (75001)

– Louvre Museum (behind the Pyramid) (75001)

– 28, rue de Vaugirard (75006)

– Saint-Sulpice Church (75006)

– The Observatory (75014)

4 Comments leave one →
  1. February 4, 2012 1:19 pm

    I love learning about things like the Arago line in my favorite city. One year we did track down the part of the Arago line in St Sulpice but the next time we are back in Paris we will track down the rest of it! Thanks

  2. September 3, 2012 6:54 pm

    I was there last week and found a couple of them. The mystery and legend that surrounds it, is intriguing. 🙂

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