The Smart Side of Paris: The Gare de Boulainvilliers

The Smart Side of Paris: The Gare de Boulainvilliers
About nine kilometers east of Charles de Gaulle Airport is the tiny little town of Juilly with barely 2,000 inhabitants. Surrounded by agricultural fields, it is a speck on the map surrounded by other nondescript villages like Nantouillet, Vinantes, and Thieux. Juilly houses the remains of the oldest collège in France that closed its doors in 2012, 374 years after opening. Owned for centuries by the Order of the Oratorians, they could no longer keep up with the repairs required. The buildings fell into awful conditions, leading some to think that they would be razed. However, the French are inveterately successful repurposers and France’s Society for History and Patrimony gained permission to turn the collège into 217 living quarters, hopefully available for purchase in 2025. The plans are unsurprisingly inviting and beautiful and the prices far more reasonable than one might imagine.     Artistic rendering of Juilly residences, courtesy of Corneille Patrimoine In its nearly 400-year history, the Collège de Juilly has produced some very famous graduates. Montesquieu — perhaps the most famous pre-20th century French thinker after Voltaire and Montaigne — attended Juilly, as did the famous actor Philippe Noiret; the singer Michel Polnareff graduated from Juilly; and the infamous Jacques Mesrine (“The Man of a Thousand Faces”), France’s most notorious criminal, rounds out the most frequently mentioned names.  But in all of the publicity surrounding Juilly’s rebirth, I have not found any mention of one of its most intriguing graduates: Henri de Boulainvilliers.  Exactly 46 kilometers southwest of Juilly is the old and beautiful Gare de Boulainvilliers on the RER-C line between the Eiffel Tower and the Bois de Boulogne. It isn’t used much since most travelers exit on one of the two previous stops: the Champs de Mars / Tour Eiffel or the Avenue du Président Kennedy / Maison de Radio France. Or one might continue past Boulainvilliers to Avenue Koch, which is right on the edge of the Bois de Boulogne and leads to the Arc de Triomphe.   The collège of Juilly and the Gare de Boulainvilliers are connected by more than a circuitous transit route. Henri de Boulainvilliers began his studies at the Collège de Juilly in 1669 and, by a stroke of good fortune, studied under the inimitable Richard Simon (1638-1712), who I wrote about in an earlier article.  Gare de Boulainvilliers. Photo credit: Celette / Wikimedia Commons

Lead photo credit : Aerial view of Juilly. Photo credit: Pymouss/ Wikimedia Commons

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John Eigenauer is an intellectual historian and professor of philosophy at Taft College in California. He holds a doctorate in Interdisciplinary Studies from Syracuse University. His work has been published in variety of publications including the International Journal of Educational Reform, The Historian, The Harvard Theological Review, History of Intellectual Culture, American Atheist Magazine and The Huntington Library Quarterly. He has spoken internationally on human rationality and offers workshops and seminars in the pedagogy of critical thinking. His book, 'Paris and the Birth of Public Knowledge,' is available online. John spends his summers in Paris and has fallen in love with Vincennes, often visiting the Chateau de Vincennes, where his hero, Denis Diderot was imprisoned for writing about forbidden topics.