John the Fearless – Jean Sans Peur

Right in the heart of Paris there is a small medieval tower named after its owner Jean Sans Peur (1371-1419).

He was nicknamed so because he didn’t hesitate to kill his arch enemy Louis d’Orleans in order to become Regent of the Kingdom of France.

The tower was left unattended for years on end and even disappeared amidst the rest of the buildings until Haussmann — while rebuilding the City — uncovered the tower. It was then decided to turn it into a listed building.  

In 1999 the Tower was open for visits and since then it has been managed by a not for profit organisation which is doing a terrific job. The guide is fantastic she knows her history really well and is passionate about her job. Exhibitions and events on medieval topics are organised there on a regular basis.

The staircase looks new and yet, it’s one of the oldest in the country. It’s made of some special kind of limestone found in the quarries below what is now Denfert Rochereau.

At the top of the stairs one is welcomed by a a brilliant tree-like canopy made of sculpted stones. This is the actual roof of the tower, not just an ornament. It’s absolutely brilliant.

Many medieval costumes have been installed. The organisation also sells small leaflets on various medieval topics (fairs in the middle ages, hygiene in the middle ages etc.) which I recommend warmly. All along we were walking pas this tower and had never noticed how interesting it was. I definitely recommend you not to be fearful and visit Tour Jean Sans Peur.

Visit their website

It couldn’t be more central. Yet, at the beginning of the 15th century it was the end of town as the tower was built directly on the Wall of Philip II Augustus. Click the map for directions.

Yann Gourvennec
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  1. You are so right to recommend this off-the-beaten-path stop, Yann! Not only is the tower’s architecture interesting, but the also sometimes have great little exhibits near the entrance desk on the main floor. There was one on medieval medicine when I last visited that I won’t soon forget! (Suffice it to say it made me grateful to have missed that chapter of human history.)

    • Thanks Heide. You definitely know PARIS better than I do. My Father in law had talked to me about this place which wasn’t that far from where I used to work at the time. It has taken us the best of 15 years to get our act together. But I’m glad we did.

      • I think it’s difficult to visit these places when you live in a city because there’s the commute and work and grocery shopping every day, Yann — that’s certainly true for me in my own city. But how wonderful that you finally did get to see this hidden gem. That ceiling alone is worth the price of admission, isn’t it?

      • We are literally surrounded by stores some of which open quite late.
        But as I come home rather late (usually after 8:00 pm) I tend to rush home for dinner.
        When I manage to leave a little earlier, then I park my bike at Rue du Bac for GF bread and other stuff from the organic shop over there, and sometimes a treat of that fiendishly delicious chocolate from Chapon
        Apart from that, most of the time it’s “vélo, boulot dodo” 🙂

      • “Vélo, boulot dodo.” Ha ha! C’est drôle, ça. But I imagine it’s also not far from the truth for you — though I also imagine Chapon is of some consolation. 😉

      • That was a marvelous post, Yann. Thank you so much for sharing the link (even if it did break my heart to imagine that garden disappearing).

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