For the past couple of blog entries, I’ve been writing about my upcoming trip to Nancy. I’ve written about the great hotel I’ve found and the sights in la Vieille Ville. Place Stanislas joins la Ville Neuve (lah veel nuv), or “the New City” to the oldest part of town. The most important square in Nancy is lined with buildings that span five centuries. They were given a major clean-up in 2005 and most are listed as World Heritage sites by UNESCO.
The Musée des Beaux-Arts has a collection that goes from 14th-century altarpieces to post-Impressionist paintings. The museum’s real treasure may be the stunning collection of Daum glass displayed between remnants of massive city walls and Renaissance era bastions that were uncovered when the museum was enlarged.
L’Opéra national de Lorraine, which dates to 1919, replaced the original 18-century building that was destroyed by a fire at the turn of the last century. The “new” building combines classical and art nouveau motifs, as does its twin, le musée des Beaux Arts, next door. The last performance of the season will coincide with my arrival time, so there’s no possibility of seeing it in action. Too bad.
The façade of the city hall, or Hôtel de Ville, is the site of a light show on summer evenings. In the daytime, the architecture is the show. The interior features a spectacular ballroom and the exterior has a magnificent staircase.
In addition to the statue of Stanislas Lesczynski in the center of the square, are two symmetrical fountains representing Neptune and Amphitrite. Unlike the classical architecture of the rest of the square, they are in a rococo style. The fountain in the north-west corner has a statue of Neptune holding a trident, overlooking children riding on dolphins. One of the children is crying because a crab pinched him on the finger; the crab, however, has vanished.
Marking the axis that leads to the Palais du Gouvernemeur is Nancy’s triumphal arch. It was designed by the architect Héré to honor Louis XV, Lesczynski’s son-in-law. Also known as “Arc Héré,” it was modeled it on the Arch of Septimius Severus in Rome.
In honor of Stanislas Lesczynski, here’s a quotation by the man himself, the deposed king of Poland and the designer of Nancy as it is today, “Pour croire avec certitude, il faut commencer par douter” (poor crwahr avek ser-tea-tood, eel foe kom-ehn-say par dootay), which means “To believe with certainty, one must begin by doubting.” I’m certain that a man with such an unsettled life, living far from his homeland, must have had some powerful doubts along the way. But I’m also certain he’d be pleased if he could stroll around Place Lesczynski and see how beautiful it is today.