The hôtel Saint-Pol was a royal residence begun in 1361 by Charles V of France on the ruins of a building constructed by Louis IX. It was used by Charles V and Charles VI. Located to the south-west of the Quartier de l'Arsenal in the 4th arrondissement of Paris, the residence's grounds stretched from the Quai des Célestins to the Rue Saint-Antoine, and from the Rue Saint-Paul to the Rue du Petit-Musc.
Charles V began work on the Hôtel Saint-Pol in 1361. From then until 1364, he continued to improve and develop it by acquiring additional property and ordering the construction of new buildings. The king, who could not stand the pestilential odours of Paris and the problems they caused his health, appreciated its location outside the medieval city. He valued the residence for its calm and its cleaner environment, which he claimed had helped him avoid illnesses, and more importantly recover good health.
On 28 January 1393, the Bal des Ardents took place at the Hôtel Saint-Pol. Four noble dancers were killed in a fire, and Charles VI and another dancer barely escaped death.
The Hôtel Saint-Pol was not a single building, but rather several dwellings making up a royal residence. Between them, they had rooms for banquets and other entertainments given by the king, rooms for guests, and other rooms reserved for the king and his family. Charles V had the residence luxuriously decorated according to his personal tastes, with precious woods, paintings, and goldwork. Walls were decorated with hangings embroidered with pearls, and books were displayed on the furniture, along with golden ornaments. Two chapels were built in the residence, one for the king, the other for his consort, Joanna of Bourbon. The Hôtel included a remarkable collection of precious books that the king enjoyed assembling, including those of his father, John II, who had also been a great lover of books. This collection allowed Charles V to create the Royal Library, which would later become the National Library in Paris. In addition to these spaces for entertainment and living, Charles V also included a room for the Conseil du Roi so that he could take care of affairs of state.
The Hôtel Saint-Pol and other palaces were the sites where the first versions of a royal etiquette at the French court were developed. Charles V, for instance, had his servants dressed in liveries appropriate to the stature of a King of France.
The hôtel Saint-Pol in the 15th and 16th centuries
After Charles VII fled to Bourges in 1418, the Hôtel Saint-Pol was abandoned by Charles and the kings who followed him. Louis XI preferred the Château de Plessis-lez-Tours, and when visiting Paris stayed at the Château de Vincennes. Charles VIII, Louis XII, and Francis I lived in the Loire Valley or at the Château de Fontainebleau, and the Hôtel Saint-Pol fell into ruin. In 1519, part of it was sold by order of Francis I, and several years later, it was completely destroyed. A wall of the église Saint-Paul, which formed part of the hôtel, survives to this day.
- Georges Bordonove, Les Rois qui ont fait la France - Les Valois - Charles V le Sage, vol. 1, éditions Pygmalion, 1988.