Well, Chalon-sur-Saone is NOT in Paris, obviously. But I did go there as part of this trip. Chalon is a small city on the banks of the Saone (pronounced Son) river, about 130 kilometers from the Swiss border. The reason for the visit was not to take a river cruise (Chalon is the departure point for many river cruises as the Saone feeds into the Rhone river at Lyons and from there flows to the Mediterranean) but to visit the birthplace of photography. But didn’t Louis Daguerre invent it in Paris in 1839? No. Nicephore Niepce (pronounced Knee-eps) actually discovered the very first viable photographic process in 1822 when he was able to create photogravure etchings. By 1825 he was working with a process he called “heliography” involving coating bitumen of Judea dissolved in lavender oil on pewter plates. It was fine for mechanical reproduction of static subjects but not terribly useful for anything else, as his exposure times ran longer than eight hours. In the early 1830s he collaborated with Daguerre on developing an improved process. Alas, he died in 1833, and was not able to see the fruition of his labors.
Today’s post from Chalon covers the black-and-white photos I took. Chalon is more than river cruises and dead inventors – the town dates back to Roman times, and although little visible remains of its Roman years, the medieval core of the city is still very visible and accessible. The square in front of the cathedral features half-timbered buildings from the 14th century.
The cathedral in Chalon may look somewhat newer – the facade took heavy damage and was restored in the 19th century, but parts of the structure date back to the 8th.
Thinking of how things change, here we have very clear evidence – in the 19th century there was a major reformation of the way street addresses were indicated. Previously, instead of having odd numbered houses on one side of the street and evens on the other, the numbers would go up sequentially on one side of a street and when they reached the end of the street, they’d turn around and keep going up until they got to the beginning, so it was possible to have number 3 in the same block as number 252, which was extremely confusing. Also, with all the turmoil in France from the 1780s until the 1880s, streets were frequently re-named. This intersection shows what were once Rue Voltaire and Rue Comerce are now Rue du Pont and Rue du Chatelet.
Number 9 is a good example – I don’t know what the original street number was, but the 9 is a typical blue and white enamel-on-metal plaque from the late 19th/early 20th century. The house, obviously, dates to 1550.
Rue de L’Oratorie is another example. This is the street on which Niepce was born; his house is behind me, at modern #15. However, there is a plaque on the wall of the courtyard that leads to Rue de L’Oratorie which says the Niepce birth home is at #9. THe plaque indicating the location of the home was placed before the address reformation, so you can imagine my confusion when looking for #9 and not finding it at all! Fortunately Rue de L’Oratorie is only really 2 blocks long, and there is a second sign in the rue on the house itself. I don’t have photos of the house taken with the Rolleiflex because it’s quite nondescript and the rue itself is rather narrow at that end, making it hard to photograph more than a bit of a wall. I do have photos on my iPhone of the signs that I’ll post with the color images later.
These are views of the Tour Saudon, a 14th century tower house right around the corner from Niepce’s birthplace.
Also on the Rue de L’Oratorie, this house has a bridge connecting its two halves on each side of the street.