Joseph Nicephore Niepce was born in Chalon-sur-Saone on March 7, 1765 in a house at 9 (now 15 in the new address scheme) Rue De L’Oratoire. The house as it stands today is rather nondescript and gives no clue as to the inspiration behind the man who would invent photography. Rue De L’Oratoire is really more of an alley, closed in on one end, and the other opens to a pedestrian-only street.
In this view of number 15, Rue De L’Oratoire, you can see the plaque on the wall indicating the house where Niepce was born.
A view of the street, including the house:
If you are approaching Rue de L’Oratoire on foot from Rue General Leclerc, there is a driveway into which you can turn, at the end of which is this very ornate iron gate and lamp, guarding a private courtyard. I could not confirm but I believe the front of Niepce’s house faces this courtyard, which is infinitely more appealing than the Rue de L’Oratoire side. I did not photograph the house itself as it is currently lived in by private citizens.
The approach to the Rue de L’Oratoire from Rue General Leclerc is through what is now a car park, at the back of which can be found the Tour Saudon, a medieval tower. I assume the car park was once gardens for the tower. This is a close-up of the iron gate and door to the tower, which again, to the best of my ability to determine, is not open to the public.
Across Rue de L’Oratoire from the Tour Saudon, there is a 17th century courtyard apartment building. I could have spent an entire day just doing a photo essay on this courtyard. I would have loved to have seen inside some of the apartments – what would they look like now, and how would the layers of history be exposed/concealed in such a space?
The red-and-black marble tile paving on the sidewalk inside the carriageway is an enchanting detail to the space, and a very clear sign of its age. It almost feels like you’re looking at a painting, and not the actual stone.
The carriageway into the courtyard is, I suspect, the primary means of vehicular ingress and egress to the Rue de L’Oratoire, as the intersecting street at the bottom of the Rue is a pedestrian-only thoroughfare.
If you look through the archway over the Rue de L’Oratoire, you can see the pedestrian street, the Rue au Change. If the overpass connecting the apartment building with the building across the street looks Swiss, it should not be surprising in Chalon- it is about 70 miles (120km) to Geneva from Chalon. The building in the courtyard to which the iron gate and lamp at the top of this post is attached on the left looks just like a traditional Swiss chalet that you’d expect to see on an alpine meadow, not in the middle of a French town.