Paris is often referred to as “the city of light”, but does it have anything to do with the Age of Enlightenment?
This expression dates from the 17th century and therefore has no connection with the enlightenment that appeared a century later.
Paris was the first European city to use gas street lighting on a grand scale on its boulevards and monuments. The visitors of the capital tagged it “the city of light” because they were impressed by the light of the city. Public lighting was new at the time and was a first in the world.
What are the facts that drove France to develop such a sophisticated lighting system for the time?
- It all begins in the seventeenth century, when the kingdom of France was gangrened by criminality.
- Louis XIV and his minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert searched ways to fight insecurity in Paris.
- In 1667, they appointed Gilbert Nicolas de la Reynie as lieutenant general of Police of Paris. He had the brilliant idea of enlightening the most wicked neighborhoods in Paris in order to prevent robbers and other thieves from hiding in the dark. He was one of the first to directly establish a link between insecurity and darkness.
- He had the main axes lighted with lanterns and torches and he also asked people to put candles or oil lamps on the edge of their windows.
- In the 1820’s, Philippe Lebon, the inventor of gas lighting to whom we owe most of the progress in urban lighting decided to promote and develop his invention in Paris. In 1820’s the first street lamps were lit at night and forty years later, 56.000 street lamps were installed in the Parisian capital. The city of lights was born.