Fire causes ‘irreversible’ damage to historic Parisian mansion

Blaze destroyed the 17th century Hotel Lambert on the Île Saint-Louis, half a kilometre from Notre Dame cathedral

The fire that ravaged the 17th-century Hôtel Lambert, the most important private mansion in Paris, early yesterday has been widely described as a catastrophe. The damage is “irreversible”, French minister of culture Aurélie Filippetti said when she visited the smouldering building. Some 140 firefighters battled the flames from 1.30am until 7.30am.

Among the lost treasures was the bathing chamber, painted by Eustache Le Sueur in the 17th century. “The roof collapsed and it was entirely destroyed,” Ms Filippetti said.

"This is a trial for our heritage; it's absolutely exceptional as an hôtel particulier," said Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoë.

Prow of a ship
Paris judiciary police have opened an investigation into how the fire started on the roof of the building, which sits like the prow of a ship at the tip of the Île Saint-Louis, half a kilometre from Notre Dame Cathedral. The mansion is much favoured by tourists travelling past on the Seine in the bâteaux mouches.


No one was hurt because the building was unoccupied during extensive renovations.

Baron Guy de Rothschild sold the mansion to Abdallah Ben Abdallah-Al-Thani, the brother of the emir of Qatar, in 2007 for €82 million.

Some 8,000 people signed a petition opposing Mr Thani’s plans to convert the mansion, classified since 1862 as a historic monument, into what Paris heritage architect Jean-François Cabestan called a “James Bond villa” with underground parking and a car lift. Work was interrupted while a compromise was reached.

The Hôtel Lambert was built between 1639 and 1644 by royal architect Louis Le Vau, for the secretary of King Louis XIII. Voltaire lived there in the 18th century with his mistress, the marquise du Chatelet.

In the 19th century, it was bought by the Polish prince Czartoryski, who received the most prominent romantics there, including George Sand, Chopin and Delacroix.

Lara Marlowe

Lara Marlowe

Lara Marlowe is an Irish Times contributor