Did you know about the king’s enormous globes hidden in a Paris library?

Ready for a top notch Paris secret?

Make your way to the Bibliotheque nationale de France, head down to the ground level, walk towards the north west corner, and you’ll find a dark yet enchanting corner where two magnificent globes seem to be suspended in thin air. These are the Globes of Coronelli. (Sometimes called the Marly Globes, as they were first displayed in the Marly Chateau).

Now, you’ll be forgiven if you’ve never even heard of these globes. After all, they were only opened to the public in 2006. We learned about them when the guys at the magnificent map shop directed us there during our explorations of the 13th arrondissement.

But now it’s time Earful Tower readers know about them too, they’re simply too stunning to keep hidden, and we’re excited to share them with you.

So, where did the Globes of Coronelli come from?

Well, jealousy essentially. The Globes of Coronelli were commissioned for Louis XIV in the late 17th century after he heard of similar globes belonging to the Duke of Parma. 

Vicenzo Coronelli designed the Duke’s celestial and terrestrial globes (pictured below). Pleased with his haul, the Duke showed his beautiful possessions to his friends, including the French Ambassador at the time. In due course Coronelli was commissioned to construct even better globes for Louis XIV. One globe would be for the sky (celestial) and one for the land (terrestrial) – and both were to be personalised for the king.

Facts about the Globes of Coronelli

The two globes were constructed from 1681 to 1683 in a Baroque style. They are 13 feet (4 metres) in diameter and each weighs 2 tonnes (over 4500 lbs). 

The terrestrial globe

The terrestrial globe, in the foreground of the picture above, is a map of the known world during the 17th century. This is why certain countries like New Zealand are missing or land is misrepresented – Australia is unfinished and California is an island. These places hadn’t been mapped out yet!

With its multiple illustrations, the terrestrial globe highlights the different flora, fauna, animals, hunting as well as mining opportunities across the world in the 17th century. 

The globes served a manifestation of Louis XIV’s worldview and moreover the perspective France held of the world at the time. 

The celestial globe

The celestial globe shows the star constellations known in the 17th century. The stars are arranged as they would appear in the sky on September 5th 1638: the Sun King’s birthday.

With the black background and low lights, the globe is truly mesmerizing.

How to access the Globes of Coronelli

The two globes are located in the north western wing of the Bibliothèque nationale de France. There is even a dedicated entrance for them, but this was closed when we visited, meaning we had to walk through the whole library.

Address: Quai François Mauriac, 75706

The Earful Tower podcast episode

You can listen to my interview with Pierre in the podcast episode on the 13th arrondissement, the interviews kicks off at the 22:00 minute mark. Stick around to the end of the episode where my wife, Lina, and I share our findings from the 13th arrondissement and give the district a score out of 100.

Video guide to the 13th arrondissement

Here’s our visit, in video format, from our YouTube channel. We’ll be making one of these travel vlogs every week, so be sure to subscribe (you can do it in one click via this link). 

And that’s it! A big thanks to Charlotte Pleasants for the additional reporting and to the Patreon members who make all this possible. Join them here.

You can find all our tips for the 13th district’s best restaurants, cafes, and attractions here. Otherwise see you next week for our trip to the 12th arrondissement. 

Want more? You can support our work by buying one of our children’s books, or our PDF guide, below. Merci!

Article by Charlotte Pleasants

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