Barriere d’Enfer historical buildings in Paris
The Barriere d’Enfer is actually a set of two identical buildings that were originally constructed as offices to collect tax for goods entering the city of Paris, and now classed as historical monuments, these are two of the original four still standing that were all constructed by Claude Nicolas Ledoux.
A bit of history
It all starts when a wall was constructed during the 1700s called the Mur des Fermiers Generaux, which translates to Wall of the Farmers General, and this had toll houses constructed along it it, so that taxes could be paid on any goods entering the city of Paris.
And it was the architect Claude Nicolas Ledoux, who was called upon by the Ferme Generale to produce the fifty plus customs offices for this wall, and after the project had been approved by King Louis XVI, this innovative architect started drawing up the plans for these buildings.
No doubt the most famous of these customs offices, is called the Rotonde de la Villette, located within the 19th Arrondissement and this is one of the four that are still remaining, as many were destroyed during the French Revolution. But two others are located opposite each other in the 14th Arrondissement of Paris and all of them were constructed between the years 1784 and 1787.
Now these two neoclassical pavilions were designed by Claude Nicolas Ledoux to be identical and were named after the road where they were positioned, that was originally called the Rue d’Enfer, which translates in English to Road of Hell. And of course these customs buildings for collecting taxes got the same name of Barriere d’Enfer, so were referred to as the Gates of Hell.
About the Barriere d’Enfer historical buildings
The road and the square where these two pavilions are located had their names changed in more recent times to Denfert-Rochereau, yet the Barriere d’Enfer Pavillons still retained the same name, and have since been classified as historical monuments in Paris.
And these two toll houses for collection of taxes were constructed as exceedingly large pavilions in a neoclassical style, which actually look rather daunting. Yet, if you look up, just underneath the roofs of these, you will see that there are friezes, which actually depict people dancing.
Now these friezes were apparently sculpted by Jean Guillaume Moitte, who designed and sculpted the pediment of The Pantheon, along with stone reliefs that are on the Palais de Louvre and others on the Hotel de Salm, which is home to the Musee National de la Legion d’Honneur et des Ordres de Chevalerie.
The Barriere d’Enfer, sometimes now known as the Pavillons d’Enfer also have other daunting attributes, like the stone archways above the doors and windows either side, which have square parts of stone, that almost look like they imitate barriers in their own right, not forgetting the wrought iron barriers covering the windows.
And although these buildings were in use up until the 1850s they were then left empty for a while, yet today, as you look at the two main facades of the buildings, the eastern one is home to the General Inspectorate of Careers, and the Catacombes de Paris entrance next to this. Whereas, on the opposite side of the street, the western Pavillon d’Enfer is now home to the offices of the highway services.
And talking of streets, the one going in between the two Barriere d’Enfer buildings was actually renamed the Avenue du Colonel-Henri-Rol-Tanguy in the March of 2004, as this was the 60th anniversary of the Liberation of Paris, and it was underneath the western side building that Colonel Henri-Rol-Tanguy was instrumental with the French Resistance during World War II.
Also if you can actually read French, then there is one of the shields called the Histoire de Paris, produced by the city, that details lots of the history of the Barriere d’Enfer buildings that they refer to Les Pavillons d'Octroi de Ledoux, or The Grantings of the Ledoux Pavillions in English.
Visiting Barriere d’Enfer historical buildings in Paris
Although you can only see the outside of these monuments, they are a major part of the history of Paris, and as you have already gathered from what we have mentioned earlier, these two pavilions are located in the 14th Arrondissement within the Place Denfert-Rochereau.
Yet there are also numerous other tourist attractions very close by including squares such as the Jacques Antoine, and another dedicated to the architect who constructed these, but you also have the oldest train station in Paris, called the Gare Denfert-Rochereau that serves line B of the RER network.
However, other modes of transport in Paris that will get you close by include the Metro via line 6 and the buses number 38, 68, 88, and 216 not forgetting for those of you that want a more leisurely way, there are Velib stations nearby for the bike rental scheme in Paris.