La Samaritaine, an iconic monument of ancient Paris which gave its name to the famous Department Store

When we think of La Samaritaine, we think today of one of the most famous Parisian department stores. What is less known is that it owes its name to an iconic monument of ancient Paris, installed on the Pont-Neuf at the beginning of the 17th century.

In 1602, Henri IV decreed the installation of a hydraulic pump to supply water to the Louvre, the Tuileries and various fountains in the center of the city. It was established downstream of the second arch of the Pont-Neuf, on the right bank side, and began operating in 1608. The facade, topped by a campanile, was decorated with a high relief representing Christ and the Samaritan woman at the well of Jacob, a famous episode from the New Testament widely used since the Middle Ages as a decoration for public fountains. The pump was quickly called “the Samaritaine”.

On October 3, 1608, water from Samaritaine began to arrive at the Palais des Tuileries via a reservoir located near the church of Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois. The 6.20 meter diameter hydraulic wheel adapted to the level of the Seine operated four pumps which sucked in and delivered an average of 700 cubic meters of water per day. Damaged in the 18th century, it was rebuilt and became a police station during the French Revolution, and the headquarters of revolutionary committees. In poor condition and obsolete, it was demolished in April 1813… Before being reborn in a new form 60 years later!

Indeed, at the end of the 1860s, a young traveling salesman born in Charente-Maritime dreamed of making his fortune in Paris. After several failed experiments, he settled in one of the demi-lunes of Pont-Neuf, on the exact location of the old pump, to sell fabrics. Success was finally achieved, and in 1870 he decided to expand by renting premises just opposite the bridge. Which he named… the Samaritaine !

This man is Ernest Cognacq, founder of the famous department store, whose name comes from the old Pont-Neuf hydraulic pump.

Useful Informations

La Samaritaine, or how an iconic monument of ancient Paris gave its name to the famous Department Store. A story that began in 1608 on the Pont-Neuf.

(Français) Rejoignez-nous sur Facebook