A must-see

article | Reading time4 min

An impressive glass roof

Cour du jeu de paume avec des visiteurs

Welcome to the belly of the City! In the heart of the royal residence of the castle of Villers-Cotterêts, the courtyard of the jeu du paume will welcome you with open arms. You will just have to raise your eyes towards the sky to discover a masterly glass roof, from which suspended words will be offered to the amazed visitors.

A palm game in the heart of the royal dwelling

Did you know that Francis I was a sporting king, or rather one who loved sports, in addition to his regular practice of hunting?

Recent archaeological excavations conducted by INRAP have uncovered, in the heart of the royal dwelling of the castle of Villers-Cotterêts, the remains of a game of paume, considered to be the ancestor of our current tennis. Its location allowed the king to watch the games from his apartments, whose windows looked directly onto the playing area!

A surface slightly smaller than two tennis courts, surrounded by a space allowing spectators to admire the players' prowess. Which, by the way, gave rise to the expression "to impress the gallery"... This courtyard of the jeu de paume will not fail to impress the future visitor of the Cité internationale de la langue française: covered by an impressive glass roof that will house a lexical sky, it will be the heart of the Cité!

Print, Jeu de paume
Print, Jeu de paume

© Gallica / BnF

The glass roof of the courtyard of the Jeu de Paume: an architectural, technical and aesthetic challenge

To sublimate this courtyard of the jeu de paume, while protecting it and making it a real place of meeting of the public and distribution of the various spaces of the Cité, the chief architect of the Monuments historiques, Olivier Weets, imagined and conceived a unique glass roof which required months of intense calculations:

  • exceptional materials: 618 m² of a steel structure, an alloy of carbon and manganese, and glass panels manufactured in Veneto. A filter system with silk-screened patterns on the glass absorbs 25% of the light and therefore of the heat.
  • a self-stable structure: 60 tons of materials that do not exert any lateral thrust on the built heritage thanks to a system of supports and tie rods specifically adapted to the site
  • past/present: an architecture and motifs in reference to the Renaissance period that can be found in the King's staircase: diamond-shaped mesh, or the slight curvature of the structure that recalls the typical vaults of the period
  • men at work: 2 teams of 6 workers from the Eiffage company worked on the installation of this glass roof, 15 meters high.
Glass roof of the Cité internationale de la langue française, by night
Glass roof of the Cité internationale de la langue française, by night

© Centre des monuments nationaux

The construction of the glass roof of the courtyard of the jeu de paume in 50 seconds

Fast track to glass roof assembly

video | Reading time0:52 min

The lexical sky: "words, always words, nothing but words... "

From the city, after having crossed the courtyard of the castle's offices and the entrance porch of the royal dwelling, the visitor will enter the central place of life of the Cité: the courtyard of the jeu de paume.

He will be challenged by the hundred or so words facing him, suspended from the glass roof 10 meters high. These words are the result of a consultation with the inhabitants of Villers-Cotterêts and reflect the diversity of the French language throughout the world.

From slang to literary figures of the territory through regional and francophone expressions, we can not divulge the list of words of this lexical sky designed by the agency Projectiles. You will discover these chosen words through the rays of the sun which will cross the glass roof, or at nightfall when some of them will be illuminated thanks to leds.

From the courtyard, you will be able to discover the adventure of the French language, take a break in the café-tea room, stroll through the bookshop-boutique or why not attend a live show on the cobblestones of this incredible and unique cultural atrium.

View of the words of the lexical sky
View of the words of the lexical sky

© Centre des monuments nationaux

Discover the glass roof in pictures

Restoration work in progress (January 2023)

video | Reading time2:43 min

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