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Archives Nationales Review
Thousands of important historical documents are housed in these two spectacular buildings, built in 1705 as private homes. Fans of the decorative arts will appreciate a visit to the Hôtel de Soubise, where the well-preserved private apartments of the Prince and Princess de Soubise are among the first examples of the Rococo style, which preceded the more somber Baroque opulence of Louis XIV. Many important architects left their mark here. The Hôtel de Rohan, open to the public only during Patrimony weekend in September, was built for Soubise's son, Cardinal Rohan. On display are documents dating from 625 to the 20th century. Highlights are the Edict of Nantes (1598), the Treaty of Westphalia (1648), the wills of Louis XIV and Napoléon, and the Declaration of Human Rights (1789). Louis XVI's diary is also here, containing his sadly clueless entry for July 14, 1789, the day the Bastille was stormed and the French Revolution was launched. Before you leave, notice the medieval turrets to the right in the courtyard: this is the Porte de Clisson, all that remains of a stately 14th-century mansion. At this writing, plans were underway to transform a portion of the Archives into a museum devoted to the history of France. The Maison de l'Histoire de la France, set to open in 2015, will consolidate the collections of several smaller museums around the country.
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