Standing tall and supporting nothing, the giant Medici Column in front of Paris’ commodities exchange building hides a secret spiral staircase that was originally built for use by Catherine de Medici’s personal astrologer.
Built in 1575, the Medici Column was the first free-standing column in Paris. It was built at the request of Catherine de Medici as part of a royal palace that once stood behind it. While the decorative value of the 92-foot column is clear, Catherine’s true purpose behind building it has never been concretely established. While it is a lovely bit of stonework from the outside, the inside of the column is actually hollow, containing a spiral staircase that once connected Catherine’s personal apartment to a observatory/workshop at the top of the column.
This workspace is thought to have been built for Catherine’s personal astrologer (some say sorcerer), Cosimo Ruggieri. The astrologer had been friends with the queen since childhood, and it is said that she consulted with him prior to making any big decisions. The space at the top of the column was there for him to consult the stars to make his predictions.
While the palace the column was built for is no longer there, the column still stands, hiding its spiral staircase. The door to the interior is now closed, but visitors can still look up at the cage at the top of the column and wonder what astrological shenanigans went on up there.