Cour Mably is not somewhere you might end up by accident. This compact, elegant courtyard is reached either through its somewhat daunt...

Cour Mably: a peaceful haven with a rich history

Cour Mably is not somewhere you might end up by accident. This compact, elegant courtyard is reached either through its somewhat daunting main entrance on Place du Chapelet or via an unassuming Narnia-like door on Place des Grandes Hommes. And, as well as boasting both stunning architecture and fine sculptures, Cour Mably can also lay claim to a rich history…
Originally, the courtyard was one of the two cloisters (the other is long gone) of a convent originally set up around 1230 by the Dominicans (later known as the Jacobins). The configuration which still stands was designed by the military engineer Pierre-Michel Duplessy with Friar Jean Maupeou and built during the same period – 1684 to 1707 – as the neighbouring Notre Dame church. In 1790, in the slipstream of the French Revolution, the property became the head office of the “Société des Amis de la Constitution”, a Jacobin political party that was founded in Bordeaux.

A decree was passed which abolished religious groups and confiscated their property, resulting in the premises falling under the ownership of the French State. From 1797 onwards, the military used the building for accommodation, the storage of archives… and utilised the former chapter house on the ground floor as a bakery! Then, in 1883, the State passed the property on to the city of Bordeaux, who turned it into the municipal public library - now located in the Mériadeck quarter - and a permanent museum, Le Musée des Antiques, which remained there until 1953. 

Today the upper floors of the buildings, which were totally refurbished between 1992 and 1994, have been leased back to the State and house the Aquitaine regional chamber of accounts (Chambre Régionale des Comptes). Meanwhile, the chapter house hosts temporary art exhibitions and miscellaneous cultural events. Open-air concerts also occasionally take place in the courtyard itself.  

Whenever passing through, I find Cour Mably, named after the 18th-century revolutionary thinker Gabriel Bonnot de Mably (who had at one time been a religious man, Abbé Mably) retains its distinctive sense of peace and tranquillity, which is all the more remarkable given how close it is to the hustle and bustle of Cours de l’Intendance, Place de la Comédie and the aforementioned Place des Grands Hommes.


  1. Here's the church Notre-Dame, the former church of the convent and now parish church, at Wikipedia:

  2. Unfortunately the link hidden in this sentence no longer works: A great deal of information is available online about Cour Mably, but the "virtual visit" available here is the most complete.

  3. Indeed, that interesting resource appears to have been taken offline, so I've reluctantly taken out the link! Thanks for flagging it up.