Before it became a world renowned centre of artistic repute, Montmartre was a working-class village, north of Paris. Centred around its Abbey and populated largely by peasants, the old village was also a hub for mills. Over the course of the 17th and 18th centuries, 13 windmills were installed on the small hill.
The first record of Montmartre’s windmills dates back to 1622, although it is thought the mill was in operation from the 16th century. The windmill in question, the Moulin du Palais was a wheat mill for the production of flour. The other mills which were established over the course of the next century served a number of different purposes. In addition to flour, some mills produced plaster, ground grapes, pebbles, glass, pepper and even iris bulbs to produce perfume.
The oldest mill, the Moulin du Palais changed hands a number of times, becoming the le Blute-Fin and eventually uniting with another mill, the le Radat. Together, the two mills became known as the Moulin de la Gallete, owning to the flour they produced being use to make the famous small rye bread cakes, know as galettes.
In 1834, under the ownership of the Debray family, the mill became a thriving hub for Montmartre nightlife. Reinvented as a dancehall, it was one of the areas most popular haunts for artists like Van Gogh and Renoir. The image of windmills of Montmartre endure largely because of these artists, many of whom painted them into history.
The Windmills Today
Today, it’s hard to imagine that over a dozen windmills covered the hill of Montmartre. However, the oldest of the mills are actually still standing. Le Moulin Blute-Fin, now a private property can easily be seen from 77 Rue Lepic. Its sister mill, le Radet, with which it once formed the Moulin de la Gallete, now sits upon a restaurant of the same now, merely metres away.
Montmartre’s history with windmills and cabarets endures through the Moulin Rouge. Although the mill that sits atop the world famous cabaret was not an active one, it was a tribute to the area’s rich history and has become the most famous windmill in the world.
Montmartre’s windmills are merely metres from our hostel. Book with us now and you can discover Montmartre on your doorstep!