The most famous Anglo-Chinese gardens of France

temple of philosophy



the Jean-Jacques Rousseau park

in this page :
map of the park
links, books


In a property pre-existent from centuries, the marquis de Girardin created his park and its fabriques with a philosophical inspiration and a moralising intent. He was greatly influenced by Jean Jacques Rousseau ideas on nature and education. As a bachelor, he had travelled in England, where he visited the gardens, and was specially overwhelmed by the Leasowes. To create his garden, he took advice from Hubert Robert, abbé Delille, and from the architect Jean-Marie Morel. Scottish gardeners joined him.

The park extended to north and south of the castle and counted forty fabriques or so. It included in the northwest a Désert, perfectly natural, made up of sandy rubbles and moors and some places with naked sand. The tower of the Belle Gabrielle, modified, constituted there one of the three or the four most famous fabriques of the park.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the famous guest of the marquis, died there on July 2, 1778, only six weeks after having settled in Ermenonville. His remains were preserved in the tomb of the island of Poplars until their transport at the Pantheon in Paris in 1794. The marquis de Girardin, although sincere partisan, even enthusiast, of the Revolution and in spite of favourable testimonies of the local municipal officials, was regarded as suspect under Terror and was assigned with residence. At least he escaped the guillotine. The property remained with the heirs of the marquis until 1874. To pay the debts of his back small son the park was sold in 1874, dismembered, as the sale of the whole having been unsuccessful. The castle on a side, the Désert of the other constitute now separate fields. The northern part has been parcelled out in smaller allotments.

Tombeau de l'ile des Peupliers et château

The southern part is the best preserved and the only one opened to the public. It is called " park Jean-Jacques Rousseau ", because it includes the island of Poplars. The Touring Club de France purchased that part of the property in 1938 to save it from parcelling out; it installed a campsite in the west, at the edge of the road, today with the abandonment. After the bankruptcy of the TCF in 1983, the public authorities of Oise acquired the park in 1985.

The park Jean-Jacques Rousseau was classified an historic building by decree of July 6, 1939. The island of Poplars, the temple of modern philosophy and the castle had been registered with the additional inventory of the historic buildings by decree of June 11, 1930.

The park today

Channels, ponds, large trees remain close to the state of time. Within this framework, about fifteen fabriques allow us to still partly achieve the course of reflexion planned by their creator. Some located in this part however disappeared (the hut of Philémon and Beaucis, the hermitage, the obelisk, the brewery...).

The park suffered from the lack of maintenance during several decades: many majestic trees decline, meadows are unpleasant, vegetation invaded the ground under the foliage... Gradually, the public authorities of Oise upgrade the park: large trees were neat (some were sacrificed or will necessarily be), the poplars of the island were replanted about 1995, the most significant fabriques (temple, table, ice-house, play of arc) were restored. At the begining of th eyear 2002, the brambles were cleared and the Temple appears now from the banks, as it was designed to be. An indirect but considerable contribution was the creation of a deviation which prevents that the road traffic does not circulate on the old road, which runs between the castle and the park.

Idyllic visit, the most recommended (visits of the Désert de Retz being suspended), because of the weak frequenting and the conservation of a sufficient influence to perceive the spirit of the park. Don't limit your visit to a simple go-round of the main pond, the majority of the fabriques would escape to you. They are on the western slope, shadowed in the rough. The plans available at the entry are not very clear. The free brochure available at the Tourist Office (facing the entry of the park) is far better, but in French. I advise to print my plan.

Ermenonville : the Jean-Jacques Rousseau park

Fabriques remaining
at least in part
(red numbers):

1 - the great water fall
2 - grotto of Naïads
3 - Queen's resting place
4 - stone column
5 - ice-house
7 - Mothers's table
9 - rustic kiosk (?)
10 - prehistoric cave
12 - temple of modern philosophy
13 - altar of dreaming
14 - Seniors's resting place
15 - the barrow
16 - bow-and-arrow place
17 - brewery bridge
18 - the chasm
19 - Arcadian prary
20 - engraved stone at entry

And :
6 - Mayer's tomb
8 - Jean-Jacques Rousseau's tomb
11 - unknown's tomb

map of Jean-Jacques Rousseau's park with fabriques North is up

Miscellaneous :
(black numbers) :

21 - quay
(XIXth century)
22 - island of Poplars
23 - bridges
24 - water tank
E - entry of the park

Disappeared fabriques :
(small blue numbers) :

25 - archipelago
26 - hut of Philemon and Beaucis
27 - shepherd's grotto
28 - hermitage
29 - obelisk
30 - the underground
29 - Thomson's grotto
32 - brewery
33 - a willow to romantic lovers

And :
34 - house where Rousseau died
35 - Girardin's cenotaph

1) I didn't mention the numerous remarkable trees.
2) The form of main pond has evolved substantially near the isle of Poplars.
3) I am not sure of the accurate place of the destroyed fabriques.

The majority of the fabriques from number 1 to 17 above are in good condition. However: the pediment of the fore-part of the ice-house have disappeared - the rustic kiosk is in ruin, it remains the base of stone enclosed by the bramble - the Arcadian meadow is uneven - the bank of old people is invaded of foam and itself inserts in the ground.

In the vicinity of the most part of the fabriques a philosophical or poetic text in report with them was engraved in a stone (see below that one of the grotto of the Naïads). Today, they may seem ingenuous or grandiloquent.

Each of the six columns of the temple of modern philosophy wears the name of a philosopher (Newton, Descartes, Voltaire, Rousseau, William Penn, Montesquieu..) and a Latin word characterising him. The building is voluntarily unfinished, to show that philosophy will progress; stones to be gone up are laid out on the ground. The whole of the temple is dedicated to Montaigne " who had said everything ". The temple was the centrepiece of the park, before occurred the death of Jean-Jacques Rousseau leading to his burial in the park. Indeed the philosopher was Protestant and could not be buried in the cemetery, either that Mayer.

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Views of park, fabriques, castle.

Click on any view to load a wider one (80 k)

Ermenonville the castle

channel and bridges

The castle
(on the opposite side of the road)

The channel seen from the entry


grotte des Naïades - inscription

colonne de pierre et embarcadère

Stone in the grotto of naïads

Stone column and quay


ice-keeping house

Mother's table and Mayer's tomb

The ice-house
(front columns have been destroyed)

Mothers's table
at the left in the background : Mayer's tomb


Poplars island

tomb of JJ Rousseau

Island of Poplars and Jean-Jacques Rousseau's tomb

Upon on the left : temple of modern philosophy

the tomb : close frame


temple de la philosophie

temple de la philosophie

Temple of modern Philosophy
It is unachieved to show that philosophy will go on


prehistoric cave

Unknown tomb

The prehistoric cave
(an actual one found there by chance)

the Unknown's tomb
(a bachelor who suicided in the park due to love)


naiads grotto

altar to dreaming

Exit of the grotto of the Naïads

Altar to dreaming


Rustic kiosq

the barrow

ruins of the pediment of a later kiosk

the barrow

It's not sure that the rustic kiosk stood there. It could have been set slightly to the south, closer from the path leading to the chasm.



Senior's rest place


The Senior's resting place
It's an half circle, but the left side, better preserved, is the only part visible on this picture.


bow and arrow paly

the tank

The bow-and-arrow game place

The water tank


panoramical view of the pond, from the castle to island of poplars

The pond from the castle (on the left) to the island of poplars (on the right).   To see it in VR (396k)


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Parc Jean-Jacques Rousseau
tel phone : 33. (from France :
40 km north-east of Paris.

Opened daily, Tuesday excepted, 14 h 00 - 18 h 15. Closed from December 20 th, to January 10th or about (check it by phone). Access closed 1 hour before general closing, and earlier in winter at dusk. Fee 12 F, 24 F twinned with Chaalis gardens.

The castle, now a luxury hotel, may not be visited.

Map : IGN 1/25000 TOP25 n° 2412 OT Forêt de Chantilly - 58 F

Links, books
Sites dedicated to Jean-Jacques Rousseau

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Copyright of the author : Dominique Césari
Last update : Monday, July the 3rd, 2000