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Circopedia was originally created with the support of the Big Apple Circus
and inspired and funded by the Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation.

In The Spotlight

Cirque d'Hiver - Front View (2013).jpg


Located in the heart of Paris, between the Place de la République and the Place de la Bastille, at the edge of the historical Marais, the Cirque d’Hiver is the world’s oldest extant circus building. It is also the world’s oldest circus still in activity: It opened its doors in 1852. Its address, at 110 rue Amelot, may seem inconspicuous, but at that precise point, the rue Amelot opens onto the Boulevard du Temple through the small Place Pasdeloup: The Cirque d’Hiver is therefore quite noticeable, practically "on the Boulevards."

The Cirque d’Hiver (literally the winter circus) was built for circus entrepreneur Louis Dejean (1797-1879) to serve as his circus company’s winter home. Dejean already managed the Cirque des Champs-Elysées in the fashionable Jardins des Champs-Elysées, which he kept open from May through October. Up to 1846, his main establishment had been the Cirque Olympique, located some five hundred yards from his new circus, on the portion of the Boulevard du Temple that disappeared in 1862 to give room to the present Place de la République, during the renovation of Paris by the Baron Haussmann.

Dejean had sold his old Cirque Olympique in 1847; although it had been built only twenty years earlier (in 1827), it had already lost its appeal and was not practical anymore. Like many circus buildings of its generation, it had been designed with both a circus ring and a full theater stage, and consequently, it was easy for its new owners to transform it into a legitimate theater, the Théâtre du Cirque Olympique. With no permanent home in the winter, Dejean had taken to sending his troupe abroad, to London or Berlin. Although these forays into foreign lands had proved successful enough, having a new winter base in Paris still made more sense.

Thus, Dejean asked Jacques-Ignace Hittorff (1792-1867), the City of Paris’s Chief Architect, to design the plans for a new circus. Hittorf had already built the Cirque des Champs-Elysées for Dejean, as well as its twin counterpart, the Panorama (today Théâtre du Rond-Point), which were part of the master plan for the renovation of the Chanps-Elysées gardens in the 1840s. Hittorff had also supervised the redesign of the Place de la Concorde (notably with the addition of his own monumental fountain, La Fontaine des Mers) and he would later build Paris’s Gare du Nord, the twelve hôtels particuliers (townhouses) that surround the Arc de Triomphe on tha Place de l'Étoile, and many other "classic revival" pieces of work—a style of which he was one of the most influential proponents.... (more...)

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A Message from the Editor

CIRCOPEDIA is a constantly evolving and expanding archive of the international circus. New videos, biographies, essays, and documents are added to the site on a weekly—and sometimes daily—basis. Keep visiting us: even if today you don't find what you're looking for, it may well be here tomorrow! And if you are a serious circus scholar and spot a factual or historical inaccuracy, do not hesitate to contact us: we will definitely consider your remarks and suggestions.

Dominique Jando
Founder and Curator