At the time of Nicolas Barré, Amiens was a flourishing town that carried on a lively trade with France and the Europe of its day. Under the old streets, many fine caves served as warehouses and workshops for making the well-known ‘Amiens velvet’.
The town was almost entirely destroyed by air-raids during the 1940-1945 war, its position at a ‘crossroads’ making it particularly vulnerable. Now only the names of a few streets and sites remain to remind us of the town in which Nicolas Barré was born.
In the 17th century, Rouen, with a population of 75,000 inhabitants, was the second most important town in the realm. Situated between Paris and the sea, it made the most of its tidal river and seaside coast at a time when foreign expeditions were developing and bringing with them the riches of the ‘New World’, the Americas. Its textile and pottery industries, together with its busy rural hinterland, added to its importance.
Today, a visit to the old quarter of the town gives an idea of what it looked like in Nicolas Barré’s time.
In the 17th century, PARIS had 400,000 inhabitants, thanks in part to migration from the provinces.
There was a wide gap between the wealthy and those who experienced poverty and illiteracy to the point that, under Louis XIV, deaths outnumbered births. The city was quite desolate at the time and was marked by great insecurity, with its legendary slums. Hospitals and charitable foundations multiplied.
Sixty convents were built between 1600 and 1639, in particular in the Marais district. The Minims’ Convent on Place Royale (now Place des Vosges) was founded in 1610. Today, there is only a vestige of the original Convent Chapel at 12, rue des Minimes.