Small Cannon of the Palais Royal – Paris, France - Atlas Obscura

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Small Cannon of the Palais Royal

This small, ingenious cannon once helped regulate Parisian life. 


In the enchanting garden of the Palais Royal in Paris, there’s a small bronze cannon positioned on a stone pedestal. It was designed by engineer and watchmaker Rousseau. His shop was located in the Galerie de Beaujolais, one of the covered passages within the grounds of the Domaine du Palais Royal. It was installed on the Meridian Line of Paris in 1786.

The cannon was equipped with a magnifying glass to catch the sun rays and set ablaze a wick in order to fire every day at noon. Thanks to its accuracy, this small cannon became one of the most popular references for solar time in Paris. Many Parisians came to the Jardin du Palais Royal on a daily basis to regulate their pocket watch.

The bronze cannon was used until 1914 when France adopted the Greenwich meridian and the cannon was silenced.

This iconic timekeeper was reintroduced in 1990 at the southernmost part of the Jardin du Palais Royal and, much to the delight of Parisians, fired again every day at noon. Unfortunately, in 1998, it was stolen. The cannon that is currently on display is an exact replica that was installed in 2002.

The original Latin inscription, “Horas non numero nisi serenas,” translates to “I don’t count the hours unless they’re serene/tranquil,” can still be seen on the pedestal.

Know Before You Go

The Domaine du Palais Royal can be visited free of charge and is open every day of the year until late in the evening. 

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