Théâtre des Tuileries

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Site plan of the Tuileries Palace with the theater floor plan marked in blue.

The Théâtre des Tuileries , also called Salle des Machines (machine room), was a theater building on the Tuileries Palace in Paris , which was built between 1659 and 1662 and burned down on May 24, 1871 during the days of the Paris Commune .


It is sometimes written that the Tuilerientheater never had any other name than salle des Machines . Jacques-François Blondel had noted in his Architecture Françoise in 1756 that the name originally only applied to the gallery with the stage, also known as le Théâtre , while the auditorium in the northern pavilion was called salle de spectacle . In contrast to the stage machinery in the gallery, however, the deciding factor for the name were apparently installations by the architect Servandoni , who was allowed to build a mezzanine floor with movable elements into the house in 1739. It was absolutely correct to speak of the salle des machines when it was used as an alternative quarters for the Opéra du Palais-Royal (1764) and by the National Convention as a meeting room (1793) - both times they were limited to the stage wing. Not to be confused with the Tuilerientheater is the concert hall in the central pavilion that was created in 1756 from the salon des Cents-Suisses .


Catherine de Medici had a plan to live in a house that would surpass any royal residency. The resulting Tuileries project was demanding in every respect, if not megalomaniac. The construction work according to the plans of Philibert de l'Ormes began in May 1564, but from 1567 to 1570 the second and third religious wars caused the work to be suspended. The result was a central pavilion with an elongated gallery on both sides and a pavilion in the south, which Jean Bullant completed after de l'Orme's death. Ultimately, renewed acts of war in 1572 brought the final blow - the plan to pull the city fortifications around the building was dropped. The north pavilion was not built, engravings from the early 17th century showing it are idealized. Catherine de Medici never lived in the torso, which made up less than a quarter of de l'Orme's design. The later “great project” ( grand dessein ) of connecting the Tuileries Palace with the Louvre had nothing to do with the original Tuileries design and was provisionally concluded in 1607 with the connection of the “Grande Galerie” running parallel to the Seine with the Bullant Pavilion through the 60 meter long “Petite Gallery”. The Bullant Pavilion and Petite Gallery together already provided the geometry for the Tuilerientheater, only to be mirrored on an axis through the central pavilion. But before that, the Duchess of Montpensier was allowed to use the “palace” as the first proper resident from 1627 until she sided with the Frondeurs and was banished to her property by King Louis XIV in 1652 .

Cardinal Mazarin and money thrown out the windows

The initiative for the construction of the theater came on the occasion of the imminent wedding of King Louis XIV from his ruling minister Cardinal Mazarin . He had been very fond of music since his youth, but true to his motto “qui a le cœur, a tout” (whoever has the heart has everything), it also means for him to seduce and dominate. In addition, this had apparently gone in 1647 with the performance of Luigi Rossi's opera Orfeo in Paris - the French rebelled because of the costs, it came to the Fronde - but Mazarin held out, this time wanted to make Europe pale with a Cavalli opera in a new theater and In 1659 he wrote to the Queen Mother Anna of Austria that it did not mean “throwing money out of the window” if the funds were raised for this. In fact, France was a generation behind Italy in terms of baroque theaters. The dukes of Parma and Modena had modern theaters, but Paris, which was so enthusiastic about drama, had hardly any of these. Giovanni Battista Aleotti had carefully dared to approach a movable stage set for the della Pilotta in 1619, from which the well-known scenery became. The Teatro Ducale in Modena, whose plans came from Gaspare Vigarani in 1654 , had a record size - it could hold almost 3,000 spectators. The Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza , where Andrea Palladio had given the hall the shape of an oval cut along the large axis in 1548, and the theater in Sabbioneta , built by Vincenzo Scamozzi in 1588 with seats in a semicircle arrangement, were older . While all those still had rows of seats that rose with steps, there were boxes for the first time in Venice in 1639 , in the Teatro San Giovanni Crisostomo . On the other hand, the situation at the French court: the rooms of the palace were available for comedies, and in the warm season also the jardin de la Reine (Queen's garden). The salle des gardes was ideal for ballets . For a machine opera like the one Mazarin had in mind, however, it required upper and lower machinery and, accordingly, a building with arches and a basement. So the Palais-Royal Theater , already around forty years old, dilapidated and with insufficient space, was out of the question. When Molière's troupe moved in in 1660 - their Petit-Bourbon stage was demolished that same year - three beams in the entablature were rotten and, in La Grange's eyes, the house was ruined. The Hôtel de Bourgogne theater from 1548, which also still existed , had an elongated floor plan, was shabby and unsuitable for theater machines.

Architectural collaborative effort

According to the specifications of Gaspare Vigarani and his sons Carlo and Ludovico, the building that was decided upon was built by the king's first architect, Louis Le Vau . He had been granted the privilege of building on royal soil, and so he initially protested against the choice of foreign planners. But at Mazarin's behest, he had to team up with the Vigaranis, even if there was disagreement about the size of the house. At the beginning of June 1659 Vigarani had arrived in Paris with his sons and a letter of recommendation from the Duchess of Modena, Laura Martinozzi , niece of Cardinal Mazarin. What Mazarin could promise herself by choosing was a step into the modern age, a participation in that scenographic revolution that had already taken place in Italy in the first half of the 17th century. A hall “à l'italien”, what was later called the “ peep show stage ”, was intended to separate the audience from the drama and to take account of the infatuation with seemingly endless perspectives at the time. The Baroque wanted to make the distance between the person of the actor and the character represented as small as possible, for which a large distance to the audience was useful, because this is inversely proportional to the distance to the role. Another feature of the Baroque was its connection to the ephemeral and the temporary. With this in mind, Mazarin initially did not want a “permanent” theater - it should be made of wood and directly next to his palace. Vigarani thought the place inappropriate for a Majesty and feared that he would not be able to bring the planned large theater machines there. Since Mazarin had already prepared to connect the Louvre with the Tuileries Palace in the north, he was open to the idea of ​​including the theater in this project. Antoine de Ratabon , superintendent of royal buildings, put, commissioned by the Cardinal's private asset managers Jean-Baptiste Colbert , the Italians the plan of the Louvre, and on August 4, 1659 they brought accompanied by Abbe Buti their own plans of the theater to Fontainebleau to King who approved that. Vigarani, too, was initially in favor of wood, so that the building would later be encased in stone, but on November 8th it was decided to build everything with stone from the start. Wood would have provided better acoustic properties, and the city's decision to present the house to the king was made in the days of inexpensive wooden construction. But when 30 years of war with Spain came to an end due to the Peace of the Pyrenees , a work of stone was to remind of it forever. August and October were needed to build the foundation walls, the masonry took up the time from November 1659 to September 1660, the timber framework from September 1659 to May 1660. The interior work was carried out from January 1660 to June 1661, the roofing was carried out from June to December 1660 . After all, the equipment needed from June 1661 to March 1662. In parallel to all this, the theater machinery was built. The king made the importance of the project apparent through occasional visits to the construction site. As an extension of the stage building, the Pavillon de Pomone was created between 1664 and 1666 as a work by Le Vau and François d'Orbay , for which the name Pavillon de Marsan later became established after a long-term resident . Originally there were celliers ( pantries ) in this building ; the workshop was for painters, tailors, make-up artists and other craftsmen involved in the theater.

What can delay a construction

Of the Vigaranis, only Carlo spoke French. They were pleased with the goodwill of Abbé Buti and two months after the work on the foundation walls, Gaspare Vigarani announced the inauguration of the theater for next spring - foresight was not his strength. The onset of cold initially stopped everything. Gaspare Vigarani initially planned a flat roof which the French carpenters refused to build. When it came to the gable roof , differences of opinion could arise between the architects and the trades because the French carpenters had a wealth of experience with regard to the strength of the wood there and the effect of gusts of wind on the higher attic storeys there. There was no agreement on the question of how to attach tension rods - Italian or French - and Mazarin had to decide. In addition to the factually justifiable differences, a cabal seemed to be developing against the Italians, as in the Fronde 15 years ago. From the craftsman to the composer everyone was there and the culmination was the accusation that one of Carlos' workers accidentally caused a fire in the king's gallery by dropping a candle in February 1661. Giacomo Torelli , who was admired “for his magical set design,” would have liked to have been involved in the project by Mazarin, but Colbert and Buti, with whom he had spoiled himself, knew how to prevent this. In July 1659, after the arrival of the Vigaranis, the Riflessione sopra la fabbrica del nuovo teatro appeared . They attributed this pamphlet to Torelli and reciprocated in their own way. When moving from the Petit-Bourbon to the Palais-Royal in 1660, Molière wanted to take Torelli's stage decorations in addition to the boxes he had promised, but the Vigaranis demanded them, ostensibly for the Tuileries Hall, in order to then burn them without further ado. Molière and Carlo Vigarani would have to do with each other for almost ten years and this was a very poor start to their collaboration. Finally, Buti also turned away from the Vigaranis when he realized that they wanted not only to build a theater, but also to organize the events, which until then had been his job. He insisted on them not to put one row of columns on top of the other, not to create an artificial reef with balustrades, galleries, moldings and ornaments that would break the wave of sound. In Carlo Vigarani's later letters, Buti was only his "constant enemy".

Not quite perfect in the end

The three buildings from 1659 to 1666 (from left): Pavillon de Marsan, elongated stage building and north pavilion with auditorium.

The Tuilerien Hall was completed in March 1662, the last theater machine in April. In Europe it was the largest theater up until then and into the 19th century. Among the strongly fluctuating information on audience capacity, that of Lodovico Vigarani with four to five thousand people is likely to come closest to reality. Sauval's figure of 7000 is exaggerated. The illustrations in Blondel's Architecture françoise give an impression of what the room looked like. The stage opening, bounded on both sides by monumental double columns , above it two figures lying on a gable triangle, flanked by Cupids, was 10 m wide and  8 m high - less than in the later Opéra Garnier (15 by 10 m). But the stage extended 46 m into the room (twice the size of Garnier ) - a funnel in which a lot of sound was lost. The acoustics turned out to be extremely bad. Gian Lorenzo Bernini later criticized that the length was two or three times too long and the width was too small. This was 17 m in the auditorium without the aisles, the height was around 19 m. From the stage one looked through the proscenium into the auditorium with its overwhelming splendor. The Modenese had made the best of the difficult specification by the fixed geometry with ingenuity, no warming up of old ideas, it was model-like new.

Longitudinal section through the auditorium and stage.

The various elements were arranged in a strictly hierarchical manner, but formed a coherent whole. Directly in front of the stage there was space for the orchestra and the guards, then in the stalls the demarcated royal “box” (at that time the term actually stood for any seat). Ludwig was able to retreat to the latter through a corridor hidden under the floor after he had danced on the stage. At the far end there were rows of seats in a step arrangement for the members of the court. The hall was surrounded by two tiers one above the other, each supported by rows of columns. Special ambassadors, envoys and foreign ministers were able to get to the balconies provided for them through narrow corridors with their own entrance doors. Blondel had criticized the combination of columns with round and square cross-sections, but praised the great beauty of the coffered ceiling with paintings by Noël Coypel based on designs by Charles Errard . The lighting consisted of thirty chandeliers that were pulled to the ceiling by a device built by Carlo Vigarani after the performance had started.

Performances under Louis XIV.

Mazarin did not live to see the world premiere of the Cavalli opera Ercole amante , which he had ordered . Buti had written an extraordinarily boring livret , and since the days of his collaboration with Rossi the happy audacity of his imagination had apparently gone. The only bright spot: through the variety of episodes and voices, Cavalli found the opportunity to compose all kinds of canzonetta . Even Claudio Monteverdi was not excluded from Romain Rolland when he said of Cavalli that Cavalli had dominated the entire Italian opera of the 17th century. The king and the whole court liked his music when it was played at rehearsals in the Palais Mazarin . When the opera was performed on February 7, 1662, the poor acoustics of the Tuilerien Theater were showing all their effects. In the audience only a few spoke Italian anyway, they got bored and began to talk. The music lovers among them suffered for six hours. Francesco Cavalli returned to Italy well paid and badly offended.

The house remained unused until, on January 16, 1668, Molière's Amphitryon , a mythological drama already presented elsewhere, was performed in front of the courtyard as part of further divertissements (entertainment events) . The aesthetic orientation shown in it was new to Molière, but helped him to become the author of the tragédie-ballet ordered by the king , which premiered on January 17, 1671 in the same place: Psyché , the last collaboration with Jean-Baptiste Lully . What the theater machines created by Carlo Vigarani had to offer, "a harbor by the sea, a cemetery garden with cypress trees and graves, a rocky mountain range, secluded clearings with rippling waters, burning ruins or even a sea on fire" should be brought up again. The king had expressly ordered a machine piece with a hell scene. From this the topic developed. For the representation of the underworld a sub-machinery was required, as it was only in the Tuilerienaal. The Ambassador of Savoy was full of praise in a letter of January 21, 1671 about the result. There were never seventy dancers like the ones featured in the last entrée , nor were there three hundred instrumentalists and singers. Even less did three hundred people float on clouds at the same time. It should have been the most magnificent spectacle of the 17th century, if not of all time.

Modifications according to the Grand Siècle

Assassination of the MP Jean Féraud in the salle des Machines on May 20, 1795.

Towards the end of the “Great Century”, the theater became quiet, only two caretakers with two assistants took care of it. The ten-year-old Louis XV. danced there in 1720 in the Intermedien to a comedy l'Inconnu . Servandoni was able to organize performances from 1738 to 1758, not entirely continuously, including his spectacles muets (silent plays). Subsequently, the theater served as a warehouse until a fire in April 1763 destroyed the hall of the Palais-Royal . In eight months, Jacques-Germain Soufflot and Ange-Jacques Gabriel created alternative quarters for the king's expensive opera troupe, so that a complete theater was built in the machine room, which they used until 1770. The acoustics remained bad. The Comédie-Française was then allowed to play in the “provisional” hall for twelve years until the Concert spirituel came into play from 1784 to 1790 . From February 1789 on, the room was shared with the Théâtre de Monsieur until the French Revolution brought the palace to other uses.

Vigarani's theater hall was dismantled and instead an antichambre de la Liberté was set up in the north pavilion on the courtyard side and a Salon des Députations on the garden side. It took Jacques-Pierre de Gisors eight months to build a conference room in the machine room - partly from found material - which the National Convention used on May 10, 1793. The steeply rising grandstand for the 750 MPs had the shape of an ellipse cut along the major axis and ran along the garden side. The fire hazard and poor acoustics were criticized. The two narrow sides housed spectator stands on two floors. From 1806 onwards, the architects Charles Percier and Pierre-François-Léonard Fontaine redesigned the north wing of the palace again. The meeting room of the convent and the council of elders was replaced by an oval, very elegant hall, the floor of which - depending on its use as a ball or theater hall - could be raised to stage level. In January 1809 it was inaugurated as a theater with the plays Griselda by Ferdinando Paër and Cinna by Pierre Corneille .

Fire ruin with solid foundation walls

After the formation of the Paris Commune on March 26, 1871, the conflict between it and the Thiers government at Versailles and the civil war, the regular troops advanced continuously. Four of the fédérés (federated), including the dismissed former policeman Boudin, made it their task to leave only rubble and ashes of the Tuileries Palace. Boudin took care of the north wing with the theater, the distribution of flammable liquids and gunpowder. When lit, the house burned for three days. Boudin was executed by shooting on May 23, 1872.

The substance preserved from the masonry of the house could have been rebuilt, the Chamber of Deputies was initially in favor, but in 1882 it decided to demolish it, which was completely completed on September 30, 1883.

However, the gap continued to concern: President Charles de Gaulle had the architect Henri Bernard draw up plans for the reconstruction of the Tuileries with the aim of creating a seat for the head of state. The project proposed by the Académie du Second Empire to the French Minister of Culture in December 2002 : the restoration of the Tuileries Palace as a museum, conference center and venue for prestigious receptions, comes without the security problems of the idea . The then formed Comité national pour la reconstruction des Tuileries (National Committee for the Reconstruction of the Tuileries) wants to rebuild the building, at least externally, according to the last condition before the fire. At its core, a modern concrete construction is planned, which requires a central load-bearing wall over the entire length. The installation of one of those “théâtre de la salle des machines” that benefited from the clear width of the original, self-supporting structure, however, becomes impossible.


First loan: In Gabriel's opera house of the Palace of Versailles there are also two pillars on either side of the stage opening.
Last loan: In Compiègne, the Théâtre Impérial with its characteristic columns.

The fact that Katharina von Medici never lived in the palace is associated with her superstition , superstitiously a “bad curse” that stuck to the building for 300 years could also be assumed. However, despite all the failure, French theatrical art actually built on the experiences made with the Tuilerien Hall, just as French opera grew out of the failures of Ercole amante and Rossi's previously shown operas. If the tradition is correct, the terms côté cour (courtyard side) and côté jardin (garden side) for the right and left side of the theater as seen by the audience go back to the local conditions of the Tuileries. Louis Hautecœur took the view in 1927 that the Tuilerientheater had had the least real impact on French theater architecture, with the exception of the modified but recognizable row of columns next to the stage opening at Ange-Jacques Gabriel's Opéra de Versailles . On closer inspection , however, there are architectural elements designed by the Vigaranis for the Tuileries Hall in the theaters of the French royal castles, right up to Gabriel Auguste Ancelet's Théâtre Neuf du château de Compiègne, which was started in 1867 . The influence of the Vigaranis is documented in Sweden in the theater at Gripsholm Castle, built in 1781 by architect Erik Palmstedt . Carlo Vigaranis stage sets for the Tuilerientheater only a single representation with visible machine remained: From Psyché of the Palace of the Sun , now in the National Museum in Stockholm . According to Lodovico Vigarani, Louis XIV had commissioned Henri de Gissey to do the engravings of the seven great machines and the decorations as they appeared in Ercole amante , but this obviously did not happen. Original baroque theater machines can still be found today in the Bourla Theater Antwerp and in the castle theaters of Drottningholm and Český Krumlov .


  • Walter Baricchi: La costruzione della sala delle Tuileries. Note di rilettura dei documenti d'archivio. In: Walter Baricchi u. Jérôme de La Gorce (eds.): Gaspare & Carlo Vigarani. Dalla corte degli Este a quella di Luigi XIV , Silvana Editoriale, Milan 2009, pp. 219-227.
  • Philippe Beaussant: Lully ou Le musicien du Soleil , Gallimard / Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, [Paris] 1992, pp. 213-230.
  • Jacques-François Blondel: Architecture françoise, ou Recueil des plans, élévations, coupes et profils. (Vol. 4) Verlag Charles-Antoine Jombert, Paris 1756 , pp. 89-90.
  • Thierry G. Boucher: L'influence de la salle des Machines sur les salles de théâtre des châteaux royaux, de Versailles à Compiègne. In: Walter Baricchi u. Jérôme de La Gorce (eds.): Gaspare & Carlo Vigarani. Milan 2009, pp. 264-269.
  • Guillaume Fonkenell: La salle des Machines des Tuileries après les Vigarani. In: Walter Baricchi u. Jérôme de La Gorce (eds.): Gaspare & Carlo Vigarani. Milan 2009, pp. 228-263.
  • Louis Hautecœur: Le Louvre et les Tuileries de Louis XIV. Verlag G. Van Oest, Paris 1927, pp. 83-87.
  • Jacques Hillairet: Le Palais des Tuileries. Le palais royal et impérial et son jardin , Les Éditions de Minuit, Paris 1965, pp. 30–31.
  • Alice Jarrard: Architecture as Performance in Seventeenth-Century Europe. Court Ritual in Modena, Rome, and Paris , Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2003, pp. 185-206.
  • Jérôme de La Gorce: Carlo Vigarani, intendant des plaisirs de Louis XIV , Editions Perrin / Etablissement public du musée et du domaine national de Versailles, 2005, pp. 9–28.
  • Henry Prunières: L'Opéra italien en France avant Lully , Librairie Ancienne Honoré Champion, Paris 1913, pp. 213–221 u. 301 f.
  • Henri Sauval: Histoire et recherches des antiquités de la ville de Paris , (vol. 3, book 14), published by Charles Moette u. Jacques Chardon, Paris 1724 , p. 47.
  • Victor-L. Tapié: Baroque et Classicisme , Librairie Plon, [Paris] 1972, p. 204 f.

Web links

Commons : Théâtre des Tuileries  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Beaussant 1992: p. 226
  2. Blondel 1756: p. 89
  3. Hillairet 1965: p. 41 f.
  4. Hillairet 1965: p. 16
  5. Denis André Chevalley: The great Tuileries draft in the tradition of Ducerceau . In: Erich Hubala (Hrsg.): Kieler Art History Studies. Vol. 3, publishers Herbert Lang / Peter Lang, Bern / Frankfurt / M. 1973, p. 76
  6. Chevalley 1973: p. 77
  7. ^ Chevalley 1973: 81
  8. Chevalley 1973: p. 82
  9. Hillairet 1965: p. 25
  10. Hillairet 1965: p. 28
  11. Prunières 1913: p. 38
  12. Prunières 1913: p. 43
  13. Prunières 1913: p. 213
  14. Beaussant 1992: p. 220
  15. a b c Tapié 1972: p. 204
  16. Beaussant 1992: p. 219
  17. Prunières 1913: p. 214
  18. Hautecœur 1927: p. 83 f.
  19. Hautecœur 1927: p. 83
  20. Prunières 1913: p. 214 f.
  21. a b Hautecœur 1927: p. 84
  22. Beaussant 1992: p. 213
  23. Beaussant 1992: p. 214
  24. Beaussant 1992: p. 229
  25. Beaussant 1992: p. 215
  26. a b Beaussant 1992: p. 223
  27. Prunières 1913: p. 215
  28. Prunièrers 1913: p. 215 f.
  29. Prunières 1913: p. 216
  30. Jarrard 2003: p. 195
  31. Baricchi 2009: p. 222
  32. Jarrard 2003: p. 193
  33. Hillairet 1965: p. 33
  34. Fonkenell 2009: p. 240
  35. La Gorce 2005: p. 12
  36. Prunièrers 1913: p. 217
  37. Jarrard 2003: p. 197
  38. a b c Hautecœur 1927: p. 85
  39. Tapié 1972: p. 205
  40. La Gorce 2005: p. 35
  41. ^ Johannes Hösle: Molière. His life, his work, his time , Piper Verlag, Munich 1987, p. 81.
  42. Charles Mazouer: Molière et Carlo Vigarani. In: Walter Baricchi u. Jérôme de La Gorce (eds.): Gaspare & Carlo Vigarani. Milan 2009, p. 319.
  43. Prunières 1913: p. 301
  44. Prunières 1913: p. 217
  45. Jarrard 2003: p. 200 and 273
  46. Sauval 1724: p. 47
  47. [1]
  48. Beaussant 1992: p. 226
  49. Prunières 1913: p. 302
  50. Hillairet 1965: p. 31
  51. Boucher 2009: p. 265 f.
  52. [2]
  53. Prunières 1913: p. 221
  54. [3]
  55. Jarrard 2003: p. 200
  56. Blondel 1756: p. 90
  57. ^ A b Jürgen von Stackelberg: Molière. Studies on work and effect , Verlag Walter Frey, Berlin 2010, p. 91.
  58. Prunières 1913: p. 282
  59. Beaussant 1992: p. 235
  60. Prunières 1913: p. 301 f.
  61. ^ Johannes Hösle: Molière. Munich 1987, p. 233.
  62. ^ Jürgen Grimm: Molière , 2nd, revised and updated edition, Verlag JB Metzler, Stuttgart / Weimar 2002, p. 141.
  63. a b Beaussant 1992: p. 235
  64. ^ RA de Saint Maurice: Lettres sur la cour de Louis XIV. Paris 1910, p. 14 f.
  65. Hillairet 1965: p. 40
  66. Fonkenell 2009: p. 232
  67. Fonkenell 2009: p. 234
  68. Hillairet 1965: p. 51 f.
  69. Hillairet 1965: p. 60
  70. Hillairet 1965: p. 98 f.
  71. Alain Boumier: Faut-il reconstruire les Tuileries , Turriers 2004, p. 8 (PDF)
  72. ^ Caractères généraux , homepage of the "Comité national pour la reconstruction des Tuileries" , (accessed on March 6, 2016)
  73. Hillairet 1965: p. 101
  74. Beaussant 1992: p. 221
  75. Fonkenell 2009: p. 228
  76. Boucher 2009: p. 264
  77. Boucher 2009: p. 268
  78. Jarrard 2003: p. 204 f.
  79. Prunières 1913: p. 304
  80. Reinhold Daberto: Historical and modern - a contrast? , Bühnentechnische Rundschau 4/2014, pp. 72–75.

Coordinates: 48 ° 51  '47.1 " N , 2 ° 19' 55.1"  E