The Square René Viviani is a public square adjacent to the Church of Saint-Julien-Le-Pauvre in the fifth arrondissement of Paris.
The Square René Viviani is located to the north of the Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre church, which is a Melkite Greek Catholic parish church resident in one of the oldest religious buildings in the city. The square is an irregular polygon in shape, bounded by the Rue Galande and church buildings to the south; by the Rue Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre on the west; by the Quai de Montebello to the north; and by the Rue Lagrange and the Rue du Fouarre on the east.
The Rue de la Bûcherie ends on the western side of the square, but it resumes its course on the eastern side, and the Pont au Double, a bridge to the Île de la Cité, lies across the Quai de Montebello from the square. The Square René Viviani offers one of the best views of the Cathedral of Notre Dame in all of Paris. Around the corner, in the Rue Bûcherie, stands the well-known English-language bookshop, Shakespeare and Company, originally owned by the much-beloved Sylvia Beach.
Inside the square, there are two features, other than the lawns, walkways, well-trimmed plane trees, and benches, that deserve a mention here. There is an odd-looking fountain, known as the Saint Julien fountain, that was erected in 1995. It is the work of the French sculptor, Georges Jeanclos (1933–1997), and it is emblematic of the legend of St. Julien the Hospitaller, a tale, now largely discounted, involving a curse by witches, a talking deer, a case of mistaken identity, an horrific crime, several improbable coincidences, and a supernatural intervention.
The story was told and retold during the Middle Ages, and it became a favorite. Consequently, hospitals, hospices, and churches all over Europe adopted Julien as their patron. He was also a patron saint of hunters, innkeepers, and ferrymen; traveling pilgrims often prayed for his help in finding comfortable lodgings. The other feature worthy of note is an ancient tree that is surrounded by a circular curbstone. Its significance is described below.