Our history

The oldest circus in the world

The Cirque d'Hiver was inaugurated by the newly crowned Napoleon III on December 11, 1852.
It is thanks to the Duc de Morny, half-brother of Prince Louis-Napoleon, that the building obtained its building permit on the site of an old water tower on the boulevard du crime, nickname of the Boulevard du Temple. Its sponsor, Louis Dejean entrusted its construction to Jacques Hittorf, architect of the Gare du Nord and the Place de la Concorde. It was then named Cirque Napoléon in homage to the new Emperor of the French. The success was dazzling, and Louis Dejean's troupe alternated residencies with the Cirque d'Été at the bottom of the Champs-Elysées. On November 12, 1859, a man made history by performing a flying trapeze act for the first time in the world. Jules Léotard from Toulouse, known as the "flying artist", forever associates this new discipline and the dome of the Cirque d'Hiver to make it the temple of aerial arts...

The Circus Empire


Thanks to the Duke of Morny, the building permit was granted on December 17, 1851. It was Jacques Ignace Hittorf, architect of the Cirque d'été and the Gare du Nord, that Dejean called on. Work began on April 17, 1852 and lasted 8 months. It was Prince Louis Napoleon who inaugurated, on December 11, 1852, the circus to which he was to lend his name.
The Cirque Napoléon is 42 meters in diameter, and has 40 windows spread over 20 sections forming an icosagon, 21 gas chandeliers, 3,900 seats. Its interior and exterior decorations are entrusted to the great sculptors and painters of the time: Pradier, Bosio, Gosse, Barrias.
On November 12, 1859, Jules Léotard from Toulouse invented the flying trapeze at the Cirque d'Hiver (Cirque Napoléon). He was the first artist to soar into the air, from one trapeze to another...
At the fall of the Second Empire, the Cirque Napoléon became Cirque National to make way for the Cirque d'Hiver in 1873.
On December 27, 1907 Pathé took over the Cirque d'Hiver, transformed into a "Temple of Art Nouveau"; big cats and crocodiles no longer exist except on the screen.

The first shows of the Bouglione family featured beasts. In 1910, Joseph dit Sampion Bouglione was saved by his son during a presentation of big cats.
In 1926, Alexandre discovered a stock of Buffalo Bill posters dating from the 1904 Wild Wild West Show. He convinced his father to use them and recreate a show freely inspired by the American epic: Captain Buffalo Bill's Stadium. It's triumph!
At the same time, the Cirque d'Hiver became a circus again on October 12, 1923 with the arrival of Gaston Desprez. The building is completely restored: the wooden bleachers are replaced by concrete structures, the paintings are redone, the electrical and technical installations renovated. The Fratellini become the artistic directors. Desprez continues its investment policy by building a swimming pool under the track!
Built in 30 days and inaugurated by Mistinguett, it is 4.20 meters deep.
Beset by debts, Desprez sold the Cirque d'Hiver to the 4 Bouglione brothers who invested it on October 28, 1934. It was the beginning of a passion that nothing would stop. The name of Bouglione becomes inseparable from the Cirque d'Hiver.

The 4 Bouglione brothers, the beginnings of a legend


Around the world


They take over the management of the Cirque and bring a new artistic breath to the city of Paris.

"The Pearl of Bengal", "The Saltimbanque Princess", "The Adventures of the Princess of Sheba", three famous pantomimes, grandiose shows in which the Bouglione are past masters. They will repeat the success by reprising these pantomimes, while combining national tours with their tents.

The 1950s were marked by the internationalization of the Bouglione family, which offered a wide variety of shows.

Hollywood cameras come to rest in 1955 for an anthology film: Trapeze. Carol Reed writes a hymn to this art created within these walls and immortalizes Gina Lollobrigida, Tony Curtis and Burt Lancaster in this masterpiece of the genre.
1956 The great fashion photographer Richard Avedon comes to shoot with the international model Dovima. The many shots he took in the menagerie would go down in the history of photography.
The famous show "la piste aux étoiles" is coming to the Cirque d'Hiver Bouglione. First presented by Michel Francini, it was with Roger Lanzac that this program would go down in television history and mark generations of children and families until 1978.
With its capitals, the Bouglione family continued its tours on the roads of France until the beginning of the 1980s.

The star track


From 1999


1999, the new Bouglione generation takes up the torch...

...and breathes new life into the Cirque d'Hiver, reviving its successes: "Salto", "Piste", "Trapèze", "Le Cirque" (which celebrated the 150th anniversary of the monument), "Voltige", "Bravo", "Audace", "Artistes", "Vertige", "Étoiles", "Festif", "Prestige", "Virtuose", "Éclat", "Phénoménal" and "Géant" chain successes.
"Rires", "Surprise", "Exploit", "Extra", "Défi", "Dingue", "Fantaisie" and "Délire" at the Cirque d'Hiver Bouglione in Paris, seal the triumph of the most beautiful European circus.