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Louvre Pyramid Opens to Public

October 14, 1988

PARIS (AP) _ Thousands of visitors streamed into the refurbished courtyard of the Louvre on Friday for their first close-up look at a giant glass pyramid destined to be the museum’s new entrance.

President Francois Mitterrand cut a tricolored ribbon leading to the Cour Napoleon, a vast esplanade between the museum’s two main wings that had been closed to the public for four years.

The pyramid, 71 feet tall and costing $15 million, was designed by I.M. Pei, also on hand for the inauguration.

Surrounded by three smaller glass pyramids and set off by seven triangular basins in deep blue granite, the pyramid seemed to change with the weather - dull gray when clouds blocked the sun, then brilliant in the sunshine.

″It’s like a jewel, a diamond sparkling in the outdoors,″ said Christiane Weiler, a visitor from Toulon. ″It’s much more beautiful than I expected.″

The Louvre, built by King Philippe Auguste in 1200 as a fortress, underwent many structural changes according the tastes of its inhabitants over the centuries before it became a museum after the French Revolution in 1789.

The pyramid had been the subject of heated debate since the project was unveiled at the beginning of Mitterrand’s term of office. But many of Friday’s visitors said they weren’t shocked by the clash of the old and the new.

″It’s breathtaking,″ said Peggy Curran, 22, a Columbus, Ohio, native. ″The contrast between the classical style and the pyramid seems to sum up Paris.″

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