When you are walking around Paris, there are some places in the city -- particularly in the older neighborhoods that pre-date the Haussmannian redevelopment -- where you can still find the old street names engraved in stone alongside the newer street names on their iconic blue-green-and-white plaques.
This one, on the corner of a pillar at the Saint Sulpice church, shows us that the original street name next to the church was Rue des Aveugles or the Street of the Blind. (By the way... the holes in the stone that looks like gunshot marks? May well be exactly that. During the Revolution, churches were often vandalised and even destroyed as the Revolutionaries were very anti-religion. And during WWII and the Liberation of Paris, there were many altercations between the Resistance and the Nazi occupiers. So... bullet holes in a church? Quite possible, although they could also be from erosion.)
You will most often see these stone street "signs" in parts of the 4th (especially on the two islands in the Seine which are the original part of Paris), 5th and 6th arrondissements, as well as in the Marais where there are still 13th-century structures standing. I found an interesting site that talks about the history of street names in Paris.
And if you want to know the history behind the naming of a particiular Parisian rue, you can type in the street name at this Mairie web site. (The site is in French and you will need to enable Java in your browser for it to work.) For instance, I learned that Rue Marcadet, where I lived with Georges when we were first together, was once known as the Rue des Boeufs (Cattle or Beef Street) and that the name Marcadet comes from La Mercade or la Marcadé which was the name of a small hamlet; and Rue Durantin, where we have our guest apartment, was simply named after someone who owned some part of the property along that street. Not very exciting, but the Champs Elysées dates back to 1680 and was named after the mythological Elysian Fields.
The rue Saint Sulpice had several renamings over its long history, according to this web site, and the small part of the now-longer street that runs just alongside the church was previously called:
- rue Saint-Sulpice (1580)
- rue du Petit Saint-Sulpice or petite rue Saint-Sulpice (1595)
- rue de l'Aveugle (1636)
- rue des Prêtres (1642-1652), and then finally...
- rue des Aveugles (de 1697 à 1815)
- ...before coming back to it's original and current name of rue Saint-Sulpice.
It's obvious that in old Paris, street names were NOT "set in stone"... even when they WERE.