Paris: Past, Present and Future

History is a gallery of pictures in which there are few originals and many copies
Alexis de Tocqueville

The grand passages (shopping arcades), between the Grandes Boulevards and the Louvre, today enjoy a new lease on life, as havens from busy traffic. Town planners in the nineteenth century designed them to give Paris pedestrians protection from street mud and the noise, dust and slop from horse-drawn vehicles. For decades the passageways were left to crumble and decay, but many now have been renovated, tiled floors and glass roofs restored. Their entrances, however, remain easy to miss. Moreover, where you emerge, at the other end, can be surprising even with a map. They start in the vicinity of Palais Royale and progress northward. First appearing at the time mass-produced items initially were displayed for sale, these passages helped make shopping a craft and pleasant pastime. The links at the bottom of the page of the following link provide more information about Paris sights in addition to Les Passages couverts de Paris:

Many more pictures HERE

Office of Obscure Passages

The southern leg of the Paris Tramway (Maréchaux Sud) opened on Saturday December 16, 2006. The first tram left Porte d'Ivry at 10:30 a.m., with mayor Bertrand Delanoë aboard. The mayor was joined by the President of the SNCF Anne-Marie Idrac, as well as mayors from Beirut, Montreal and Bamako. The tramway, with its 17 stops, is expected to eventually reduce automobile traffic in the sector by 25 percent, the mayor said. The Tramway certainly has a more reliable schedule than the former east to west busses that were subject to heavy traffic. The route changes names, but is down the middle of basically the same street. Eventually, it will connect to the other Tram legs that have been built, are scheduled or are projected for a loop around the city. Cost will be the same as the Métro fare. By the way the Maréchaux Sud line also crosses a number of Metro lines, so it will be very convenient for city access points. For instance, the tramway passes next to the Vanves stop (line 13-la Porte de Vanves). Métro line 13 runs underneath the Montparnasse Train station, from which you may visit Chartres. The maker of the Trams is Alstom, a French Company of Belfort that makes the TGV and other heavy equipment, much as does GE in the USA.

Map-MaréchauxSud-tram.gif -- If you can read French try this:
-- About Five miles (8 Kilometres) long --

Link to Paris Maps 
Can be slow to load

Rue St-Séverin is on the left bank, close to Île de la Cité (Notre-Dame), now a pedestrian walk in a high tourist area. Yet, it remains still a noteworthy observation point for Paris life. It lies within the old city, the Roman-built part of Paris, just south of the Seine and its bookstalls. This passageway has been around for 2000 years. Map-rue-St-Séverin.gif -- More photos are HERE (Church of Sts-SEVERIN & NICHOLAS) -- View rue St-Séverin in the context of all of Roman Lutetia {This reflects the official view found at} -- Here, too

Europe at the time of the collapse of the Roman Empire from

Traces of Roman Lutèce in Modern Paris

Roman Theatre is
under the Church

Cluny Baths

Roman Arena

Beginning in the 8th Century BC, waves of Celtic immigrants from the east, later known as Gauls, took over what is now France, displacing and absorbing those who had lived there. The celtic Parisii tribe eventually settled the islands in the Seine that mark the center of today's Paris (250BC). They called the setting Loukteih, meaning a marshy place. It is known that early settlers around the Île de la Cité burned their houses before they were conquered by a Roman legion under Labienus. Indeed, French history is often considered to begin with the Battle of Alésia in 52 B.C.

So in 52 B.C. Roman soldiers arrive in Paris, beginning a long tradition of strangers marching into the town. There, after the usual rousing parade, Julius Cæsar holds an assembly at the local hôtel de ville. The new owners embark on a building spree for economic stimulus on a nearby hill. The Romans called the tribe that occupies the area the Parisii. Cæsar identifies the city as Lutetia Parisorum, a Latinized version of the Celtic names, in his famous work that extols the virtues and victories of his campaign in Gaul. see generally Our map of that Romanized city is HERE.

During the decades that followed, a new town was built on the Seine's left bank, which would contain the baths, the forum, the theatre and the amphitheatre. Under Roman rule, Lutetia (Lutèce) was thoroughly romanised with a population estimated at around 8,000 people. The town did not have much political importance.

Saint Denis became the city's first bishop; however the process was not entirely peaceful. Denis and two companions were arrested and decapitated on the right bank suburban hill of Mons Mercurius, where a few Roman foundations have been found. Thereafter, the site became known as Mons Martyrum (Martyrs' Hill, or Montmartre). The Church of Saint Pierre today sits on the spot (pictured right). Legend recites that the good bishop carries his head, after it is severed from his body, north (down the hill) to the place now known as the site of the abbey of St. Denis. Saint Denis is most often depicted headless, head in hand. Denis, the first bishop of Paris (pronounced duh-knee) and his companions, martyred in 270AD on a large hill overlooking Gare du Nord and all Paris, were buried several miles north of the spot of the execution. The small chapel built over the spot and named for this martyr, became a very famous, pilgrimage church, during the fifth and sixth centuries. In 630 King Dagobert (a Merovingian ruler of France) founded an abbey for Benedictine monks, replacing the original chapel by a large basilica. This basilique has been much rebuilt and expanded -- only the burial crypt remains of the original structure; however, it was desecrated during the Revolution.

Lutetia was renamed Paris in the 3rd Century, taking its name from the native-Celtic tribe. After the first barbarian incursions in A.D. 253, the population apparently withdrew from the hill of Sainte-Geneviève (the once prosperous Roman city centre named after the Sainte who helped Paris resist the attacks of Attila in the 5th Century). They sought refuge behind new walls on the Île de la Cité.

In about 300AD, barbarians destroy the city. By 360AD the city name of "Paris" had become official and Emperor Julian of the late Roman Empire (in the West) is crowned there. Moving along about 90 years, we find Attila, a Hun of some reknown, heading toward Paris. A young nun named Geneviève encourages the Parisians to pray and stand firm against the impending onslaught and certain death. Attila's legions avoid Paris and are defeated at Châlons. Geneviève is hailed as the city's savioress and is named later the patron sainte of Paris. What is now the Panthéon in Paris was originally built as a church to be named and dedicated to Sainte-Geneviève. The original church of that name sat on the highest point of a hill -- over 70 meters above the river -- looking west towards what was the Roman forum and city centre.

The classical Roman theatre (rue Racine) began to be dismantled during the 4th century. Many places on the hill of the left bank would remain abandoned (in cultivation) for over 1000 years, until the city's population expanded to encompass the areas again. What is now the Panthéon in Paris was originally built, by Jacques-Germain Soufflot, as a replacement church dedicated to Sainte-Geneviève. The structure sat on the highest point of the hill. Over 70 meters above the river at the base of its steps, it looks west towards what was the Roman forum and Roman city centre. List of French Architects with links to their structures

The Église Saint-Étienne-du-Mont, where now rest Saintes Geneviève and Clotilda (Clotilde-former Princess of ancient Burgundy) and Clovis, Roi of all Franks (in 1996 the country celebrated the 1500th anniversary of his baptism on December 25th), stands next to the Panthéon (to the north and the east) on the hill that dominates the left bank. These are the founding patrons of Paris and the French Nation (along with St. Denis). The first parish church of St. Étienne (the area of the old Roman forum) arose in the 6th century out of the Abbey of Ste. Geneviève. It used the burial crypt of the structure for its worship space. Not until the 13th century was a separate church built, on the north side of the abbey on the crest of the hill overlooking the Seine. An ever-growing parish resulted in a new structure begun in the year before Columbus left for the New World (1491). Successive stages of construction help explain the mixture of architectural styles, making it one of the most uncommon eglise in 16th Century Paris. The vaults of the apse and the bell tower appeared in 1491, the chancel in 1537, the gallery in 1545; finally, the vaults of the nave and the transept were completed in 1580. The bell tower is raised in 1624 and the portal is built in 1610. After the Revolution the demolition of the Abbey church, in 1807, disturbs the balance of its façade. This church contains Pascal’s tomb, who died while he was in the parish territory and Racine’s ashes -- transferred to this church from Port-Royal in 1711. Furthermore, it contains the shrine of St. Geneviève’s remains (left), the patron sainte of Paris. The reliquary contains only a few fingers, bones and ashes, because during the Revolution, the remains were burned.

The three ancient schools of Notre-Dame, Ste-Geneviève, and St-Victor may be regarded as the triple cradle of the universitas scholarium, which included masters and students; hence the name University. Read about the first student strike in Paris, 1226AD -- it caused the changes that led to the founding of the historic University of Paris. The Université de Paris is often referred to as the Sorbonne or La Sorbonne after the collegiate institution (Collège de Sorbonne) founded about 1257. The University of Paris VIII: Vincennes - Saint-Denis was organized in response to the student strikes of 1968. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose !!! Perhaps Sainte Geneviève will yet appear once more.

Now, compare what happened further north: At its height in the 2nd century AD, Roman London (Londonium) had a population of around 60 thousand souls. A defensive wall was built in the 3rd Century. By the 640s, a Saxon trading settlement had begun to grow west of the Roman city walls in what is now the Strand and Charing Cross, the Roman settlement area having been largely abandoned as Roman presence waned. Lundenwic, as the area had become known by the 670s, grew into a thriving emporium: 'a market for many peoples coming by land and sea' as Bede described it. In 675, St. Eorcenwald became Bishop of London and solidly re-established Christianity in the city after the rule of several ineffective prelates. Around the same time, the Mercian Kings from Midland Britain became dominant over the area and may have established the first monastery at Westminster. They appear to have built a Royal Palace in the ruins of the old Roman fort and amphitheatre. Elsewhere in the still deserted olde city, new paths began to emerge through the dilapidated Roman buildings, but it was not until the time of Alfred the Great that the city was recast within the old walls as a defensive fortress against the Vikings.

A Paris area Page -- And Another -- Paris Environs -- Mérovingiens -- Winter 2007 (an impression)

Art in Bercy -- Mont Saint-Michel -- Other Churches -- Sunsets -- New Paris Page

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New-October 2006: revised last - Janvier 20, 2010