All posts by Julien Anido

10 archeological fun facts about Paris

Parisian basements also contain treasures, and tell us, through the work of archaeologists, the history of the city, its development, and its population. A very rich history, since Paris has been occupied by men for millennia, but rather unknown by the general public. To disseminate this knowledge, an interactive map presenting more than 2000 archaeological discoveries made in Paris was put online by the Department of History of Architecture and Archeology of Paris (DHAAP).

  • 1 place du Puits de l’Hermite (5e arrondissement)

A bronze medal with the effigy of Louis XV was discovered in 1923, during the construction of the Muslim Institute and the Mosque.

  • 1 rue des Ardennes (19e arrondissement)

Prior to a real estate project located at the corner of rue des Ardennes and rue de Thionville, in the 19th arrondissement, a series of surveys was conducted. This area, well beyond the limits of ancient and medieval cities, had not previously been the subject of archaeological investigations or observations.

All the polls were negative. No trace of human occupation prior to contemporary times has been detected in this sector.

  • 53 ter quai des Grands-Augustins (6e arrondissement)

An anthropomorphic coffin of lead was discovered in 1938. Hermetically welded, it contained the absolutely complete skeleton of a little girl. He was on the site of the former convent of the Grand Augustins.

  • 47 rue Raynouard (maison de Balzac -16e arrondissement )

Erected around 1730, the house of Balzac was probably built on troglodyte dwellings used at the end of the Middle Ages. Passy was at the time a village outside the city. A rural setting populated by farmers, winemakers or quarrymen who probably used these troglodyte dwellings to sleep.

Also note that this place is the first underground cavity studied in an archaeological dig process in Paris.

  • Île aux Cygnes (15e arrondissement)

During excavations for the metropolitan in 1904, at Bir-Hakeim bridge, a Gallo-Roman phallus was discovered in a sand and gravel field.

  • 45 rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoine (11e arrondissement)

This area is the first update of an ancient settlement east of Lutetia. The remains, from the end of the 4th century to the beginning of the 6th century, covering a surface area of 300 m2, probably comprised a larger site that extended to the south and west.

Several types of activities were discovered: the extraction of silt, the conservation of agricultural products, as well as the practice of artisanal activity like the exploitation of materials of animal origin (bone, horn and antler), or still weaving. Finally, a cat and a paw of ox were found inside an isolated burial, dated between 367 and 380.

  • 12 rue de Rome (8e arrondissement)

In 1903, under four meters of embankments, a layer of argyllburous black earth rich in vegetable debris was observed over a thickness of one meter. The Old Paris Commission interpreted these data as a river arm of the Neolithic period whose course gradually slowed down in the Gallic period, before filling in the historic period.

  • 18 rue de la Chaussée d Antin (9e arrondissement)

In 1977, during the rue de la Chaussée-d’Antin works in the courtyard of a mansion, the carved heads of the Kings of the Notre-Dame gate, destroyed during the French Revolution, were exhumed by chance. They are now exhibited at the National Museum of the Middle Ages of Cluny.

  • 1 rue Pelée (11e arrondissement)

Part of the pedestal of the first equestrian statue statue of Louis XIII, located Place des Vosges (17th century) and destroyed during the French Revolution, was discovered in 1935, during the demolition of a small building.

  • 1 place André-Honnorat (6e arrondissement)

In 1991, the construction of an underground car park enabled the discovery of levels of dwellings of the High Empire (I – II centuries). The site was located on the outskirts of Lutèce, and corresponds to either a public crossroads or a residential courtyard. There is no record of pre-Roman occupation in this area.

The abandonment of the site is in the first part of the 3rd century AD. J.-C, occupied again from the 13th century by a convent.

The tumultuous history of the Mona Lisa

Being one of the most famous paintings in the world is not without danger. Subject of all attention since its creation at the beginning of the 16th century, the Mona Lisa has known a tumultuous life, made of travels, theft, and lusts. But isn’t it what contributes to the success of a masterpiece ?

Made by Leonardo da Vinci, the most famous painter of his time, around 1503, the painting was commissioned by a rich Italian merchant, Francesco del Giocondo, who wanted to place a portrait of his wife, Lisa, in their new home. But doubt remains today on this origin…

The painting was probably incomplete when Leonardo da Vinci left Florence for Milan in 1506, then, invited by François I ten years later, he took the work with him to France. Like its identity, the story of the Mona Lisa and its journey to Paris remains obscure. It is not known if Francesco del Giocondo once had the pleasure of seeing the portrait, nor how it has entered the royal collection.

When the French Revolution created the Louvre Museum, the painting, hanging on Versailles, was not retained to be presented to the shown. It entered the museum in 1798 . In 1801, the Mona Lisa made a brief stay at the Tuileries in the apartments of Josephine de Beauharnais, before returning to the museum. But the story does not end there !

The theft of the Mona Lisa

After a century of relative tranquility, the Mona Lisa was stolen on August 21, 1911.

Salon carré du Louvre en 1909. C’est à cet emplacement (au milieu sous le Véronèse) que le tableau fut volé.

Hanged in the Salon Carré du Louvre, it already knew a certain success, protected by a glass.

That day, Vincenzo Perrugia, an Italian glazier, slipped around 7am in the Salon Carré after spending the night in a broom closet. He unhooked the Mona Lisa, dismounted the frame, then hided the work under his clothes before leaving the museum quietly. Familiar manipulations, since he was the man who had placed the work under a glass a few years earlier!

The scandal erupts, and the director of the Louvre was forced to resign. The crowd rushes to see the empty space, and the accusations abound.

While the French believed the work definitely lost, this one was only a few kilometers from the Louvre, hidden under the thief’s bed, in an apartment in the rue de l’Hôpital Saint-Louis, in the 10th arrondissement. It stayed there for 2 years, until Perrugia decided to return to Florence and tried to sell the work to an art dealer, which denounced him.

During his trial, he claimed to have acted out of patriotism, thinking that the painting had been stolen during the Napoleonic wars.

The Mona Lisa’s travels

During the two world wars, the Mona Lisa was evacuated for fear of bombing. Between September 27, 1938 and June 17, 1945, it traveled ten times, hidden in a box identified by the number “MNLP No. 0”, for “National Museum of the Louvre Paintings No. 0”.

Chambord, Louvigny, abbey de Loc-Dieu, castle of Montal… The Mona Lisa moved at the mercy of military defeats, invasions and occupations, finding again its place in the Louvre on June 15, 1945.

His last trips were more peaceful. From December 14, 1962 to March 12, 1963 it was exhibited in Washington and New York, and in 1974 in Moscow and Tokyo.

Being the most famous painting in the world is not so easy!

The little story of Butte Bergeyre, a village in the city

A few steps from the Buttes-Chaumont Park, the Bergeyre hill is a unique place in Paris. Small perched village of the 19th arrondissement, its rural setting, its Art Deco architecture and its breathtaking view of Montmartre make it a place both unusual and romantic, ideal for a stroll to discover a little known Paris. A small village whose history is closely linked to the working and popular past of the 19th arrondissement.

Located at the site of ancient quarries of gypsum, from which was extracted since antiquity this rock used to manufacture plaster, the Bergeyre hillock was only parted very late, in the first half of the 20th century. Some streets, such as the rue des Chaufourniers or the passage of lime kilns, are the last witnesses of this passed past.

Annexed in Paris in 1860, the district undergoes profound transformations. But the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont concentrated all the attentions of the Emperor and the prefect Haussmann, and the hill Bergeyre, separated from the park by the street Manin, was used until the 1900s like pasture.

 

The urbanization of the district started at the beginning of the 20th century with the Rothschild Foundation – still visible today – while the one that was still called “the old Butte” remained in its wild state.

In 1909, a company had the idea to use part of this wasteland to establish an amusement park, the “Folles Buttes”. Paris, in this period of Belle Epoque, is one of the world capitals of entertainment and technical innovations. It’s time for carelessness and the joy of living. Just like the first cabarets, cinemas and big cafes, the amusement parks participate in this image of French art of living. A progress which wishes to profit the Folles Buttes.

Tour with helical ramp, ballroom, rides, haunted house, cabins of curiosities … The distractions are not lacking. The park knew an important success until the First World War, after which its activity will decline, until disappearing in 1926.

Before the First World War, precisely, the top of the mound is not yet developed. The Sporting Club de Vaugirard, club of the 15th district of Paris whose stadium was requisitioned by the army at the approach of the war, seeks a new ground. The club decided to settle on the old hillock, and built a stadium of 15,000 seats. Monumental works are being undertaken to level the ground, work that will stop a few days before the declaration of war.

The inauguration of the stadium took place on August 18, 1918, called Bergeyre stadium in tribute to Robert Bergeyre, a Rugby player from the Sporting Club who died in action at the age of 20. The old hill becomes Butte Bergeyre.

The Bergeyre stadium, a very modern sports complex for the time, hosted football, rugby and athletics competitions, and was one of the sites used during the 1924 Paris Olympics. But the ground, caught up by his career history, was too unstable, and required too much maintenance costs. It was razed in 1926, at about the same time as the Folles Buttes.

A plot of vacant land, the potential of which attracted the eye of real estate developers, who had to build, forced from the ground, small pavilions, while all around the hill were raised tall buildings, less charming, but which, by isolating it, offer it its particular charm.

A charm that has not changed since …

Salvador Dali Sundial

Up above Rue Saint-Jacques in Paris is a curious sundial designed by artist Salvador Dalí. An original work that very few passer-by notice!

Created for artist’s friends who owned a shop at the 27 rue Saint-Jacques, the shell face is meant to reference the scallop symbol of the pilgrimage of St. Jacques de Compostella, for whom the street is named

Savador Dali unveiled his work on Novembre 1966, and gave it to the City. You can see his signature on the bottom right corner of the sundial.

The funny detail of the monument to La Fayette

At the end of the 19th century, there was no statue in Paris in honor of the Marquis de La Fayette, hero of American independence and major historical figure of the French revolutions of 1789 and 1830. It is at the initiative Americans it was decided to erect a monument to his glory, now visible in the 8th arrondissement. A statue that has since donned a detail as discreet as it is unobtrusive …

To thank France for having offered the United States the Statue of Liberty, an American named Robert Thompson opened a subscription to American school children to finance a monumental statue in tribute to General La Fayette, who remained famous in the United States for his participation in the war of independence.

The project was validated in 1899, and ordered to the American sculptor Paul Barlett, who works in France, to realize the work for the Universal Exhibition organized in Paris in 1900. Either a year only to complete the monument …

A delay too short! On July 4, 1900, anniversary of American Independence, the statue is inaugurated in the Louvre, in the middle of the Napoleon’s Court (on the site of the current Pyramid). Having not had the time necessary to carry out the project, Barlett delivered for the ceremony a model in plaster, while waiting for the definitive sculpture.

But the artist was not satisfied with his model, and reworked his work entirely. He changed the costume, took off the hat, and represented La Fayette with the sword drawn, blade in the air. A job that lasted seven long years. It is therefore only in 1908 that the final statue, in bronze, replaced the plaster model.

In 1984, during the major transformation of the Louvre, including the construction of the Pyramid, the statue was removed to be transferred to the 8th arrondissement, on the course Queen. It was then that we discovered an unusual detail, passed completely unnoticed. Next to the horse’s left hind hoof figure … a little turtle.

Symbol of slowness, the sculptor added it at the last moment to make fun of himself, and of the time he put to realize his work.

This turtle remains difficult to see today, especially during the growing seasons of the surrounding trees. But by looking good, you will come to see him. We will appreciate in all cases the self-mockery of the sculptor and this little joke at the feet of the “hero of the two worlds”!

The monument at La Fayette is a few steps from the Grand Palais and the Petit Palais. To discover for example if you go to one of these museums.

La Fayette is buried in Paris, in the cemetery of Picpus.

Château de Versailles

Architectural wonder classified world heritage of humanity, the Palace of Versailles is much more than a simple monument. Symbol of the artistic influence of France in the 17th century, official residence of the royal power and high place of the French Revolution, the visit of the Palace of Versailles allows you to (re) visit the history of France while taking advantage of a ‘exception. A must for cultural activities in Paris.

The Palace

The most exceptional pieces, such as the Hall of Mirrors, the King’s Chamber, the Grand Apartments or the Royal Chapel, are accessible to the public.

The visit begins with a history of the castle, from the hunting lodge turned into a sumptuous palace until its conversion after the Revolution. A course that provides an interesting insight into the gigantic works and their evolution throughout history.

On the first floor, you will cross the apartments of the king, divided into salons represented by deities, symbols of the splendor of Louis XIV. Then you will discover the Hall of Mirrors, a jewel of 73 meters long linking the King’s and Queen’s Apartments. Do not forget to enjoy the breathtaking view of the gardens and the perspective created by the gardener André Le Nôtre.

Your visit will end with the Galerie des Batailles, created in 1833 by King Louis-Philippe when he decided to turn the castle into a museum of French history. 33 battles that have marked the national history are represented, since the victory of Clovis with Tolbiac until that of Napoleon with Wagram, in 1809.

The Gardens

43 kilometers of paths allow to stroll the gigantic domain of the Palace, where ponds, flowerbeds and groves intertwine with perfect harmony. The mythology, already very present inside the Castle, is still widely used there, like the famous basin of Apollo. A nature you can enjoy in total freedom.

The Estate of Trianon

Beyond the gardens extend the Estate of Trianon and the Domaine of Marie Antoinette, created by the Queen to escape the Court of Versailles. The whole can take a half-day for a complete visit, or can be visit separately as a complement of visit to the Palace.

While the Petit Trianon and its park are linked to the memory of Queen Marie Antoinette, the Grand Trianon was the second residence of Louis XIV, inhabited by monarchs until the 19th century. A palace whose furniture is today a sumptuous testimony of the First Empire era.

Dependence of the Petit Trianon, the Hameau de la Reine was commissioned in 1782 by Queen Marie-Antoinette who wanted to move away from the constraints of the court, and forget the heaviness of its function in a natural and rustic setting made of thatched cottages , farms, mill and small houses. A place apart.

Rue de Chazelles (17th arrondissement) and the Statue of Liberty

Difficult to imagine today, strolling the chic rue de Chazelles, that one day in these place rose the statue of Liberty, overlooking the roofs of the district. It is indeed at number 25 of this street, in a former foundry, that the mythical statue was made, before crossing the Atlantic to reach its base New York.

Liberty illuminating the 17th arrondissement

Gaget Gauthier et Cie was the largest foundry and boiler factory in Paris. Located rue de Chazelles, it was particularly known in 1873 by restoring the Vendome Column, destroyed during the Commune of Paris. An extraordinary project that would be overtaken by a new order: a statue offered by France in the United States to celebrate the centenary of their independence, and thus mark the friendship between the two countries. An idea that we owe to the politician Édouard de Laboulaye.

The sculptor Auguste Bartholdi, who had gone to New York and had already spotted a small island off Manhattan capable of hosting the monument, decided to make the plans. A subscription was launched to finance the construction of the statue, and, to accelerate and increase the gifts, the hand of the Liberty holding the torch is presented at the Philadelphia Exposition of 1876, head to that of Paris in 1878.

Bartholdi entrusted the design of the frame, whose spectacular size and location on an island exposed to the winds posed many technical problems to Eugene Viollet-le-Duc. Dead before being able to complete his work, he was replaced by Gustave Eiffel, who rethought the project and realized a completely metallic interior structure.

A colossal enterprise, discovered day by day by the neighborhood of the Rue Chazelles, seeing Freedom emerge from the ground, and its body emerge over the plain Monceau. In 1883, the discovery of the statue was also one of the greatest curiosities of the capital, and the newspapers invited the public to a walk around the Rue Chazelles.

Completed in 1884, remained to make travel, which was not a trivial matter given its size! 46 meters high, including 5 meters for his only hand, a mass of 225 tons, and a head big enough to accommodate 40 people.

The statue was dismantled in 350 elements distributed in 210 cases, of which 36 for the rivets and bolts, then transported by train from the station Saint-Lazare to Rouen. All was loaded on Isère, a French frigate, the French State having borne the cost of crossing the Atlantic, the only financial contribution of the government in this Franco-American cooperation.

Arrived in New York on June 17, 1885, the Statue of Liberty was rebuilt in four months, and inaugurated on October 28, 1886. Ten years late, but an eternal symbol of Liberty facing East, that is to say to France … and rue de Chazelles!

The tragic fate of the old rue de la Mortellerie (today rue de l’Hôtel de Ville)

In the historic center of Paris, the rue de l’Hotel-de-Ville is a charming little street. Formerly called rue de la Mortellerie, its existence is very old, since we find traces of it since the 12th century. A street that knew a tragic history in the 19th century, which forced it to change its name !

From the 13th century were settled in this street “morteliers” (mortar-makers), workers who made mortar for the masons. A job that required a lot of water and sand, which was offered in abundance by the Seine, a few steps away. At No. 95 rue de l’Hotel-de-Ville is still visible, engraved in the facade of a building, the witness of this past.

Centuries later, in 1832, Paris was hit by a massive cholera epidemic, which killed more than 19,000 people in a few months. The district of the Hotel de Ville was one of the most affected. And, inside this neighborhood, the rue de la Mortellerie suffered a real slaughter. More than 300 dead in this street !

Seeing a link between the name and these tragic deaths (mortel means mortal), the inhabitants asked the name to be modified. This street officially became rue de l’Hotel de Ville in 1835 !

Most beautiful medieval architectures in Paris

Despite its thousand-year history, Paris retains few vestiges of the Middle Ages. The fault with the successive transformations that knew the capital, and in particular the great Haussmannian works of the 19th century, with some radical policies, and with the various troubles related to the history of France, which systematically destroyed a part of the Parisian inheritance.

Despite all these events, a dozen buildings and vestiges dating from the Middle Ages are still visible in Paris, and some can even be visited.

Hôtel de Clisson

Vers 1375 – 1380

Integrated into the Hôtel de Soubise, now home to the National Archives, in the early 18th century, the portal visible at 58 rue des Archives is the only remains of the former Hôtel de Clisson, built in the 14th century by the Constable Olivier de Clisson. Redeemed in 1553 by François de Lorraine, Duke of Guise, this house was the headquarters of the Catholic party during the Wars of Religion.

Salle des Gens d’armes, Conciergerie

1302 – 1313

From the Palace of the Medieval City, former residence of the kings of France, remains the immense and sumptuous hall of the Gens d’armee. Built under Philippe le Bel. At the time, it served as a refectory room for the 2,000 or so employees of the king. Visible during the visit of the Conciergerie.

Maison de Jacques Coeur

vers 1440

Considered as the oldest brick building in Paris, this family home was built by Geoffroy Coeur, son of Jacques Coeur, financier of Charles VII. Much larger at the time, the house was considerably reduced and modified by its successive owners. The facade visible at 38-42 rue des Archives, now a nursery school, remains a fabulous witness of this former family home.

Tour Jean-Sans-Peur

1409 – 1411

The last remnant of the former Parisian palace of the Dukes of Burgundy, the Jean-Sans-Peur Tower owes its name to Jean I of Burgundy, who built this building after having murdered his cousin Louis of Orleans, brother of King Charles VI . Sublime testimony of a princely residence in the Middle Ages, it is also the highest civil medieval tower visible in Paris.

Sainte-Chapelle

1245 – 1248

A marvel of Gothic architecture, the Sainte-Chapelle was built inside the Royal Palace of the City at the request of St. Louis to house the relics of the Passion of Christ, purchased in Constantinople. The chapel high, flooded with light, kept mostly stained glass windows and period sculptures.

Where is Clovis buried ?

Not to make the suspense last longer: there is no clear and definitive answer to this question. But it is very likely that the tomb of the founding sovereign of the French nation is still somewhere buried under the tarmac of rue Clovis, in the 5th arrondissement.

In 501, the first king of the Frankish kingdom built on the Montagne Sainte-Geneviève a basilica dedicated to Peter and Paul. He is buried in this basilica at his death in 511, next to his wife Clotilde and St. Genevieve, patroness of Paris. The building was ravaged during the Norman invasions in the 9th century and rebuilt in the 11th century. Would the Vikings have ransacked Clovis’ grave in the meantime? Not sure…

The centuries pass, and the basilica Sainte-Geneviève deteriorates. Left abandoned during the Revolution, the whole is demolished in 1807 during the piercing of Clovis Street. Only the bell tower has been preserved, which you can see from the street inside the Lycée Henri-IV. Thirty-two medieval coffins were found during these works, but, after careful study, none was identified as Clovis.

But where is the tomb of the King of the Franks?

Quite simply, somewhere between the Saint-Etienne-du-Mont church and the Henri-IV high school! Protected under the flagstones, it has probably been protected from the upheavals of the neighborhood, without ever being found so far.

If you have already surveyed the well-known rue Clovis, perhaps you have walked the remains of the most famous Merovingians!

 

Many discoveries exist on and around the rue Clovis, not to miss during your visit of the district:

You can see first of all a remnant of the Philippe-Auguste enclosure, or the last relics of Sainte-Geneviève, in the Saint-Étienne-du-Mont church. A few meters away is the Pantheon, or the Arenes de Lutetia, a rare vestige of the Gallo-Roman era in Paris.