Friday, September 14, 2012

Paris Island -Where it all started

Paris' humble beginning started on an island on a wider bend of the Seine river.  The ancient Gallic tribe, the Parisi settled here in the third century BC and lived on wooden pile structures alongside the muddy banks of the river.  The Romans conquest of Gaul in the first century BC, let Emperor Julian to found Lutetia (the ancient name for Paris) on the Ile de la Cite in AD 358.  So smitten was the emperor  with the pleasant climate, the pure water of the Seine and the vineyards on the island, that he sojourned there three years making Paris de facto capital of the Western Empire. Ever since, the heart of the geographical Paris is on the Ile de la Cite.  Centuries later, the island became the seat of Royal power. The Merovingian King Clovis  moved to Paris, made it the kingdom's capital and changed the name from Lutetia to Paris.  His son Childebert built a palace and throughout the Middle Ages, Capetian Kings resided on the Ile de la Cite.  Successive kings enlarged and embellished the palace. Louis IX (Saint Louis) built the Sainte Chapelle to house the Crown of Thorns relic. But, in the 1338 the Valois king, Charles V abandoned the palace and moved to the Louvre.  Over the centuries, the palace served as prison and was called La Conciergerie.  During the French Revolution, it housed the unforgiving Revolutionary Tribunal that tried and then sent over 2600 prisoners to the guillotine including Marie Antoinette, Robespierre, Danton and Charlotte Corday.  The Palace still stands alongside the Seine, its elegant medieval gothic architecture adorning the river bank.  Have you ever noticed the oldest clock in Paris.  It is located on the face of one of the four towers in the Palais de Justice complex and dates from the 14th century (1338).  Until the French Revolution its silver bell announced royal birth by pealing continuously for 72 hours.  It was taken down and melted during the reign of the Terror.  Today you can visit the Palais de la Cite and notably the gem-like Sainte Chapelle, the Palais de Justice (Law Court) and the former prison where you can view Marie Antoinette's cell.  Other landmarks on the Ile de la Cite includes Notre Dame Cathedral and the Hotel Dieu- Paris' oldest hospital.  This will be for another blogpost.

Join Paris Through the Ages Tour -November 4-10 when  we will visit the ile de la Cite and recount its colorful history. Visit for more information.

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