In modern societies the art of literature is often seen as a refuge. In early 19th century that connection was not as self-evident mainly due to the censorship of all printed texts and especially books. Writers struggled for freedom, while literature was banned and censored based on somewhat trivial claims. When Napoleon’s ironclad control was lifted in 1815, French literature blossomed.  Honoré de Balzac, Alexandre Dumas, Victor Hugo, Stendhal, were all writers who lived and worked in Paris in the 1820’s, writers who left an indelible mark in their art and described in the most graphic way how it was to be poor in early 19th century Paris. Their fame and worldwide appeal added to the long line of tradition passed on by the thousands of scholars of the Sorbonne during the years, by Moliere and Voltaire and followed a few years later by Flaubert (1821 -1880) and Zola (1840 – 1902) created a myth, an inexorable link between European writers and Paris that would continue well into the 20th century.

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The classes laborieuses of Paris had no real interest in celebrating the coming of the new king Louis Philippe I. For the lower classes the pressing matters had not been resolved. Two epidemics of cholera, in 1832 and in 1849, hitting mostly the residents of poor slums, where the new waves of incoming population resided in horrid conditions, took the lives of nearly 40.000, mostly members of the under-class, a class so graphically portrayed in Victor Hugo’s novel of Les Misérables.

Despite his good intentions Louis Philippe I reigned in a time of profound social unrest. Between 1830 and 1848 there were 6 large riots and attempts to take control of the capital. The new socialist ideology gained momentum making Paris a magnet of revolutionaries from foreign countries like Karl Marx who moved in the French capital in 1843, Friedrich Engels (1844) and Mikhail Bakunin (1844). The industrial revolution went hand in hand with the awakening of the working class. The growing number of strikes and confrontations with the government came to a breaking point in the summer of 1847 after an abrupt disruption of the economic growth caused by a shortage of credit. When the government tried to impose a general ban of demonstrations with the help of the National Guard in February 1848, most guards ended up on the other side of the barricades. The crowds were once more invading the Tuileries Palace. The royal throne was seized, carried to Place de la Bastille, and burned. Louis Philippe was forced to flee Paris in disguise. The Second Republic was proclaimed at the Hôtel de Ville from  the poet Alphonse de Lamartine appointed president of the provisional government.

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The first popular vote, through universal male suffrage in 1848 was not won by neither socialists nor leftists but by Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte, nephew and heir of Napoleon I. Once again the Parisian proletariat realized that starting a  revolution did not guarantee that the ones who started it were actually the ones who were in power after it ended. The first president in the history of the French republic took residence in the Élysée Palace, a classical palace built in 1722 near the Champs-Élysées for a prominent nobleman and bought by Napoleon I in 1808.

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What followed in Paris was a reconstruction and modernization of such a grand scale that in the course of the thirty years that followed the whole structure of the capital would be transformed and ushered into the new age. A huge construction site with thousands of workers managed by the prefect Georges-Eugène Haussmann and supervised by Louis Napoleon was set in motion. The plan to raise Paris’s infrastructure to that of London, a city Louis Napoleon was very familiar with. To make the city more spacious, airy, free it from the narrow allies and the slums.

In 1851 Louis Napoleon’s term expired and his plan for the rebuilding of Paris was barely at the start. With the new constitution blocking his plan for re-election Louis Napoleon followed the example of his uncle. With the help of the army he staged a coup, he made himself emperor as Napoleon III and cleared the field of opponents and fervent republicans like Victor Hugo. All the obstacles that were till then forestalling the progress of his plans for Paris were thus sidelined. The French parliament and the  new investment bank, Crédit Mobilier provided the needed funds and the workers got to work.

Starting from the water and sewer system that had plagued Paris from the very beginning, an underground labyrinth of new pipes, hundreds of kilometers of new pipes wide and large enough to carry huge amounts of waste and equal amounts of water were created under the sidewalks of old and new boulevards, solving the capital’s greatest problem. The same tunnels were used to provide gas for heat and for lights to illuminate Paris. Up on the ground a plan inspired by Napoleon for A grande croisée , a great cross of two main avenues that would permit easier communication from east to west along the Rue de Rivoli and Rue Saint-Antoine, and north-south communication along two new Boulevards, Strasbourg and Sébastopol was completed in a record time for the Paris Universal Exposition of 1855, as was the Grand Hôtel du Louvre, the first large luxury hotel in the city built to house the Imperial guests of the Exposition.

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In order for the new avenues and parks to be built there was extended demolition of old medieval neighborhoods that were seen as an impeding relic of the past. Thousands of trees were planted along the new avenues, their junction became the site of new squares, fountains and parks, their finishing adorned with beautiful monuments. The appearance of the new city was of the utmost importance so every building had to abide to strict rules of uniformity. The Île de la Cité was almost completely torn down, its bridges rebuilt, the old landmarks like Notre Dame and Saint Chapelle  were renovated and new government buildings like the Tribunal de Commerce were built in the opulent eclectic style of the era, a mixture of neo-renaissance and classical. Two new railway stations the Gare de l’Est (1849) the Gare de Lyon (1855), the rebuilding of Gare du Nord (1865), of the market of Les Halles and the hospital Hôtel-Dieu, the expansion and renovation of the Louvre, the restoration of dozens of old churches and the building of several new like Saint Augustine church, of theaters like the Châtelet and Théâtre Lyrique of the Opera Palais Garnier, of landmark squares like the Place du Trocadéro, of Parks like the Jardin des Tuileries and the Jardin du Luxembourg, even park gates, garden fences, kiosks and public toilets, became all part of one of the largest beautification projects in the history of European cities. Long after Napoleon III was gone his plan was still carried through changing for ever the face of the capital and the living conditions of the Parisians. A great example of the architectural unity bequeathed to Paris by Napoleon III are the Haussmann apartment buildings which line the boulevards of Paris, all built by the same materials, all seen as a unified structure.

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By 1870 Paris was again a city of light, illuminated by thousands of gas lights. Their effect was multiplied by their reflection on the local cream-colored Lutetian limestone by which almost all the buildings from the Haussmann period were constructed. The countless cafes and restaurants of the capital made the most of the new reality.  More prosperous Parisians were mostly frequent of the western neighborhoods, where the air was always cleaner and the open spaces more.  Toward the east and the outer neighborhoods where rents were lower, one could find mostly lower-income tenants. The two classes converged at the wide promenades where rich and poor, men, women and children strolled in the afternoons with their high hats (men) and bell-shaped dresses (women).

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Napoleon III’s frenzied push for a reshape of the map of Paris resembled the one of his uncle for a change in the European map but the similarities between the two ended just about there. In the military field the two were not so much alike. In 1870 France entered a war with the rising military Prussia of Otto von Bismarck. Despite the enthusiastic war cries that resounded through the streets of Paris when the news reached the people “to Berlin!!”, the war very soon proved to be a disaster for France. In a matter of days Bismarks’ s army was outside the gates of Paris. On March 1, 1871, Prussian, Bavarian and Saxon troops held a brief victory parade in Paris after a successful siege that had lasted four months. Napoleon III left France and for a brief period of time, Paris was ruled by the radical socialists who tried to hold on to power but were defeated by the army of the Third French Republic in the battles that took place across the streets of the capital. The Tuileries Palace, the Hotel de Ville and the Richelieu library of the Louvre were among the buildings that payed the price of their frustration for the defeat.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franco-Prussian_Warhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siege_of_Paris_(1870%E2%80%9371)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paris_Commune

The period of the third republic between 1870 and 1914 is also known as the Belle Époque (beautiful era). The finishing touches of what most people identify as the city of Paris today, were actually unfolded during that 44 year era. The most outstanding symbol being of course the Eiffel tower, the wrought iron, 324 meters tower, built for the international fair of 1889. The tallest man made structure in the world at the time was not met with a unanimous appreciation. Quite the opposite. There was even a committee against its construction made up by writers, painters, sculptors and architects who argued that the tower would mar the image of the capital. They would surely be devastated to learn a few years later that the city would not dismantle it after the passing of twenty years according to the initial permit. Most Parisians were not so negative however. They saw the new tower as a sign of a brave new world, one that would be dominated by science and technology. The signs of progress could be seen everywhere and new machines were being placed in the service of man by the day. Some of those symbols of progress were the installation of the telephone system, the illumination of the Grand Boulevards by electric lights, the construction of Paris Metro and the increasing number of automobiles roaming the streets of the capital.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paris_in_the_Belle_%C3%89poqueOriginal Art Nouveau entrance of the Paris Metro (Station Abbesses)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eiffel_Tower#/media/File:Georges_Garen_embrasement_tour_Eiffel.jpg

In architecture there were three notable additions to the cityscape. The first was the Galerie de Zoologie  today the Grande Galerie de l’Evolution. The second was Pont Alexandre III that connected the Champs-Élysées quarter with the Eiffel Tower. The third was the Grand Palais, a sumptuous exhibition palace built on the right edge of Pont Alexandre at the Champs-Élysées side for the Exposition Universelle of 1900. All three are characteristic specimens of the Beaux-Arts style, an elegant mixture of French neoclassicism Gothic and Renaissance that developed in Paris in the end of the 19th century and spread later to the rest of the world.

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In art Paris was taken over by the Impressionists, a group of talented artists like Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir who defied the traditional norm of French painting and ventured a new approach in both themes and methods. Their vibrant colors, their novel depiction of light and shade and portrayal of every day life became a movement followed by new talents like Edgar Degas, Camille Pissarro, and Paul Cezanne and would be identified as the most distinctive expression of the optimism of the Belle Époque. It wasn’t just the Impressionists who were painting their way to fame though. In the first years of the 20th century Henri Matisse, Amedeo Modigliani and and Pablo Picasso were making history from their ateliers in Montmartre. Their works, often inspired by the bohemian and artistic atmosphere of Paris at the time would define modern art to this day.

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In August 1914 Paris found itself entangled in a new war against the Germans. This war although welcomed by many Parisians who longed for a revanche after the losses of the Franco-Prussian war of 1871, would for ever end the halcyon days of the Belle Époque. It would however find them against their deep rooted anti-British sentiments in a cordial alliance with their yearlong enemy, the English. With most men being drafted and the rest partaking in patriotic demonstrations around Paris, there was no room during the first hours of war for pacifists. When the Germans started marching towards Paris, the trainloads of refugees from Belgium started coming in and the first German planes appeared over the city, the situation changed somewhat. The city started preparing for a long siege, the defensive forts around its perimeter were manned with soldiers and equipped with machine guns and cannons while the government left Paris for Bordeaux.

At a breakneck speed the German advance reached the eastern outskirts of Paris by September of 1914. The German plan for a swift and mighty blow that would bring France to its knees seemed to work out perfectly and the art treasures of the Louvre were already crated up when a miracle, the Miracle of the Marne happened. French intelligence uncovered the plans of the German offensive and Paris was saved. In one of the most crucial and bloodiest battles in European history, six French armies and the British Expeditionary Force managed to stop the German advance and in essence win the war. It would take four long years in the trenches and millions of dead, for Germany and Austria to accept their stalemate.

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The war changed Paris as it changed the whole world. The difference with the rest of the world was that Paris was too close to the front to ignore the horrors of it. The lightheartedness of the Belle Epoque seemed a far distant memory. After the celebrations for the victorious end of the war died down, the harsh reality of the food shortages and rationing continued. Widows, orphans and handicapped veterans measured in the tens of thousands and the deadly epidemic of the Spanish flu was still taking lives. The city struggled to find its pace. The sorry state of the economy deteriorated further when Germany defaulted on its payments and expected reparations were never met. The communists of Paris dreamt of a Russian style revolution of the proletariat, inflation and unemployment made their arguments stronger. The composition of the elected representatives did not reflect their beliefs though. Two-thirds of the seats of the National Assembly of Paris were won by the  conservative republicans in the elections of 1919. That changed in the elections of 1924 when a left coalition triumphed and the strongest opposition party became the communists. The labor unions increased their pressures with massive strikes and the eight hours work day became a law of the state.

The sociopolitical hodgepodge of the 20’s was in reality one of the most interesting in the city’s history despite the post-war solemnity and the decrepit economy. This was the era when the radio and the movies became part of everyday life, the era of jazz-craze, of swing music, Charleston and cabaret, of the first department stores and high fashion. Coco Chanel opened her first boutique in Paris in 1921 and started selling her legendary Chanel No5 fragrance. It was also the era when painters like Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali and Joan Miró, musicians like Igor Stravinsky and writers like Marcel Proust, George OrwellErnest HemingwayJean CocteauJames Joyce lived and worked in Paris. Very frequently these intellectuals, the crème de la crème of intellectuals, would meet at the salon of the American writer and art collector Gertrude Stein. According to F. Scott Fitzgerald who also made frequent visits to Paris in the 20’s  “The best of America drifts to Paris. The American in Paris is the best American. It is more fun for an intelligent person to live in an intelligent country. France has the only two things toward which we drift as we grow older – intelligence and good manners. “ According to Ernest Hemingway “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a movable feast”.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coco_Chanelhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gertrude_Steinhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernest_Hemingway

The Années folles or crazy years of the 1920′ s came to an official end with the coming of the Great Depression in 1931. Suddenly the party was over. Music kept producing talents like Django Reinhardt and Edith Piaf both of whom were discovered by the Parisians in the 30’s, night clubs kept working but some of the most iconic like the Moulin Rouge that targeted the high society fell out of fashion. The economy suffered a blow, not as strong as in US and Germany but still the galloping GDP of the 20’s hit the breaks and unemployment started rising. For most Parisians like Simone de Beauvoir all these were but a dent in an otherwise golden age when peace seemed to be indisputable for everyone in France and even the rise of Hitler in Germany in 1933 nothing but the inner workings of German politics. It was crazy to think  that a new war was on the way. What was alarming for most Parisians was their own politics and the disturbing lack of continuity in their own affairs. After almost a decade of short-lived and inefficient governments, of tense confrontations between left and right and a general contempt for politicians of both ends of the spectrum, France found itself completely unprepared in the face of WW2. Not willing to accept the possibility of another war the country had buried her head in the sand, failing to read Hitler’s signs. On 22 August 1939, the Nazi-Soviet pact was signed and ten days later Hitler invaded Poland. Britain and France declared war on Germany shortly after that.

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Hitler wanted Paris to be the second city of his Thousand Year Reich and expressed his conviction that its new masters would manage to preserve “this wonder of Western civilization” for posterity. During the first days of the occupation the fact that the buildings of the capital stood as proud as ever made no difference to Parisians. Nearly three quarters of the population had fled the city and the rest remained locked up inside their houses. The city looked completely deserted. The initial shock didn’t take long to be assimilated and life came back us swiftly as it had departed, restaurants and cafes started working adjusted according to the new clientele which under strict orders behaved impeccably. The situation of course was anything but normal. The loudspeakers warning of death punishment against any hostility that would target the occupation troops, the strict curfew hours and the first winter rationing that made life a constant hunt for food and fuel were anything but normal. Books were censored, radio and newspapers became an instrument of German propaganda, works of art that were deemed improper were burned in the Louvre courtyard while those considered of high value were conveyed to Germany. Tourists and Americans had long gone so the hotels were used by the German soldiers. German signs leading to the various German headquarters were everywhere, the statues and monuments of WWI were destroyed.

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Agricultural products and fish that were staple foods until the first winter of the war were first funneled to the Wehrmacht or sent to Germany, what was left was split among frustrated and hungry Parisian citizens who had to stand in long lines. The rest of the products were bought with coupons that were allotted by a long line of bureaucrats and things like leather, tobacco, wine and soap were very hard to find. Black market raged but not everyone could afford the black market. Improvised substitute products became the norm. It wasn’t very hard for someone to break and become a collaborator. Even famous socialists, known communists and pacifist intellectuals found excuses to ignore the bestiality of the occupation, to become advocates of the government or even become informants to save their lives or keep a certain level of living.

The biggest victims of the Nazi occupation were the thousands of Parisians with Jewish origin. When the Nazis took over Paris in 1940 there were roughly 150.000 people of Jewish origin living in Paris, almost half of the total Jewish population of France. From the first days life for them became unbearable. They were barred from public places like libraries, restaurants and movie theaters, their property and businesses were requisitioned, the ones working in educational institutions were forced to resign and everyone with no exceptions had to wear a yellow star embroidered on their clothes. Continuous propaganda flared up antisemitism and massive deportations to concentration camps like Auschwitz routed out thousands with one fell swoop. In total more than 70.000 people were deported out of which less than 2.500 survived.

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After four long years the dice for the liberation of Paris were cast. On 6 June 1944, better known as D-Day, the Allies managed to set a foothold on the northern coast of France. Even before the breakdown of the German lines, the Nazis and their collaborators were faced with a mounting wave of insubordination. With his vision of a thousand year Reich tumbling down, Hitler’s initial resolution for Paris had festered into a vengeful rage. Paris had to become an example, a horrid reminder that it was better for anyone or anything being in Hitler’s hands, the alternative to not stand at all. The orders to the German commander General Dietrich von Choltitz were clear. Before leaving, Paris should be completely destroyed. When the tracks laden with explosives started to cross the city’s streets, it seemed the fate of Paris was sealed. According to Choltitz’s memoir, Hitler’s orders to destroy Paris were defied by him at the eleventh hour because he loved the city and had decided that the man giving the orders had probably gone insane. The Free French 2nd Armored Division and the US 4th Infantry Division entered Paris on the night of August 24, 1944. On 25 August Cholitz signed the German surrender at the Hôtel Meurice. In that same day Charles de Gaulle, President of the Provisional Government of the French Republic, made his historic speech to the crowd from the Hôtel de Ville. Paris was free.

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At first the city seemed to live just for revenge. Thousands of collaborators were arrested, hundreds were sentenced to death. Many of the women who had slept with German soldiers became a spectacle, tarred and feathered, their heads shaved were carried around for everyone to see. But life went on. On October 21, 1945, in the first elections in five years women were given the right to vote. In both national and municipal level the communists came out as the leading party, cashing in on their active role in the resistance.

The 40’s passed with the city and the country mending their wounds from the war. The fashion and automobile industries led the economic recovery that went hand in hand with constructions (apartment blocks for low income families) and the increase of population in the wider urban area of Paris that towards the end of the decade approached the number of 6 million people with an explosive upward trend.

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The 1950’s brought in Paris an influx of foreign immigrants from African countries, mostly former colonies and protectorates like Tunisia and Algeria with the latter staging an armed revolution for its independence. There were repeated demonstrations by Algerians and communists who had lost the government but not their impact in Parisian society. In the end of course it would be the great cost in French lives that would bring an end to the Fourth Republic (1946-1958) and the rise of Charles de Gaulle as president of the Fifth Republic (France’s current republican system of government, established in December of 1958).

With de Gaulle things improved  for both France and Paris. The rapid economic growth brought by science, industrialization and peace started to transform Paris where many areas of the center were turned into work-spaces and offices increasing the price of land and driving middle class Parisians into the suburbs. In most cases the character of the old buildings and the exterior elements were preserved while the interior was renovated. Important historic landmarks like the Notre Dame were renovated and saved by the accumulated pollution of their outer surface.

Not everything was progressing. The Algerian war still lingered on and the outlawed National Liberation Front of Algeria had brought its war of independence on to French soil. In 1961 Maurice Papon, a Nazi collaborator who had willingly played a key role in the deportation of more than 1,600 Jewish French citizens to concentration camps during the Second World War, was head of the Parisian police forces and imposed a curfew on all French-Algerians. Denouncing this as racist, the FLN called on its supporters to hold a peaceful protest. A quarter of French Algerians participated, with the support of many French citizens of European descent. What followed is known as the Paris massacre of 1961. Between 200 and 300 unarmed  protesters not only French-Algerians but many people of Tunisian, Moroccan, Spanish and Italian origin were also beaten and murdered by armed policemen in an orgy of violence that haunts Paris to this day.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paris_massacre_of_1961Photo courtesy of www.lemonde.fr and photographer ELIE KAGANPicture taken by the article of independent ( https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/when-french-police-turned-on-algerian-protesters-and-why-it-matters-after-paris-attacks-a6753716.html)

Just as the presidency of General de Gaulle was about to close its tenth year anniversary, the people, especially the ones belonging to the left (socialists/communists) had grown weary of his ageing autocratic figure. At the same time there was an explosive increase in the number of youth and students. It was the age of the baby boomers, that came after the end of WWII. The numbers said it all. During the years of de Gaulle’s presidency the student population had nearly trebled from 175.000 to more than 500.000. The ones under-20 had reached a staggering 33.8 per cent of the total population in 1968. Universities and educational establishments were not ready for that spike. Their facilities were inadequate and the teachers belonged to another more conservative reality. The youth culture of the age was anti-establishment, its gods were Sartre, Marx, Che Guevara and Bob Dylan. It was anti-imperialist, it loathed the War in Vietnam and  consumerism culture, it was disillusioned with an oppressively hierarchical society.

In the Spring of 1968 some 12,000 students had found themselves studying at a suburb seven miles to the northwest (Nanterre campus) with a barely functional building. Their justified discontent flared up when they were denied their demand to circulate freely between the residences of males and female students, according to an outdated rule that was still in effect. After the arrest of several students in a demonstration against Vietnam war in Paris, some 150 students led by Daniel Cohn-Bendit occupied the administrative buildings of the Nanterre campus. When  the police came the students released a statement of their wishes and left without any trouble. In early May another anti-imperialist protest was organized. Fearing a further escalation the dean shut down the campus. The students decided to take their protest to the Sorbonne, in the heart of Paris’s Latin Quarter. Barricades, Molotov, violent crashes with armed police, massive student marches and general strikes, burned cars, flying cobblestones, tear gases, clubbing and arrests brought De Gaulle, his government and the country’s economy to their knees in what evolved into the biggest uprising of the 20th century in the west. It would serve as a historical point of reference for every social unrest that would follow in the future.

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After 1969 it was the turn of Georges Pompidou to reshape Paris. Pompidou was Prime Minister from 1962 to 1968 but after the crisis of 1968 he succeeded De Gaulle as president of the French republic. His main efforts were centered on the modernization of the capital and the development of new highways and metro stations for the alleviation of the horrible traffic congestion that plagued Paris since the 1950’s. His main legacy would be the Centre Beaubourg better known as Centre Pompidou (renamed after his death in 1974). The president’s vision for a multidisciplinary cultural center of an entirely new type that would unite a new public library, a museum of modern art and an institute of musical research started taking shape in the early 1970’s. Today Centre Pompidou among other things is considered an emblematic 20th-century building of Europe.

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What mostly changed during the last years of the 1960’s up to the late 70’s was the location of several industries. After the right incentives given to them by the state many of them decided to leave the city for the suburbs or nearby cities like Rouen and Reims. Decentralization was a priority for both Pompidou and his successor Giscard d’Estaing. The latter was a modern centrist politician who embraced many of the values of the just established environmental movement and implemented policies for the increase of green spaces and pedestrian zones, the preservation of old buildings and the downsizing of new ones. His most outstanding contribution to the city was the transformation of the late 19th century Beaux-Arts railway station of Gare d’Orsay into a museum for 19th and early 20th century art. The Musée d’Orsay is today the museum with the largest impressionist and post-impressionist collection in the world.

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In the years that followed there were several new additions to the cityscape of Paris during the terms of President François Mitterrand (1981-1995) and Jacques Chirac (1995-2000), most notable of which being the Louvre Pyramid (1989), the Opera Bastille (1989) and the Musée du quai Branly (2006). There were also many parks inaugurated like Parc André Citroen and Parc de Bercy in the periphery of the city that lacked open green spaces.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louvre_Pyramidhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_parks_and_gardens_of_Paris

Today Paris is a bustling metropolis of more than 2.2 million people (wider region is home to more than 10 million people). About 20 per cent of people living in the city of Paris are immigrants. About 10 to 15% of the ones living in its metro area are Muslim, a percentage that is expected to increase considerably in the following years according to current trends. It is also the city with the largest Jewish population outside Israel and the United States (a little less than 300.000). According to the numbers Paris is the world champion of tourist arrivals with 2017 being a record year, the total number of visitors to its greater region, all accommodation combined, exceeding a record of 40 million tourists. Each year the tourist industry of the city brings a staggering 8.5 billion Euro to the national economy when at same time the local council earn more or less 30 million Euro, from the tourist tax alone.

The region of Paris alone accounts for more than 30 percent of the national GDP. Besides being one of the wealthiest regions in Europe it is also the most expensive in the continent and 2nd most expensive in the world behind Singapore. The historic center is classified as an UNESCO Heritage site, one that continues to mesmerize filmmakers from allover the world with its charm. Despite its world records in tourism Parisian economy does not depend solely in the tourist industry. It continues to be the home-base of the top ten French conglomerates like AXA,  Total, BNP Paribas, Carrefour and Crédit Agricole. The majority of jobs belong to the service’s sector with the unemployment rate in 2018 being a little over 7%. The country’s gap between rich and poor is mostly visible in Paris through the distinction between its eastern and western part, the poorest being the eastern part of the city, a division coming from the time the Latin Quarter (eastern part) was just a scholar, a university, clerical and bohemian region of the city. This division still correlates in the outcome of the elections for example, with the west voting for center-right candidates and the east voting for socialists.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parishttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_D%C3%A9fense#/media/File:Paris_La_D%C3%A9fense_seen_from_Tour_Saint_Jacques_2013-08.JPGhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Total_SE#/media/File:Tour-Total.jpg

Adding further to the city’s stature are two other pillars of its economy, haute cuisine and haute couture. Fine dining and Paris have been close friends since the Belle Epoque. There are more than 9.000 restaurants based in Paris. Almost 6000 of them offer a spectrum of choices that fall into the extensive and world famous French cuisine. Out of the 27 highest ranking Michelin awarded restaurants in France, ten of them are located in Paris.

In the same time Paris is the fashion capital of the world, home to the most famous designers and largest fashion houses in the world like Hermès, Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Chanel, , Louis Vuitton, Jean Paul Gaultier, Givenchy, and Pierre Cardin. Paris Fashion Week, held twice a year (winter/summer) is the biggest fashion show on earth. In 2017 the two weeks of the event produced a total income of more than 120 million euros in sum.

https://fashionweekonline.com/parishttps://fashionweekonline.com/paris

Overall Paris is still today what it always was. A great allure for anyone who hasn’t visited and a persistent siren calling for a return for anyone who has. The city of light seems to have a charm that defies the barriers of time. Judging from the national diversity of its visitors one could also say that it also defies the barriers of space. Hence its place up on the pedestal of eternal cities along with Rome. In Thomas Jefferson‘s words “A walk about Paris will provide lessons in history, beauty, and in the point of Life.” or according to Audrey Hepburn‘s words “Paris is always a good idea”.

https://pixabay.com/de/photos/paris-wasserspeier-frankreich-1852928/https://pixabay.com/de/photos/paris-frankreich-br%C3%BCcke-fluss-2499022/

https://pixabay.com/de/photos/paris-nacht-szene-frankreich-stadt-4793193/

The end. 

By the year 1500 the population of the city had bounced back despite the frequent visits of the plague and the occasional outbursts of famine that claimed the lives of thousands in one fell swoop like the one in 1481. Overall the country enjoyed a period of growth and prosperity in the second half of the 15th century but the Valois didn’t bother much with their unhygienic and capricious capital. They did pay a visit from time to time but their main concern and consumer of time and money were their new affairs in Italy. The only noteworthy addition from that era to the cityscape came from the monastic Order of the Cluny (Hotel de Cluny built from 1480 to 1510) not the kings.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_XI_of_Francehttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Congress_of_Arras#/media/File:Fran%C3%A7ais_5054,_fol._86_recto,_Conf%C3%A9rences_d'Arras_(1435).jpghttps://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mus%C3%A9e_de_Cluny

Their involvement in Italian matters brought the kings of France in contact with the rich Italian culture in a time of profound intellectual proliferation and artistic revival but it wasn’t until the reign of Francois I (r. 1515 – 1547) that France actually got a taste of the European Renaissance. A man of striking stature and impeccable taste, Francis Ι, pursued beauty in every expression of his personal aesthetics, be that in his impressive wardrobe , his female entourage, his passion for art or his landmark building projects. In contrast with his predecessors Francis I could grasp the importance of the cultural movement taking place in Italy and appreciated it enough to try to import it into France through architecture, patronage of emblematic Italian artists like Leonardo Da Vinci and of course education and literacy.

It was a most fortunate occasion for the city that unlike his predecessors, this Renaissance king, happened to like Paris enough to make it his personal residence. When Francis I declared his intention to move back to Paris in 1528 the old royal palace on the Île-de-la-Cité was occupied by the Parliament of Paris, so he decided to make the grim fortress of the Louvre, a modern Renaissance palace. Although he would not live to see the Louvre finished the king would go on in the construction of seven different palaces, most of them around Paris, with his favorite being the Château de Fontainebleau about 55 kilometres (34 miles) southeast of Paris. All seven of them are prime examples of French Renaissance style.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_I_of_Francehttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_I_of_Francehttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_I_of_France

As a true philomath who had the privilege to live along Leonardo Da Vinci during the masters’ latter years, Francis couldn’t help but being a lover of books and didn’t spare any expense when it came to his own collection. His agents scoured Italy for rare publications and later he demanded his library be given a copy of every book that was sold in France. He then opened the royal library to all scholars in order to facilitate the diffusion of knowledge. In 1470 the first printing press had been installed at the College of the Sorbonne. By the time of Da Vinci’s death in 1519 Paris had surpassed Venice as the printing and publishing capital of Europe. In 1530 Francis declared a standardized version of French to be the national language of the kingdom and later that same year opened the Collège des trois langues, where students could study  Greek, Hebrew and Arabic.

Francis I was also the one who established the first collection of artworks that would later be exhibited in the Museum of the Louvre. Besides Leonardo he was a friend of a number of great artists like Benvenuto Cellini (a goldsmith, sculptor, musician and poet of immense talent), Rosso Fiorentino (an Italian Mannerist painter of the Florentine school) and Giulio Romano (a pupil of Raphael). Most of these artists were employed in the decoration of the king’s palaces.

Another long-lasting contribution of Francis I was the financing of a new City Hall, one that would signify the transition to an era of greatness. Hôtel de Ville was built in the place of an older city hall built by Étienne Marcel in 1357 into the square of Place de Grève, that was henceforth renamed into Place de l’Hôtel de Ville (City Hall Square). Again the king would not live to see the Renaissance building finished (1628), nonetheless his gift to the city still operates according to its original purpose to this day.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paris_in_the_Middle_Ageshttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/School_of_Fontainebleauhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palace_of_Fontainebleau

Looming under the surface of the Renaissance projects during the years of Francis I’s reign was a new conflict that would shake the foundations of his kingdom and thrust Paris into another trance of bloody rivalry. When Martin Luther’s preaching and writings started spreading sparking the Protestant Reformation (after 1517), Francis I saw in the religious movement nothing but a convenient nuisance that plagued the enemies of France. Charles V and Francis I were sworn enemies with conflicting interests so when a number of German princes started turning against Charles V, the new religious trend was in reality useful for the French King. It was when the activism of the fervent reformers reached his doorstep, (Affair of the Placards, 1534) that Francis I changed his attitude towards Protestantism mainly due to his fears that the French movement would turn out to be a threat to his own status. The first persecutions of Protestants officially started after 1535 with the burning of heretics in front of the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris, the suppression of printing freedom, with exiles and executions of non-Catholics. A former militaire 40-year-old Basque theologian, was at that time of religious upheaval attending the famous Catholic University of Paris. On the 15th of August, 1534, in the crypt of Saint Denis, at Montmartre, Ignatius Loyola and his six companions, of whom only one was a priest, founded the Jesuit Order that would very soon become the flagship of the Counter-Reformation.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_I_of_Francehttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anne_du_Bourghttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ignatius_of_Loyola

In the beginning Protestantism was mostly followed by the lower classes of France but after another student from the University of Paris, John Calvin published his book Institutio Christianae religionis in 1541 (in French language) an increasing number of nobles identified themselves as Calvinists. Although King Henry II (r. 1547 – 1559) would make things even more difficult than his father for Protestants, their numbers swelled to about ten percent of the general population by the end of his term. A clear manifestation of the general discontent for the Papal Church right before the religious wars.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Calvinhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Institutes_of_the_Christian_Religion#/media/File:Christianae_religionis_institutio_(1536).jpghttps://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Henry_II_of_France#/media/File:Henri_II_roi_de_France.jpghttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paris_in_the_16th_century#/media/File:%C3%8Ele_de_la_Cit%C3%A9,_%C3%8Ele_aux_Juifs_&_%C3%8Elot_de_la_Gourdaine,_Plan_de_Paris_vers_1550.jpg

After the accidental death of Henry II during a jousting match in 1559 at his residence at the Hôtel des Tournelles, things got more tense. Just before his death the king had ordered the arrest of all members of parliament calling for tolerance. His death made Paris a playground for the powerful Catholic family of the Guise. Henry II’s widow,  Queen Catherine de Medici tried to juggle the opposing factions on behalf of her fifteen year old son Francis II with an aim to avoid another civil war and keep the Guises in check but when a group of Protestant nobles tried to kidnap young Francis II and arrest the Duke of Guise and his brother, the Cardinal of Lorraine, in 1560, (Amboise conspiracy) things got out of hand.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H%C3%B4tel_des_Tournelles#/media/File:HenriIIDeathbed.jpgGrown Uphttps://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guerres_de_Religion_(France)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis,_Duke_of_Guise

The civil war between the two factions officially started on 1 March 1562 with the Massacre of Wassy, where the troops of the Duke of Guise massacred 63 unarmed Huguenots and wounded a hundred more, holding a secret ceremony in a barn on the way to the Duke’s estates.

From then on, a vicious and in every way unholy war, steeped France in blood for more than 10 years. Protestants are massacred in several French cities and the Duke of Guise seizes the royal family in Paris. Louis de Bourbon Prince of Condé, leader of the Protestant side manages to capture Orleans, Lyon and Rouen and organize several assaults on the outskirts of Paris with the economic support of Elisabeth I of England and the military support of German mercenaries. However they do not succeed in Paris and are forced to fall back.

The Catholics with Duke of Guise take the initiative and recapture Rouen which is later submitted to looting and extreme violence. They then win the important Battle of Dreux and begin the Siege of Orleans where De Guise was killed by Jean de Poltrot de Méré, a former plotter in Amboise (a hand of Admiral Gaspard de Coligny according to most). The latter was captured and tortured on the Place de Grève in Paris. The war continued with frail little breaks of peace imposed in the initiative of Catherine de Medici who tries to impose a policy of tolerance on behalf of the crown until 1567, when the Protestants led by Louis de Bourbon, Prince of Condé tried to kidnap her and her son, Charles IX for a second time. (the 17 year-old Charles was king from 1561 when his brother Francis II died).

https://www.museeprotestant.org/en/notice/premiere-guerre-de-religion-1562-1563/https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis,_Prince_of_Cond%C3%A9_(1530%E2%80%931569)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Massacre_of_Wassy

With the Catholics taking a clear upper hand and Admiral Gaspard de Coligny being on the head of the Protestant armies a new treaty of peace is signed that grants Protestants limited freedoms in certain cities but not in Paris. Being a Protestant in Paris remains illegal according to the Peace of Saint-Germain-en-Laye signed in 1570 by the two parties. The Queen-mother and Charles IX make one last effort to reconcile the two sides. They defend the peace, they accept Gaspard de Coligny back to the royal council and arrange for a royal wedding between Princess Margaret (seventh child of Catherine de Medici and sister of Charles IX) and the Protestant Prince Henri de Bourbon (his uncle Louis de Bourbon had staged the last royal abduction) to be held in Paris in the summer of 1572.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaspard_II_de_Colignyhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Margaret_of_Valoishttps://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henri_IV_(roi_de_France)

There was however a key player in Paris, one that had every reason and interest to see the whole venture fail. The powerful family of the ultra Catholic Guise headed by the 22-year-old Henri I, already experienced in the field of battle against the Protestants and full of hatred from the time of his father’s assassination in 1563 by a man of Coligny (supposedly). Like that wasn’t enough the young Duke of Guise was in a relationship with Princess Margot who was initially intended to be his own bride. The wedding took place on August 18, 1572 in front of Notre-Dame de Paris so as not to raise issues that had to do with particular religious rituals and disputes.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Reine_Margot_(1994_film)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_I,_Duke_of_Guise

After three days of sumptuous festivities, with the city still full of Protestants who had flocked to celebrate what they saw as an official peace pact, Coligny is nearly fatally wounded outside the Louvre from a gunshot that came from a house belonging to the Guises. The horror that followed is known as the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre, in which as much as 3.000 Protestants were slaughtered, regardless of age, sex or status. Although no proof or written document was ever found pointing to the actual orchestrator, it seems that after the failed assassination of Coligny, Charles IX and the Queen mother made the decision to eliminate the Protestant leaders in fear of organised reprisals but the extent of the whole bloodbath was clearly not in their plans.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_Wars_of_Religion & https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fran%C3%A7ois_Duboishttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_Wars_of_Religion

The war continued until the end of the century and the Edict of Nantes signed in 13 April 1598, that eventually put an end to the killings. Paris remained a forbidden land for Protestants even after the treaty despite the fact that after more than 30 years of warfare the majority of the people in Paris felt the need for a reconciliation, a fact proven by the expulsion of the Jesuit order and the rebellion against the leaders of the Catholic League (founded in 1576 by Henry I of Guise with a sole purpose the complete eradication of Protestants), even before the signing of the Treaty.

During the last years of the 16th and first years of the 17th centuries the throne of France was occupied by Henry de Bourbon, the same Henry whose marriage had triggered the most horrible event in Parisian history. Henry de Bourbon became King Henry IV when he finally converted to Catholicism in 1593. His successful reign, especially the first decade of the 17th helped France and Paris recover from the nightmare of the civil war. With the help of his trusted councilor Maximilien de Béthune the Duke of Sully,  Henry IV implemented several reforms that revitalized trade, textile production and agriculture. In the same time he proved to be quite a builder with the enlargement of the Louvre and the Tuileries Palace, the building of the Gobelins Tapestry Factory, the completion of the Point Neuf, the oldest Paris bridge in existence today and the construction of several new squares like the Place Dauphine.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Statue_of_Henri_IV_in_Paris#/media/File:Statue_Henri_IV_Pont_Neuf.jpghttps://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maximilien_de_B%C3%A9thune_(duc_de_Sully)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gobelins_Manufactory#/media/File:Manufacture_des_Gobelins.jpg

Despite all his work, Henry IV was stabbed to death by a fanatic Catholic on May 13, 1610 at 8-10 Rue de la Ferronnerie (close to today’s Centre Pompidou) in Paris. Up to his death the king had managed to survive at least twenty assassination attempts. His son and heir Louis XIII was a bit younger than 8 years old at the time of his father’s death so the Regency passed to his mother, Marie de’ Medici, who would rule France until her son reached his fourteenth birthday.  Marie de Medici, Henry IV’s second wife after Queen Margot, was the sixth daughter of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, born and raised in Palazzo Pitti in Florence. With the city still under shock from the new regicide and most people fearing that an outbreak of a new civil war is imminent Queen Marie makes a cunning strategic move with a double Franco-Spanish wedding that buys her precious time and strengthens her position with a mighty ally. To appease mounting Protestant fears for a new Saint Bartholomew’s day she had previously re-affirmed the Edict of Nantes in a move of equal importance.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Assassination_of_Henry_IV#/media/File:Assassinat_d%E2%80%99Henri_IV_et_arrestation_de_Ravaillac.jpghttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marie_de%27_Medicihttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marie_de%27_Medici_cycle

With the royal coffers full from the wise policies of Duke Sully and the rebellious princes generously compensated in order to stay loyal, Marie felt safe enough to do what all kings of France did when they felt thus. She built herself a new palace. In 1615, three years after her lavish festival at Place Royale, her late husband’s last endowment to the city of Paris, on the occasion of the double royal engagement, the Queen mother placed the foundation stone for her Florentine-like palace (Palais Luxembourg) on a remote piece of land on the left bank, that would make her feel like home. French architects were sent to Florence to make detail drawings of Palazzo Pitti, the greatest palace of her home-town, a Florentine fountain-maker took on the task of an impressive Italian Renaissance style fountain (Medici fountain), the most famous artist of the time, Peter Paul Rubens was brought in to decorate the interior and the gardens were modeled after those of the Boboli Gardens in Florence. There was just a petty detail that the builders had to overcome. The land on the left bank (where the university and religious institutions were located) did not have the needed water sources for such a project.  Wells were the only source of inland water then, and these were easier to dig in the softer ground, on the other side of the river. That was the reason why the left bank was still then, less populated compared to the right. The restoration of the ancient Roman aqueduct and the construction of a new 13 km underground water conduit with several Regards (little stone houses that provided access to the running water) in-between, made the Palace of Luxembourg the new pride of the court and the left bank the new hot-spot for the Parisian nobility.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medici_Fountainhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luxembourg_Palace

For three years the Queen mother refused to be sidelined and let Louis XIII exercise his rightful royal duties. By 1617 the pubertal impatience of the dauphin had grown into a full-fledged indignation. In a move that did not fall far short from a Coup d’état, the palace was raided, the closest advisers of the Queen mother like Léonora Dori arrested and executed as enemies of the state and Queen Marie herself banished from court. It was a showy maneuver of emancipation for all Paris to know. Louis XIII would now be the king and nobody, not even his mother could stop that. The young of his age did not prevent Louis from acknowledging the need for competent associates. His unfortunate first choice in the face of Charles of Albert , Duke of Luynes was more than rectified with the placement of Cardinal Richelieu, an ingenious and broadly educated bishop and statesman in the head of the government. Richelieu had been in Queen Marie‘s close circle and was the one who reconciled Louis XIII with his mother right before the outbreak of a new civil war. As opposed to Louis XIII who showed more interest for hunting and battles against revolted (Protestant) provinces, Richelieu was more interested in the affairs of Paris and passed as much time as he could in the city.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marie_de%27_Medici_cyclehttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_XIII_of_Francehttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cardinal_Richelieu

Richelieu’s wits made many historians come to the conclusion that it was he who actually ran the whole show and not the king. Especially after the conquest of the last Protestant stronghold, the city of La Rochelle, where Richelieu showed exceptional military skills he was literally impregnable. When the time came for the king to make a choice between his mother (their tumultuous relationship surely played a role) and Richelieu, the king chose the latter (1630).

With the official royal residence being the Palace of the Louvre since the early 1580’s and Richelieu being equally perceptive in matters of real estate as well as politics, a vast property that stretched opposite to the north wing of the Louvre is bought and divided by him into lots. On the west side of the property Richelieu builds his own palace, the Palais Cardinal, that is bequeathed to the king and becomes Palais Royal after his death in 1642 (today it is the house of the Ministry of Culture and the Constitutional Council of France). The rest of the lots become the new favorite neighborhood of government officials and members of the royal council. The cardinal’s architectural mark on Paris was further expanded with the creation of four new bridges over the Seine. Two of them, the Pont Marie and the Pont de la Tournelle are built to join a new island, the Île Saint-Louis, to the Seine’s banks. The Île Saint-Louis can be credited to Richelieu, since most of the project was carried out during his government but in reality the plan for the creation of the island belonged to Henry IV . It was financed by two private investors who reaped the benefits of its commercial exploitation when the once muddy pasture for cows was turned into the most charming showpiece of the capital (late 17th).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palais-Royalhttps://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palais_du_Louvrehttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%8Ele_Saint-Louis

By the time of Richelieu’s death in December of 1642, the French throne was stronger than ever, the powers of the great noble lords had been curtailed, the Huguenots subdued and Paris had been turned into a model of Catholic renaissance. The Jesuits had resumed their role of educators, the clergy had regained respect and new sumptuous Churches like Saint-Eustache, the  Sorbonne Chapel and Saint-Paul-Saint-Louis glorified the victory of the true faith. The great statesman had done everything in his power to secure that his king would be the envy of all kings and to a great extent he had succeeded. It was Richelieu who paved the way for the Sun King the true envy of every absolute monarch that followed. King Louis XIII died few months after Richelieu. Contrary to the caricature of their relationship based on Alexandre Dumas‘ novel The Three Musketeers the two men died with their beds side by side according to the orders of the king.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/College_of_Sorbonnehttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint-Eustache,_Parishttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint-Paul-Saint-Louis

The Sun KingLouis XIV, was just four years old when his father died (1643), so for a third time in history the royal power in France passed to a woman’s hands, the Queen Mother, Anne of Austria. Once again a gifted clergyman was chosen as the head of state with a hope that he should follow on Richelieu’s footsteps. The Italian born Cardinal Mazarin was a trusted hand of Richelieu rumored to be in a secret relationship with the Queen with some historians even suspecting that he was the true father of the child king. Although France had stayed out of the Thirty Years’ War, the tension with the Habsburgs had brought the Spanish troops on the doorsteps of Paris twice in only few years. The undeclared war needed funding so taxes had to be maintained at a high level. In the same time Mazarin invented new ones, that affected both rich and poor. In 1648 Mazarin’s policies caused the outcry of the parliament. The Queen ordered the arrest of the leading dissenters and soon after riots broke out across Paris. Barricades of chains were set up in hundreds of streets demanding the release of their representatives and the houses of Mazrin’s associates were attacked. The Freunders (from the word fronde which meant sling, like the ones used by the rebels to catapult stones) managed to take over the city and burst into the Palais Cardinal, now Palais Royal, demanding an audience with the 10-year-old king who had to feign sleep. Queen mother and Louis XIV had to flee Paris two times to avoid the humiliating house arrest.

https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anne_d%27Autriche_(1601-1666)https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_XIVhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paris_in_the_17th_centuryhttps://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Journ%C3%A9e_des_barricades_(1648)

In essence the fight would be given between those who wanted to have a word in economic matters and those who served the crown. At times the distinction between the two sides was not so clear, like in the case of Louis Grand Condé who started the standoff as a celebrated commander of the royal army but then changed sides and became the leader of the Fronde. In 1652 three battles were fought between the royal army and the army of the Fronde outside Paris and all three were won by the royals. The Parisians had had enough of bloodshed so in September they kicked Condé with his soldiers out and sent word to the king to return. Mazarin and Louis XIV returned to Palais Royal victorious at time when the young king had reached the needed age to assume his duties (14 y.old).

https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bataille_du_faubourg_Saint-Antoinehttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis,_Grand_Cond%C3%A9https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_XIV_of_France

The ups and downs of politics didn’t seem to have an affect on the city’s overall population which increased exponentially from 300.000 in 1600, to 500.000 in 1680. With it came a rapid increase in the number of beggars, poor, homeless and desolate who scavenged the streets for an occasional work or a handout to make their living. Prostitutes and thieves were spread out all over the city, as were the slums where the poor lived in horrid conditions. Paris had about twelve of these slums in the 17th century when most European cities had one. The Cour des Miracles, or Courtyard of Miracles was an all-encompassing term referring to all the slums of Paris and the people who feigned various maladies in order to evoke sympathy but were miraculously cured when they returned to their “courtyard of miracles”. The term was invented by a 17th century Parisian historian named Henri Sauval  describing in detail a whole world of outcasts who had formed a crooked society of their own, with its own casts, laws even language. That society of les miserables categorized its people according to the specific category of begging (some feigned illnesses, others war injuries etc) or thievery they where involved with. That parallel society even had its own king and court of dukes. The shocking details of Sauval‘s history became an inspiration for works like The Hunchback of Notre-Dame and Les Misérables , two of the most famous novels of Victor Hugo who lived in Paris in the first part of the 19th century.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cour_des_miracleshttps://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cour_des_Miracleshttps://www.paris-normandie.fr/loisirs/bd--plongee-dans-la-cour-des-miracles-EG12362314

The survival of these vagabonds and of the lowest classes depended entirely on a constantly growing multilayered middle class of merchants and craftsmen, shopkeepers and employees , seafarers and well paid soldiers, painters and sculptors, pharmacists and tailors known as the bourgeois. A part of the bourgeois of Paris was constituted by state employees, more than 45.000 in the time of Louis XIV . The upper layers of the society were consisted of government officials, lawyers, magistrates, notaries and successful businessmen. Then there were the nobles and the members of the court. All these people had a refined taste in clothes, they sought for luxury goods and engaged in recreational sports like the Jeu de paume (an early type of tennis) and the billiards, watched theater plays by the Illustre Théâtre, the theater company founded by Molière in 1643. All classes, rich and poor marveled on the numerous architectural gems of the capital that was now adding to its extraordinary pallete, the new buildings of the so called Flamboyant Gothic or French baroque of the 17th century.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_Parishttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paris_in_the_17th_centuryhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moli%C3%A8re

After 1652 the palace of the Louvre was completely redesigned, beautified and enlarged according to the wishes of the Queen mother Anne of Austria and Cardinal Mazarin. The young Sun King continued his military training away from the city. He would return in 1660 to give Parisians a show like no other, a celebration for his wedding to Maria Theresa, daughter of Philip IV of Spain, a marriage that put an end to the wars with the Spanish after more than a century and a half. The spectacle of the impressive royal procession accompanying the royal couple through triumphal arches between the Louvre and Hotel de Ville would only be matched by the one given two years later for the birth of the king’s firstborn. At the head of a Grand Carousel, dressed as a Roman Emperor with the sun on his royal shield as his new emblem Louis stepped on Parisian self-indulgence to present himself as a mighty emperor of a new Rome that was Paris.

In many ways all the things that made him the Roi Soleil happened in these first years of the 1660’s. The integrity of France was secured giving him the freedom to shine, his chosen head of state Cardinal Mazarin died forcing him to take all matters into his hands, to be an absolute monarch, the flashy and spendthrift minister of finance Nicolas Fouquet whose sumptuous lifestyle sometimes over-shined that of the king himself was removed, Fouquet’s personal architect became the king’s master builder, the one who would transform the Versailles from a remote hunting lodge to the greatest palace the world has ever known.

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Τthe work was still in progress at the Louvre when a great fire destroyed a part of the palace and led the court to the The Tuileries Palace from 1667 to 1672. During that period the king’s architects were simultaneously working in the restoration of the Louvre, the expansion of the Tuileries and the building of the Versailles. After 1672 although the work was far from over the court moved into the Versailles. Louis’ obsession with Versailles had started back in 1661. Up to his death in 1670 Louis Le Vau had barely managed to complete the apartments of the royal family. What was ready when the king moved in was a great part of the spectacular gardens, the Tethys cave, the orangery, the menagerie and the Apollo basin.

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It wasn’t just the palaces that were being built in the time of the King Soleil. In fact the city experienced a building boom and improvement of day to day issues like never before. The Champs-Élysées and its gardens were laid out in 1667, the Paris Observatory built by 1672, the Hôtel des Invalides, a home for wounded soldiers inaugurated by 1674, the building of the Collège des Quatre-Nations, the most amazing hybrid of Baroque and Classical style was finished by 1688, the city walls built by Charles V and Louis XIII were razed to make way for the Boulevards Parisiens, the legendary grand boulevards of Paris were ready by 1705.

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In the same time street lighting was introduced for the first in a large scale, making Paris a city of light (the term originates from that period) and the police force of the city was reorganized, the number of the city watchmen quadrupled, all men of every different security force were put under one umbrella, bringing the sense of safety in the crime-ridden streets of the capital for the first time in years. The hygienic and sanitary conditions were improved, new squares like the Place Vendome and the Place des Victoires offered a new set of open spaces to the Parisians and new triumphal arches like the Porte Saint-Denis and the Porte Saint-Martin celebrated the military victories of the Sun King.

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Louis XIV died of gangrene in September of 1715. During his 72 year old reign (the longest recorded in history) the Sun King had managed to make France the envy of the world, admired for its military and cultural prowess, French became a universal language of the elite. Despite his distrust towards the Parisians since the events of his house arrest during the Fronde movement, he actually managed to give Paris what he had promised in the beginning of his reign, a stature and grandeur that had not been seen since the time of Ancient Rome. On the other hand, his misconceptions, his megalomania and bellicosity, his persecution of Protestants, his over-concentration of powers and his excessive expenditure set the foundations for a social upheaval that would lead to the French Revolution and the violent abolition of the monarchy in 1789.

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Two years after the death of Louis XIV a young libertine writer named François-Marie Arouet is incarcerated in Bastille for eleven months after offending the new regime, the Regent Philippe II d’Orléans who had taken power in the name Louis XIV‘s  five year old great-grandson Louis XV. The young libertine had been a frequent of a gentleman’s club known for its wit and secular skepticism. The bourgeois gentlemen drank and recited biting verses about the church and the court. When one of those verses reached the ears of the Regent, Francois was exiled. When the story repeated itself Francois was imprisoned in Bastille. During his imprisonment the young libertine adopted the name Voltaire and wrote his first play, Oedipus, an adaptation of Sophocles‘ tragedy Oedipus Tyrranus, that became an instant hit. It was the official beginning of a new age, the age of enlightened humanists like Voltaire,  Montesquieu, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Denis Diderot who questioned the traditional doctrines and advocated for the transformation of the social structure on the basis of scientific knowledge and empiricism. It was the Age of Enlightenment and Paris was at its forefront.

What went hand in hand with bright philosophers besides the new fashion of cafes (by 1720 and in just a few years there were about 400 in Paris) was not as luminous and auspicious as the name of the age implies. Frequent spells of bad weather and failed crops, in combination with the loss of the greatest part of the New World colonies to the British, along with the bankruptcy of the Royal Bank of Paris that brought a great number of the bourgeois to their knees, had created an explosive mixture of widespread poverty and disillusion with the royal regime which was increasingly cut off from the people inside its golden bubble at Versailles.

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In the 30-year period that preceded the revolution there were some public works of a large scale taking place in Paris like the Square of Louis XV (now the Place de la Concorde), the Sainte-Geneviève church (the current Pantheon ), the Odeon Theater and the Halle aux blés grain marker but the scale of all of them put together was nowhere near the reality experienced during the golden years of the Sun King. There were of course great mansions and palaces built by Counts, nobles and rich like the Elysee Palace and the ones built by the aristocrats in Faubourg Saint-Germain, the most posh neighborhood of the era but these were in contrast with the majority of small and poor houses, built more and more on top of each other, sometimes six, seven even nine stories high, in order to house the ever increasing population (around 600.000 at the second half of the 1700’s). Both Voltaire and Rousseau describe the situation of the city center of narrow, dirty and foul-smelling streets as unhealthy, hideous and sometimes even barbaric.

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When Louis XV died in 1774 the Parisians heaved a sigh of relief. The placards of protest that were habitually hang from the king’s statues and the gates of his palaces were not enough to quell the accumulated hatred caused by the prolonged wars in Europe and America, the consecutive military defeats in both fronts, the economic depression, the regressive tax system, the corruption and special treatment of the king’s entourage, the decadence and extravagance of the Versailles. The nightmare of famine constantly hovering over the head of the poor was sweeping through an increasing number of middle class and bourgeois at the time of Louis XV.

When Louis XVI ascended on the throne in 1774 the omens were bad. The experiment of the liberalization of agricultural markets, had backfired causing an increase of prices in grain for a number of years and Paris was not a grain producing region. A rumor had started to circulate that the government was deliberately trying to eliminate the poor by starvation. For 17 days nearly 180 conflicts were identified in the Paris Basin (Guerre des farines 1775)  all related to the price of grain. The echoes of the American declaration of independence in 1776 did not seem that far away to the frustrated Parisians. That same year Benjamin Franklin became the first ambassador of the United States sent to Paris to represent the American government. The Treaty of Paris signed in 1783 ended the American Revolution and planted the final seed for the French that would follow six years later.

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The winter of 1788-9 was particularly harsh. Trying to cope with the growing discontent and the danger of imminent bankruptcy Louis XVI accepted the convention of an Assembly of the Three Estates (the Clergy, the Nobility and the People) that had not taken place since 1614. The king and his finance ministers hoped that the assembly would help them bypass the rigid opposition of the nobility (hence the parliament) to bear a part of the huge royal debt through taxation. By June 1789, the Third Estate, that of the people, had formed a new body, the National Assembly and its members had taken an oath (Tennis Court Oath) not to give in until they had given France a constitution. On July 11, the King sacked his reformist Director-General of Finance Jacques Necker, a man who had advocated doubling the representation of the Third Estate. New rumors that the king meant to attack Paris or arrest the deputies sparked the first riots of the French Revolution.

The Hotel de Ville and soon after the Arsenal at Les Invalides fell to the mob which was now armed with thousands of weapons but no gunpowder. More than two hundred barrels of it had been moved to the royal prison of the Bastille for safekeeping. The symbol of royal tyranny became an obvious next target and its walls were all that separated the milice bourgeoise from the control of the city. Within a few hours of a siege, about 1000 people, artisans, regular army deserters, even wine merchants, manage to take over the fortress defended by a little more than 100 veteran soldiers. The governor of the Bastille, the Marquis de Launay, who had surrendered the fort to avoid carnage, would pay it with his life. His head on a pike in front of the Hotel de Ville a retribution for the hundred dead attackers. Almost all of the soldiers were spared. The fort of the Bastille was taken down bit by bit and its prisoners released.

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The Paris Commune, formed in Hotel de Ville after the storming of the Bastille was running things now. The new mayor,  leader of the Third Estate and instigator of the Tennis Court Oath,  Jean-Sylvain Bailly received the king at the Hotel de Ville who rushed to pay tribute to the new government and was presented with the new symbol of the revolution: the tricolor cockade ( red and blue, the colors of Paris, and white, the royal color ) under the cheers of the crowd. Despite the take over and the declaration of the groundbreaking Declaration of the Rights of the Man and of the Citizen in August, the economy hadn’t changed, the grain prices had not gone down. Most workers spent nearly half their income on bread. In October a crowd worked up by the incendiary rumors of newly founded newspapers and persistent starvation, started a march from the marketplaces of Paris. The march was headed by a young woman striking a marching drum at the edge of a group of market-women who were infuriated by the chronic shortage and high price of bread. The march was joined by thousands and in about six hours it was in Versailles. The palace was stormed and Louis XVI with his unpopular Queen Marie Antoinette were forced to leave Versailles and move back to Paris and the Tuileries Palace. With the government and the king under the control of the National Assembly the first anniversary of the revolution was celebrated in July 1790 in a spirit of solidarity in the vast stadium of Champ de Mars where the king and deputies of the National Assembly took an oath in front of 300.000 Parisians to respect the new constitution. The grand feast that followed made everyone seem happy but what followed was not as civil.

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The people started to realize the true extent of their power and soon they were divided in three camps. The moderates rooting for a constitutional monarchy with the Mayor Jean Sylvain Bailly and the Commander of the National Guard (former milice bourgeoise), hero of the American Revolution, Marquis de Lafayette. The radical Jacobins, dominated by Robespierre and the most fervent and fanatic revolutionaries of all led by Georges Danton. Α wave of violence surged through the city with one faction fighting the other. Many aristocrats started to leave Paris. The members of the clergy were forced to take an oath to the constitution or leave the country, the Church property was confiscated. The King’s attempt to flee Paris sparked new rumors of a secret pact with the Austrians and the aristocrats, dozens of new libels gave vent to the rumors of treason and the lowest and most fanatic took over the government. The King with his Queen followed the hundreds that were executed as counter-revolutionists in what became a true reign of terror. Even leading revolutionists themselves like mayor Jean BaillyDanton and finally Robespierre became the victims of the Committee of Public Safety that in Paris alone executed more than 2.500 people until the end of 1794. The first days of the republic were drenched in blood. Paris nothing but a gruesome theater of terror where the new invention of the Parisian deputy Joseph-Ignace Guillotin (the guillotine) was put to the test with as many as fifty executions a day.

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The fall of Robespierre put an end to the executions and the reign of terror. Appalled by the practices of many of their former comrades the republicans created a new form of government known as the Directory (le Directoire) . Its purpose to draft another constitution that would prevent the concentration of power in one person or executive body. The city of Paris was placed under the direct control of the national government given its crucial role in every one of the events that had been played out during the revolution. One of the allies of the new government was the French Army which managed to come out victorious in a series of battles against the royal armies of the Habsburgs. Its initial purpose to defend France had evolved into a war of territorial expansion into Austrian Netherlands and Prussia. However the enemies were more than the allies were. Firstly there was the continuation of the extremely cold winters which in their turn created failed crops, shortages in staple foods like bread and inflation. The value of money (Assignat) had dropped to eight percent of its original value. Then there were the Jacobins who had not really lost their influence on the poor people. In May 1795 they attempt the first revolt, they invade the National Convention at the Tuileries Palace but the army manages to restore order. Finally there were the Royalists and the Constitutional Monarchists that in October of that same year marched towards the Tuileries Palace with an army of 25.000. The Directory was saved by a young second rank General named Napoleon Bonaparte, a former Jacobine from the Island of Corsica, whose star shone enough that day as to catapult him in the first ranks of the French army in a matter of days.

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What Napoleon lacked in family name or noble credentials, he more than compensated with ambition, courage and military ingenuity. On March 2, 1796 Napoleon gets a new promotion as a commander in chief of the army of Italy. A week later he is married to Josephine of Beauharnais, a widow of the former General of the Army of the Rhine, six years older than him (Napoleon was 27 y. old at the time) with two children. Just two days after their marriage Napoleon leaves Paris for Italy. When he returned to Paris in 1799 after a series of military feats, the Second Coalition of European Monarchies, empowered with the participation of the Russian Empire had already launched its attack pn several fronts and Paris was ruled by the radical neo-Jacobins  in a general climate of political intrigues and fiery factionalism. The people had grown tired of the Directory’s ineffectiveness and had substantial reasons to suspect the corruption of many of its members. On the other hand Napoleon’s popularity was not only a matter of one party or one class. He was equally admired by simple people and nobles, Jacobins and moderates. One month after his triumphant reception by the Parisians, on November 9, 1799, with the help of his brother Lucien Bonaparte, the much experienced Talleyrand, of Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès (one of the architects of the French Revolution of 1789) and the minister of police Joseph Fouche, at the age of 33, Napoleon Bonaparte becomes the head of the state as first consul after a coup d’état that ended both the Directory and the ten year period of the French Revolution.

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Just as Napoleon was putting his plan in force to put the capital back on its feet,  his enemies were putting in motion their own, to get him out of the picture for good. In the first year alone Bonaparte managed to survive two plots against him, one in September 1800, at the premiere of a theater play and two months later, on Christmas Eve while on route to the opera, when the explosion of a trapped carriage barely missed him. Not only Napoleon remained unshakable but he became even more determined to make himself and his rule more powerful, to make Paris not just the most beautiful city in the world but the most beautiful city that ever existed.

From his new residence at the Tuileries Palace, Napoleon first reorganizes the capital into twelve districts, each governed by its own mayor, all under the umbrella of two Prefects appointed by him. He then orders the creation of new cemeteries outside the city and the building of three new bridges across the Seine. A new canal bringing clean fresh water from Ourcq river to Paris is dug out and a new committee responsible for its sanitation is established.

A national referendum in 1802 that made Napoleon First Consul for life and a second in 1804 that elected him Emperor of the French, both by an overwhelming majority, made him an omnipotent ruler. On 2 December 1804 Napoleon Bonaparte was crowned Emperor of the French at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris by Pope Pius VII and Josephine an Empress. Sumptuous luxury, regalia with a reference to the Roman Empire and Charlemagne, swords used for centuries by the Valois and the Bourbons, orchestras with four choruses, a 400-voice choir and over three hundred musicians, numerous military bands playing heroic marches, dazzled Parisians and made them feel that the greatest days were ahead. And for a period of time that was true especially for Paris.

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With protective tariffs and reliable financing, Napoleon encouraged the peasants to work efficiently and buy land, to produce more in order to support the economy and his growing army. Industry was also of interest to Napoleon. He visited factories, showed interest in processes and products, in the artisans and the managers. He aspired to bring science to the service of industry. He set up industrial exhibitions, organized the École des Arts et Métiers, and rewarded inventors and scientists. Inventions like the weaving apparatus distributed by the government in order for French textile industry to become competitive with the British. The Bourse (stock exchange) moves at its very own temple, the Palais Brongniart  and the enormous Halle aux Vins intended to make Paris the main entrance port for wine in Northern Europe is established. Things in the economy started to look good and unemployment fell to a low point. The Parisians rejoiced and their joy was expressed through dancing, hundreds of bals publics sprang up and Guinguettes (a sort of suburb cabaret). Relations with the Church were restored and exiled nobles started coming back. Even the clothes that during the reign of terror were under the strict codes of political conviction, were now more extravagant, fashionable and lively than ever.

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True to his goal, to turn his capital into a new Imperial Rome in 1806 Napoleon orders the construction of Arc de Triomphe and  Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, inspired by the Imperial arches of Rome and the Vendôme Column, modeled by Trajan’s Column in Rome, made of the iron of cannon captured from the Russians and Austrians in 1805. Numerous new fountains including Fontaine du Palmier providing fresh water from the Ourcq River to the citizens of Paris were built around the city. Wide new streets like Rue de Rivoli and Rue de la Paix were inaugurated. The quays of the Seine were increased and reorganized while the Louvre became the Musée Napoléon displaying art treasures seized by the French Army. The Sorbonne that had been left in ruins by the revolutionaries due to its clerical orientation was reestablished based on the Faculty of Arts with people coming to study Greek, Latin, literary history, French literature, philosophy, ancient and modern history and geography.

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The halcyon days of the Empire lasted until the end of 1809 but even during that period the economy struggled to keep up with Napoleon’s plans. The British superiority in the sea and the tightening blockade of the French naval trade had created dire repercussions in all sorts of businesses in Paris that relied on the precarious dealing of contraband to avoid shortages. The taxes were constantly on the rise but so was the deficit of the government. A bad harvest in 1811 was all it took for the grain prices to start spiraling upwards again and the ghost of famine to reappear. Napoleon was not the sweetheart of everyone any more. In fact outside the army that was always loyal to him there was little love for him in the streets of Paris in 1812. When the campaign to Moscow proved to be a disaster and people started to learn about its unprecedented extent, they were shocked to hear the Emperor was entertaining at the Tuileries. After the Russian debacle Napoleon would have to rely on the terror of his omnipresent secret police to keep order in the capital.

In the Battle of Leipzig in October 1813, the largest battle in European history before World War I, Napoleon’s winning streak was shuttered by the joint army of Prussia, Austria and Russia. The dreams of a long lasting French Empire crumbled with a deafening roar on the backs of the thousands French soldiers lying dead on the battlefield. Napoleon retreaded and the allies marched straight to Paris. The Russian army entered the Porte Saint-Denis on 31 March 1814 with many Parisians waving white flags as a sign of good will, a clear indication of how tired they had grown of war during those years. Many observers like Napoleon’s architect Fontaine were taken by surprise by the people’s reaction and compared the event to a peaceful festival not a march of a foreign army. In April Napoleon signed his abdication and left Paris for Elba island.

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In May 1814, with the British, Russian, Prussian and Austrian troops still camped along the Champs Élysées, the exiled Bourbon Louis XVIII returns to Paris in an open carriage drawn by eight white horses. He was welcomed by exalted royalists and Napoleon’s former comrades, Talleyrand and Fouche who had orchestrated his return. In March of 1815 the King and the Parisians were awestruck to hear that Napoleon had escaped his prison and was on his way to Paris.  Louis XVIII fled the city and Napoleon was back at the Tuileries Palace in less than a year from his supposed life-sentence. His fascinating escape captured the hearts of the simple people who could not stomach another royalist regime, the restored nobility and the dissection of their Empire. However when the possibility of an new war became a certainty, the enthusiasm resided. The Battle of Waterloo in June 1815 became Napoleon’s swan song. By mid July the allies had returned to Paris and in a matter of days Louis XVIII was restored to the throne. At last Parisians would have the peace they longed for after decades of war and revolution. Or at least that’s what they thought they would get.

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In reality things were anything but calm. The period that followed is now known as the Second White Terror, a period when emigre extremists and ultra royalists finally took their revenge and settled old scores. Purging of the administration with thousands of public employees, soldiers and senior officers of the Grand Napoleon Army who were relieved of their duties, exiles, lynchings, trials and threats were all put in the service of the greater cause. Napoleon’s men and sympathizers had to be uprooted. The roots of a new  revolution were thus planted from the very beginning. A fresh influx from the provinces increased the population to 714.000 by 1817 and the delayed industrial revolution arrived in the form of new manufacturing industries, gas lighting and daguerreotypes (first photographs). Infrastructure and the cityscape in general was left in the state it was during Napoleon by the Bourbons. Some iconic projects like the Burse were completed but sanitation and the sewer system was as primitive as ever. The situation worsened with the surging population especially in the poor neighborhoods where filth and rubbish were disposed on the streets and ran directly into the Seine when the rain would come. Money, good clothes and rich people were indeed more, due to the increase of commerce as it was always in times of peace but the poor people of Paris were always right around the corner, the markets were common for both rich and poor and the number of poor had been increased even more by the thousands of impoverished soldiers of the Napoleonic Army.

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In the summer of 1830 with Charles X on the throne, a king strongly opposed to the concessions made by the crown in the past 40 years like the constitution that had been signed by the restored Louis XVIII in 1814, the economy was in a recession, the wages at a low point and unemployment on the rise. The icing on the cake was the soaring prices of grain and bread. When Charles X decided to suspend the constitution, reinstate the censorship of the press and tried to alter the composition of the elected Chamber of Deputies in July of 1830, it was only a matter of days before another perfect storm broke out. The July Revolution the one that inspired the famous Delacroix painting, was lit by the texts of contraband newspapers and journalists who cried for action against the Bourbons, action for the defense of the constitution. In a matter of only few days (July 27 – August 2) the last Bourbon king had been forced to abdicate and in a few days more he had departed from Paris with his son, the Dauphin, for Great Britain.

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With its population growing rapidly (more than 150.000 in 1250) and the kings that followed cashing in on Philip Augustus’ success, Paris seemed mightier than ever. Based on the model of the strong authoritarian monarch his heirs consolidated the fundamental administrative institutions to further serve the crown, not to control it. Louis IX came to power not long after Philip II’s death in 1226. The young of his age (only 12 years when he became a king) and his phenomenal religious zeal made him stand out right from the start. Louis IX squandered a great amount of the royal coffers in two disastrous crusading expeditions against the Muslims but nevertheless managed to keep his finances healthy throughout his long reign. He even lifted many of the tax burdens imposed by his predecessors thus helping create a new prosperous middle class the likes Paris had never known till then. In 1240 Louis spent a fortune in order to put Paris at the forefront of Christendom with the acquisition of what was believed to be the Crown of Thorns from Emperor Baldwin II of the Latin Empire of Constantinople. In less than 10 years he would leave his architectural mark on Paris with the Gothic masterpiece of Sainte-Chapelle created within the Palais de la Cité, in order to house the earth-shaking relic.

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The intellectual life of the city entered into a phase of significant proliferation especially in the field of philosophy based on the growing number of gifted scholars like Saint Bonaventure (studied in 1243 and later became a master in the university of Paris), Thomas Aquinas (studied at the university of Paris after 1245 and later became a master),  Saint Albert Magnus (teacher at the University after 1245)  and Roger Bacon (teacher at the university in the 1240’s) . These intellectuals, philosophers and early scientists reshaped the medieval school of theology based on the freedom given to them by the university of Paris and the prism of Aristotelian thought infused to them by the works of the ancient Greek philosopher, who had just recently been translated in Latin in his entirety.

The studious atmosphere that permeated medieval Paris was imprinted in the most graphic and elaborate way on the numerous volumes of illuminated manuscripts produced not only within the city’s monasteries as was the norm until then but also in lay workshops employing an increasing number of artisans who served the clergy, the schools’ masters and the nobility, as well as the mercantile and professional classes. The distinctive style of this Paris school of scriptoria was later copied throughout France. In 1257 Robert de Sorbon, Louis IX‘s confessor, established a college within the university that would become famous enough as to rename the whole institution as the Sorbonne. Accommodating rich and poor, irrespective of family or geographical background and using criteria of intellectual excellence, the Collège de Sorbon soon made a name for itself as an elite, meritocratic school. By the end of the Middle Ages, the University of Paris had become the biggest cultural and scientific center in Europe, attracting some 20,000 students every year.

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Louis IX’s Christian outlook was soon extended to the field of state politics where despite the fact that he ruled the most prosperous and largest realm in Western Europe he actively sought and achieved peace with the English. His position of strength did not prevent him from making territorial concessions in the southwest (Gascony and Guienne) with the Treaty of Paris in 1259. The king’s piety and eagerness to follow the Papal instructions would create a long lasting precedent of mutual support and intimate relationship between the French kings and the papacy that would only cease with the Italian unification in the 19th century. It would also make Louis IX the only canonized king of France despite his many misdeeds in the eyes of modern day seculars like the introduction of the inquisition in France, the bloody expulsion of the Cathars, the massive burning of Jewish religious books in Paris and of course the fervor for crusades. St Louis is venerated by Roman Catholic Church and Anglican Communion and celebrated every August 25.

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At the time it seemed everyone in Paris wore a gown or a uniform. There were the student gowns and the gowns worn by the masters of the university. There were the gowns and uniforms worn by the members of the royal court, the nobles and the members of the administration. Then there were the soldiers and members of the guet, of the police guard patrolling the streets. And of course there were the members of the church, of the mushrooming monasteries and abbeys and those of the monastic orders.

From the beginning of the 13th century until the end of St. Louis reign in 1270, the Dominican Order, the Franciscans, the Augustinians, the Knights Hospitaller and the Knights Templar had all come to Paris. The Knight Templar in particular had grown so strong and prosperous that after 1240, they had their own, very impressive castle in Paris, the Temple Tour. The Temple Tour was an intimidating 5 stories and 55 meters high tower that served as the treasury for King Louis IX, Philip III, and Philip IV. The tower was located near the Place de Greve, a former marshland, drained by the Templars before the construction of their tower. In the shadow of the tower were several other Templar houses, a farm, a hospital a church and a cemetery. There was also the residence of the master of France that became the residence of the Master of the Order after the conquest of the city of Acre in 1291 by the Mamluks.

https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maison_du_Templehttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temple_(Paris)http://www.templiers.org/paris-eng.php

At the end of the 13th century the French throne was occupied by a ruthless and money-hungry king. Philip IV later known as the Iron King (r. 1284 – 1314) had great plans for himself and his kingdom. He dreamt of a new Christian Empire that would be controlled from Paris and would spread from the North Sea to the Mediterranean. According to his plan the Papal state would be under the complete control of the most powerful king in Europe. This grand plan had of course some practical complications. One of them was the great need for resources.

The problems started when the Iron King put forth his plan for the reconstruction of the Palais de  la Cite in 1298. His dream for a new sumptuous palace of exceptional beauty required lots of money. The annulment of the crown’s debts, the new taxes imposed on businesses and income, the reduction of pure gold contained in the state currency, the relentless confiscations of private properties just didn’t cut it. The Lombards and the Jews who initially served as the king’s lenders had already been expelled from Paris, their properties confiscated, the royal obligations cancelled. There was only one player left and the king had his eyes on their mythical fortune. Stepping on the envy of the common people, the widespread reputation for the Templars’ greed but most of all on the total control over the new Pope (Clement V was the Pope who moved the Papal throne from Rome to Avignon, a mere pawn of the French king), the Iron King declared war on the Templars.

All sorts of horrible accusations, heresy, necromancy, sodomy, usury and fraud became the stunning pretext behind a well organized operation of massive arrests on Friday, 13 October 1307, of hundreds of Knights Templar among them the master of the order Jacques de Molay. After many lengthy trials and horrific tortures that led to the early deaths of nearly forty knights, Paris would experience one of the most gruesome spectacles in its history, with the burning of 138 Templars at the stake, according to the favored ritual of the inquisition. The climax came in 1314 with the burning of Jacques de Molay and three more masters of the order  on a small island in the Seine, the Ile des Juifs, near the palace garden. To this day the date of Friday the 13th is considered to be an ominous one in the whole western world.

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The first public riots of merchants and simple people struck by the economic policies, the rising rents and the rampant inflation of the early 14th century had been addressed with equal ferocity by the Iron King who hanged twenty eight of the offenders at the four entries of Paris. He would have no more revolts until the end of his reign in 1314.

Paris was by then the most populous city in Europe with more than 200.000 people within its walls, the kingdom of France the strongest and most populous in Europe. Philip IV however would be mostly remembered for his cruelty. The Templars’ curse (according to the tradition Jacques de Molay uttered a terrible curse at the time of his death against the king and his future heirs) would be  followed by many years of famine, plagues and deaths of three different kings, all Philip’s sons, all without a male heir. The Capetian dynasty was thus over after three centuries.

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More and more people flocked to the capital from the country, seeking jobs and food every time the crops failed to sustain them. The walls that back in the time of Philip II seemed like an extra large costume, now barely fit every house in. With most people being poor in a crowded city without street lighting and the dominant figure of the iron king out of the picture, crime took off. The wooden gallows on the hill of Montfaucon had to be rebuilt in stone in order to withstand the load of extra weight. Sanitation was also non existent. The Seine worked as a large open sewer polluted by human waste,  waste from butchers, tanners and other clothing manufacturers. The narrow medieval streets were overwhelmed by the smells of urine (the chamber pots were routinely emptied out of windows onto the street), of unwashed people and flocks of sheep, pigs, and cows being driven to the markets where the smells mus have been overwhelming. Street merchants went door to door selling fish, garlic, onions, chickens and all sorts of other odorous products. The malodor of Parisian streets became notorious.

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Just when France was entering the bloodiest first round of the Hundred Years’ War with the English, three years after the completion of Notre-Dame (1345), the Black Death came to Paris. The plague found an ideal playing ground in the unhygienic time bomb that was Paris at the time. For two years, the lucky ones that managed to survive the pandemic lived in a state of fear for themselves and their loved ones. The death rate reached 800 a day, the rich people and the king left the city in panic and medieval superstition found its culprit in cats.

Meanwhile France had already lost two important battles to the English, the Battle of Crécy in 1346 where superior English arms crushed a superior in numbers French army and the Battle of Poitiers in 1356, where Edward of Woodstock not only devastated the French army in what was more a massacre than a battle but he even managed to capture the French king, Jean II, his brother Philippe and many of his nobles.

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The two shattering defeats had discredited the Valois in the eyes of the people. With Jean II being captive of the English king, his son Charles V, took over the regency. His young age (18 y. old) and the fact that unlike his father and brother, he had left the battlefield of Poitiers made it harder for him to keep a respected royal profile especially during a period when the rising middle class of merchants and craftsmen questioned the whole status quo and looked for a more democratic way of government.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_II_of_Francehttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_V_of_Francehttps://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%89tienne_Marcel

Étienne Marcel was the provost of the merchants of Paris. When the young king tried to raise new taxes in order to pay for the ransom and cover the excessive expenses of the war, a war so destructive for the interests of merchants, Marcel made his move. With an aim to bridle royal authority with democratic institutions, Marcel led a band of armed Parisians and invaded the Palais de la Cité on February 22, 1358. Two of the king’s marshals were killed before the eyes of Charles V who fled Paris in order to regroup.

Another army of 5,000 peasants suffering from the deprivations of war joined forces with Marcel in May, who was also joined by King Charles II of Navarre who was on the head of an army of English mercenaries. The people of Paris were however divided and riots broke out, forcing Charles of Navarre to flee the city. When Marcel tried to open the gates of the city to the mercenaries of Charles of Navarre for a second time, he was killed at the bastion of Saint-Antoine. Most of his leading supporters followed the same fate. Charles V re-entered his capital on August 2 1358 triumphantly.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Charles_V_of_France_in_miniatureshttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%89tienne_Marcel Early Adulthood

In March 1359 the captive King Jean II signs a treaty with the English in his effort to hold on to the throne. The treaty ceded most of Western France to the English and imposed a unbearable ransom of million écus to the French. Although the English had the upper hand Charles V decided not to give in, overriding the orders of his captured father. The dauphin (name given to the eldest sons of the kings of France) knew the English were superior in an open field so he avoided pitched battles. In the Spring of 1360 King Edward III of England reached Paris. Looking for a big battle that would secure him the French crown, Edward followed a strategy of scorched earth, burning everything that stood outside the walls of the city. Charles V had already started rebuilding and reinforcing the walls and moats of the city since 1356 and the English were not actually prepared for a long siege, so after a few insignificant skirmishes Edward left Paris, plundering the surrounding countryside and heading to Chartres instead. On the 13th of April 1360, the day of Easter Monday, the English army is hit by a huge storm that kills more than 1000 soldiers outside the walls of Chartres. Black Monday was interpreted by both sides as a wrath of god. Edward was forced to accept a treaty with much less gains than it was expected at the start of the expedition and most importantly one that repudiated his claim on the French throne.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_III_of_Englandhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_III_of_EnglandEarly Adulthood

The civil war was over and the English had been temporarily appeased but the widespread poverty was now more evident than ever, with the streets of Paris being full of wandering beggars. Plague came back in 1360 reaping the lives of Parisians for three years in a row. Charles was forced to leave Palais de la Cité for the Castle of the Louvre that was turned into a proper royal palace with ornate rooftops, carved windows, spiral staircases, and a grand garden. He was the first French king to use the Louvre as his palace. In the same time his new wall embraced all the recently built suburbs that reached all the way to the Abbey of St. Germain on the right bank. Six main gates gave access to the interior of the city. One of them was the Porte Saint-Antoine that would be protected by the new fortress of the Bastille. The foundation stone of the new castle was laid in 1370 but Charles V wouldn’t live to see it finished. His son Charles VI completed the construction of the fortress after the death of his father in 1380.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_V_of_Francehttps://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bastillehttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bastille

At the end of Charles V‘s reign the French had started their counter attack against the English and this time the tide had turned. When Charles V died however in 1380 that momentum was lost. Charles VI was eleven years old at the time so the government was entrusted to his four uncles, the Dukes of Burgundy, Berry, Anjou, and Bourbon who squandered the royal funds for their own personal profit and kept raising taxes. With Parisians exhausted by the constant recurrence of plague epidemics (one every three years avg), the war and the high taxes, a new revolt in Paris had to be put down with force in 1382. When Charles VI finally dismissed his uncles and assumed his role in 1388 the people rejoiced hoping for better days. Their hopes were shuttered when the new king suddenly showed increasing signs of madness in 1392 causing a new round of civil unrest at the beginning of the new century.

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When Charles VI was officially declared unfit to rule in 1393, a feud started between his younger brother Louis I, Duke of Orleans and Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy (one of the uncles) who had assumed the role of the regent, sidelining the young prince. Louis resented his uncle but was in essence trapped by a superior strategist. When Philip the Bold died in 1404, his son John the Fearless was in charge of the royal council. Despite his short-hand at that point Louis was the king’s brother not the cousin, so in April of 1407 he finally managed to reshape the composition of the royal council and set himself in charge. The Duke of Burgundy (John the Fearless) was not willing to let royal power slip through his fingers so in November of 1407 Louis I of Orleans is assassinated by a group of masked criminals led by a servant of Duke of Burgundy on Rue Vieille du Temple (in front of today’s Amelot de Bisseuil Hotel). All the people in Paris knew about the feud and most had already sided with the Duke of Burgundy so John the Fearless didn’t bother to mask his involvement. Soon however, the capital found itself divided into two hostile parties. The Orleans party, also known as the Armagnacs, led mostly by members of the royal administration and treasury, whereas supporters of the duke of Burgundy were simple people, students of the University and members of the guilds who blamed old administrations for their high taxes.

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John was not only fearless. He was also a cunning man. He soon managed to win back Charles VI‘s favor and secure a royal absolution for his crime. He then orchestrated the Cabochien revolt in the Spring of 1413, in essence a pogrom against the Armagnacs that very soon turned into an uncontrollable chaos, where wealthy Parisians were assassinated or abducted for ransom. The merchants took the situation in their hands by recruiting their own soldiers who took back control and ousted the leaders of the revolt, the Burgundians and John the Fearless from Paris. Although both parties had secretly conspired with the English in their effort to prevail, when King Henry V of England invaded French territory and asked for their support in his claim to be the rightful King of France, both parties refused to bend the knee. When the time of the big battle came however in 1415, John the Fearless did not send his troops. In the Battle of Agincourt as many as 10.000 French warriors fell to Henry V’s long-bowmen. Most of them from the party of the Armagnac. Within ten days of the battle, the Burgundians had mustered their army and were marching for Paris. The city didn’t fall until May 1418, when John’s allies from inside the city opened the Gate of Saint Germain to the Burgundian army. Hundreds of Parisians fell to the swords of the Burgundians but not the Dauphin, Charles VII of France who managed to escape unharmed. The nemesis for all the offences committed by John the Fearless came in September of 1419 when he was murdered by the Armagnac during what he thought was a diplomatic meeting with the Dauphin Charles VII.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cabochien_revolthttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Agincourthttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_the_Fearless

At the time of the death of his father in 1420, Charles VII had officially lost the north of the country to the English and Paris remained under the control of their Burgundian allies. Although the French people regarded him as the rightful king, the English derisively referred to him as the King of Bourges, after the town where he had set his court in central France. The Parisian merchants and the board of the university had to take an oath to respect the English rule, Charles VII was found guilty of treason, all his privileges to land and titles were invalidated by a Parisian court and a small English garrison was settled in the Bastille and the Louvre. The administration of the city was left to the Burgundians. The course of the war suddenly took a different turn with the arrival of Joan of Arc in 1429 but her winning streak was broken under the walls of Paris by the arrows and crossbow bolts fired by English, Burgundians and Parisian soldiers. The latter had feared that the Armagnac would slaughter everyone if they took back the city. The siege nearly cost Joan’s life which would be eventually taken a few months later (May 1431) after her capture by the Burgundians at Compiègne.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hundred_Years%27_Warhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joan_of_Archttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joan_of_Arc

The English held Paris until 1436. Α year earlier Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, had signed the Treaty of Arras, by which the Burgundian faction rejected their English alliance and became reconciled with Charles VII. For Paris to be taken Charles had to go into secret negotiations with the Parisian bourgeoisie and promise a total amnesty. The Treaty of Arras was also the official end of the civil war between the Armagnac and Burgundians. After nineteen years of foreign occupation, Charles VII entered Paris, on November 12, 1437. In the twenty years that followed he managed to reconquer all the territories occupied by the English with the exception of the northern port of Calais. He would forever be remembered as Charles the Victorious.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_VII_of_FranceEarly Adulthoodhttps://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_VII_(roi_de_France)

 

In 987 a member of the Robertian dynasty that would become so strong as to change the name of the whole dynasty from Robertians to Capetians, Hugh Capet would jump from his position as Count of Paris to the French throne.  The two most important cities of his personal domain were Paris and Orleans. Although the new king restored the Palais de la Cité which had stood in Roman foundations for almost a thousand years (on the site of the current Palais de Justice) he actually spent more time in Orleans. His son and successor Robert le Pieux however preferred Paris. He finished the restoration of the palace and turned it into his official residence and he also renovated the abbeys of Saint-Germain-des-Pres and Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois which had lain in ruins since the first Viking raids.

Despite these shy steps of improvement, at the dawn of the new millennium  Paris was nothing more than an unimpressive capital of an unimportant state, surrounded by hostile, richer and more powerful realms. When the Queen of Henry I (1031-60), Anne of Kiev came to live with her husband, she wrote to her father Yaroslav the Wise, that the place was “a barbarous country where the houses were gloomy, the churches ugly and the customs revolting”.

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Up until the 1100’s the Capetian Kings struggled to keep their domain intact in an chaotic country of different languages and currencies controlled by powerful feudal lords. The constant infighting with the power-hungry vassals of the kingdom took its toll on the people of Paris who suffered from hunger. Consecutive waves of terrible famines were recorded during that century.

Things only started to take a different turn in 1108, when Louis VI the Fat ascented on the throne. Louis started to take on the robber barons that plagued the countryside with their hired swords. One after the other the obstacles of  communication and commercial activity within the realm of the French king were removed and the economy was revitalized. In the same time the cathedral school of Notre-Dame (a few years before the building of the famous cathedral) started to attract gifted intellectuals of the time like Peter Abelard, a provocative philosopher, theologian, and preeminent logician who became master of the school and so famous for his lectures that hundreds of students from many different countries flocked to hear him teach on dialectic (logic).

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The third agent of change, was the head cleric of Saint-Denis. Abbot Suger (1122-51). In reality Suger was much more than an abbot. His influence extended to the highest ranks of the political sphere. He served for many years as the closest adviser of two kings, (the equivalent of the Prime Minister today) and he even served as regent between 1147 and 1149, when King Louis VII left for the second crusade. As a man who understood politics Suger was convinced that if the common people could not comprehend the Scriptures then they would surely be helped through images carved in stone or imprinted on a stained glass. He basically believed that modern churches should infuse an awe inspiring feeling with their design, their use of light and color. There were practical reasons of course that would support his decision for the reconstruction of the Carolingian Basilica of St Denis in a larger scale. The size of the existing church just wasn’t enough for all the faithful who wanted to enter, especially in times of great religious festivities.

In 1135 Suger’s personal taste, his ability to generate more funds from the privileges given to the abbey and his belief that worldly beauty was completely compatible with the love of God, would change the cultural history of Paris and the West as a whole for ever. In only 15 years after it had been conceived, an extraordinary achievement on its own, the first massive basilica of the kind Western Europeans would be very familiar with in the following years, had been completed. Its pointed arches, ribbed vaults, impressive stained glasses and irregular shapes would become the prototype for the Frankish style that would monopolize the architectural style of religious buildings for hundreds of years. It would later be widely known as Gothic style.

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The population was on the rise (around 25.000 people in 1150) and the city spread from its nucleus on the Île de la Cité to the right bank (north of the river), where soon the majority of markets for meat, grain, fish, fruits etc. were placed,  turning it into the commercial heart of medieval Paris. The Parisian merchants started to receive a special treatment from the king, who granted them the monopoly of all trade taking place across the Seine, at a range that stretched nearly 50 km from the city. The Parisian port was moved from ile de la Cite to the right bank of the Seine at a gravel beach close to the market square of Greve (where the Hôtel de Ville is located today). It soon became the main outlet of all Parisian trade routes. The economy entered a virtuous circle and two new fairs were established attracting merchants from all corners of Europe.

In 1163, the newly elected Bishop of Paris, Maurice de Sully decides to rebuild the Romanesque Cathedral of Saint-Etienne on the ’île de la Cité according to  the contemporary Frankish style (Gothic), a proper reflection of the city’s royal status that could serve its growing population. The foundation stone of the new cathedral that was dedicated to Notre-Dame (Our Lady) was laid in the presence of King Louis VII, and Pope Alexander III. A great part of it would be completed by the time of Sully’s death in 1196.

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The next of the Capetians did not only reshape the fate of Paris but of the whole European continent as well. The fifteen year old Phillip II had to step up to the precarious French throne in 1180. In contrast to his father whose reign was considered to be an accident from the beginning, Phillip II had been raised to be a king and he had eagerly grown into his role from the very start. At the time of his coronation however the realm of his father had again been reduced into a tiny state, just a fraction of the surrounding French duchies and the Plantagenet Empire that stood both in English and in French soil.

Through a series of skillful moves and the fortune that came as dowry from his first marriage with Isabelle of Hainault, Phillip managed to expand his kingdom considerably both south and north in just five years. Also despite his constant movement across the different provinces of his realm, he immediately showed signs of a clear preference for Paris. By 1190 Phillip II had created a new roofed market (Les Halles) for the commerce of meat, bread and wine among others. He had paved the main roads of the city and had already started the construction of a new protective wall, that would encompass all parts of the medieval city and would make her truly impregnable for the first time in history.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philip_II_of_Francehttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philip_II_of_Francehttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isabella_of_Hainault

The news of Jerusalem‘s fall to Saladin led to the Third crusade. Philip II, could not repudiate a summons from the Pope. He reigned at a time when the papal bull could easily destroy a king. In the same time he was no fool. After a year of bloody warfare (1190-91) and the Conquest of Acre by the crusaders he decides to head back to Paris. His job at the Holy Land was over and the death of the Count of Flanders during the siege had created new opportunities back home. Philip II’s early departure along with his real politik scheme to keep his former comrade and fellow King Richard the Lionheart of England incarcerated in the prison of the German Emperor Henry VI would open up the first set of vicious wars between the French and the English, a prelude to the Hundred Years’ War of equal ferocity.

 

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During the years of war between the two former comrades (1194-1199) two great projects progressed at full throttle in Paris. The first was the city wall and the second was a fortress, destined to evolve into the most famous museum in the world. The Fortress of the Louvre was being built on the west side, the side more vulnerable to the English attacks (some km away stood the English soldiers of Normandy). Just outside the new wall, the large castle with its wide moat, arrow silts and its ten defensive towers would be the first strong bridgehead of defense. The massive wall the second. In the same time the work in Notre Dame was also advancing in a slow but steady pace despite Bishop Sully’s death in 1196. The High Altar had been consecrated and the transepts were already complete. At the time of the war against Richard the Lionheart the nave was starting to take its shape.

The three projects were of course an enormous and costly endeavor that together with the expenses of a large scale war, were drying up the royal treasury. No doubt many people working in those projects or fighting in the king’s war could make their living but the rest were people dependent on trade. The ugly face of famine started to reappear in Paris while the battle with Richard’s army proved to be a disaster. Phillip was losing one battle after another. Just when Parisians thought it could not get any worse, three horrendous floods swept everything in their passage, including the two main bridges of Île de la Cité.

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King Richard‘s death in 1199 gave Philip II a second chance and the French king would not let it pass by. In 15 years time he managed to win back all the lands conquered by the English king and gradually build up his army to the point that it would be possible to face any enemy on equal terms. In the most crucial battle of his eventful career, Philip II managed to triumph over an intimidating coalition between King John of England, Guillaume I of Holland, Ferrand of Flanders , Henry I of Brabant , Thiebaud I of Lorraine , Henry III of Limburg and last but not least the German Emperor Otto IV in the Battle of Bouvines on 27 July 1214. After that astounding victory Philip II would be forever known as Philip Augustus, an appellation given to him very early on by his chronicler but earned in the eyes of his subjects in that David-versus-Goliath-like battle at Bouvines.

https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bataille_de_Bouvines#/media/Fichier:Le_Petit_Journal_-_Philippe-Auguste_%C3%A0_Bouvines.jpghttps://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bataille_de_Bouvines#/media/Fichier:Bataille-de-bouvines.png

By the end of King Philip II‘s term in 1223, Paris had become the strong and undisputed capital of a powerful French kingdom. A fortified city protected by a massive defensive wall that due to Philip’s success was nothing more than a demarcation luxury. It was also a city that offered its merchants a well-placed site on the right bank of the Seine, where both goods and vendors could be protected from bad weather and robbery. By establishing Les Halles Philip set the foundations for Paris as a major trading center of Europe. Paris was also a place where the university, officially chartered after year 1200, was an autonomous borough, completely independent from royal jurisdiction. Its teachers and students protected by law. Many of the students were foreign. They followed its reputation as a renowned place of liberal teachings that came after the time of Abelard and its separation from the Cathedral school. Some 20.000 students attended at the university at the time of Philip’s death with a great part of them being German, Italian and English. A whole new district, the Latin quarter would be named by the language of teaching of these students. Three new districts, Saint Honore, Saints Peres and Les Mathurins,  named after the new churches and monasteries built to serve their people, three new hospitals, new aqueducts, the first since the Roman era, numerous new fountains and paved roads, all together with the booming bourgeois class and the draconian law and order of Philip II had transformed the once struggling Capetian capital into a leading capital of the West in less than fifty years.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Territorial_Conquests_of_Philip_II_of_France.pnghttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paris_in_the_Middle_Ages#/media/File:Supplice_des_Amauriciens.jpg

In the second half of the 7th century the royal power was in reality exercised by the palace mayors, in other words the owners of the castles and land.  Out of their ranks  sprouted a gifted military leader named Charles Martel (Charles the Hammer). A king in all but name Charles Martel (718-741) managed to win important battles that reunified the Frankish kingdom and repelled its enemies in the south (Muslims) and north (other Germanic people, Saxons e.g.). He was the founder of the Carolingian dynasty, grandfather of the great Charlemagne.

Charles Martel spent almost no time in Paris but nevertheless was buried at the Basilica of Saint Denis. His son Pepin the Short (r. 751–768) would be the first of the Carolingians to assume the role of the king. Although the center of political power had moved to Aachen, Paris continued to hold on to its ceremonial role. Pepin was first crowned in Soissons in 751. In 754 however he would be solemnly anointed by Pope Stephen II, who traveled to Paris to crown him for a second time in a lavish ceremony at the Basilica of St Denis.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Martelhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pepin_the_Shorthttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pepin_the_Short

After the death of his brother in 771, Charlemagne became the sole ruler of the Frankish kingdom. In a few years time he would evolve into the single most important ruler of Western Europe since the Roman Age. The Carolingian Empire of Charlemagne became the connecting tissue of most Christian lands in the west, a counterpart of the Byzantine Empire to the East.

In 775 the reconstruction of the Basilica of St. Denis that had started during the reign of his father is completed and Charlemagne is present at the consecration of the new building in Paris. Although the emperor would rule from Aachen he became the agent of renaissance for classical learning throughout the empire. In 789 Charlemagne’s Admonitio Generalis required that schools be established in every monastery and bishopric, in which children can learn to read. A school promoting scholarship and literacy was set up by the British monk Alcuin, leading scholar and teacher at the Carolingian court in Paris. Monasteries which were able to produce teachers were also able to flourish. Many new abbeys were built including several around Paris.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlemagnehttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alcuinhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlemagne

The abbeys wouldn’t help Paris much when the Viking raids started in the beginning of the 9th century. The Frankish frontier had been brought to contact with the pagan Danes after Charlemagne’s expansions. It was during his time (799) that the first Viking attack took place and it was due to his defense system that the second was repelled a few years after his death (820). After Charlemagne’s death (814) the Frankish kingdom went to his son Louis the Pious (reign 814 – 840). Even before Louis the Pious died, the kingdom was immersed in bloody civil wars. After his death in the year 840, the kingdom was divided in three (Paris became part of West Francia under Charles the Bald) and the civil wars were intensified. The pagan Danes (Vikings) were well informed about the situation in the neighboring Empire and grabbed the chance for a quick raid every time the power struggles in Scandinavia demanded a show of strength. (810, 820, 834 Antwerp and Noirmoutier 836, Rouen 841, Quentovic and Nantes in 842).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_the_Pioushttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franciahttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viking_expansion

In 845 it was the turn of Paris. In March 5.000 Danes in 120 Viking ships under the leadership of a certain Ragnar (the famous Ragnar Lodbrok according to the tradition) entered the Seine and raided Rouen. Charles the Bald (King of West Francia 840-877) was not willing to let the Royal Abbey of St. Denis fall prey to the Viking hoard but with the old Roman wall being in a pitiful state the city was in essence unprotected. The Parisians would not follow the tradition of St. Genevieve this time. After the Vikings finished with the Frankish army sent to protect the Abbey of St Denis they took Paris and looted everything that hadn’t been taken away by the fleeing Parisians.Holding the city as a ransom the Vikings managed to extract a huge amount of silver and gold (about 2.5 tons) by Charles the Bald and only then they retreated. The story would repeat itself in 856, 857, 858, 861 and 869.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siege_of_Paris_(845)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siege_of_Paris_(845)

At last in 870 Charles the Bald was determined to act decisively. He ordered the construction of fortified bridges to be put up at all rivers to block the Viking incursions. The Grand Pont that connected Île de la Cité (Notre Dame Bridge today) to the right bank and the Petit Pont (Cardinal-Lustiger Bridge today) that connect the island to the left bank were rebuilt accordingly.

With the population of the city hitting a low point due to the invasions and the heirs of the Frankish kingdom proving to be short-lived or weak, the power in Paris was in reality exercised by Count Eudes, the first of the Robertian Dynasty that would rule France for a millennium. Coount Eudes or Odo was greatly supported by the noble abbot of St. Denis named Gozlin, who in return was appointed Bishop of Paris by Odo in 883. It was Bishop Gozlin who foresaw the danger of a new attack just in time to avert a new disaster. Relying on the earnings created by the relics of St Genevieve & St Germain he managed to restore the city’s decrepit wall and organize its defense, a year before the Viking ships were again seen on the horizon at the end of 885.

Despite the intimidating volume of the Viking fleet (About 700 ships carrying as much as 40.000 warriors) this time the city would make a stand. The siege lasted for nearly a year and the plague started taking more lives than the Vikings but finally the army of Odo managed to save the city and scatter the Viking army. Bishop Gozlin was among the victims of the plague but Odo would go on to be King of the Franks in 888.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Charles_the_Bald_in_miniatures#/media/File:Jean_de_Tillet_-_Charles_II_le_chauve_-_Recueil_des_rois_de_France.jpghttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siege_of_Paris_(885%E2%80%93886)https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eudes_(roi_des_Francs)

The Viking raids continued well into the first years of the 10th century. The Robertians or Capetians kept their position as rulers of Paris although they ceded their claim to the French throne to the last of the Carolingian dynasty. After 911 and the Treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte the raids finally stopped and life in Paris started to take a normal pace. Despite that what followed was a rather harsh period marked by famines, floods and epidemics until the end of the 10th century.

 

After 395 the Roman Empire was permanently split in West and East. The West crumbled under the weight of consecutive invasions. In the Spring of 451 Attila the Hun launched a campaign against Gaul with a massive army that had within it warriors from about ten different Germanic vassal tribes. The sprawling Empire of the Huns and especially Attila had already caused a sort of frenzy in the Romanized world from the time of his ferocious attacks against the Eastern Roman Empire (440 to 450 ad) with every city in the east and west talking about the scourge of God. When his army approached Paris in 451 AD the people of the city started to pack their belongings. A young nun with the name of Genevieve (Genovefa in Latin) who had already gained the respect of the Parisians with her piety, managed to convince them not to abandon the city but stay and pray instead. Remarkably enough the people listened and decided to trust in the power of prayer. When Attila bypassed Paris and turned to Orleans instead, the people were convinced that it was Genevieve’s intervention and their prayers that saved the city.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attilahttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attilahttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genevieve

In 465 with Genevieve now being a prominent municipal magistrate it was the turn of Childeric I, King of the Franks and first of the Merovingian dynasty to come to Paris. It seems Genevieve managed to secure a meeting with the Frankish king and somehow win his trust. Despite the siege she would manage to supply the city several times with grain and help the people withstand the blockade.

Paris remained under the jurisdiction of the (last) Roman governor of Gaul, Syagrius until Childeric’s son Clovis achieved a great victory at the Battle of Soissons in 486 that cemented their primacy in the region. King Clovis finally managed to enter Paris, with the consent of Genevieve, who had by then become the city’s leading political figure. Clovis also yielded to Genevieve’s charm. He ordered the establishment of an abbey in her honor where she could minister the people of Paris (Abbey of St Genevieve). She was buried at that abbey sometime after 500 AD and was almost immediately recognized as a patron saint of the city. She is venerated today by both the Catholic and the Orthodox Church.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clovis_Ihttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abbey_of_Saint_Genevieve#/media/File:Front_of_the_Ancient_Church_of_the_Abbey_of_Sainte_Genevieve_in_Paris_founded_by_Clovis_and_rebuilt_from_the_Eleventh_to_Thirteenth_Centuries_State_of_the_Building_before_its_Destruction_at_the_End_of_the_Last_Century.pnghttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genevieve

Another female Saint, Saint Clotilde, (King Clovis’s wife) would prepare the ground for Clovis’s conversion to the Roman Catholic faith. The king’s pledge to convert may have been the outcome of his wife’s persistence but his decision was only taken after an unexpected victory against the Alemanni in the Battle of Tolbiac in 496. He was baptized by the hands of another Saint, Saint Remi along with 3.000 of his warriors on Christmas day 508 AD (the exact year is still questioned by historians) in Reims (129 km  northeast of Paris). Earlier that year the first Roman Catholic King of the Franks had decided to make Paris the capital city of his new kingdom. The importance of his political and religious decisions is still considered to be fundamental for France. After his death in 511 AD he was laid to rest next to St Genevieve in the Abbey of St Genevieve. Saint Clotilde would also be buried with them after a few years.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Tolbiachttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Remigius https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clotilde#/media/File:Clotilde_partageant_le_royaume_entre_ses_fils.jpg

As the capital of the Frankish kingdom, Paris would flourish despite the short-term divisions of the realm between future heirs. The foundations of the political unity of Francia were laid by the so-called Salian law system, compiled by King Clovis I and his dignitaries and published sometime between 507 and 510. The laws were in reality a road map for the unification of Gaulish customs, Roman law and Frankish inheritance. In those times a kingdom’s capital meant that along with its political prestige which was elevated per se, the city had to rise to the role of a religious center as well. By the year 540 a large basilica dedicated to Saint Etienne had been erected on the Ile de la Cité. The basilica was erected on a site where an old Gallo-Roman temple of Jupiter that was turned into a paleochristian church when Christianity became the dominant religion and would later evolve into Notre-Dame.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lex_Salica_Vandalgarius.jpghttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salic_law#/media/File:Salic_Law.pnghttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Childebert_I#/media/File:Division_of_Gaul_-_511.jpg

In 555 with Paris having already hosted two ecclesiastical councils, Germain is chosen by the King of Paris Childebert I  (one of the four Frankish kings following Clovis I’s death), to serve as the bishop of the city. Germain was at the time a former abbot of the Abbey of Saint-Symphorien who had been deposed because of his generous policy towards the poor, that made his fellow monks mutiny against him in fear of the abbey’s future standing. Bishop Germain would attend in two ecclesiastical councils in 557 and 573, that were both held in Paris. In 558 King Childebert I managed to fulfill his 15-year pledge for the construction of a church that would house a relic of  St. Vincent. A few days later Childebert would be buried in the new Church that would serve as the official burial place of many Merovingian kings. It would evolve into the Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés. After his death in 576 Bishop Germain became a Saint venerated by both the Orthodox and the Catholic Church. For hundreds of years in times of plague and crisis, his relics would be carried in procession through the streets of Paris.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint-Germain-des-Pr%C3%A9s_(abbey)#/media/File:Louvre_childebert_ml93.jpghttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Germain_of_Parishttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abbey_of_Saint-Germain-des-Pr%C3%A9s

A dark period followed marked by great fires that obliterated the majority of the city’s houses, that were still then plain wooden hatches, leaving only the churches built in stone behind. It was also marked by the civil wars between the Merovingian heirs that obstructed trade and drew the attention of the rulers to the battlefields and not the betterment of their cities. It was a time of re-ruralization, of prosperity for local bishops and empowerment of feudal lords. The latter controlled the land with their castles and held high positions in the army of the king or even in the enemy army if their interest dictated so. The Edict of Paris issued by King Chlothar II in 619 is a formal testament of regal concessions to the country’s magnates and lords.

In the year 628 the last effective Merovingian King Dagobert I takes over and actually rules his kingdom from Paris. Dagobert would order the construction of the famous Abbey of St. Denis. He would be the first of the 43 kings and 32 queens to be buried there until the 19th century. “So much industry did he lavish there, at the king’s request, and poured out so much that scarcely a single ornament was left in Gaul and it is the greatest wonder of all to this very day” according to the Vita of Saint Eligius that describes the shrine built to house the Saint’s relics.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dagobert_Ihttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dagobert_Ihttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basilica_of_Saint-Denis#/media/File:Coeur_de_la_Basilique_de_Saint-Senis.jpg

In 650 AD a former officer at the Royal Chancery named Landry becomes bishop of Paris. A year later a great famine is recorded. Bishop Landry sells all his personal property, including some liturgical objects in order to buy food and distribute it to the hungry and poor. With his knowledge of administrative matters being more than adequate and his concern about the people in need being high, the bishop managed to create Hôtel-Dieu, the first hospital institution in history to receive all the poor and the sick without distinction and the oldest worldwide still operating today. According to the tradition he was also  the one who created the Church of  Saint-Germain l’Auxerrois (next to the Louvre Palace today), a church which became the main parish church of the French kings in the 7th century. After his death in 656 Bishop Landry (St. Landry of Paris) became the fifth pastor from Paris to be canonized.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Landry_of_Paris#/media/File:Paris_-_%C3%89glise_Saint-Germain-l'Auxerrois_-_PA00085796_-_123.jpghttps://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/H%C3%B4tel-Dieu_de_Parishttps://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%89glise_Saint-Germain-l%27Auxerrois_de_Paris

In 53 BC the plan of the ambitious Roman consul and general Julius Caesar for the conquest of Gaul was in full swing. An invitation was sent to all the tribes but the Parisii was among the ones who did not reply. That was interpreted as an act of war by the Romans. The Gauls under their leader Camulogenus had already followed a policy of scorched earth and Lutetia would not be an exception. Near the burnt remains of the city the Roman legions won the battle and killed Camulogenus. From then on the site of modern day Paris would be Roman territory.

Lous and the Yakuza Amigo Playlisthttps://www.totalwar.com/games/rome-ii/https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camulog%C3%A8ne

The Romans quickly proceeded in the establishment of a new city that stood on both Ile de la Cité as well as the hill on the south (left) bank of the river (the Montagne Sainte-Geneviève). The road grid of the new city followed the straight lines of a Roman military camp with its main axis crossing the island on the site of the current Rue de la Cité. The conquerors brought with them all the customs, the civil engineering and laws of their homeland. The Gauls were gradually Romanized and the two people started to merge into one. The Gallo-Roman city of  Lutetia Parisiorum  had its first forum, amphitheater and new more reliable bridges built immediately. The Gauls were free to worship their Celtic gods, as long as they respected the Roman gods as well.

Babyhttps://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Thermes_de_Cluny#/media/File:Thermes-de-Cluny-caldarium.jpg

With a population of about 10.000 people the city became an integral part of Gallia Lugdunensis, the province that had modern day Lyon as its capital. A protective wall, an aqueduct about 25 km in length, a temple dedicated to Jupiter on Ile de la Cité, paved roads, a small port, a massive bath complex (Thermes de Cluny), statues and valuable pieces of jewelry testify for the prosperity of Roman Lutetia to this day.

https://gl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gallia_Lugdunensis#/media/Ficheiro:Provinciaromana-Lugdunense-pt.svghttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Paris#cite_note-FOOTNOTELawrenceGondrand201025-13https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lut%C3%A8ce

Shortly after 250 AD Christianity came to Lutetia when St. Denis with two other apostles, Rusticus and Eleutherius, were sent by Pope Fabian to convert the Gauls. According to the tradition, the Christian companion settled on Île de la Cité and were so successful in converting people that the pagan priests of the city felt threatened, orchestrated their arrest by the Roman governor and managed to have the three Christian missionaries decapitated on the highest hill of Paris, a once Druidic secret place. It would later be known as the Montmartre (The Martyrs’ Mountain).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denishttps://pixabay.com/de/photos/paris-montmartre-basilika-4107045/https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denis

A few years later, around 275 AD we have the first invasion of Germanic tribes, of the Barbarians as the Romans called them, who ravaged the left coast of the Seine and forced the inhabitants of Lutetia to take refuge on the Île de la Cité where they could easier defend themselves. After that attack the left coast was in essence abandoned and the stones of most of its buildings and monuments were used to strengthen the defense of the island with the creation of the first stone wall.

Lutetia officially became Paris in the time of Emperor Julian the Apostate. Julian was the designated Caesar of the western provinces by order of the Roman Emperor Constantius II in 355. After two years of successful campaigns against Germanic tribes, Julian took residence in Lutetia, a place relatively easy to defend thanks to the Seine and close to the Roman borders of the Rhine. In 360 AD and after a series of impressive military feats Julian is proclaimed Emperor Julius Augustus at the Thermes de Cluny in Paris by his troops. It was the first time in history the small provincial town, former Lutetia, now Civitas Parisiorum (the City of the Parisii) was at the epicenter of Roman political life.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Julien_crowned_Emperor_in_Cluny_in_February_360.jpghttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julian_(emperor)

As if Julian’s actions had turned the spotlight on the city for good, it wouldn’t take long for the next Roman emperor to arrive. Emperor Valentinian I stayed in Paris two times, first in 365 and then in 366 during his campaigns in Gaul against the Alamanni. In 383, Magnus Maximus the general who had managed to suppress the rebellion of the Scots and the Picts in Britain, was proclaimed emperor by his troops and leaped to Gaul to establish his claim. Emperor Gratian rushed to Paris to stop the usurper’s advance but he was betrayed by his troops and fled to Lyon.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valentinian_I#/media/File:Colosso-de-barletta.jpghttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magnus_Maximushttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gratian

The first signs of human presence at the area of Paris go back to pre-historic times. They are mostly remains of nomadic hunting, mammoth, reindeer and deer bones. Around 4200 BC we encounter the first evidence of a permanent human residence on what was then the left side of River Seine (Paris-Bercy-Chasséen culture). The site of modern day Paris was ideal due to its flat topography, mild climate and the flowing of river Seine, a river easily navigable all year round. The most important archaeological finds from that period are large wooden canoes used for both fishing and easy access to other regions.

http://www.womenstravelabroad.com/PFF--Neolithic-Bercy.htmlhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seinehttp://www.womenstravelabroad.com/PFF--Neolithic-Bercy.html

During the course of the 3rd century BC we have the establishment of the first fortified settlement probably on the Ile de la Cité, where the crossing of the Seine was an easier task. The people who built that first city came from the Gallic (Celtic) tribe of the Parisii. The name of that first city was Loutouchezi which in Gaulish Celtic translated into dwelling among the waters. Ancient Greek geographer Strabo ( 63 BC – c. AD 24) refers to Lucotocia. It would later be changed into Lutetia by the Romans.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Parishttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%8Ele_de_la_Cit%C3%A9

By 100 BC the Parisii had become prosperous enough to mint their own golden coins. Their prosperity was probably the result of trade with settlements easily approachable through the extended river network of Gaul but it could also stem from the fees charged to the people crossing their wooden bridges built to each side of the Ile de la Cité some years after the creation of the first settlement.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parisii_(Gaul)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parisii_(Gaul)https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Paintings_by_Evariste-Vital_Luminais#/media/File:Evariste-Vital_Luminais-L'invasion.jpg

The first signs of human presence at the area of Paris go back to pre-historic times. They are mostly remains of nomadic hunting, mammoth, reindeer and deer bones. Around 4200 BC we encounter the first evidence of a permanent human residence on what was then the left side of River Seine (Paris-Bercy-Chasséen culture). The site of modern day Paris was ideal due to its flat topography, mild climate and the flowing of river Seine, a river easily navigable all year round. The most important archaeological finds from that period are large wooden canoes used for both fishing and easy access to other regions.

http://www.womenstravelabroad.com/PFF--Neolithic-Bercy.htmlhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seinehttp://www.womenstravelabroad.com/PFF--Neolithic-Bercy.html

During the course of the 3rd century BC we have the establishment of the first fortified settlement probably on the Ile de la Cité, where the crossing of the Seine was an easier task. The people who built that first city came from the Gallic (Celtic) tribe of the Parisii. The name of that first city was Loutouchezi which in Gaulish Celtic translated into dwelling among the waters. Ancient Greek geographer Strabo ( 63 BC – c. AD 24) refers to Lucotocia. It would later be changed into Lutetia by the Romans.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Parishttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%8Ele_de_la_Cit%C3%A9

By 100 BC the Parisii had become prosperous enough to mint their own golden coins. Their prosperity was probably the result of trade with settlements easily approachable through the extended river network of Gaul but it could also stem from the fees charged to the people crossing their wooden bridges built to each side of the Ile de la Cité some years after the creation of the first settlement.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parisii_(Gaul)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parisii_(Gaul)

In 53 BC the plan of the ambitious Roman consul and general Julius Caesar for the conquest of Gaul was in full swing. An invitation was sent to all the tribes but the Parisii was among the ones who did not reply. That was interpreted as an act of war by the Romans. The Gauls under their leader Camulogenus had already followed a policy of scorched earth and Lutetia would not be an exception. Near the burnt remains of the city the Roman legions won the battle and killed Camulogenus. From then on the site of modern day Paris would be Roman territory.

Lous and the Yakuza Amigo Playlisthttps://www.totalwar.com/games/rome-ii/https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camulog%C3%A8ne

The Romans quickly proceeded in the establishment of a new city that stood on both Ile de la Cité as well as the hill on the south (left) bank of the river (the Montagne Sainte-Geneviève). The road grid of the new city followed the straight lines of a Roman military camp with its main axis crossing the island on the site of the current Rue de la Cité. The conquerors brought with them all the customs, the civil engineering and laws of their homeland. The Gauls were gradually Romanized and the two people started to merge into one. The Gallo-Roman city of  Lutetia Parisiorum  had its first forum, amphitheater and new more reliable bridges built immediately. The Gauls were free to worship their Celtic gods, as long as they respected the Roman gods as well.

Parishttps://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Thermes_de_Cluny#/media/File:Thermes-de-Cluny-caldarium.jpg

With a population of about 10.000 people the city became an integral part of Gallia Lugdunensis, the province that had modern day Lyon as its capital. A protective wall, an aqueduct about 25 km in length, a temple dedicated to Jupiter on Ile de la Cité, paved roads, a small port, a massive bath complex (Thermes de Cluny), statues and valuable pieces of jewelry testify for the prosperity of Roman Lutetia to this day.

https://gl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gallia_Lugdunensis#/media/Ficheiro:Provinciaromana-Lugdunense-pt.svghttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Paris#cite_note-FOOTNOTELawrenceGondrand201025-13https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lut%C3%A8ce

Shortly after 250 AD Christianity came to Lutetia when St. Denis with two other apostles, Rusticus and Eleutherius, were sent by Pope Fabian to convert the Gauls. According to the tradition, the Christian companion settled on Île de la Cité and were so successful in converting people that the pagan priests of the city felt threatened, orchestrated their arrest by the Roman governor and managed to have the three Christian missionaries decapitated on the highest hill of Paris, a once Druidic secret place. It would later be known as the Montmartre (The Martyrs’ Mountain).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denishttps://pixabay.com/de/photos/paris-montmartre-basilika-4107045/https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denis

A few years later, around 275 AD we have the first invasion of Germanic tribes, of the Barbarians as the Romans called them, who ravaged the left coast of the Seine and forced the inhabitants of Lutetia to take refuge on the Île de la Cité where they could easier defend themselves. After that attack the left coast was in essence abandoned and the stones of most of its buildings and monuments were used to strengthen the defense of the island with the creation of the first stone wall.

Lutetia officially became Paris in the time of Emperor Julian the Apostate. Julian was the designated Caesar of the western provinces by order of the Roman Emperor Constantius II in 355. After two years of successful campaigns against Germanic tribes, Julian took residence in Lutetia, a place relatively easy to defend thanks to the Seine and close to the Roman borders of the Rhine. In 360 AD and after a series of impressive military feats Julian is proclaimed Emperor Julius Augustus at the Thermes de Cluny in Paris by his troops. It was the first time in history the small provincial town, former Lutetia, now Civitas Parisiorum (the City of the Parisii) was at the epicenter of Roman political life.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Julien_crowned_Emperor_in_Cluny_in_February_360.jpghttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julian_(emperor)

As if Julian’s actions had turned the spotlight on the city for good, it wouldn’t take long for the next Roman emperor to arrive. Emperor Valentinian I stayed in Paris two times, first in 365 and then in 366 during his campaigns in Gaul against the Alamanni. In 383, Magnus Maximus the general who had managed to suppress the rebellion of the Scots and the Picts in Britain, was proclaimed emperor by his troops and leaped to Gaul to establish his claim. Emperor Gratian rushed to Paris to stop the usurper’s advance but he was betrayed by his troops and fled to Lyon.

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After 395 the Roman Empire was permanently split in West and East. The West crumbled under the weight of consecutive invasions. In the Spring of 451 Attila the Hun launched a campaign against Gaul with a massive army that had within it warriors from about ten different Germanic vassal tribes. The sprawling Empire of the Huns and especially Attila had already caused a sort of frenzy in the Romanized world from the time of his ferocious attacks against the Eastern Roman Empire (440 to 450 ad) with every city in the east and west talking about the scourge of God. When his army approached Paris in 451 AD the people of the city started to pack their belongings. A young nun with the name of Genevieve (Genovefa in Latin) who had already gained the respect of the Parisians with her piety, managed to convince them not to abandon the city but stay and pray instead. Remarkably enough the people listened and decided to trust in the power of prayer. When Attila bypassed Paris and turned to Orleans instead, the people were convinced that it was Genevieve’s intervention and their prayers that saved the city.

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In 465 with Genevieve now being a prominent municipal magistrate it was the turn of Childeric I, King of the Franks and first of the Merovingian dynasty to come to Paris. It seems Genevieve managed to secure a meeting with the Frankish king and somehow win his trust. Despite the siege she would manage to supply the city several times with grain and help the people withstand the blockade.

Paris remained under the jurisdiction of the (last) Roman governor of Gaul, Syagrius until Childeric’s son Clovis achieved a great victory at the Battle of Soissons in 486 that cemented their primacy in the region. King Clovis finally managed to enter Paris, with the consent of Genevieve, who had by then become the city’s leading political figure. Clovis also yielded to Genevieve’s charm. He ordered the establishment of an abbey in her honor where she could minister the people of Paris (Abbey of St Genevieve). She was buried at that abbey sometime after 500 AD and was almost immediately recognized as a patron saint of the city. She is venerated today by both the Catholic and the Orthodox Church.

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Another female Saint, Saint Clotilde, (King Clovis’s wife) would prepare the ground for Clovis’s conversion to the Roman Catholic faith. The king’s pledge to convert may have been the outcome of his wife’s persistence but his decision was only taken after an unexpected victory against the Alemanni in the Battle of Tolbiac in 496. He was baptized by the hands of another Saint, Saint Remi along with 3.000 of his warriors on Christmas day 508 AD (the exact year is still questioned by historians) in Reims (129 km  northeast of Paris). Earlier that year the first Roman Catholic King of the Franks had decided to make Paris the capital city of his new kingdom. The importance of his political and religious decisions is still considered to be fundamental for France. After his death in 511 AD he was laid to rest next to St Genevieve in the Abbey of St Genevieve. Saint Clotilde would also be buried with them after a few years.

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As the capital of the Frankish kingdom, Paris would flourish despite the short-term divisions of the realm between future heirs. The foundations of the political unity of Francia were laid by the so-called Salian law system, compiled by King Clovis I and his dignitaries and published sometime between 507 and 510. The laws were in reality a road map for the unification of Gaulish customs, Roman law and Frankish inheritance. In those times a kingdom’s capital meant that along with its political prestige which was elevated per se, the city had to rise to the role of a religious center as well. By the year 540 a large basilica dedicated to Saint Etienne had been erected on the Ile de la Cité. The basilica was erected on a site where an old Gallo-Roman temple of Jupiter that was turned into a paleochristian church when Christianity became the dominant religion and would later evolve into Notre-Dame.

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In 555 with Paris having already hosted two ecclesiastical councils, Germain is chosen by the King of Paris Childebert I  (one of the four Frankish kings following Clovis I’s death), to serve as the bishop of the city. Germain was at the time a former abbot of the Abbey of Saint-Symphorien who had been deposed because of his generous policy towards the poor, that made his fellow monks mutiny against him in fear of the abbey’s future standing. Bishop Germain would attend in two ecclesiastical councils in 557 and 573, that were both held in Paris. In 558 King Childebert I managed to fulfill his 15-year pledge for the construction of a church that would house a relic of  St. Vincent. A few days later Childebert would be buried in the new Church that would serve as the official burial place of many Merovingian kings. It would evolve into the Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés. After his death in 576 Bishop Germain became a Saint venerated by both the Orthodox and the Catholic Church. For hundreds of years in times of plague and crisis, his relics would be carried in procession through the streets of Paris.

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A dark period followed marked by great fires that obliterated the majority of the city’s houses, that were still then plain wooden hatches, leaving only the churches built in stone behind. It was also marked by the civil wars between the Merovingian heirs that obstructed trade and drew the attention of the rulers to the battlefields and not the betterment of their cities. It was a time of re-ruralization, of prosperity for local bishops and empowerment of feudal lords. The latter controlled the land with their castles and held high positions in the army of the king or even in the enemy army if their interest dictated so. The Edict of Paris issued by King Chlothar II in 619 is a formal testament of regal concessions to the country’s magnates and lords.

In the year 628 the last effective Merovingian King Dagobert I takes over and actually rules his kingdom from Paris. Dagobert would order the construction of the famous Abbey of St. Denis. He would be the first of the 43 kings and 32 queens to be buried there until the 19th century. “So much industry did he lavish there, at the king’s request, and poured out so much that scarcely a single ornament was left in Gaul and it is the greatest wonder of all to this very day” according to the Vita of Saint Eligius that describes the shrine built to house the Saint’s relics.

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In 650 AD a former officer at the Royal Chancery named Landry becomes bishop of Paris. A year later a great famine is recorded. Bishop Landry sells all his personal property, including some liturgical objects in order to buy food and distribute it to the hungry and poor. With his knowledge of administrative matters being more than adequate and his concern about the people in need being high, the bishop managed to create Hôtel-Dieu, the first hospital institution in history to receive all the poor and the sick without distinction and the oldest worldwide still operating today. According to the tradition he was also  the one who created the Church of  Saint-Germain l’Auxerrois (next to the Louvre Palace today), a church which became the main parish church of the French kings in the 7th century. After his death in 656 Bishop Landry (St. Landry of Paris) became the fifth pastor from Paris to be canonized.

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In the second half of the 7th century the royal power was in reality exercised by the palace mayors, in other words the owners of the castles and land.  Out of their ranks  sprouted a gifted military leader named Charles Martel (Charles the Hammer). A king in all but name Charles Martel (718-741) managed to win important battles that reunified the Frankish kingdom and repelled its enemies in the south (Muslims) and north (other Germanic people, Saxons e.g.). He was the founder of the Carolingian dynasty, grandfather of the great Charlemagne.

Charles Martel spent almost no time in Paris but nevertheless was buried at the Basilica of Saint Denis. His son Pepin the Short (r. 751–768) would be the first of the Carolingians to assume the role of the king. Although the center of political power had moved to Aachen, Paris continued to hold on to its ceremonial role. Pepin was first crowned in Soissons in 751. In 754 however he would be solemnly anointed by Pope Stephen II, who traveled to Paris to crown him for a second time in a lavish ceremony at the Basilica of St Denis.

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After the death of his brother in 771, Charlemagne became the sole ruler of the Frankish kingdom. In a few years time he would evolve into the single most important ruler of Western Europe since the Roman Age. The Carolingian Empire of Charlemagne became the connecting tissue of most Christian lands in the west, a counterpart of the Byzantine Empire to the East.

In 775 the reconstruction of the Basilica of St. Denis that had started during the reign of his father is completed and Charlemagne is present at the consecration of the new building in Paris. Although the emperor would rule from Aachen he became the agent of renaissance for classical learning throughout the empire. In 789 Charlemagne’s Admonitio Generalis required that schools be established in every monastery and bishopric, in which children can learn to read. A school promoting scholarship and literacy was set up by the British monk Alcuin, leading scholar and teacher at the Carolingian court in Paris. Monasteries which were able to produce teachers were also able to flourish. Many new abbeys were built including several around Paris.

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The abbeys wouldn’t help Paris much when the Viking raids started in the beginning of the 9th century. The Frankish frontier had been brought to contact with the pagan Danes after Charlemagne’s expansions. It was during his time (799) that the first Viking attack took place and it was due to his defense system that the second was repelled a few years after his death (820). After Charlemagne’s death (814) the Frankish kingdom went to his son Louis the Pious (reign 814 – 840). Even before Louis the Pious died, the kingdom was immersed in bloody civil wars. After his death in the year 840, the kingdom was divided in three (Paris became part of West Francia under Charles the Bald) and the civil wars were intensified. The pagan Danes (Vikings) were well informed about the situation in the neighboring Empire and grabbed the chance for a quick raid every time the power struggles in Scandinavia demanded a show of strength. (810, 820, 834 Antwerp and Noirmoutier 836, Rouen 841, Quentovic and Nantes in 842).

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In 845 it was the turn of Paris. In March 5.000 Danes in 120 Viking ships under the leadership of a certain Ragnar (the famous Ragnar Lodbrok according to the tradition) entered the Seine and raided Rouen. Charles the Bald (King of West Francia 840-877) was not willing to let the Royal Abbey of St. Denis fall prey to the Viking hoard but with the old Roman wall being in a pitiful state the city was in essence unprotected. The Parisians would not follow the tradition of St. Genevieve this time. After the Vikings finished with the Frankish army sent to protect the Abbey of St Denis they took Paris and looted everything that hadn’t been taken away by the fleeing Parisians.Holding the city as a ransom the Vikings managed to extract a huge amount of silver and gold (about 2.5 tons) by Charles the Bald and only then they retreated. The story would repeat itself in 856, 857, 858, 861 and 869.

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At last in 870 Charles the Bald was determined to act decisively. He ordered the construction of fortified bridges to be put up at all rivers to block the Viking incursions. The Grand Pont that connected Île de la Cité (Notre Dame Bridge today) to the right bank and the Petit Pont (Cardinal-Lustiger Bridge today) that connect the island to the left bank were rebuilt accordingly.

With the population of the city hitting a low point due to the invasions and the heirs of the Frankish kingdom proving to be short-lived or weak, the power in Paris was in reality exercised by Count Eudes, the first of the Robertian Dynasty that would rule France for a millennium. Coount Eudes or Odo was greatly supported by the noble abbot of St. Denis named Gozlin, who in return was appointed Bishop of Paris by Odo in 883. It was Bishop Gozlin who foresaw the danger of a new attack just in time to avert a new disaster. Relying on the earnings created by the relics of St Genevieve & St Germain he managed to restore the city’s decrepit wall and organize its defense, a year before the Viking ships were again seen on the horizon at the end of 885.

Despite the intimidating volume of the Viking fleet (About 700 ships carrying as much as 40.000 warriors) this time the city would make a stand. The siege lasted for nearly a year and the plague started taking more lives than the Vikings but finally the army of Odo managed to save the city and scatter the Viking army. Bishop Gozlin was among the victims of the plague but Odo would go on to be King of the Franks in 888.

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The Viking raids continued well into the first years of the 10th century. The Robertians or Capetians kept their position as rulers of Paris although they ceded their claim to the French throne to the last of the Carolingian dynasty. After 911 and the Treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte the raids finally stopped and life in Paris started to take a normal pace. Despite that what followed was a rather harsh period marked by famines, floods and epidemics until the end of the 10th century.

In 987 a member of the Robertian dynasty that would become so strong as to change the name of the whole dynasty from Robertians to Capetians, Hugh Capet would jump from his position as Count of Paris to the French throne.  The two most important cities of his personal domain were Paris and Orleans. Although the new king restored the Palais de la Cité which had stood in Roman foundations for almost a thousand years (on the site of the current Palais de Justice) he actually spent more time in Orleans. His son and successor Robert le Pieux however preferred Paris. He finished the restoration of the palace and turned it into his official residence and he also renovated the abbeys of Saint-Germain-des-Pres and Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois which had lain in ruins since the first Viking raids.

Despite these shy steps of improvement, at the dawn of the new millennium  Paris was nothing more than an unimpressive capital of an unimportant state, surrounded by hostile, richer and more powerful realms. When the Queen of Henry I (1031-60), Anne of Kiev came to live with her husband, she wrote to her father Yaroslav the Wise, that the place was “a barbarous country where the houses were gloomy, the churches ugly and the customs revolting”.

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Up until the 1100’s the Capetian Kings struggled to keep their domain intact in an chaotic country of different languages and currencies controlled by powerful feudal lords. The constant infighting with the power-hungry vassals of the kingdom took its toll on the people of Paris who suffered from hunger. Consecutive waves of terrible famines were recorded during that century.

Things only started to take a different turn in 1108, when Louis VI the Fat ascented on the throne. Louis started to take on the robber barons that plagued the countryside with their hired swords. One after the other the obstacles of  communication and commercial activity within the realm of the French king were removed and the economy was revitalized. In the same time the cathedral school of Notre-Dame (a few years before the building of the famous cathedral) started to attract gifted intellectuals of the time like Peter Abelard, a provocative philosopher, theologian, and preeminent logician who became master of the school and so famous for his lectures that hundreds of students from many different countries flocked to hear him teach on dialectic (logic).

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The third agent of change, was the head cleric of Saint-Denis. Abbot Suger (1122-51). In reality Suger was much more than an abbot. His influence extended to the highest ranks of the political sphere. He served for many years as the closest adviser of two kings, (the equivalent of the Prime Minister today) and he even served as regent between 1147 and 1149, when King Louis VII left for the second crusade. As a man who understood politics Suger was convinced that if the common people could not comprehend the Scriptures then they would surely be helped through images carved in stone or imprinted on a stained glass. He basically believed that modern churches should infuse an awe inspiring feeling with their design, their use of light and color. There were practical reasons of course that would support his decision for the reconstruction of the Carolingian Basilica of St Denis in a larger scale. The size of the existing church just wasn’t enough for all the faithful who wanted to enter, especially in times of great religious festivities.

In 1135 Suger’s personal taste, his ability to generate more funds from the privileges given to the abbey and his belief that worldly beauty was completely compatible with the love of God, would change the cultural history of Paris and the West as a whole for ever. In only 15 years after it had been conceived, an extraordinary achievement on its own, the first massive basilica of the kind Western Europeans would be very familiar with in the following years, had been completed. Its pointed arches, ribbed vaults, impressive stained glasses and irregular shapes would become the prototype for the Frankish style that would monopolize the architectural style of religious buildings for hundreds of years. It would later be widely known as Gothic style.

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The population was on the rise (around 25.000 people in 1150) and the city spread from its nucleus on the Île de la Cité to the right bank (north of the river), where soon the majority of markets for meat, grain, fish, fruits etc. were placed,  turning it into the commercial heart of medieval Paris. The Parisian merchants started to receive a special treatment from the king, who granted them the monopoly of all trade taking place across the Seine, at a range that stretched nearly 50 km from the city. The Parisian port was moved from ile de la Cite to the right bank of the Seine at a gravel beach close to the market square of Greve (where the Hôtel de Ville is located today). It soon became the main outlet of all Parisian trade routes. The economy entered a virtuous circle and two new fairs were established attracting merchants from all corners of Europe.

In 1163, the newly elected Bishop of Paris, Maurice de Sully decides to rebuild the Romanesque Cathedral of Saint-Etienne on the ’île de la Cité according to  the contemporary Frankish style (Gothic), a proper reflection of the city’s royal status that could serve its growing population. The foundation stone of the new cathedral that was dedicated to Notre-Dame (Our Lady) was laid in the presence of King Louis VII, and Pope Alexander III. A great part of it would be completed by the time of Sully’s death in 1196.

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The next of the Capetians did not only reshape the fate of Paris but of the whole European continent as well. The fifteen year old Phillip II had to step up to the precarious French throne in 1180. In contrast to his father whose reign was considered to be an accident from the beginning, Phillip II had been raised to be a king and he had eagerly grown into his role from the very start. At the time of his coronation however the realm of his father had again been reduced into a tiny state, just a fraction of the surrounding French duchies and the Plantagenet Empire that stood both in English and in French soil.

Through a series of skillful moves and the fortune that came as dowry from his first marriage with Isabelle of Hainault, Phillip managed to expand his kingdom considerably both south and north in just five years. Also despite his constant movement across the different provinces of his realm, he immediately showed signs of a clear preference for Paris. By 1190 Phillip II had created a new roofed market (Les Halles) for the commerce of meat, bread and wine among others. He had paved the main roads of the city and had already started the construction of a new protective wall, that would encompass all parts of the medieval city and would make her truly impregnable for the first time in history.

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The news of Jerusalem‘s fall to Saladin led to the Third crusade. Philip II, could not repudiate a summons from the Pope. He reigned at a time when the papal bull could easily destroy a king. In the same time he was no fool. After a year of bloody warfare (1190-91) and the Conquest of Acre by the crusaders he decides to head back to Paris. His job at the Holy Land was over and the death of the Count of Flanders during the siege had created new opportunities back home. Philip II’s early departure along with his real politik scheme to keep his former comrade and fellow King Richard the Lionheart of England incarcerated in the prison of the German Emperor Henry VI would open up the first set of vicious wars between the French and the English, a prelude to the Hundred Years’ War of equal ferocity.

 

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During the years of war between the two former comrades (1194-1199) two great projects progressed at full throttle in Paris. The first was the city wall and the second was a fortress, destined to evolve into the most famous museum in the world. The Fortress of the Louvre was being built on the west side, the side more vulnerable to the English attacks (some km away stood the English soldiers of Normandy). Just outside the new wall, the large castle with its wide moat, arrow silts and its ten defensive towers would be the first strong bridgehead of defense. The massive wall the second. In the same time the work in Notre Dame was also advancing in a slow but steady pace despite Bishop Sully’s death in 1196. The High Altar had been consecrated and the transepts were already complete. At the time of the war against Richard the Lionheart the nave was starting to take its shape.

The three projects were of course an enormous and costly endeavor that together with the expenses of a large scale war, were drying up the royal treasury. No doubt many people working in those projects or fighting in the king’s war could make their living but the rest were people dependent on trade. The ugly face of famine started to reappear in Paris while the battle with Richard’s army proved to be a disaster. Phillip was losing one battle after another. Just when Parisians thought it could not get any worse, three horrendous floods swept everything in their passage, including the two main bridges of Île de la Cité.

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King Richard‘s death in 1199 gave Philip II a second chance and the French king would not let it pass by. In 15 years time he managed to win back all the lands conquered by the English king and gradually build up his army to the point that it would be possible to face any enemy on equal terms. In the most crucial battle of his eventful career, Philip II managed to triumph over an intimidating coalition between King John of England, Guillaume I of Holland, Ferrand of Flanders , Henry I of Brabant , Thiebaud I of Lorraine , Henry III of Limburg and last but not least the German Emperor Otto IV in the Battle of Bouvines on 27 July 1214. After that astounding victory Philip II would be forever known as Philip Augustus, an appellation given to him very early on by his chronicler but earned in the eyes of his subjects in that David-versus-Goliath-like battle at Bouvines.

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By the end of King Philip II‘s term in 1223, Paris had become the strong and undisputed capital of a powerful French kingdom. A fortified city protected by a massive defensive wall that due to Philip’s success was nothing more than a demarcation luxury. It was also a city that offered its merchants a well-placed site on the right bank of the Seine, where both goods and vendors could be protected from bad weather and robbery. By establishing Les Halles Philip set the foundations for Paris as a major trading center of Europe. Paris was also a place where the university, officially chartered after year 1200, was an autonomous borough, completely independent from royal jurisdiction. Its teachers and students protected by law. Many of the students were foreign. They followed its reputation as a renowned place of liberal teachings that came after the time of Abelard and its separation from the Cathedral school. Some 20.000 students attended at the university at the time of Philip’s death with a great part of them being German, Italian and English. A whole new district, the Latin quarter would be named by the language of teaching of these students. Three new districts, Saint Honore, Saints Peres and Les Mathurins,  named after the new churches and monasteries built to serve their people, three new hospitals, new aqueducts, the first since the Roman era, numerous new fountains and paved roads, all together with the booming bourgeois class and the draconian law and order of Philip II had transformed the once struggling Capetian capital into a leading capital of the West in less than fifty years.

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With its population growing rapidly (more than 150.000 in 1250) and the kings that followed cashing in on Philip Augustus’ success, Paris seemed mightier than ever. Based on the model of the strong authoritarian monarch his heirs consolidated the fundamental administrative institutions to further serve the crown, not to control it. Louis IX came to power not long after Philip II’s death in 1226. The young of his age (only 12 years when he became a king) and his phenomenal religious zeal made him stand out right from the start. Louis IX squandered a great amount of the royal coffers in two disastrous crusading expeditions against the Muslims but nevertheless managed to keep his finances healthy throughout his long reign. He even lifted many of the tax burdens imposed by his predecessors thus helping create a new prosperous middle class the likes Paris had never known till then. In 1240 Louis spent a fortune in order to put Paris at the forefront of Christendom with the acquisition of what was believed to be the Crown of Thorns from Emperor Baldwin II of the Latin Empire of Constantinople. In less than 10 years he would leave his architectural mark on Paris with the Gothic masterpiece of Sainte-Chapelle created within the Palais de la Cité, in order to house the earth-shaking relic.

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The intellectual life of the city entered into a phase of significant proliferation especially in the field of philosophy based on the growing number of gifted scholars like Saint Bonaventure (studied in 1243 and later became a master in the university of Paris), Thomas Aquinas (studied at the university of Paris after 1245 and later became a master),  Saint Albert Magnus (teacher at the University after 1245)  and Roger Bacon (teacher at the university in the 1240’s) . These intellectuals, philosophers and early scientists reshaped the medieval school of theology based on the freedom given to them by the university of Paris and the prism of Aristotelian thought infused to them by the works of the ancient Greek philosopher, who had just recently been translated in Latin in his entirety.

The studious atmosphere that permeated medieval Paris was imprinted in the most graphic and elaborate way on the numerous volumes of illuminated manuscripts produced not only within the city’s monasteries as was the norm until then but also in lay workshops employing an increasing number of artisans who served the clergy, the schools’ masters and the nobility, as well as the mercantile and professional classes. The distinctive style of this Paris school of scriptoria was later copied throughout France. In 1257 Robert de Sorbon, Louis IX‘s confessor, established a college within the university that would become famous enough as to rename the whole institution as the Sorbonne. Accommodating rich and poor, irrespective of family or geographical background and using criteria of intellectual excellence, the Collège de Sorbon soon made a name for itself as an elite, meritocratic school. By the end of the Middle Ages, the University of Paris had become the biggest cultural and scientific center in Europe, attracting some 20,000 students every year.

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Louis IX’s Christian outlook was soon extended to the field of state politics where despite the fact that he ruled the most prosperous and largest realm in Western Europe he actively sought and achieved peace with the English. His position of strength did not prevent him from making territorial concessions in the southwest (Gascony and Guienne) with the Treaty of Paris in 1259. The king’s piety and eagerness to follow the Papal instructions would create a long lasting precedent of mutual support and intimate relationship between the French kings and the papacy that would only cease with the Italian unification in the 19th century. It would also make Louis IX the only canonized king of France despite his many misdeeds in the eyes of modern day seculars like the introduction of the inquisition in France, the bloody expulsion of the Cathars, the massive burning of Jewish religious books in Paris and of course the fervor for crusades. St Louis is venerated by Roman Catholic Church and Anglican Communion and celebrated every August 25.

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At the time it seemed everyone in Paris wore a gown or a uniform. There were the student gowns and the gowns worn by the masters of the university. There were the gowns and uniforms worn by the members of the royal court, the nobles and the members of the administration. Then there were the soldiers and members of the guet, of the police guard patrolling the streets. And of course there were the members of the church, of the mushrooming monasteries and abbeys and those of the monastic orders.

From the beginning of the 13th century until the end of St. Louis reign in 1270, the Dominican Order, the Franciscans, the Augustinians, the Knights Hospitaller and the Knights Templar had all come to Paris. The Knight Templar in particular had grown so strong and prosperous that after 1240, they had their own, very impressive castle in Paris, the Temple Tour. The Temple Tour was an intimidating 5 stories and 55 meters high tower that served as the treasury for King Louis IX, Philip III, and Philip IV. The tower was located near the Place de Greve, a former marshland, drained by the Templars before the construction of their tower. In the shadow of the tower were several other Templar houses, a farm, a hospital a church and a cemetery. There was also the residence of the master of France that became the residence of the Master of the Order after the conquest of the city of Acre in 1291 by the Mamluks.

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At the end of the 13th century the French throne was occupied by a ruthless and money-hungry king. Philip IV later known as the Iron King (r. 1284 – 1314) had great plans for himself and his kingdom. He dreamt of a new Christian Empire that would be controlled from Paris and would spread from the North Sea to the Mediterranean. According to his plan the Papal state would be under the complete control of the most powerful king in Europe. This grand plan had of course some practical complications. One of them was the great need for resources.

The problems started when the Iron King put forth his plan for the reconstruction of the Palais de  la Cite in 1298. His dream for a new sumptuous palace of exceptional beauty required lots of money. The annulment of the crown’s debts, the new taxes imposed on businesses and income, the reduction of pure gold contained in the state currency, the relentless confiscations of private properties just didn’t cut it. The Lombards and the Jews who initially served as the king’s lenders had already been expelled from Paris, their properties confiscated, the royal obligations cancelled. There was only one player left and the king had his eyes on their mythical fortune. Stepping on the envy of the common people, the widespread reputation for the Templars’ greed but most of all on the total control over the new Pope (Clement V was the Pope who moved the Papal throne from Rome to Avignon, a mere pawn of the French king), the Iron King declared war on the Templars.

All sorts of horrible accusations, heresy, necromancy, sodomy, usury and fraud became the stunning pretext behind a well organized operation of massive arrests on Friday, 13 October 1307, of hundreds of Knights Templar among them the master of the order Jacques de Molay. After many lengthy trials and horrific tortures that led to the early deaths of nearly forty knights, Paris would experience one of the most gruesome spectacles in its history, with the burning of 138 Templars at the stake, according to the favored ritual of the inquisition. The climax came in 1314 with the burning of Jacques de Molay and three more masters of the order  on a small island in the Seine, the Ile des Juifs, near the palace garden. To this day the date of Friday the 13th is considered to be an ominous one in the whole western world.

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The first public riots of merchants and simple people struck by the economic policies, the rising rents and the rampant inflation of the early 14th century had been addressed with equal ferocity by the Iron King who hanged twenty eight of the offenders at the four entries of Paris. He would have no more revolts until the end of his reign in 1314.

Paris was by then the most populous city in Europe with more than 200.000 people within its walls, the kingdom of France the strongest and most populous in Europe. Philip IV however would be mostly remembered for his cruelty. The Templars’ curse (according to the tradition Jacques de Molay uttered a terrible curse at the time of his death against the king and his future heirs) would be  followed by many years of famine, plagues and deaths of three different kings, all Philip’s sons, all without a male heir. The Capetian dynasty was thus over after three centuries.

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More and more people flocked to the capital from the country, seeking jobs and food every time the crops failed to sustain them. The walls that back in the time of Philip II seemed like an extra large costume, now barely fit every house in. With most people being poor in a crowded city without street lighting and the dominant figure of the iron king out of the picture, crime took off. The wooden gallows on the hill of Montfaucon had to be rebuilt in stone in order to withstand the load of extra weight. Sanitation was also non existent. The Seine worked as a large open sewer polluted by human waste,  waste from butchers, tanners and other clothing manufacturers. The narrow medieval streets were overwhelmed by the smells of urine (the chamber pots were routinely emptied out of windows onto the street), of unwashed people and flocks of sheep, pigs, and cows being driven to the markets where the smells mus have been overwhelming. Street merchants went door to door selling fish, garlic, onions, chickens and all sorts of other odorous products. The malodor of Parisian streets became notorious.

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Just when France was entering the bloodiest first round of the Hundred Years’ War with the English, three years after the completion of Notre-Dame (1345), the Black Death came to Paris. The plague found an ideal playing ground in the unhygienic time bomb that was Paris at the time. For two years, the lucky ones that managed to survive the pandemic lived in a state of fear for themselves and their loved ones. The death rate reached 800 a day, the rich people and the king left the city in panic and medieval superstition found its culprit in cats.

Meanwhile France had already lost two important battles to the English, the Battle of Crécy in 1346 where superior English arms crushed a superior in numbers French army and the Battle of Poitiers in 1356, where Edward of Woodstock not only devastated the French army in what was more a massacre than a battle but he even managed to capture the French king, Jean II, his brother Philippe and many of his nobles.

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The two shattering defeats had discredited the Valois in the eyes of the people. With Jean II being captive of the English king, his son Charles V, took over the regency. His young age (18 y. old) and the fact that unlike his father and brother, he had left the battlefield of Poitiers made it harder for him to keep a respected royal profile especially during a period when the rising middle class of merchants and craftsmen questioned the whole status quo and looked for a more democratic way of government.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_II_of_Francehttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_V_of_Francehttps://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%89tienne_Marcel

Étienne Marcel was the provost of the merchants of Paris. When the young king tried to raise new taxes in order to pay for the ransom and cover the excessive expenses of the war, a war so destructive for the interests of merchants, Marcel made his move. With an aim to bridle royal authority with democratic institutions, Marcel led a band of armed Parisians and invaded the Palais de la Cité on February 22, 1358. Two of the king’s marshals were killed before the eyes of Charles V who fled Paris in order to regroup.

Another army of 5,000 peasants suffering from the deprivations of war joined forces with Marcel in May, who was also joined by King Charles II of Navarre who was on the head of an army of English mercenaries. The people of Paris were however divided and riots broke out, forcing Charles of Navarre to flee the city. When Marcel tried to open the gates of the city to the mercenaries of Charles of Navarre for a second time, he was killed at the bastion of Saint-Antoine. Most of his leading supporters followed the same fate. Charles V re-entered his capital on August 2 1358 triumphantly.

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In March 1359 the captive King Jean II signs a treaty with the English in his effort to hold on to the throne. The treaty ceded most of Western France to the English and imposed a unbearable ransom of million écus to the French. Although the English had the upper hand Charles V decided not to give in, overriding the orders of his captured father. The dauphin (name given to the eldest sons of the kings of France) knew the English were superior in an open field so he avoided pitched battles. In the Spring of 1360 King Edward III of England reached Paris. Looking for a big battle that would secure him the French crown, Edward followed a strategy of scorched earth, burning everything that stood outside the walls of the city. Charles V had already started rebuilding and reinforcing the walls and moats of the city since 1356 and the English were not actually prepared for a long siege, so after a few insignificant skirmishes Edward left Paris, plundering the surrounding countryside and heading to Chartres instead. On the 13th of April 1360, the day of Easter Monday, the English army is hit by a huge storm that kills more than 1000 soldiers outside the walls of Chartres. Black Monday was interpreted by both sides as a wrath of god. Edward was forced to accept a treaty with much less gains than it was expected at the start of the expedition and most importantly one that repudiated his claim on the French throne.

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The civil war was over and the English had been temporarily appeased but the widespread poverty was now more evident than ever, with the streets of Paris being full of wandering beggars. Plague came back in 1360 reaping the lives of Parisians for three years in a row. Charles was forced to leave Palais de la Cité for the Castle of the Louvre that was turned into a proper royal palace with ornate rooftops, carved windows, spiral staircases, and a grand garden. He was the first French king to use the Louvre as his palace. In the same time his new wall embraced all the recently built suburbs that reached all the way to the Abbey of St. Germain on the right bank. Six main gates gave access to the interior of the city. One of them was the Porte Saint-Antoine that would be protected by the new fortress of the Bastille. The foundation stone of the new castle was laid in 1370 but Charles V wouldn’t live to see it finished. His son Charles VI completed the construction of the fortress after the death of his father in 1380.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_V_of_Francehttps://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bastillehttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bastille

At the end of Charles V‘s reign the French had started their counter attack against the English and this time the tide had turned. When Charles V died however in 1380 that momentum was lost. Charles VI was eleven years old at the time so the government was entrusted to his four uncles, the Dukes of Burgundy, Berry, Anjou, and Bourbon who squandered the royal funds for their own personal profit and kept raising taxes. With Parisians exhausted by the constant recurrence of plague epidemics (one every three years avg), the war and the high taxes, a new revolt in Paris had to be put down with force in 1382. When Charles VI finally dismissed his uncles and assumed his role in 1388 the people rejoiced hoping for better days. Their hopes were shuttered when the new king suddenly showed increasing signs of madness in 1392 causing a new round of civil unrest at the beginning of the new century.

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When Charles VI was officially declared unfit to rule in 1393, a feud started between his younger brother Louis I, Duke of Orleans and Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy (one of the uncles) who had assumed the role of the regent, sidelining the young prince. Louis resented his uncle but was in essence trapped by a superior strategist. When Philip the Bold died in 1404, his son John the Fearless was in charge of the royal council. Despite his short-hand at that point Louis was the king’s brother not the cousin, so in April of 1407 he finally managed to reshape the composition of the royal council and set himself in charge. The Duke of Burgundy (John the Fearless) was not willing to let royal power slip through his fingers so in November of 1407 Louis I of Orleans is assassinated by a group of masked criminals led by a servant of Duke of Burgundy on Rue Vieille du Temple (in front of today’s Amelot de Bisseuil Hotel). All the people in Paris knew about the feud and most had already sided with the Duke of Burgundy so John the Fearless didn’t bother to mask his involvement. Soon however, the capital found itself divided into two hostile parties. The Orleans party, also known as the Armagnacs, led mostly by members of the royal administration and treasury, whereas supporters of the duke of Burgundy were simple people, students of the University and members of the guilds who blamed old administrations for their high taxes.

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John was not only fearless. He was also a cunning man. He soon managed to win back Charles VI‘s favor and secure a royal absolution for his crime. He then orchestrated the Cabochien revolt in the Spring of 1413, in essence a pogrom against the Armagnacs that very soon turned into an uncontrollable chaos, where wealthy Parisians were assassinated or abducted for ransom. The merchants took the situation in their hands by recruiting their own soldiers who took back control and ousted the leaders of the revolt, the Burgundians and John the Fearless from Paris. Although both parties had secretly conspired with the English in their effort to prevail, when King Henry V of England invaded French territory and asked for their support in his claim to be the rightful King of France, both parties refused to bend the knee. When the time of the big battle came however in 1415, John the Fearless did not send his troops. In the Battle of Agincourt as many as 10.000 French warriors fell to Henry V’s long-bowmen. Most of them from the party of the Armagnac. Within ten days of the battle, the Burgundians had mustered their army and were marching for Paris. The city didn’t fall until May 1418, when John’s allies from inside the city opened the Gate of Saint Germain to the Burgundian army. Hundreds of Parisians fell to the swords of the Burgundians but not the Dauphin, Charles VII of France who managed to escape unharmed. The nemesis for all the offences committed by John the Fearless came in September of 1419 when he was murdered by the Armagnac during what he thought was a diplomatic meeting with the Dauphin Charles VII.

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At the time of the death of his father in 1420, Charles VII had officially lost the north of the country to the English and Paris remained under the control of their Burgundian allies. Although the French people regarded him as the rightful king, the English derisively referred to him as the King of Bourges, after the town where he had set his court in central France. The Parisian merchants and the board of the university had to take an oath to respect the English rule, Charles VII was found guilty of treason, all his privileges to land and titles were invalidated by a Parisian court and a small English garrison was settled in the Bastille and the Louvre. The administration of the city was left to the Burgundians. The course of the war suddenly took a different turn with the arrival of Joan of Arc in 1429 but her winning streak was broken under the walls of Paris by the arrows and crossbow bolts fired by English, Burgundians and Parisian soldiers. The latter had feared that the Armagnac would slaughter everyone if they took back the city. The siege nearly cost Joan’s life which would be eventually taken a few months later (May 1431) after her capture by the Burgundians at Compiègne.

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The English held Paris until 1436. Α year earlier Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, had signed the Treaty of Arras, by which the Burgundian faction rejected their English alliance and became reconciled with Charles VII. For Paris to be taken Charles had to go into secret negotiations with the Parisian bourgeoisie and promise a total amnesty. The Treaty of Arras was also the official end of the civil war between the Armagnac and Burgundians. After nineteen years of foreign occupation, Charles VII entered Paris, on November 12, 1437. In the twenty years that followed he managed to reconquer all the territories occupied by the English with the exception of the northern port of Calais. He would forever be remembered as Charles the Victorious.

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By the year 1500 the population of the city had bounced back despite the frequent visits of the plague and the occasional outbursts of famine that claimed the lives of thousands in one fell swoop like the one in 1481. Overall the country enjoyed a period of growth and prosperity in the second half of the 15th century but the Valois didn’t bother much with their unhygienic and capricious capital. They did pay a visit from time to time but their main concern and consumer of time and money were their new affairs in Italy. The only noteworthy addition from that era to the cityscape came from the monastic Order of the Cluny (Hotel de Cluny built from 1480 to 1510) not the kings.

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Their involvement in Italian matters brought the kings of France in contact with the rich Italian culture in a time of profound intellectual proliferation and artistic revival but it wasn’t until the reign of Francois I (r. 1515 – 1547) that France actually got a taste of the European Renaissance. A man of striking stature and impeccable taste, Francis Ι, pursued beauty in every expression of his personal aesthetics, be that in his impressive wardrobe , his female entourage, his passion for art or his landmark building projects. In contrast with his predecessors Francis I could grasp the importance of the cultural movement taking place in Italy and appreciated it enough to try to import it into France through architecture, patronage of emblematic Italian artists like Leonardo Da Vinci and of course education and literacy.

It was a most fortunate occasion for the city that unlike his predecessors, this Renaissance king, happened to like Paris enough to make it his personal residence. When Francis I declared his intention to move back to Paris in 1528 the old royal palace on the Île-de-la-Cité was occupied by the Parliament of Paris, so he decided to make the grim fortress of the Louvre, a modern Renaissance palace. Although he would not live to see the Louvre finished the king would go on in the construction of seven different palaces, most of them around Paris, with his favorite being the Château de Fontainebleau about 55 kilometres (34 miles) southeast of Paris. All seven of them are prime examples of French Renaissance style.

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As a true philomath who had the privilege to live along Leonardo Da Vinci during the masters’ latter years, Francis couldn’t help but being a lover of books and didn’t spare any expense when it came to his own collection. His agents scoured Italy for rare publications and later he demanded his library be given a copy of every book that was sold in France. He then opened the royal library to all scholars in order to facilitate the diffusion of knowledge. In 1470 the first printing press had been installed at the College of the Sorbonne. By the time of Da Vinci’s death in 1519 Paris had surpassed Venice as the printing and publishing capital of Europe. In 1530 Francis declared a standardized version of French to be the national language of the kingdom and later that same year opened the Collège des trois langues, where students could study  Greek, Hebrew and Arabic.

Francis I was also the one who established the first collection of artworks that would later be exhibited in the Museum of the Louvre. Besides Leonardo he was a friend of a number of great artists like Benvenuto Cellini (a goldsmith, sculptor, musician and poet of immense talent), Rosso Fiorentino (an Italian Mannerist painter of the Florentine school) and Giulio Romano (a pupil of Raphael). Most of these artists were employed in the decoration of the king’s palaces.

Another long-lasting contribution of Francis I was the financing of a new City Hall, one that would signify the transition to an era of greatness. Hôtel de Ville was built in the place of an older city hall built by Étienne Marcel in 1357 into the square of Place de Grève, that was henceforth renamed into Place de l’Hôtel de Ville (City Hall Square). Again the king would not live to see the Renaissance building finished (1628), nonetheless his gift to the city still operates according to its original purpose to this day.

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Looming under the surface of the Renaissance projects during the years of Francis I’s reign was a new conflict that would shake the foundations of his kingdom and thrust Paris into another trance of bloody rivalry. When Martin Luther’s preaching and writings started spreading sparking the Protestant Reformation (after 1517), Francis I saw in the religious movement nothing but a convenient nuisance that plagued the enemies of France. Charles V and Francis I were sworn enemies with conflicting interests so when a number of German princes started turning against Charles V, the new religious trend was in reality useful for the French King. It was when the activism of the fervent reformers reached his doorstep, (Affair of the Placards, 1534) that Francis I changed his attitude towards Protestantism mainly due to his fears that the French movement would turn out to be a threat to his own status. The first persecutions of Protestants officially started after 1535 with the burning of heretics in front of the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris, the suppression of printing freedom, with exiles and executions of non-Catholics. A former militaire 40-year-old Basque theologian, was at that time of religious upheaval attending the famous Catholic University of Paris. On the 15th of August, 1534, in the crypt of Saint Denis, at Montmartre, Ignatius Loyola and his six companions, of whom only one was a priest, founded the Jesuit Order that would very soon become the flagship of the Counter-Reformation.

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In the beginning Protestantism was mostly followed by the lower classes of France but after another student from the University of Paris, John Calvin published his book Institutio Christianae religionis in 1541 (in French language) an increasing number of nobles identified themselves as Calvinists. Although King Henry II (r. 1547 – 1559) would make things even more difficult than his father for Protestants, their numbers swelled to about ten percent of the general population by the end of his term. A clear manifestation of the general discontent for the Papal Church right before the religious wars.

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After the accidental death of Henry II during a jousting match in 1559 at his residence at the Hôtel des Tournelles, things got more tense. Just before his death the king had ordered the arrest of all members of parliament calling for tolerance. His death made Paris a playground for the powerful Catholic family of the Guise. Henry II’s widow,  Queen Catherine de Medici tried to juggle the opposing factions on behalf of her fifteen year old son Francis II with an aim to avoid another civil war and keep the Guises in check but when a group of Protestant nobles tried to kidnap young Francis II and arrest the Duke of Guise and his brother, the Cardinal of Lorraine, in 1560, (Amboise conspiracy) things got out of hand.

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The civil war between the two factions officially started on 1 March 1562 with the Massacre of Wassy, where the troops of the Duke of Guise massacred 63 unarmed Huguenots and wounded a hundred more, holding a secret ceremony in a barn on the way to the Duke’s estates.

From then on, a vicious and in every way unholy war, steeped France in blood for more than 10 years. Protestants are massacred in several French cities and the Duke of Guise seizes the royal family in Paris. Louis de Bourbon Prince of Condé, leader of the Protestant side manages to capture Orleans, Lyon and Rouen and organize several assaults on the outskirts of Paris with the economic support of Elisabeth I of England and the military support of German mercenaries. However they do not succeed in Paris and are forced to fall back.

The Catholics with Duke of Guise take the initiative and recapture Rouen which is later submitted to looting and extreme violence. They then win the important Battle of Dreux and begin the Siege of Orleans where De Guise was killed by Jean de Poltrot de Méré, a former plotter in Amboise (a hand of Admiral Gaspard de Coligny according to most). The latter was captured and tortured on the Place de Grève in Paris. The war continued with frail little breaks of peace imposed in the initiative of Catherine de Medici who tries to impose a policy of tolerance on behalf of the crown until 1567, when the Protestants led by Louis de Bourbon, Prince of Condé tried to kidnap her and her son, Charles IX for a second time. (the 17 year-old Charles was king from 1561 when his brother Francis II died).

https://www.museeprotestant.org/en/notice/premiere-guerre-de-religion-1562-1563/https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis,_Prince_of_Cond%C3%A9_(1530%E2%80%931569)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Massacre_of_Wassy

With the Catholics taking a clear upper hand and Admiral Gaspard de Coligny being on the head of the Protestant armies a new treaty of peace is signed that grants Protestants limited freedoms in certain cities but not in Paris. Being a Protestant in Paris remains illegal according to the Peace of Saint-Germain-en-Laye signed in 1570 by the two parties. The Queen-mother and Charles IX make one last effort to reconcile the two sides. They defend the peace, they accept Gaspard de Coligny back to the royal council and arrange for a royal wedding between Princess Margaret (seventh child of Catherine de Medici and sister of Charles IX) and the Protestant Prince Henri de Bourbon (his uncle Louis de Bourbon had staged the last royal abduction) to be held in Paris in the summer of 1572.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaspard_II_de_Colignyhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Margaret_of_Valoishttps://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henri_IV_(roi_de_France)

There was however a key player in Paris, one that had every reason and interest to see the whole venture fail. The powerful family of the ultra Catholic Guise headed by the 22-year-old Henri I, already experienced in the field of battle against the Protestants and full of hatred from the time of his father’s assassination in 1563 by a man of Coligny (supposedly). Like that wasn’t enough the young Duke of Guise was in a relationship with Princess Margot who was initially intended to be his own bride. The wedding took place on August 18, 1572 in front of Notre-Dame de Paris so as not to raise issues that had to do with particular religious rituals and disputes.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Reine_Margot_(1994_film)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_I,_Duke_of_Guise

After three days of sumptuous festivities, with the city still full of Protestants who had flocked to celebrate what they saw as an official peace pact, Coligny is nearly fatally wounded outside the Louvre from a gunshot that came from a house belonging to the Guises. The horror that followed is known as the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre, in which as much as 3.000 Protestants were slaughtered, regardless of age, sex or status. Although no proof or written document was ever found pointing to the actual orchestrator, it seems that after the failed assassination of Coligny, Charles IX and the Queen mother made the decision to eliminate the Protestant leaders in fear of organised reprisals but the extent of the whole bloodbath was clearly not in their plans.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_Wars_of_Religion & https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fran%C3%A7ois_Duboishttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_Wars_of_Religion

The war continued until the end of the century and the Edict of Nantes signed in 13 April 1598, that eventually put an end to the killings. Paris remained a forbidden land for Protestants even after the treaty despite the fact that after more than 30 years of warfare the majority of the people in Paris felt the need for a reconciliation, a fact proven by the expulsion of the Jesuit order and the rebellion against the leaders of the Catholic League (founded in 1576 by Henry I of Guise with a sole purpose the complete eradication of Protestants), even before the signing of the Treaty.

During the last years of the 16th and first years of the 17th centuries the throne of France was occupied by Henry de Bourbon, the same Henry whose marriage had triggered the most horrible event in Parisian history. Henry de Bourbon became King Henry IV when he finally converted to Catholicism in 1593. His successful reign, especially the first decade of the 17th helped France and Paris recover from the nightmare of the civil war. With the help of his trusted councilor Maximilien de Béthune the Duke of Sully,  Henry IV implemented several reforms that revitalized trade, textile production and agriculture. In the same time he proved to be quite a builder with the enlargement of the Louvre and the Tuileries Palace, the building of the Gobelins Tapestry Factory, the completion of the Point Neuf, the oldest Paris bridge in existence today and the construction of several new squares like the Place Dauphine.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Statue_of_Henri_IV_in_Paris#/media/File:Statue_Henri_IV_Pont_Neuf.jpghttps://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maximilien_de_B%C3%A9thune_(duc_de_Sully)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gobelins_Manufactory#/media/File:Manufacture_des_Gobelins.jpg

Despite all his work, Henry IV was stabbed to death by a fanatic Catholic on May 13, 1610 at 8-10 Rue de la Ferronnerie (close to today’s Centre Pompidou) in Paris. Up to his death the king had managed to survive at least twenty assassination attempts. His son and heir Louis XIII was a bit younger than 8 years old at the time of his father’s death so the Regency passed to his mother, Marie de’ Medici, who would rule France until her son reached his fourteenth birthday.  Marie de Medici, Henry IV’s second wife after Queen Margot, was the sixth daughter of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, born and raised in Palazzo Pitti in Florence. With the city still under shock from the new regicide and most people fearing that an outbreak of a new civil war is imminent Queen Marie makes a cunning strategic move with a double Franco-Spanish wedding that buys her precious time and strengthens her position with a mighty ally. To appease mounting Protestant fears for a new Saint Bartholomew’s day she had previously re-affirmed the Edict of Nantes in a move of equal importance.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Assassination_of_Henry_IV#/media/File:Assassinat_d%E2%80%99Henri_IV_et_arrestation_de_Ravaillac.jpghttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marie_de%27_Medicihttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marie_de%27_Medici_cycle

With the royal coffers full from the wise policies of Duke Sully and the rebellious princes generously compensated in order to stay loyal, Marie felt safe enough to do what all kings of France did when they felt thus. She built herself a new palace. In 1615, three years after her lavish festival at Place Royale, her late husband’s last endowment to the city of Paris, on the occasion of the double royal engagement, the Queen mother placed the foundation stone for her Florentine-like palace (Palais Luxembourg) on a remote piece of land on the left bank, that would make her feel like home. French architects were sent to Florence to make detail drawings of Palazzo Pitti, the greatest palace of her home-town, a Florentine fountain-maker took on the task of an impressive Italian Renaissance style fountain (Medici fountain), the most famous artist of the time, Peter Paul Rubens was brought in to decorate the interior and the gardens were modeled after those of the Boboli Gardens in Florence. There was just a petty detail that the builders had to overcome. The land on the left bank (where the university and religious institutions were located) did not have the needed water sources for such a project.  Wells were the only source of inland water then, and these were easier to dig in the softer ground, on the other side of the river. That was the reason why the left bank was still then, less populated compared to the right. The restoration of the ancient Roman aqueduct and the construction of a new 13 km underground water conduit with several Regards (little stone houses that provided access to the running water) in-between, made the Palace of Luxembourg the new pride of the court and the left bank the new hot-spot for the Parisian nobility.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medici_Fountainhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luxembourg_Palace

For three years the Queen mother refused to be sidelined and let Louis XIII exercise his rightful royal duties. By 1617 the pubertal impatience of the dauphin had grown into a full-fledged indignation. In a move that did not fall far short from a Coup d’état, the palace was raided, the closest advisers of the Queen mother like Léonora Dori arrested and executed as enemies of the state and Queen Marie herself banished from court. It was a showy maneuver of emancipation for all Paris to know. Louis XIII would now be the king and nobody, not even his mother could stop that. The young of his age did not prevent Louis from acknowledging the need for competent associates. His unfortunate first choice in the face of Charles of Albert , Duke of Luynes was more than rectified with the placement of Cardinal Richelieu, an ingenious and broadly educated bishop and statesman in the head of the government. Richelieu had been in Queen Marie‘s close circle and was the one who reconciled Louis XIII with his mother right before the outbreak of a new civil war. As opposed to Louis XIII who showed more interest for hunting and battles against revolted (Protestant) provinces, Richelieu was more interested in the affairs of Paris and passed as much time as he could in the city.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marie_de%27_Medici_cyclehttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_XIII_of_Francehttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cardinal_Richelieu

Richelieu’s wits made many historians come to the conclusion that it was he who actually ran the whole show and not the king. Especially after the conquest of the last Protestant stronghold, the city of La Rochelle, where Richelieu showed exceptional military skills he was literally impregnable. When the time came for the king to make a choice between his mother (their tumultuous relationship surely played a role) and Richelieu, the king chose the latter (1630).

With the official royal residence being the Palace of the Louvre since the early 1580’s and Richelieu being equally perceptive in matters of real estate as well as politics, a vast property that stretched opposite to the north wing of the Louvre is bought and divided by him into lots. On the west side of the property Richelieu builds his own palace, the Palais Cardinal, that is bequeathed to the king and becomes Palais Royal after his death in 1642 (today it is the house of the Ministry of Culture and the Constitutional Council of France). The rest of the lots become the new favorite neighborhood of government officials and members of the royal council. The cardinal’s architectural mark on Paris was further expanded with the creation of four new bridges over the Seine. Two of them, the Pont Marie and the Pont de la Tournelle are built to join a new island, the Île Saint-Louis, to the Seine’s banks. The Île Saint-Louis can be credited to Richelieu, since most of the project was carried out during his government but in reality the plan for the creation of the island belonged to Henry IV . It was financed by two private investors who reaped the benefits of its commercial exploitation when the once muddy pasture for cows was turned into the most charming showpiece of the capital (late 17th).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palais-Royalhttps://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palais_du_Louvrehttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%8Ele_Saint-Louis

By the time of Richelieu’s death in December of 1642, the French throne was stronger than ever, the powers of the great noble lords had been curtailed, the Huguenots subdued and Paris had been turned into a model of Catholic renaissance. The Jesuits had resumed their role of educators, the clergy had regained respect and new sumptuous Churches like Saint-Eustache, the  Sorbonne Chapel and Saint-Paul-Saint-Louis glorified the victory of the true faith. The great statesman had done everything in his power to secure that his king would be the envy of all kings and to a great extent he had succeeded. It was Richelieu who paved the way for the Sun King the true envy of every absolute monarch that followed. King Louis XIII died few months after Richelieu. Contrary to the caricature of their relationship based on Alexandre Dumas‘ novel The Three Musketeers the two men died with their beds side by side according to the orders of the king.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/College_of_Sorbonnehttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint-Eustache,_Parishttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint-Paul-Saint-Louis

The Sun KingLouis XIV, was just four years old when his father died (1643), so for a third time in history the royal power in France passed to a woman’s hands, the Queen Mother, Anne of Austria. Once again a gifted clergyman was chosen as the head of state with a hope that he should follow on Richelieu’s footsteps. The Italian born Cardinal Mazarin was a trusted hand of Richelieu rumored to be in a secret relationship with the Queen with some historians even suspecting that he was the true father of the child king. Although France had stayed out of the Thirty Years’ War, the tension with the Habsburgs had brought the Spanish troops on the doorsteps of Paris twice in only few years. The undeclared war needed funding so taxes had to be maintained at a high level. In the same time Mazarin invented new ones, that affected both rich and poor. In 1648 Mazarin’s policies caused the outcry of the parliament. The Queen ordered the arrest of the leading dissenters and soon after riots broke out across Paris. Barricades of chains were set up in hundreds of streets demanding the release of their representatives and the houses of Mazrin’s associates were attacked. The Freunders (from the word fronde which meant sling, like the ones used by the rebels to catapult stones) managed to take over the city and burst into the Palais Cardinal, now Palais Royal, demanding an audience with the 10-year-old king who had to feign sleep. Queen mother and Louis XIV had to flee Paris two times to avoid the humiliating house arrest.

https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anne_d%27Autriche_(1601-1666)https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_XIVhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paris_in_the_17th_centuryhttps://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Journ%C3%A9e_des_barricades_(1648)

In essence the fight would be given between those who wanted to have a word in economic matters and those who served the crown. At times the distinction between the two sides was not so clear, like in the case of Louis Grand Condé who started the standoff as a celebrated commander of the royal army but then changed sides and became the leader of the Fronde. In 1652 three battles were fought between the royal army and the army of the Fronde outside Paris and all three were won by the royals. The Parisians had had enough of bloodshed so in September they kicked Condé with his soldiers out and sent word to the king to return. Mazarin and Louis XIV returned to Palais Royal victorious at time when the young king had reached the needed age to assume his duties (14 y.old).

https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bataille_du_faubourg_Saint-Antoinehttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis,_Grand_Cond%C3%A9https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_XIV_of_France

The ups and downs of politics didn’t seem to have an affect on the city’s overall population which increased exponentially from 300.000 in 1600, to 500.000 in 1680. With it came a rapid increase in the number of beggars, poor, homeless and desolate who scavenged the streets for an occasional work or a handout to make their living. Prostitutes and thieves were spread out all over the city, as were the slums where the poor lived in horrid conditions. Paris had about twelve of these slums in the 17th century when most European cities had one. The Cour des Miracles, or Courtyard of Miracles was an all-encompassing term referring to all the slums of Paris and the people who feigned various maladies in order to evoke sympathy but were miraculously cured when they returned to their “courtyard of miracles”. The term was invented by a 17th century Parisian historian named Henri Sauval  describing in detail a whole world of outcasts who had formed a crooked society of their own, with its own casts, laws even language. That society of les miserables categorized its people according to the specific category of begging (some feigned illnesses, others war injuries etc) or thievery they where involved with. That parallel society even had its own king and court of dukes. The shocking details of Sauval‘s history became an inspiration for works like The Hunchback of Notre-Dame and Les Misérables , two of the most famous novels of Victor Hugo who lived in Paris in the first part of the 19th century.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cour_des_miracleshttps://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cour_des_Miracleshttps://www.paris-normandie.fr/loisirs/bd--plongee-dans-la-cour-des-miracles-EG12362314

The survival of these vagabonds and of the lowest classes depended entirely on a constantly growing multilayered middle class of merchants and craftsmen, shopkeepers and employees , seafarers and well paid soldiers, painters and sculptors, pharmacists and tailors known as the bourgeois. A part of the bourgeois of Paris was constituted by state employees, more than 45.000 in the time of Louis XIV . The upper layers of the society were consisted of government officials, lawyers, magistrates, notaries and successful businessmen. Then there were the nobles and the members of the court. All these people had a refined taste in clothes, they sought for luxury goods and engaged in recreational sports like the Jeu de paume (an early type of tennis) and the billiards, watched theater plays by the Illustre Théâtre, the theater company founded by Molière in 1643. All classes, rich and poor marveled on the numerous architectural gems of the capital that was now adding to its extraordinary pallete, the new buildings of the so called Flamboyant Gothic or French baroque of the 17th century.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_Parishttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paris_in_the_17th_centuryhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moli%C3%A8re

After 1652 the palace of the Louvre was completely redesigned, beautified and enlarged according to the wishes of the Queen mother Anne of Austria and Cardinal Mazarin. The young Sun King continued his military training away from the city. He would return in 1660 to give Parisians a show like no other, a celebration for his wedding to Maria Theresa, daughter of Philip IV of Spain, a marriage that put an end to the wars with the Spanish after more than a century and a half. The spectacle of the impressive royal procession accompanying the royal couple through triumphal arches between the Louvre and Hotel de Ville would only be matched by the one given two years later for the birth of the king’s firstborn. At the head of a Grand Carousel, dressed as a Roman Emperor with the sun on his royal shield as his new emblem Louis stepped on Parisian self-indulgence to present himself as a mighty emperor of a new Rome that was Paris.

In many ways all the things that made him the Roi Soleil happened in these first years of the 1660’s. The integrity of France was secured giving him the freedom to shine, his chosen head of state Cardinal Mazarin died forcing him to take all matters into his hands, to be an absolute monarch, the flashy and spendthrift minister of finance Nicolas Fouquet whose sumptuous lifestyle sometimes over-shined that of the king himself was removed, Fouquet’s personal architect became the king’s master builder, the one who would transform the Versailles from a remote hunting lodge to the greatest palace the world has ever known.

https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_Carrousel_de_1662https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ch%C3%A2teau_de_Versailles

Τthe work was still in progress at the Louvre when a great fire destroyed a part of the palace and led the court to the The Tuileries Palace from 1667 to 1672. During that period the king’s architects were simultaneously working in the restoration of the Louvre, the expansion of the Tuileries and the building of the Versailles. After 1672 although the work was far from over the court moved into the Versailles. Louis’ obsession with Versailles had started back in 1661. Up to his death in 1670 Louis Le Vau had barely managed to complete the apartments of the royal family. What was ready when the king moved in was a great part of the spectacular gardens, the Tethys cave, the orangery, the menagerie and the Apollo basin.

https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grotte_de_T%C3%A9thyshttps://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ch%C3%A2teau_de_Versailles

It wasn’t just the palaces that were being built in the time of the King Soleil. In fact the city experienced a building boom and improvement of day to day issues like never before. The Champs-Élysées and its gardens were laid out in 1667, the Paris Observatory built by 1672, the Hôtel des Invalides, a home for wounded soldiers inaugurated by 1674, the building of the Collège des Quatre-Nations, the most amazing hybrid of Baroque and Classical style was finished by 1688, the city walls built by Charles V and Louis XIII were razed to make way for the Boulevards Parisiens, the legendary grand boulevards of Paris were ready by 1705.

https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/H%C3%B4tel_des_Invalideshttps://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coll%C3%A8ge_des_Quatre-Nations

In the same time street lighting was introduced for the first in a large scale, making Paris a city of light (the term originates from that period) and the police force of the city was reorganized, the number of the city watchmen quadrupled, all men of every different security force were put under one umbrella, bringing the sense of safety in the crime-ridden streets of the capital for the first time in years. The hygienic and sanitary conditions were improved, new squares like the Place Vendome and the Place des Victoires offered a new set of open spaces to the Parisians and new triumphal arches like the Porte Saint-Denis and the Porte Saint-Martin celebrated the military victories of the Sun King.

https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Place_Vend%C3%B4mehttps://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Place_des_Victoires

Louis XIV died of gangrene in September of 1715. During his 72 year old reign (the longest recorded in history) the Sun King had managed to make France the envy of the world, admired for its military and cultural prowess, French became a universal language of the elite. Despite his distrust towards the Parisians since the events of his house arrest during the Fronde movement, he actually managed to give Paris what he had promised in the beginning of his reign, a stature and grandeur that had not been seen since the time of Ancient Rome. On the other hand, his misconceptions, his megalomania and bellicosity, his persecution of Protestants, his over-concentration of powers and his excessive expenditure set the foundations for a social upheaval that would lead to the French Revolution and the violent abolition of the monarchy in 1789.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_XIV_of_Francehttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_XIV_of_Francehttps://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Louis_XIV_de_France#/media/File:Louis_XIV_Louvre_HPIM0248.jpg

Two years after the death of Louis XIV a young libertine writer named François-Marie Arouet is incarcerated in Bastille for eleven months after offending the new regime, the Regent Philippe II d’Orléans who had taken power in the name Louis XIV‘s  five year old great-grandson Louis XV. The young libertine had been a frequent of a gentleman’s club known for its wit and secular skepticism. The bourgeois gentlemen drank and recited biting verses about the church and the court. When one of those verses reached the ears of the Regent, Francois was exiled. When the story repeated itself Francois was imprisoned in Bastille. During his imprisonment the young libertine adopted the name Voltaire and wrote his first play, Oedipus, an adaptation of Sophocles‘ tragedy Oedipus Tyrranus, that became an instant hit. It was the official beginning of a new age, the age of enlightened humanists like Voltaire,  Montesquieu, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Denis Diderot who questioned the traditional doctrines and advocated for the transformation of the social structure on the basis of scientific knowledge and empiricism. It was the Age of Enlightenment and Paris was at its forefront.

What went hand in hand with bright philosophers besides the new fashion of cafes (by 1720 and in just a few years there were about 400 in Paris) was not as luminous and auspicious as the name of the age implies. Frequent spells of bad weather and failed crops, in combination with the loss of the greatest part of the New World colonies to the British, along with the bankruptcy of the Royal Bank of Paris that brought a great number of the bourgeois to their knees, had created an explosive mixture of widespread poverty and disillusion with the royal regime which was increasingly cut off from the people inside its golden bubble at Versailles.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philippe_II,_Duke_of_Orl%C3%A9anshttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Age_of_Enlightenment https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voltairehttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marie_Th%C3%A9r%C3%A8se_Rodet_Geoffrin

In the 30-year period that preceded the revolution there were some public works of a large scale taking place in Paris like the Square of Louis XV (now the Place de la Concorde), the Sainte-Geneviève church (the current Pantheon ), the Odeon Theater and the Halle aux blés grain marker but the scale of all of them put together was nowhere near the reality experienced during the golden years of the Sun King. There were of course great mansions and palaces built by Counts, nobles and rich like the Elysee Palace and the ones built by the aristocrats in Faubourg Saint-Germain, the most posh neighborhood of the era but these were in contrast with the majority of small and poor houses, built more and more on top of each other, sometimes six, seven even nine stories high, in order to house the ever increasing population (around 600.000 at the second half of the 1700’s). Both Voltaire and Rousseau describe the situation of the city center of narrow, dirty and foul-smelling streets as unhealthy, hideous and sometimes even barbaric.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paris_in_the_18th_centuryhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panth%C3%A9on

When Louis XV died in 1774 the Parisians heaved a sigh of relief. The placards of protest that were habitually hang from the king’s statues and the gates of his palaces were not enough to quell the accumulated hatred caused by the prolonged wars in Europe and America, the consecutive military defeats in both fronts, the economic depression, the regressive tax system, the corruption and special treatment of the king’s entourage, the decadence and extravagance of the Versailles. The nightmare of famine constantly hovering over the head of the poor was sweeping through an increasing number of middle class and bourgeois at the time of Louis XV.

When Louis XVI ascended on the throne in 1774 the omens were bad. The experiment of the liberalization of agricultural markets, had backfired causing an increase of prices in grain for a number of years and Paris was not a grain producing region. A rumor had started to circulate that the government was deliberately trying to eliminate the poor by starvation. For 17 days nearly 180 conflicts were identified in the Paris Basin (Guerre des farines 1775)  all related to the price of grain. The echoes of the American declaration of independence in 1776 did not seem that far away to the frustrated Parisians. That same year Benjamin Franklin became the first ambassador of the United States sent to Paris to represent the American government. The Treaty of Paris signed in 1783 ended the American Revolution and planted the final seed for the French that would follow six years later.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_XVI#/media/File:LouisXVI-France1.jpghttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benjamin_Franklin#/media/File:Franklin1877.jpghttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty_of_Paris_(1783)

The winter of 1788-9 was particularly harsh. Trying to cope with the growing discontent and the danger of imminent bankruptcy Louis XVI accepted the convention of an Assembly of the Three Estates (the Clergy, the Nobility and the People) that had not taken place since 1614. The king and his finance ministers hoped that the assembly would help them bypass the rigid opposition of the nobility (hence the parliament) to bear a part of the huge royal debt through taxation. By June 1789, the Third Estate, that of the people, had formed a new body, the National Assembly and its members had taken an oath (Tennis Court Oath) not to give in until they had given France a constitution. On July 11, the King sacked his reformist Director-General of Finance Jacques Necker, a man who had advocated doubling the representation of the Third Estate. New rumors that the king meant to attack Paris or arrest the deputies sparked the first riots of the French Revolution.

The Hotel de Ville and soon after the Arsenal at Les Invalides fell to the mob which was now armed with thousands of weapons but no gunpowder. More than two hundred barrels of it had been moved to the royal prison of the Bastille for safekeeping. The symbol of royal tyranny became an obvious next target and its walls were all that separated the milice bourgeoise from the control of the city. Within a few hours of a siege, about 1000 people, artisans, regular army deserters, even wine merchants, manage to take over the fortress defended by a little more than 100 veteran soldiers. The governor of the Bastille, the Marquis de Launay, who had surrendered the fort to avoid carnage, would pay it with his life. His head on a pike in front of the Hotel de Ville a retribution for the hundred dead attackers. Almost all of the soldiers were spared. The fort of the Bastille was taken down bit by bit and its prisoners released.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tennis_Court_Oathhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Storming_of_the_Bastille

The Paris Commune, formed in Hotel de Ville after the storming of the Bastille was running things now. The new mayor,  leader of the Third Estate and instigator of the Tennis Court Oath,  Jean-Sylvain Bailly received the king at the Hotel de Ville who rushed to pay tribute to the new government and was presented with the new symbol of the revolution: the tricolor cockade ( red and blue, the colors of Paris, and white, the royal color ) under the cheers of the crowd. Despite the take over and the declaration of the groundbreaking Declaration of the Rights of the Man and of the Citizen in August, the economy hadn’t changed, the grain prices had not gone down. Most workers spent nearly half their income on bread. In October a crowd worked up by the incendiary rumors of newly founded newspapers and persistent starvation, started a march from the marketplaces of Paris. The march was headed by a young woman striking a marching drum at the edge of a group of market-women who were infuriated by the chronic shortage and high price of bread. The march was joined by thousands and in about six hours it was in Versailles. The palace was stormed and Louis XVI with his unpopular Queen Marie Antoinette were forced to leave Versailles and move back to Paris and the Tuileries Palace. With the government and the king under the control of the National Assembly the first anniversary of the revolution was celebrated in July 1790 in a spirit of solidarity in the vast stadium of Champ de Mars where the king and deputies of the National Assembly took an oath in front of 300.000 Parisians to respect the new constitution. The grand feast that followed made everyone seem happy but what followed was not as civil.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women%27s_March_on_Versailles#/media/File:MarchWomenVersailles5-6october1789.jpghttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F%C3%AAte_de_la_F%C3%A9d%C3%A9ration

The people started to realize the true extent of their power and soon they were divided in three camps. The moderates rooting for a constitutional monarchy with the Mayor Jean Sylvain Bailly and the Commander of the National Guard (former milice bourgeoise), hero of the American Revolution, Marquis de Lafayette. The radical Jacobins, dominated by Robespierre and the most fervent and fanatic revolutionaries of all led by Georges Danton. Α wave of violence surged through the city with one faction fighting the other. Many aristocrats started to leave Paris. The members of the clergy were forced to take an oath to the constitution or leave the country, the Church property was confiscated. The King’s attempt to flee Paris sparked new rumors of a secret pact with the Austrians and the aristocrats, dozens of new libels gave vent to the rumors of treason and the lowest and most fanatic took over the government. The King with his Queen followed the hundreds that were executed as counter-revolutionists in what became a true reign of terror. Even leading revolutionists themselves like mayor Jean BaillyDanton and finally Robespierre became the victims of the Committee of Public Safety that in Paris alone executed more than 2.500 people until the end of 1794. The first days of the republic were drenched in blood. Paris nothing but a gruesome theater of terror where the new invention of the Parisian deputy Joseph-Ignace Guillotin (the guillotine) was put to the test with as many as fifty executions a day.

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The fall of Robespierre put an end to the executions and the reign of terror. Appalled by the practices of many of their former comrades the republicans created a new form of government known as the Directory (le Directoire) . Its purpose to draft another constitution that would prevent the concentration of power in one person or executive body. The city of Paris was placed under the direct control of the national government given its crucial role in every one of the events that had been played out during the revolution. One of the allies of the new government was the French Army which managed to come out victorious in a series of battles against the royal armies of the Habsburgs. Its initial purpose to defend France had evolved into a war of territorial expansion into Austrian Netherlands and Prussia. However the enemies were more than the allies were. Firstly there was the continuation of the extremely cold winters which in their turn created failed crops, shortages in staple foods like bread and inflation. The value of money (Assignat) had dropped to eight percent of its original value. Then there were the Jacobins who had not really lost their influence on the poor people. In May 1795 they attempt the first revolt, they invade the National Convention at the Tuileries Palace but the army manages to restore order. Finally there were the Royalists and the Constitutional Monarchists that in October of that same year marched towards the Tuileries Palace with an army of 25.000. The Directory was saved by a young second rank General named Napoleon Bonaparte, a former Jacobine from the Island of Corsica, whose star shone enough that day as to catapult him in the first ranks of the French army in a matter of days.

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What Napoleon lacked in family name or noble credentials, he more than compensated with ambition, courage and military ingenuity. On March 2, 1796 Napoleon gets a new promotion as a commander in chief of the army of Italy. A week later he is married to Josephine of Beauharnais, a widow of the former General of the Army of the Rhine, six years older than him (Napoleon was 27 y. old at the time) with two children. Just two days after their marriage Napoleon leaves Paris for Italy. When he returned to Paris in 1799 after a series of military feats, the Second Coalition of European Monarchies, empowered with the participation of the Russian Empire had already launched its attack pn several fronts and Paris was ruled by the radical neo-Jacobins  in a general climate of political intrigues and fiery factionalism. The people had grown tired of the Directory’s ineffectiveness and had substantial reasons to suspect the corruption of many of its members. On the other hand Napoleon’s popularity was not only a matter of one party or one class. He was equally admired by simple people and nobles, Jacobins and moderates. One month after his triumphant reception by the Parisians, on November 9, 1799, with the help of his brother Lucien Bonaparte, the much experienced Talleyrand, of Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès (one of the architects of the French Revolution of 1789) and the minister of police Joseph Fouche, at the age of 33, Napoleon Bonaparte becomes the head of the state as first consul after a coup d’état that ended both the Directory and the ten year period of the French Revolution.

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Just as Napoleon was putting his plan in force to put the capital back on its feet,  his enemies were putting in motion their own, to get him out of the picture for good. In the first year alone Bonaparte managed to survive two plots against him, one in September 1800, at the premiere of a theater play and two months later, on Christmas Eve while on route to the opera, when the explosion of a trapped carriage barely missed him. Not only Napoleon remained unshakable but he became even more determined to make himself and his rule more powerful, to make Paris not just the most beautiful city in the world but the most beautiful city that ever existed.

From his new residence at the Tuileries Palace, Napoleon first reorganizes the capital into twelve districts, each governed by its own mayor, all under the umbrella of two Prefects appointed by him. He then orders the creation of new cemeteries outside the city and the building of three new bridges across the Seine. A new canal bringing clean fresh water from Ourcq river to Paris is dug out and a new committee responsible for its sanitation is established.

A national referendum in 1802 that made Napoleon First Consul for life and a second in 1804 that elected him Emperor of the French, both by an overwhelming majority, made him an omnipotent ruler. On 2 December 1804 Napoleon Bonaparte was crowned Emperor of the French at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris by Pope Pius VII and Josephine an Empress. Sumptuous luxury, regalia with a reference to the Roman Empire and Charlemagne, swords used for centuries by the Valois and the Bourbons, orchestras with four choruses, a 400-voice choir and over three hundred musicians, numerous military bands playing heroic marches, dazzled Parisians and made them feel that the greatest days were ahead. And for a period of time that was true especially for Paris.

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With protective tariffs and reliable financing, Napoleon encouraged the peasants to work efficiently and buy land, to produce more in order to support the economy and his growing army. Industry was also of interest to Napoleon. He visited factories, showed interest in processes and products, in the artisans and the managers. He aspired to bring science to the service of industry. He set up industrial exhibitions, organized the École des Arts et Métiers, and rewarded inventors and scientists. Inventions like the weaving apparatus distributed by the government in order for French textile industry to become competitive with the British. The Bourse (stock exchange) moves at its very own temple, the Palais Brongniart  and the enormous Halle aux Vins intended to make Paris the main entrance port for wine in Northern Europe is established. Things in the economy started to look good and unemployment fell to a low point. The Parisians rejoiced and their joy was expressed through dancing, hundreds of bals publics sprang up and Guinguettes (a sort of suburb cabaret). Relations with the Church were restored and exiled nobles started coming back. Even the clothes that during the reign of terror were under the strict codes of political conviction, were now more extravagant, fashionable and lively than ever.

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True to his goal, to turn his capital into a new Imperial Rome in 1806 Napoleon orders the construction of Arc de Triomphe and  Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, inspired by the Imperial arches of Rome and the Vendôme Column, modeled by Trajan’s Column in Rome, made of the iron of cannon captured from the Russians and Austrians in 1805. Numerous new fountains including Fontaine du Palmier providing fresh water from the Ourcq River to the citizens of Paris were built around the city. Wide new streets like Rue de Rivoli and Rue de la Paix were inaugurated. The quays of the Seine were increased and reorganized while the Louvre became the Musée Napoléon displaying art treasures seized by the French Army. The Sorbonne that had been left in ruins by the revolutionaries due to its clerical orientation was reestablished based on the Faculty of Arts with people coming to study Greek, Latin, literary history, French literature, philosophy, ancient and modern history and geography.

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The halcyon days of the Empire lasted until the end of 1809 but even during that period the economy struggled to keep up with Napoleon’s plans. The British superiority in the sea and the tightening blockade of the French naval trade had created dire repercussions in all sorts of businesses in Paris that relied on the precarious dealing of contraband to avoid shortages. The taxes were constantly on the rise but so was the deficit of the government. A bad harvest in 1811 was all it took for the grain prices to start spiraling upwards again and the ghost of famine to reappear. Napoleon was not the sweetheart of everyone any more. In fact outside the army that was always loyal to him there was little love for him in the streets of Paris in 1812. When the campaign to Moscow proved to be a disaster and people started to learn about its unprecedented extent, they were shocked to hear the Emperor was entertaining at the Tuileries. After the Russian debacle Napoleon would have to rely on the terror of his omnipresent secret police to keep order in the capital.

In the Battle of Leipzig in October 1813, the largest battle in European history before World War I, Napoleon’s winning streak was shuttered by the joint army of Prussia, Austria and Russia. The dreams of a long lasting French Empire crumbled with a deafening roar on the backs of the thousands French soldiers lying dead on the battlefield. Napoleon retreaded and the allies marched straight to Paris. The Russian army entered the Porte Saint-Denis on 31 March 1814 with many Parisians waving white flags as a sign of good will, a clear indication of how tired they had grown of war during those years. Many observers like Napoleon’s architect Fontaine were taken by surprise by the people’s reaction and compared the event to a peaceful festival not a march of a foreign army. In April Napoleon signed his abdication and left Paris for Elba island.

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In May 1814, with the British, Russian, Prussian and Austrian troops still camped along the Champs Élysées, the exiled Bourbon Louis XVIII returns to Paris in an open carriage drawn by eight white horses. He was welcomed by exalted royalists and Napoleon’s former comrades, Talleyrand and Fouche who had orchestrated his return. In March of 1815 the King and the Parisians were awestruck to hear that Napoleon had escaped his prison and was on his way to Paris.  Louis XVIII fled the city and Napoleon was back at the Tuileries Palace in less than a year from his supposed life-sentence. His fascinating escape captured the hearts of the simple people who could not stomach another royalist regime, the restored nobility and the dissection of their Empire. However when the possibility of an new war became a certainty, the enthusiasm resided. The Battle of Waterloo in June 1815 became Napoleon’s swan song. By mid July the allies had returned to Paris and in a matter of days Louis XVIII was restored to the throne. At last Parisians would have the peace they longed for after decades of war and revolution. Or at least that’s what they thought they would get.

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In reality things were anything but calm. The period that followed is now known as the Second White Terror, a period when emigre extremists and ultra royalists finally took their revenge and settled old scores. Purging of the administration with thousands of public employees, soldiers and senior officers of the Grand Napoleon Army who were relieved of their duties, exiles, lynchings, trials and threats were all put in the service of the greater cause. Napoleon’s men and sympathizers had to be uprooted. The roots of a new  revolution were thus planted from the very beginning. A fresh influx from the provinces increased the population to 714.000 by 1817 and the delayed industrial revolution arrived in the form of new manufacturing industries, gas lighting and daguerreotypes (first photographs). Infrastructure and the cityscape in general was left in the state it was during Napoleon by the Bourbons. Some iconic projects like the Burse were completed but sanitation and the sewer system was as primitive as ever. The situation worsened with the surging population especially in the poor neighborhoods where filth and rubbish were disposed on the streets and ran directly into the Seine when the rain would come. Money, good clothes and rich people were indeed more, due to the increase of commerce as it was always in times of peace but the poor people of Paris were always right around the corner, the markets were common for both rich and poor and the number of poor had been increased even more by the thousands of impoverished soldiers of the Napoleonic Army.

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In the summer of 1830 with Charles X on the throne, a king strongly opposed to the concessions made by the crown in the past 40 years like the constitution that had been signed by the restored Louis XVIII in 1814, the economy was in a recession, the wages at a low point and unemployment on the rise. The icing on the cake was the soaring prices of grain and bread. When Charles X decided to suspend the constitution, reinstate the censorship of the press and tried to alter the composition of the elected Chamber of Deputies in July of 1830, it was only a matter of days before another perfect storm broke out. The July Revolution the one that inspired the famous Delacroix painting, was lit by the texts of contraband newspapers and journalists who cried for action against the Bourbons, action for the defense of the constitution. In a matter of only few days (July 27 – August 2) the last Bourbon king had been forced to abdicate and in a few days more he had departed from Paris with his son, the Dauphin, for Great Britain.

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In modern societies the art of literature is often seen as a refuge. In early 19th century that connection was not as self-evident mainly due to the censorship of all printed texts and especially books. Writers struggled for freedom, while literature was banned and censored based on somewhat trivial claims. When Napoleon’s ironclad control was lifted in 1815, French literature blossomed.  Honoré de Balzac, Alexandre Dumas, Victor Hugo, Stendhal, were all writers who lived and worked in Paris in the 1820’s, writers who left an indelible mark in their art and described in the most graphic way how it was to be poor in early 19th century Paris. Their fame and worldwide appeal added to the long line of tradition passed on by the thousands of scholars of the Sorbonne during the years, by Moliere and Voltaire and followed a few years later by Flaubert (1821 -1880) and Zola (1840 – 1902) created a myth, an inexorable link between European writers and Paris that would continue well into the 20th century.

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The classes laborieuses of Paris had no real interest in celebrating the coming of the new king Louis Philippe I. For the lower classes the pressing matters had not been resolved. Two epidemics of cholera, in 1832 and in 1849, hitting mostly the residents of poor slums, where the new waves of incoming population resided in horrid conditions, took the lives of nearly 40.000, mostly members of the under-class, a class so graphically portrayed in Victor Hugo’s novel of Les Misérables.

Despite his good intentions Louis Philippe I reigned in a time of profound social unrest. Between 1830 and 1848 there were 6 large riots and attempts to take control of the capital. The new socialist ideology gained momentum making Paris a magnet of revolutionaries from foreign countries like Karl Marx who moved in the French capital in 1843, Friedrich Engels (1844) and Mikhail Bakunin (1844). The industrial revolution went hand in hand with the awakening of the working class. The growing number of strikes and confrontations with the government came to a breaking point in the summer of 1847 after an abrupt disruption of the economic growth caused by a shortage of credit. When the government tried to impose a general ban of demonstrations with the help of the National Guard in February 1848, most guards ended up on the other side of the barricades. The crowds were once more invading the Tuileries Palace. The royal throne was seized, carried to Place de la Bastille, and burned. Louis Philippe was forced to flee Paris in disguise. The Second Republic was proclaimed at the Hôtel de Ville from  the poet Alphonse de Lamartine appointed president of the provisional government.

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The first popular vote, through universal male suffrage in 1848 was not won by neither socialists nor leftists but by Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte, nephew and heir of Napoleon I. Once again the Parisian proletariat realized that starting a  revolution did not guarantee that the ones who started it were actually the ones who were in power after it ended. The first president in the history of the French republic took residence in the Élysée Palace, a classical palace built in 1722 near the Champs-Élysées for a prominent nobleman and bought by Napoleon I in 1808.

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What followed in Paris was a reconstruction and modernization of such a grand scale that in the course of the thirty years that followed the whole structure of the capital would be transformed and ushered into the new age. A huge construction site with thousands of workers managed by the prefect Georges-Eugène Haussmann and supervised by Louis Napoleon was set in motion. The plan to raise Paris’s infrastructure to that of London, a city Louis Napoleon was very familiar with. To make the city more spacious, airy, free it from the narrow allies and the slums.

In 1851 Louis Napoleon’s term expired and his plan for the rebuilding of Paris was barely at the start. With the new constitution blocking his plan for re-election Louis Napoleon followed the example of his uncle. With the help of the army he staged a coup, he made himself emperor as Napoleon III and cleared the field of opponents and fervent republicans like Victor Hugo. All the obstacles that were till then forestalling the progress of his plans for Paris were thus sidelined. The French parliament and the  new investment bank, Crédit Mobilier provided the needed funds and the workers got to work.

Starting from the water and sewer system that had plagued Paris from the very beginning, an underground labyrinth of new pipes, hundreds of kilometers of new pipes wide and large enough to carry huge amounts of waste and equal amounts of water were created under the sidewalks of old and new boulevards, solving the capital’s greatest problem. The same tunnels were used to provide gas for heat and for lights to illuminate Paris. Up on the ground a plan inspired by Napoleon for A grande croisée , a great cross of two main avenues that would permit easier communication from east to west along the Rue de Rivoli and Rue Saint-Antoine, and north-south communication along two new Boulevards, Strasbourg and Sébastopol was completed in a record time for the Paris Universal Exposition of 1855, as was the Grand Hôtel du Louvre, the first large luxury hotel in the city built to house the Imperial guests of the Exposition.

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In order for the new avenues and parks to be built there was extended demolition of old medieval neighborhoods that were seen as an impeding relic of the past. Thousands of trees were planted along the new avenues, their junction became the site of new squares, fountains and parks, their finishing adorned with beautiful monuments. The appearance of the new city was of the utmost importance so every building had to abide to strict rules of uniformity. The Île de la Cité was almost completely torn down, its bridges rebuilt, the old landmarks like Notre Dame and Saint Chapelle  were renovated and new government buildings like the Tribunal de Commerce were built in the opulent eclectic style of the era, a mixture of neo-renaissance and classical. Two new railway stations the Gare de l’Est (1849) the Gare de Lyon (1855), the rebuilding of Gare du Nord (1865), of the market of Les Halles and the hospital Hôtel-Dieu, the expansion and renovation of the Louvre, the restoration of dozens of old churches and the building of several new like Saint Augustine church, of theaters like the Châtelet and Théâtre Lyrique of the Opera Palais Garnier, of landmark squares like the Place du Trocadéro, of Parks like the Jardin des Tuileries and the Jardin du Luxembourg, even park gates, garden fences, kiosks and public toilets, became all part of one of the largest beautification projects in the history of European cities. Long after Napoleon III was gone his plan was still carried through changing for ever the face of the capital and the living conditions of the Parisians. A great example of the architectural unity bequeathed to Paris by Napoleon III are the Haussmann apartment buildings which line the boulevards of Paris, all built by the same materials, all seen as a unified structure.

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By 1870 Paris was again a city of light, illuminated by thousands of gas lights. Their effect was multiplied by their reflection on the local cream-colored Lutetian limestone by which almost all the buildings from the Haussmann period were constructed. The countless cafes and restaurants of the capital made the most of the new reality.  More prosperous Parisians were mostly frequent of the western neighborhoods, where the air was always cleaner and the open spaces more.  Toward the east and the outer neighborhoods where rents were lower, one could find mostly lower-income tenants. The two classes converged at the wide promenades where rich and poor, men, women and children strolled in the afternoons with their high hats (men) and bell-shaped dresses (women).

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Napoleon III’s frenzied push for a reshape of the map of Paris resembled the one of his uncle for a change in the European map but the similarities between the two ended just about there. In the military field the two were not so much alike. In 1870 France entered a war with the rising military Prussia of Otto von Bismarck. Despite the enthusiastic war cries that resounded through the streets of Paris when the news reached the people “to Berlin!!”, the war very soon proved to be a disaster for France. In a matter of days Bismarks’ s army was outside the gates of Paris. On March 1, 1871, Prussian, Bavarian and Saxon troops held a brief victory parade in Paris after a successful siege that had lasted four months. Napoleon III left France and for a brief period of time, Paris was ruled by the radical socialists who tried to hold on to power but were defeated by the army of the Third French Republic in the battles that took place across the streets of the capital. The Tuileries Palace, the Hotel de Ville and the Richelieu library of the Louvre were among the buildings that payed the price of their frustration for the defeat.

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The period of the third republic between 1870 and 1914 is also known as the Belle Époque (beautiful era). The finishing touches of what most people identify as the city of Paris today, were actually unfolded during that 44 year era. The most outstanding symbol being of course the Eiffel tower, the wrought iron, 324 meters tower, built for the international fair of 1889. The tallest man made structure in the world at the time was not met with a unanimous appreciation. Quite the opposite. There was even a committee against its construction made up by writers, painters, sculptors and architects who argued that the tower would mar the image of the capital. They would surely be devastated to learn a few years later that the city would not dismantle it after the passing of twenty years according to the initial permit. Most Parisians were not so negative however. They saw the new tower as a sign of a brave new world, one that would be dominated by science and technology. The signs of progress could be seen everywhere and new machines were being placed in the service of man by the day. Some of those symbols of progress were the installation of the telephone system, the illumination of the Grand Boulevards by electric lights, the construction of Paris Metro and the increasing number of automobiles roaming the streets of the capital.

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In architecture there were three notable additions to the cityscape. The first was the Galerie de Zoologie  today the Grande Galerie de l’Evolution. The second was Pont Alexandre III that connected the Champs-Élysées quarter with the Eiffel Tower. The third was the Grand Palais, a sumptuous exhibition palace built on the right edge of Pont Alexandre at the Champs-Élysées side for the Exposition Universelle of 1900. All three are characteristic specimens of the Beaux-Arts style, an elegant mixture of French neoclassicism Gothic and Renaissance that developed in Paris in the end of the 19th century and spread later to the rest of the world.

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In art Paris was taken over by the Impressionists, a group of talented artists like Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir who defied the traditional norm of French painting and ventured a new approach in both themes and methods. Their vibrant colors, their novel depiction of light and shade and portrayal of every day life became a movement followed by new talents like Edgar Degas, Camille Pissarro, and Paul Cezanne and would be identified as the most distinctive expression of the optimism of the Belle Époque. It wasn’t just the Impressionists who were painting their way to fame though. In the first years of the 20th century Henri Matisse, Amedeo Modigliani and and Pablo Picasso were making history from their ateliers in Montmartre. Their works, often inspired by the bohemian and artistic atmosphere of Paris at the time would define modern art to this day.

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In August 1914 Paris found itself entangled in a new war against the Germans. This war although welcomed by many Parisians who longed for a revanche after the losses of the Franco-Prussian war of 1871, would for ever end the halcyon days of the Belle Époque. It would however find them against their deep rooted anti-British sentiments in a cordial alliance with their yearlong enemy, the English. With most men being drafted and the rest partaking in patriotic demonstrations around Paris, there was no room during the first hours of war for pacifists. When the Germans started marching towards Paris, the trainloads of refugees from Belgium started coming in and the first German planes appeared over the city, the situation changed somewhat. The city started preparing for a long siege, the defensive forts around its perimeter were manned with soldiers and equipped with machine guns and cannons while the government left Paris for Bordeaux.

At a breakneck speed the German advance reached the eastern outskirts of Paris by September of 1914. The German plan for a swift and mighty blow that would bring France to its knees seemed to work out perfectly and the art treasures of the Louvre were already crated up when a miracle, the Miracle of the Marne happened. French intelligence uncovered the plans of the German offensive and Paris was saved. In one of the most crucial and bloodiest battles in European history, six French armies and the British Expeditionary Force managed to stop the German advance and in essence win the war. It would take four long years in the trenches and millions of dead, for Germany and Austria to accept their stalemate.

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The war changed Paris as it changed the whole world. The difference with the rest of the world was that Paris was too close to the front to ignore the horrors of it. The lightheartedness of the Belle Epoque seemed a far distant memory. After the celebrations for the victorious end of the war died down, the harsh reality of the food shortages and rationing continued. Widows, orphans and handicapped veterans measured in the tens of thousands and the deadly epidemic of the Spanish flu was still taking lives. The city struggled to find its pace. The sorry state of the economy deteriorated further when Germany defaulted on its payments and expected reparations were never met. The communists of Paris dreamt of a Russian style revolution of the proletariat, inflation and unemployment made their arguments stronger. The composition of the elected representatives did not reflect their beliefs though. Two-thirds of the seats of the National Assembly of Paris were won by the  conservative republicans in the elections of 1919. That changed in the elections of 1924 when a left coalition triumphed and the strongest opposition party became the communists. The labor unions increased their pressures with massive strikes and the eight hours work day became a law of the state.

The sociopolitical hodgepodge of the 20’s was in reality one of the most interesting in the city’s history despite the post-war solemnity and the decrepit economy. This was the era when the radio and the movies became part of everyday life, the era of jazz-craze, of swing music, Charleston and cabaret, of the first department stores and high fashion. Coco Chanel opened her first boutique in Paris in 1921 and started selling her legendary Chanel No5 fragrance. It was also the era when painters like Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali and Joan Miró, musicians like Igor Stravinsky and writers like Marcel Proust, George OrwellErnest HemingwayJean CocteauJames Joyce lived and worked in Paris. Very frequently these intellectuals, the crème de la crème of intellectuals, would meet at the salon of the American writer and art collector Gertrude Stein. According to F. Scott Fitzgerald who also made frequent visits to Paris in the 20’s  “The best of America drifts to Paris. The American in Paris is the best American. It is more fun for an intelligent person to live in an intelligent country. France has the only two things toward which we drift as we grow older – intelligence and good manners. “ According to Ernest Hemingway “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a movable feast”.

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The Années folles or crazy years of the 1920′ s came to an official end with the coming of the Great Depression in 1931. Suddenly the party was over. Music kept producing talents like Django Reinhardt and Edith Piaf both of whom were discovered by the Parisians in the 30’s, night clubs kept working but some of the most iconic like the Moulin Rouge that targeted the high society fell out of fashion. The economy suffered a blow, not as strong as in US and Germany but still the galloping GDP of the 20’s hit the breaks and unemployment started rising. For most Parisians like Simone de Beauvoir all these were but a dent in an otherwise golden age when peace seemed to be indisputable for everyone in France and even the rise of Hitler in Germany in 1933 nothing but the inner workings of German politics. It was crazy to think  that a new war was on the way. What was alarming for most Parisians was their own politics and the disturbing lack of continuity in their own affairs. After almost a decade of short-lived and inefficient governments, of tense confrontations between left and right and a general contempt for politicians of both ends of the spectrum, France found itself completely unprepared in the face of WW2. Not willing to accept the possibility of another war the country had buried her head in the sand, failing to read Hitler’s signs. On 22 August 1939, the Nazi-Soviet pact was signed and ten days later Hitler invaded Poland. Britain and France declared war on Germany shortly after that.

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Hitler wanted Paris to be the second city of his Thousand Year Reich and expressed his conviction that its new masters would manage to preserve “this wonder of Western civilization” for posterity. During the first days of the occupation the fact that the buildings of the capital stood as proud as ever made no difference to Parisians. Nearly three quarters of the population had fled the city and the rest remained locked up inside their houses. The city looked completely deserted. The initial shock didn’t take long to be assimilated and life came back us swiftly as it had departed, restaurants and cafes started working adjusted according to the new clientele which under strict orders behaved impeccably. The situation of course was anything but normal. The loudspeakers warning of death punishment against any hostility that would target the occupation troops, the strict curfew hours and the first winter rationing that made life a constant hunt for food and fuel were anything but normal. Books were censored, radio and newspapers became an instrument of German propaganda, works of art that were deemed improper were burned in the Louvre courtyard while those considered of high value were conveyed to Germany. Tourists and Americans had long gone so the hotels were used by the German soldiers. German signs leading to the various German headquarters were everywhere, the statues and monuments of WWI were destroyed.

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Agricultural products and fish that were staple foods until the first winter of the war were first funneled to the Wehrmacht or sent to Germany, what was left was split among frustrated and hungry Parisian citizens who had to stand in long lines. The rest of the products were bought with coupons that were allotted by a long line of bureaucrats and things like leather, tobacco, wine and soap were very hard to find. Black market raged but not everyone could afford the black market. Improvised substitute products became the norm. It wasn’t very hard for someone to break and become a collaborator. Even famous socialists, known communists and pacifist intellectuals found excuses to ignore the bestiality of the occupation, to become advocates of the government or even become informants to save their lives or keep a certain level of living.

The biggest victims of the Nazi occupation were the thousands of Parisians with Jewish origin. When the Nazis took over Paris in 1940 there were roughly 150.000 people of Jewish origin living in Paris, almost half of the total Jewish population of France. From the first days life for them became unbearable. They were barred from public places like libraries, restaurants and movie theaters, their property and businesses were requisitioned, the ones working in educational institutions were forced to resign and everyone with no exceptions had to wear a yellow star embroidered on their clothes. Continuous propaganda flared up antisemitism and massive deportations to concentration camps like Auschwitz routed out thousands with one fell swoop. In total more than 70.000 people were deported out of which less than 2.500 survived.

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After four long years the dice for the liberation of Paris were cast. On 6 June 1944, better known as D-Day, the Allies managed to set a foothold on the northern coast of France. Even before the breakdown of the German lines, the Nazis and their collaborators were faced with a mounting wave of insubordination. With his vision of a thousand year Reich tumbling down, Hitler’s initial resolution for Paris had festered into a vengeful rage. Paris had to become an example, a horrid reminder that it was better for anyone or anything being in Hitler’s hands, the alternative to not stand at all. The orders to the German commander General Dietrich von Choltitz were clear. Before leaving, Paris should be completely destroyed. When the tracks laden with explosives started to cross the city’s streets, it seemed the fate of Paris was sealed. According to Choltitz’s memoir, Hitler’s orders to destroy Paris were defied by him at the eleventh hour because he loved the city and had decided that the man giving the orders had probably gone insane. The Free French 2nd Armored Division and the US 4th Infantry Division entered Paris on the night of August 24, 1944. On 25 August Cholitz signed the German surrender at the Hôtel Meurice. In that same day Charles de Gaulle, President of the Provisional Government of the French Republic, made his historic speech to the crowd from the Hôtel de Ville. Paris was free.

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At first the city seemed to live just for revenge. Thousands of collaborators were arrested, hundreds were sentenced to death. Many of the women who had slept with German soldiers became a spectacle, tarred and feathered, their heads shaved were carried around for everyone to see. But life went on. On October 21, 1945, in the first elections in five years women were given the right to vote. In both national and municipal level the communists came out as the leading party, cashing in on their active role in the resistance.

The 40’s passed with the city and the country mending their wounds from the war. The fashion and automobile industries led the economic recovery that went hand in hand with constructions (apartment blocks for low income families) and the increase of population in the wider urban area of Paris that towards the end of the decade approached the number of 6 million people with an explosive upward trend.

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The 1950’s brought in Paris an influx of foreign immigrants from African countries, mostly former colonies and protectorates like Tunisia and Algeria with the latter staging an armed revolution for its independence. There were repeated demonstrations by Algerians and communists who had lost the government but not their impact in Parisian society. In the end of course it would be the great cost in French lives that would bring an end to the Fourth Republic (1946-1958) and the rise of Charles de Gaulle as president of the Fifth Republic (France’s current republican system of government, established in December of 1958).

With de Gaulle things improved  for both France and Paris. The rapid economic growth brought by science, industrialization and peace started to transform Paris where many areas of the center were turned into work-spaces and offices increasing the price of land and driving middle class Parisians into the suburbs. In most cases the character of the old buildings and the exterior elements were preserved while the interior was renovated. Important historic landmarks like the Notre Dame were renovated and saved by the accumulated pollution of their outer surface.

Not everything was progressing. The Algerian war still lingered on and the outlawed National Liberation Front of Algeria had brought its war of independence on to French soil. In 1961 Maurice Papon, a Nazi collaborator who had willingly played a key role in the deportation of more than 1,600 Jewish French citizens to concentration camps during the Second World War, was head of the Parisian police forces and imposed a curfew on all French-Algerians. Denouncing this as racist, the FLN called on its supporters to hold a peaceful protest. A quarter of French Algerians participated, with the support of many French citizens of European descent. What followed is known as the Paris massacre of 1961. Between 200 and 300 unarmed  protesters not only French-Algerians but many people of Tunisian, Moroccan, Spanish and Italian origin were also beaten and murdered by armed policemen in an orgy of violence that haunts Paris to this day.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paris_massacre_of_1961Photo courtesy of www.lemonde.fr and photographer ELIE KAGANPicture taken by the article of independent ( https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/when-french-police-turned-on-algerian-protesters-and-why-it-matters-after-paris-attacks-a6753716.html)

Just as the presidency of General de Gaulle was about to close its tenth year anniversary, the people, especially the ones belonging to the left (socialists/communists) had grown weary of his ageing autocratic figure. At the same time there was an explosive increase in the number of youth and students. It was the age of the baby boomers, that came after the end of WWII. The numbers said it all. During the years of de Gaulle’s presidency the student population had nearly trebled from 175.000 to more than 500.000. The ones under-20 had reached a staggering 33.8 per cent of the total population in 1968. Universities and educational establishments were not ready for that spike. Their facilities were inadequate and the teachers belonged to another more conservative reality. The youth culture of the age was anti-establishment, its gods were Sartre, Marx, Che Guevara and Bob Dylan. It was anti-imperialist, it loathed the War in Vietnam and  consumerism culture, it was disillusioned with an oppressively hierarchical society.

In the Spring of 1968 some 12,000 students had found themselves studying at a suburb seven miles to the northwest (Nanterre campus) with a barely functional building. Their justified discontent flared up when they were denied their demand to circulate freely between the residences of males and female students, according to an outdated rule that was still in effect. After the arrest of several students in a demonstration against Vietnam war in Paris, some 150 students led by Daniel Cohn-Bendit occupied the administrative buildings of the Nanterre campus. When  the police came the students released a statement of their wishes and left without any trouble. In early May another anti-imperialist protest was organized. Fearing a further escalation the dean shut down the campus. The students decided to take their protest to the Sorbonne, in the heart of Paris’s Latin Quarter. Barricades, Molotov, violent crashes with armed police, massive student marches and general strikes, burned cars, flying cobblestones, tear gases, clubbing and arrests brought De Gaulle, his government and the country’s economy to their knees in what evolved into the biggest uprising of the 20th century in the west. It would serve as a historical point of reference for every social unrest that would follow in the future.

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After 1969 it was the turn of Georges Pompidou to reshape Paris. Pompidou was Prime Minister from 1962 to 1968 but after the crisis of 1968 he succeeded De Gaulle as president of the French republic. His main efforts were centered on the modernization of the capital and the development of new highways and metro stations for the alleviation of the horrible traffic congestion that plagued Paris since the 1950’s. His main legacy would be the Centre Beaubourg better known as Centre Pompidou (renamed after his death in 1974). The president’s vision for a multidisciplinary cultural center of an entirely new type that would unite a new public library, a museum of modern art and an institute of musical research started taking shape in the early 1970’s. Today Centre Pompidou among other things is considered an emblematic 20th-century building of Europe.

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What mostly changed during the last years of the 1960’s up to the late 70’s was the location of several industries. After the right incentives given to them by the state many of them decided to leave the city for the suburbs or nearby cities like Rouen and Reims. Decentralization was a priority for both Pompidou and his successor Giscard d’Estaing. The latter was a modern centrist politician who embraced many of the values of the just established environmental movement and implemented policies for the increase of green spaces and pedestrian zones, the preservation of old buildings and the downsizing of new ones. His most outstanding contribution to the city was the transformation of the late 19th century Beaux-Arts railway station of Gare d’Orsay into a museum for 19th and early 20th century art. The Musée d’Orsay is today the museum with the largest impressionist and post-impressionist collection in the world.

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In the years that followed there were several new additions to the cityscape of Paris during the terms of President François Mitterrand (1981-1995) and Jacques Chirac (1995-2000), most notable of which being the Louvre Pyramid (1989), the Opera Bastille (1989) and the Musée du quai Branly (2006). There were also many parks inaugurated like Parc André Citroen and Parc de Bercy in the periphery of the city that lacked open green spaces.

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Today Paris is a bustling metropolis of more than 2.2 million people (wider region is home to more than 10 million people). About 20 per cent of people living in the city of Paris are immigrants. About 10 to 15% of the ones living in its metro area are Muslim, a percentage that is expected to increase considerably in the following years according to current trends. It is also the city with the largest Jewish population outside Israel and the United States (a little less than 300.000). According to the numbers Paris is the world champion of tourist arrivals with 2017 being a record year, the total number of visitors to its greater region, all accommodation combined, exceeding a record of 40 million tourists. Each year the tourist industry of the city brings a staggering 8.5 billion Euro to the national economy when at same time the local council earn more or less 30 million Euro, from the tourist tax alone.

The region of Paris alone accounts for more than 30 percent of the national GDP. Besides being one of the wealthiest regions in Europe it is also the most expensive in the continent and 2nd most expensive in the world behind Singapore. The historic center is classified as an UNESCO Heritage site, one that continues to mesmerize filmmakers from allover the world with its charm. Despite its world records in tourism Parisian economy does not depend solely in the tourist industry. It continues to be the home-base of the top ten French conglomerates like AXA,  Total, BNP Paribas, Carrefour and Crédit Agricole. The majority of jobs belong to the service’s sector with the unemployment rate in 2018 being a little over 7%. The country’s gap between rich and poor is mostly visible in Paris through the distinction between its eastern and western part, the poorest being the eastern part of the city, a division coming from the time the Latin Quarter (eastern part) was just a scholar, a university, clerical and bohemian region of the city. This division still correlates in the outcome of the elections for example, with the west voting for center-right candidates and the east voting for socialists.

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Adding further to the city’s stature are two other pillars of its economy, haute cuisine and haute couture. Fine dining and Paris have been close friends since the Belle Epoque. There are more than 9.000 restaurants based in Paris. Almost 6000 of them offer a spectrum of choices that fall into the extensive and world famous French cuisine. Out of the 27 highest ranking Michelin awarded restaurants in France, ten of them are located in Paris.

In the same time Paris is the fashion capital of the world, home to the most famous designers and largest fashion houses in the world like Hermès, Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Chanel, , Louis Vuitton, Jean Paul Gaultier, Givenchy, and Pierre Cardin. Paris Fashion Week, held twice a year (winter/summer) is the biggest fashion show on earth. In 2017 the two weeks of the event produced a total income of more than 120 million euros in sum.

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Overall Paris is still today what it always was. A great allure for anyone who hasn’t visited and a persistent siren calling for a return for anyone who has. The city of light seems to have a charm that defies the barriers of time. Judging from the national diversity of its visitors one could also say that it also defies the barriers of space. Hence its place up on the pedestal of eternal cities along with Rome. In Thomas Jefferson‘s words “A walk about Paris will provide lessons in history, beauty, and in the point of Life.” or according to Audrey Hepburn‘s words “Paris is always a good idea”.

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The end. 

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Considered a mansion by some, a château by others, Cour des Vosges is experienced as an exceptional residence welcoming epicures, hedonists, history buffs, and lovers of Paris. The butler hands over the key to the 12 rooms and suites, each of which feels like a pied-à-terre. Each landing recalls the architectural features of 17th-century buildings. Each hallway seems to lead, as in the past, toward stately apartments. Evok welcomes you to the former Hôtel de Montbrun, a 17th-century residence at 19 place des Vosges. A unique and historic site, it was the royal square Henri IV planned in 1605, and therefore the oldest square in Paris. In this exclusive landmark site, each room or suite in this 5-star hotel opens onto Square Louis XIII and its splendid houses with their recognizable pink brick façades and slate roofs.

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The place des Vosges has housed shops on the ground floors of its buildings since the 17th century. In keeping with this tradition and history, Cour des Vosges features a restaurant and tea room. It offers light gourmet fare for breakfast, lunch, and afternoon tea. The “Brach Pastry Shop Corner” also presents a selection of sweet treats concocted by pastry chef Yann Brys, who has earned the Meilleur Ouvrier de France distinction. More

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