Did you know that one of the most popular streets in Paris is in fact a Roman road? Or that you can still stroll into a Roman amphitheatre tucked away in the 5th arrondissement? How about the fact that some of the most beautiful Gothic architecture can be found in and around Paris? Join us as we take an architectural tour of Paris and share some of the best places to find the city’s finest examples of every style, from Roman to Art Nouveau.
Roman Paris – Lutétia
Let’s start with the most famous empire in history – the Romans. It was the famous (and even infamous!) Julius Caesar who marched the Roman army across the Alps to conquer Gaul, bringing with it a whole new world of architecture and style. Incredibly enough, vestiges of the Romanized town of Lutétia – what would later become our beloved Paris – can still be found to this day. Beneath the large plaza of the Notre Dame you will find the Parvis Archaeological Excavations, recently revitalised and bringing to life the original Roman foundations which lie beneath the modern streets. In the Latin Quarter, Paris’ Musée de Cluny (the Mediaeval Museum) is in fact built atop a large complex of elaborate Roman baths! Excavated remains of the baths are visible without even having to step inside the Museum itself. AMPHITHEATRE
From Romanesque to Gothic
While very little remains of the Romanesque era, there is a very fine example to be found at the oldest church in Paris – Saint Germain des Prés. Once an entire monastery, today the church’s square tower and beautiful interiors are a humbling testament to the centuries that have passed since the abbey’s first conception by Clovis in the 6th century. Of course, another church has held the imagination of Parisians since the 12th century: Notre Dame. With its gargoyles, soaring flying buttresses, beautiful square towers and some of the finest stained glass in France, it’s no wonder this is an icon of Europe. But did you know that the world’s first gothic cathedral lies just outside central Paris in the suburb of Saint Denis? A masterpiece of architecture, this is well worth a trip – and you can still reach it via the Metro! Just take Line 13 to Saint-Denis-Université and it’s around a 3 minute walk from there to the Basilica, where you’ll find the graves of countless French figures, including Marie Antoinette!
Classicism drew on the ideals of the ancient world after the dramatic intricacy of the Gothic style. Recently refurbished and once again drawing the eye on the Paris skyline, the Panthéon is the perfect example of architecturally elegant aspirations, and takes its names from the iconic building which inspired it – the Pantheon in Athens. With its huge dome and grand columns, this former church is now the final resting place of countless household names in French history, including Voltaire, Marat, Victor Hugo and Louis Braille, to name but a few!
To continue your journey through the architectural history of Paris, join us next month for Part Two and discover the work of Baron Haussmann, the man who transformed Paris, as well as the birth of Art Nouveau and much more!