Thursday, December 13, 2007

Wednesday afternoon in Paris, Part II - The Crypte Archaelogique

Once again, I am trying to pick up from where I left off on my travels through France. For those new to this blog, previous posts can be found here.

After spending our morning on a walking tour, a leisurely lunch on Rue Mouffetard and then in the afternoon spending a few hours at the Cluny we were tired. Our feet and legs were sore and I was in desperate need of an afternoon nap.

Except, I had more on my agenda to cover that day.

The Crypte archéologique is underneath the large courtyard in front of Notre Dame Cathedral, so it was also in front of Hôtel Dieu the cool historical place we were staying. It was also nearing 4 pm and we needed to go there before closing.

The name fits the place because it is an archaeological site. Ancient Paris or Lutecia can be seen in the stones uncovered here.

I tried my best to pay attention to what things were when we took pictures, but I will admit that due to our exhaustion we looked around at ancient stone work but we did not take good notes.

The maps and the maquettes are easier to explain. Although I should warn anyone planning on visiting Paris that those were part of a special exhibit that I think only lasts until May 2008.

I was particularly interested in these exhibits since it is what historians think Paris looked like at various times in history.

Here is a relief map of the swampy, marshy land mass that was once Lutecia.


Here is a map of the Roman settlement of Lutecia. There is not a lot shown on this map, but you can see the forum, the théâtre, and the citadel (although that is not marked.)


Here is a maquette of Roman Lutecia and you can see that it was a thriving city.


The Romans for all their efforts building this great city did not create much in regards to defense. The most was some ramparts on the island, but not on the left bank which from the above maquette shows was populated. Here is a map of the Roman defensive walls on the island and its proximity to the Palais.

Here is the description they gave of the remnants of the ramparts.


Here are the vestiges of the ramparts that remain.

Because there was not much to protect the city of Paris, it was plundered repeatedly by the Vikings in the ninth century. The left bank suffered tremendously.

Centuries later, Paris was protected from invading armies when Philippe Auguste had a large wall built surrounding the city whose length was about 5,200 meters and enclosed nearly 250 hectares. (According to Jean-Denis G.G. Lepage's The Fortifications of Paris.)

Here is a map of that great wall.


And the maquette showing how densely populated historians believe Paris was at that time.


Here is another maquette that shows the old Hôtel Dieu's location in proximity to Notre Dame. Part of it used to be on top of a bridge over the River Seine.



Compare that to an old wood cut that hangs in the current Hôtel Dieu. You can still see the building crossing the river.

There is also not much space between the buildings, little room for a plaza in front of Notre Dame.


Here's another view of the maquette and this time you can see medieval houses and how crowded they were.



Below is a cross section to see exactly where the Crypte and all its holdings are in relation to Notre Dame. Off on the left of the picture is the cathedral, at the bottom of the picture is where Hôtel Dieu is now situated, the top of the photo is the Seine River and the left bank.

If you squint you can see the statue of Charlemagne represented. (Hint look under the name Charlemagne!).



Ah yes, more ruins and Roman arches!


After finishing here, we needed to rest. Having an extravagant night out on the town was not something we had any energy for. Instead, we grabbed a sandwich baguette, a bottle of wine and we ate in our hotel room. We slept for a few hours and then...we got went out again.

You see, Notre Dame was having a multi-media show about the history of Paris that started every night at nine o'clock. I simply had to see it one night.

We sat in the hard chairs watching the slide show with English subtitles, hearing Gregorian chants and feeling warm air surround us.

Once the show passed the time of Philippe Auguste, I found my eyelids drooping more and more. It was the "I will just close my eyes for a few seconds" promise that made me realize that both of us would be far more comfortable just surrendering to sleep than continue to nod off while sitting upright.

Next time: the Louvre.




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