Walking Through Medieval Paris: Introduction

A little over a year ago, I went to live in Paris for a few months, to learn French and teach English.

During my time there, I went on a mission to discover medieval Paris. I had just graduated from my MA in Medieval Studies, and I had an idea to set up a walking tour, so that others could discover the hidden medieval treasures of Paris.

I knew that this famous city came from humbler beginnings, which I wished for the world to be more aware of. For it was not always the ‘City of Love’…

Back in the Middle Ages, Paris was the hub of the academics. Students from all over Europe came to Paris, to converse together, exchange ideas, and study the Classics. They settled in what is now called the Latin Quarter, which is where the Sorbonne (University of Paris) started in the 12th century.¹ All the students were from many different countries, and Latin was the international language they had in common, thus it was the only language they conversed in.

Hence, the Latin Quarter earned its name.

I believe that since Paris was the hotspot for education, it would have been seen as the place for enlightment. So, it must have been known the ‘City of Enlightenment’,² which would have evolved it into being the ‘City of Lights’, which is what it is often nicknamed as now. (The gentle white light that floods the city would have also helped that case. The city looks so pretty in it.)

Knowing that, I knew that there must have been so much more of medieval Paris to this. During my hunt, I discovered that there was a massive abbey called St Germain, that would have been outside the city at the time.

Old plan of St Germain des Pres. Source: taken by self.
Old plan of St Germain des Pres. Source: photo of the board taken by author.

Furthermore, I lived in Le Marais where there was once a medieval palace.

Sadly, due to the two Napoleons raging war on the city, and progress considered old buildings ‘unfashionable’; many of the medieval spots were pulled down. Still, armed with my trusty book ‘Paris Medieval’, I went on a hunt for all that was left.

While Paris is smaller than London, there was still more medieval leftovers than the latter, so I had to divide them into sections: Le Marais, Latin Quarter, the Islands, and Saint Germain. Over the next few months, I will do separate posts for each one, and I will include posts of some further out places I visited in France.

This is just the intro. After all, this blog is a walk though history.

Let the walking begin…

¹ http://bit.do/history-of-the-sorbonne
² http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paris#Toponymy

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