L’histoire du Quartier Latin

Whether you are a Parisian for a day or forever, who has never got lost in the alleys of the Latin Quarter dreaming of returning to a time that those under twenty cannot know?

Enough of the musical interlude, Parisi Tour invites you in this article to take a leap back in time to discover or rediscover the history of this neighborhood that has seen far more life in its streets than one could imagine! Indeed, believe it or not, but it's here, a long time ago, that Paris began.

First and foremost, it may be necessary to clarify that the Latin Quarter is located on the left bank of the Seine and extends from the 5th arrondissement of Paris to the northern part of the 6th arrondissement. As a geographical reference, we take the Sorbonne, which is considered its historical heart.

For a bit of history, before being called the "Latin Quarter," it was known as the "Pays Latin" because as early as the 17th century, this part of the city was where many universities were located, especially the faculties of arts where Latin was studied.

If today the area is bustling with Greek restaurants and fast-food joints, it's not hard to find the student atmosphere that has prevailed there since the Middle Ages through its bars, cafes, and old bookstores.

The Latin Quarter, also known as Lutetia in Latin

Let's go back a bit further in time, about 2000 years ago, when in the city known then as "Lutetia," the Romans settled around the Montagne Sainte-Geneviève. Very quickly, they built their Cardo Maximus and Decumanus Maximus, the main access roads of a Roman city, as well as their Forum (the remains of which are now located between Rue Saint-Jacques and Rue Soufflot). As for the Arenes de Lutèce, an ancient theater with a capacity of 15,000 spectators, you can visit them freely at 49 Rue Monge, in the Square Capitan of the 5th arrondissement.

The Cluny Museum

Other remains from this period include the Ancient Baths, also built by the Romans between the 1st and 2nd centuries. Some rooms of these baths can still be seen from Boulevard Saint-Michel, and other parts, such as the Frigidarium, a vaulted room 14 meters high, are accessible through the Cluny Museum.

The Abbey of Saint-Victor

In the 6th century, Clovis is said to have founded a sanctuary atop the hill, where the Abbey of Sainte-Geneviève would have its origins. This was followed by the creation of the Abbey of Saint-Victor in the 12th century. From then on, religious communities settled between these two abbeys, imbuing the neighborhood with their religious and intellectual traditions. Testifying to these different epochs are the Saint-Séverin Church (rue des Prêtes Saint Séverin) and the Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre Church (rue Galande), the oldest church in the entire capital.

The Panthéon

At the top of the Montagne Sainte-Geneviève, the French Panthéon was constructed starting in 1757, inspired by the Pantheon in Rome. Initially intended to be a church that would house the shrine of Sainte Geneviève, our Panthéon eventually, since the French Revolution, has been dedicated to honoring the great figures who have shaped the history of France. Among them are Voltaire, Rousseau, Victor Hugo, Émile Zola, Pierre and Marie Curie, as well as more recently Simone and Antoine Veil, and Joséphine Baker.

The Sorbonne

To conclude, it's impossible to talk about the Latin Quarter of Paris without mentioning the Sorbonne, whose first building was founded in 1253 by Robert de Sorbon. At that time, the Sorbonne was a college for theology students within the University of Paris. From the 19th century under Napoleon, this building housed all levels of education and became the headquarters of the faculties of sciences, letters, law, medicine, and theology. In 1968, the Sorbonne was at the heart of the May demonstrations, including the first riot that erupted in the courtyard of the Sorbonne itself. Since then, it has remained a symbol of student protest and is regularly the site of student demonstrations and occupations.

Want to discover the Latin Quarter with your own eyes? Don't hesitate to contact one of our experience designers at Parisi Tour who will be happy to organize your personalized guided tour!



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