Secrets of the City of Light: Hidden and Unknown Treasures of Paris
Two millennia old, the most beautiful city in the world is full of secrets and unknown treasures! The capital of France since the early 6th century, Paris has almost seen it all.
Follow the guide, we'll take you on a journey to discover new stories and unusual anecdotes in a medieval Paris full of secrets.
Paris has a street named after a character from the Harry Potter saga.
Did you know that a character from the Harry Potter saga lived in Paris in the 14th century? It's none other than Professor Dumbledore's immortal friend, the alchemist Nicolas Flamel. A prominent Parisian of his time!
Perpendicular to Rue de Rivoli, Rue Nicolas Flamel is located next to the Tour Saint-Jacques de la Boucherie in the 4th arrondissement. While working as a public writer, Nicolas Flamel had a small shop there. Surprisingly wealthy for a public writer and philanthropist, many rumors have circulated about him. His contemporaries claimed he could turn lead into gold or that he had discovered the recipe for the philosopher's stone. The stone that grants immortality to its possessor.
The legend of the most famous French alchemist (who wasn't one) has spanned the centuries!
The oldest church in Paris, completely painted
At the heart of the Saint-Germain-des-Prés district lies the oldest church in Paris. The construction of this abbey church dates back to the 6th century. At that time, Saint-Germain-des-Prés was a suburb, quite distant from the center of Lutetia (the Roman name for Paris). This powerful abbey owned extensive lands, and its church reflected its significance.
Certainly, since its creation, the building has undergone numerous modifications and reconstructions. However, some old stones have been preserved. As evidence, its bell tower, dating from around the year 1000, is one of the oldest in the country.
During the French Revolution, when religious buildings were returned to the public, the church was used as a saltpeter refinery. Once refined, saltpeter powder was the raw material for gunpowder! This new use hastened the rapid deterioration of the interior, especially the wall paintings.
Quite rare to mention: the wall paintings and interior colors were fully restored in the late 2010s. This can give an idea of what medieval churches looked like at the time of their construction. For today's visitor, visiting this church is a surprising journey back in time to the Middle Ages, a time when churches, like illustrated books, were places for teaching the Christian faith. A MUST-SEE!
A municipal library with an unusual history
The Hôtel des Archevêques de Sens, built at the end of the 15th century and located on Figuier Street, is one of the oldest private mansions in the capital.
It served as a residence for the archbishops of Sens when Paris was still under their jurisdiction. (Paris only became an archdiocese in 1622.)
In the 16th century, the hotel was inhabited by Nostradamus, an astrologer and preacher, who was invited to Paris by Queen Catherine de' Medici. It is said that many princes visited his bedside when he fell ill to gather his final prophecies.
Then, in the 17th century, upon her return to Paris, it was Queen Margot who took up residence there.
Above the main entrance, you can see a cannonball - fired on July 28, 1830, during the July Revolution (Trois Glorieuses) - still embedded in the facade. Like a relic, the date has been engraved beneath the cannonball.
Since 1929, the building has housed the Forney Library – a municipal library of the city of Paris. The doors are open to the curious: free entry during opening hours.
A fortress turned into the world's largest museum
Before becoming the impressive museum we know today, the Louvre was first a remarkable fortress. Built at the turn of the 13th century by King Philip Augustus, its architecture literally revolutionized the art of military defense in Europe. The new forms given to the buildings are referred to as "French style" or "Philippean architecture." The rounded towers, battlements, and arrow slits were true innovations in the art of warfare.
Before leaving for the Crusades and thus departing from Paris for a few years, King Philip Augustus decided to build a city wall around the town. The wall was 8 meters high and 2 meters wide, encircling the capital for 5 kilometers, with 2.5 kilometers on each side of the Seine. Some traces of this wall still remain, notably in the Latin Quarter and Saint-Paul.
On the western side of the city wall – the side most exposed to invasions – the King ordered the construction of a fortress to enhance the city's defense. This fortress was situated at the location of the present-day Cour Carrée in the Louvre.
The foundations of the castle have been unearthed by archaeologists. A room in the museum is dedicated to this, as is a space in the underground gallery of the Carrousel du Louvre.
Parisi Tour accompanies you!
To accompany you in your visits, Parisi Tour offers numerous activities for discovering Paris. Taking a stroll with Parisi Tour is an unusual and authentic experience, an immersion into the heart of Parisian life and culture.
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