Birth of Paris
We do not want to upset anybody with the long and winding history of Paris. Celts lived here,Romans conquered it and later Merovingians, Carolingians and Capetians ruled here too. A symbol of Paris still stands there, where the city was born, on the area ruled by the Celtic tribe Parisii: on the bank of the Seine.
The Cathedral has a rich past; it was built during almost two hundred years, but Rome was not built in a day either. The Cathedral was being prettified from the 12th until the 14th century. As early as in the 6th century, they started constructing a basilica on the ruins of a former Roman temple, which got into a rather ruinous condition by the 12th century. Then, the first elected Bishop of Paris Maurice de Sully decided to have a Cathedral built here and started organising a fundraising. It was Pope Alexander III who laid the foundation-stone in 1163. When it was finished, contemporaries could greet the masterpiece of the French Gothic architecture. King Louis XIV’s reign affected the church badly, because its stained-glass windows were substituted and several parts of the building were pulled down among others. It was robbed and its treasures were melted down during the revolution. By 1804, it was in such a critical state that people considered it wiser to demolish than to restore it. Owing to Victor Hugo’s novel partly, it could survive after all. Notre-Dame de Paris got its final form due to nineteen-century architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, who devoted about twenty years to restoring the statues and glass windows of the church, but it was worthwhile, wasn’t it?
Afterwards, we should walk towards the Latin Quarter. This is the centre of the French student life. Here, you can find the Sorbonne, the Collège de France, dozens of bookshops and the Panthéon as well.
It was built for a church, because King Louis XV vowed that if he recovered from his illness he would raise a church for Saint Genevieve. He did so; he commissioned Jacques-Germain Soufflot in 1754 to design a church that would unify Greek beauty with Gothic space. It seems he made it! The building was finished by the time all religious orders had been dismissed, thus they wanted to utilize it as the church of the nation, as a kind of memorial place. Later, Voltaire, Rousseau and Mirabeau were buried here one after the other. Alexandre Dumas was the last one in 2002.
If you want to have a rest, go to the garden related to Catherine de Medici, which is also close to the Panthéon. In the garden, you can roam about elm trees, orchards and flowerbeds formed in strict order. The Medici Fountain is one of the most beautiful places in the park. Several statues decorate the garden, including the miniature copy of the Statue of Liberty in New York. Walking further, you can already admire the 324-metre-tall tower from the distance, but be careful and stand in the queue only with a full stomach.
The Eiffel Tower
Before knocking in Paris with his puddled steel tower plans, Gustave Eiffel had already attempted in the city that organised the world fair one year earlier. After a long struggle, Barcelona rejected the plans that they considered too expensive according to the official explanation. In others’ opinions, they simply thought it was ugly. Anyway, this was not only their opinion, for the building managed to ‘win’ the collective antipathy of the people of Paris. Allegedly, Maupassant hated the tower, which was finished by the world fair of 1889, so much that he dined in its restaurant, because he could not see the tower from there. The sensation of the tower was hidden in its construction. All the prefabricated elements – there were 18 thousand of them – were numbered in order to make the assembly fluent. Due to that, three hundred workers built up the Eiffel Tower in 26 months. Since then, hatred faded and it lives in the memory of the French as a national symbol.
Hangout of those seeking sensual-spiritual excitements
Montmartre was a place of prayer in the beginning, but there was a druid rite and later Roman temple here. Fortunately, the local real estate development company did not pick on the place – a row of mines are lying under the city, which makes constructing difficult -, thus the Bohemian quarter of Paris does not hide among office buildings. By the end of the 19th century, it became infamous for its cabarets and brothels; the district attracted artists, authors and thieves of course.
The construction of the always-bright white Sacré-Coeur Basilica was started in 1876 in Romano-Byzantine style. The French Catholics’ vow created the basilica dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus after their defeat in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870.
Montmartre is the same as it used to be: with portrait sketchers, sinuous streets and the still packed-house Moulin Rouge, where only the windmill is fake, but the cancan-dancing girls are real. If you stay in the city for a longer time, you must visit the Louvre, and not just for the Mona Lisa’s sake.
The origin of its name perished in the haze. Certain theories say that ‘louvre’ comes from the Latin word ‘lapara’, the house of the leper. Others think it meant watchtower, but it could refer to wolves (‘louve’ means ‘female wolf’) sneaking in the neighbourhood. For almost six hundred years, it was the seat of rulers, who all transformed the building a bit according to their own tastes. Its fortress character was lost in the 14th century, during the period of King Charles V. Later, it was linked with a gallery to the Tuileries Palace – built by Catherine de Medici. Some said that due to her bad memories – her husband died near here – she wanted to leave the building. Others said she found the Louvre draughty and plain. The Mona Lisa and Veronese’s painting The Wedding Feast at Cana can be found in a separate room, where queuing and tiptoeing are guaranteed.
Of course, Paris is not only this; there are so many sights that could have been mentioned here. However, one thing is certain: you do not have to talk about Paris, you must see it!
Translated by Zita Aknai