Monday, October 26, 2009
In days of yore, Paris, like most cities, had a wall around it to protect it from marauding invaders. Actually, there were multiple iterations of the city wall over the centuries as the city grew from its original confines on Ile de la Cité. Today, the city is bounded by the Boulevard Périphérique but you can still traces of more ancient barriers at different places around town. There are several remnants of the wall built by Philippe Auguste before he headed out to the Crusades back in the 13th century: one that borders the playing fields of the Lycee Charlemagne along the Rue des Jardins de Saint-Paul in the Marais and another scrap that you can spy inside a building on le Cour de Commerce Saint-André on the Left Bank. (It's just opposite Le Procope; go ahead, stick your face up to the glass. You'll see it.) Charles V built another wall in the 14th century that enclosed Paris to the north where today you find the fashionable Rue St. Honoré. It was there that Joan of Arc was fatally injured trying to enter Paris to save it from the English. (Nothing remains there but a commemorative plaque above number 161.) And there's even a piece of a wall built in the 1550s, relatively recently discovered in what is now the lower level of the Orangerie in the Tuileries.
The last wall surrounding Paris was the enceinte de Thiers, constructed in the mid 19th century. A piece of that wall (pictured above) can still be found in the Parc de Bercy in the 12th arrondissement. The gardens themselves are contemporary and stylish but these rough stones are a vivid reminder of earlier and perhaps more palpably dangerous times.