Monday, October 26, 2009

City Limits

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.


debbie in toronto said...

thanks to learn the history of my favorite time I'm pressing my nose up to that window

Shelli and Gene said...

There's also a bit of wall in the basement auditorium of the Eurocentres language school in Passage Dauphine in the 6th arrondissement that I assume is part of the Philippe Auguste wall. And another bit on the street on rue du Louvre near rue d'Aboukir in the 2nd that I presume might be Charles V's enceinte.

I have a post about the wall at Lycée Charlemagne on my blog:

Gator said...

If I'm not wrong, the part you pictured is part of the Fermiers Généraux wall. The Thiers wall is located behind the Cour St-Emilion, actually behind the (rather) new giant office building after Cou St-Emilion. One can see a part near Pont National (and other parts of Paris near the Périphérique that follows where the Thiers wall used to be).

Shelly and Gene,
Yes, the wall one can see in passage Dauphine is part of the Philippe Auguste Wall, and the one near rue d'Aboukir is the Charles V's wall.

The largest remaining part of all the walls is the one that Anne mentioned along the Rue des Jardins de Saint-Paul. It's so big that if you don't pay attention, you think it's random wall...

Starman said...

Isn't it interesting how they never learned that building walls would not keep them safe?

Gator said...

What are you talking about Starman?

City walls have kept cities safe all around the world for Centuries. Do you really think people all around the whole world made city walls just for fun or out of stupidity?

Sure it didn't keep a city from being invaded when a war was lost (that was not their purpose), it kept them from being razed more than once.

And btw, starting with the Fermiers Généraux, the purpose of the walls was not as much to protect the city from enemies (still was a little) as much as controlling what and who comes in and out of the city, and dealing with the "what" it also allowed the city to tax certain imports.

Max said...

There's still a part of the Phillippe-Auguste wall near the Pantheon in the 5th, I pass it every day on my way to class, its really cool to see every night.

Peter said...

I have also tried to follow the traces of the different walls and discovered most (?) of them... but stupidly missed the ones at Bercy! Thanks!

Anne said...

Thanks to all for the suggestions of other bits of walls to seek. I'm going to fact check my source about the enceinte de Thiers a bit further. (And thanks, David for the corrections on my earlier post on Lucky Luke...I changed the text and hope that it's now reasonably accurate.)

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