When you look at the isle of the City from one of the bridges over the Seine river, it’s like a big boat floating over the river and you can understand why the motto of Paris is “fluctuat nec mergitur”, which means “tossed but not sunk”. Actually there were 7 small islands which were joined together to create a bigger one where people could settle down.
This is where it was decided in the 12 th century by Maurice de Sully to build a cathedral dedicated to the Virgin Mary. It’s the most beautiful religious monument of Paris, , built from 1163 to 1300 in an harmonious gothic style. Some of the most important historical events took place inside the church over the centuries but it also suffered from the revolutions, the wars and had to be renovated by the famous 19th century architect Viollet le Duc. It was the time of romanticism and Victor Hugo had written his famous book named “Notre Dame de Paris”. In the crypt you will be able to see some of the few relics from the time when Paris was called Lutece.
Another monument is worth a visit. It is the Conciergerie, the castle where the medieval kings had their residence before it became a jail in the 14th century . Queen Marie-Antoinette was imprisoned there during the revolution before being beheaded on the place de la Concorde. Her cell has been restored to its former aspect and can be visited. The name Conciergerie comes from the man in charge of the castle, a high ranked noble, whose title was “concierge”.
Leaving the isle where the Parisii, a gallic tribe , lived from the river, we will cross the river to the left bank where the roman conquerors decided to build a typical roman city with straight streets, the main one being the”cardo maximo”, now called rue St Jacques. They had beautiful houses , shops full of goods coming from the entire empire, temples, spas and of course a “forum”, on top of the hill. There are not many vestiges of this past era to be seen, except the arenas of Lutece, at least what is left of them, and the “frigidarium” of the baths of Cluny. These places used to draw crowds and were huge. The arenas were the biggest in Gaule. They were a theater as well as an arena for gladiators.
Where the forum used to be, there is now the Pantheon, built a few years before the Revolution of 1789, and not finished when it occurred.
It is now the place where a good number of our great men have their tomb.
Around the square of the Pantheon, several prestigious schools, libraries and universities can be found. They are part of the so called Latin district.