On the trail of Ancient Paris

Outings | History and heritage | Museums
Le parvis de Notre-Dame par Esprit de France
Do you want to visit Paris ? Stay at
Hôtel Parc Saint-Séverin
L'Hôtel Parc Saint Séverin, situé dans le Quartier Latin

Ancient route between Ile de la Cité and Mount Saint Geneviève

The first name of Paris is Lutetia and it is mentioned in Caesar’s Gallic Wars (58-50 BC), when he writes about the strategic trick he used to invest this small city occupied by the local Parisii tribe. As a matter of fact, the current name of the French capital comes from these first inhabitants. Round the first century of our era, the Romans occupied an area extending between Île de la Cité and Mount Sainte Geneviève on the left bank of the Seine. The forum used to be on top of this hill, on the Place du Panthéon. As for the right bank of the river, it was marshy and its development occurred much later for that reason.

Let's start our tour with the Arènes de Lutèce, accessible by a passage located at 49 rue Monge. This former theater, lion's den and gladiator's arena with a capacity of 15,000 spectators was re-discovered in the 19th century, has since been restored and is now a quiet playground for pétanque addicts and young soccer players. In the summer, shows and concerts are staged there. Our second stop, walking down to the Seine, is the Musée Cluny. This is a museum dedicated to the Middle Ages, but its lower level contains some very interesting vestiges of the Gallo-Roman period: the thermal baths, the public baths of the time, presents among other things the remains of an impressive frigidarium room with a 14-m-high (46-ft) vault. Finally, on Île de la Cité, beneath the front courtyard of Notre-Dame, close to the Hôtel Parc Saint Séverin belonging to the Esprit de France hôtels & demeures collection, you will go down into the archaeological crypt uncovered in the late sixties, for a final stop. This place abounds with architectural vestiges, the oldest of which are dated to the Gallo-Roman era: the remains of the ancient quay of Lutetia’s port, the marks of a Gallo-Roman bathhouse with its underfloor heating system and the foundations of the first fortification wall built in the 3rd century to resist barbarian invasions.

Here are enough clues and traces to recreate, with a little imagination, all the activities of ancient Lutetia!