A history walk following the oldest city wall in Paris took us from the right bank to the left and back again walking miles on a beautiful morning tracing the oldest city wall created during the time of King Phillip II. Before he left for the Third Crusade in 1189, the king ordered a wall to be built to protect the city, including the early Louvre, his 12th-century fortress. Nearly 1000 years ago he left with his old enemy, King Henry of England who became his new pal to drive the Moslems out of the Holy Land. They succeeded in that crusade, but what would they think of that success if they could see the world today?
The wall changed over the centuries as the city spread out. Later kings built new protective walls but did not destroy all of this first one in the process so a search for its remnants was illuminating and also sometimes very dark: A part of the wall of Philip Augustus in the parking Mazarine, rue de l’Ancienne-Comédie.
More obvious incorporation of the old wall into newer city plans can be seen along the route where the street level changes dramatically, often with a staircase or short wall between the roadway and the shops and sidewalks. Many streets are called Rue de Fossee de … Which indicates where the ditch of the old wall was.
The walk through the Marais lead us to the longest section of the wall where children play with the church St Paul’s at their back and the Seine just across the quai.
One fascinating feature of the modern cityscape is the orientation of rooftop chimneys . . . where the wall existed, the chimneys slant to follow the direction of the wall, as in the bottom building.
We found an occassional tower, preserved and protected by a courtyard, or a crumbling stone wall jutting into the walkway, plaques marking the wall’s location through closed doors, and graffitti and caryatids who have nothing to do with the middle ages but add to the history tour of the streets too.
The walk wasn’t always in site of King Phillip’s city wall, but it was always providing other interesting details along the way . . .
Once we peered into a window from the street, past the room inside and through a far window to see the 1000 year old wall of the garden beyond. With our noses pressed to the glass, a gentle lady also on the street asked if we would like to come inside! She unlocked the door and took us through the house to this lovely serene garden. The house is part of a religious residence. What a gift that we were right in front of her door as she returned from the market!
There are so many other little details of an historic walk, I could walk on and on!