Sunday, January 27, 2008

History of Paris

According to certain writers, a wandering tribe built their huts upon the island now called la Cité. This was their home, and being surrounded by water, it was easily defended against the approach of hostile tribes. The name of the place was Lutetia, and to themselves they gave the name of Parisii, from the Celtic word par, a frontier or extremity.

This tribe was one of sixty-four which were confederated, and when the conquest of Gaul took place under Julius Caesar, the Parisii occupied the island. The ground now covered by Paris was either a marsh or forest, and two bridges communicated from the island to it. The islanders were slow to give up their Druidical sacrifices, and it is doubtful whether the Roman gods ever were worshiped by them, though fragments of an altar of Jupiter have been found under the choir of the cathedral of Notre Dame. Nearly four hundred years after Christ, the Emperor Julian remodeled the government and laws of Gaul and Lutetia, and changed its name to Parisii. It then, too, became a city, and had considerable trade. For five hundred years Paris was under Roman domination. A palace was erected for municipal purposes in the city, and another on the south bank of the Seine, the remains of which can still be seen. The Roman emperors frequently resided in this palace while waging war with the northern barbarians. Constantine and Constantius visited it; Julian spent three winters in it; Valentian and Gratian also made it a temporary residence.

The monks have a tradition that the gospel was first preached in Paris about the year 250, by St. Denis, and that he suffered martyrdom at Montmartre. A chapel was early erected on the spot now occupied by Notre Dame. In 406 the northern barbarians made a descent upon the Roman provinces, and in 445 Paris was stormed by them. Before the year 500 Paris was independent of the Roman domination. Clovis was its master, and marrying Clotilde, he embraced Christianity and erected a church. The island was now surrounded by walls and had gates. The famous church of St. German L'Auxerrois was built at this time. For two hundred and fifty years, Paris retrograded rather than advanced in civilization, and the refinements introduced by the Romans were nearly forgotten. In 845 the Normans sacked and burnt Paris. Still again it was besieged, but such was the valor of its inhabitants that the enemy were glad to raise the siege. Hugues Capet was elected king in 987, and the crown became hereditary. In his reign the Palace of Justice was commenced. Buildings were erected on all sides, and new streets were opened. Under Louis le Gros the Louvre was rebuilt, it having existed since the time of Dagobert. Bishop Sully began the foundations of Notre Dame in 1163, and about that time the Knights Templars erected a palace.

Under Charles V. the city flourished finely, and the Bastille and the Palace de Tourvelles were erected. The Louvre also was repaired. Next came the unhappy reign of Charles VI., who was struck with insanity. In 1421 the English occupied Paris, but under Charles VII. they were driven from it and the Greek language was taught for the first time in the University of Paris. It had then twenty-five thousand students. Under the reign of successive monarchs Paris was, from famine and plague, so depopulated that its gates were thrown open to the malefactors of all countries. In 1470 the art of printing was introduced into the city and a post-office was established. In the reign of Francis I. the arts and literature sprang into a new life. The heavy buildings called the Louvre were demolished, and a new palace commenced upon the old site. In 1533 the Hotel de Ville was begun, and many fine buildings were erected. The wars of the sects, or rather religions, followed, and among them occurred the terrible St. Bartholomew massacre. Henry IV. brought peace to the kingdom and added greatly to the beauty and attractiveness of Paris.

Under Louis XIII. several new streets were opened, and the Palais Royal and the palace of the Luxembourg begun. Under the succeeding king the wars of the Fronde occurred, but the projects of the preceding king were carried out, and more than eighty new streets were opened. The planting of trees in the Champs Elysees, also took place under the reign of Louis XIV. The pal[Pg 21]ace of the Tuileries was enlarged, the Hotel des Invalides, a foundling hospital, and several bridges were built.

Louis XV. established the manufactory of porcelain at Sevres, and also added much to the beauty of Paris. He commenced the erection of the Madeleine. Theaters and comic opera-houses were speedily built, and water was distributed over the city by the use of steam-engines.

Then broke out the revolution, and many fine monuments were destroyed. But it was under the Directory that the Museum of the Louvre was opened, and under Napoleon the capital assumed a splendor it had never known before. Under the succeeding kings it continued to increase in wealth and magnificence, until it is unquestionably the finest city in the world.

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