Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Paris History: Wall of Philippe Auguste

When I imagined the wall of Philippe Auguste, I imagined something about the height of a garden wall.  I should have listened to Mrs. Hackett in 6th grade when she told us we would all need to know the metric system someday. I had read that the wall was so and so meters tall, but since I can’t easily convert meters to feet, I ignored the measurement and continued to picture a wall maybe ten feet tall.

After a lovely walk through the native plant gardens at Arena Lutece (the ancient Roman arena uncovered under the city of Paris), I made my way up the Rue Rollin, on to Rue du Cardinal Lemoine and then to 12 Rue Clovis and the large section of the wall visible on the left bank. There is a small plaque, as there are throughout Paris, next to the enceinte that gives the history.  In this case, the wall, three Paris stories high, has been used to support the adjoining building.  A smart engineer or architect incorporated the thick, ancient wall into the design for the attached building just as the architects during Philippe’s and later times used the wall for support, insulation, and defense. 

Perhaps I’d seen the wall on earlier trips to Paris, but then I hadn’t been looking for it.  It hadn’t been important for me to understand the wall and its history.  My visit, this time, was rounded about by the wall.  Searching for and finding it was a highlight of my Paris trip.
I was impressed with this first view, and seeing the portions of the wall and old towers at the Louvre moved me to tears, but by far the most impressive yet almost pedestrian discovery of the wall is on the right bank at the Village St. Paul where a long section of the wall encloses a public park.  In the photograph, you can see a child hitting a soccer ball against this nearly 1,000 year old testament to the protection of Paris. 

(Photos: Top, 12 Rue Clovis; Middle, Louvre; Bottom, Village of Saint Paul.  All Photos by Lori Gravley, please request permission to repost.)

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