home next

Paris was probably founded by the Gauls who constituted a small urban centre on the left bank of the Seine. This was visited by the Romans led by Julius Caesar, who mentioned it, by the name of Lutetia, numerous times in his book 'De Bello Gallico' ('Of the Gallic War'). Thereafter, it continued to be under the threat of invasion by ferocious barbarian tribes so that, eventually, this first establishment transferred itself to the Ile de la Cit where a slow but continuous expansion developed along the banks of the river. While at first being simply the residence of the Merovingian and then of the Carolingian kings, Paris became the capital when Hugues-Capet founded a new dynasty in 987 A.D. The city was, thus, raised to a status which it has never lost throughout the course of French history. On the accession to the throne of Phillipe-Auguste (II), Paris came to experience one of its most splendid periods, with the commencement of the building of the Louvre and, in 1215, the foundation of its University. More magnificent work was carried out during the reign of St.Louis IX (1226-70), with the construction of the Sainte Chapelle and the active continuation of work on Notre Dame. Under the Valois dynasty, Paris experienced one of the saddest pages in its history: in 1358, there was a rebellion led by the leader of the Paris merchants, Etienne Marcel. Charles V re-established order with, amongst other measures, the building of the Bastille. The peace, however, was not to last long. The civil struggle between the Armagnac and Burgundian factions left the place subject to foreign domination by the English, with Henry VI of England crowned king of France at Notre Dame in 1430. Finally, in 1437, Charles VII retook Paris, but new riots and ever more bloody revolts alternated with a terrible pestilence which devastated an already exhausted populace. Therefore, throughout the fifteenth century, the various kings who ascended the throne of France chose the chateaux of the Loire as their residences, in preference to Paris.