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Paris, Rome, Venice, and Barcelona are among the top-visited destinations in Europe. Beyond the Old World, New York City, Toronto and Whistler await shopping, dining and skiing enthusiasts, as well as businessmen and students. Quality accommodation is always in demand, and nowadays travellers have the freedom to choose not only hotels, but also apartment rentals.
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History of Paris

Ancient times

Parisii, Celtic fishermen who settled on the Île de la Cité in 3rd century BC, become known to us thanks to Romans. Celtic tribes (Romans called them Gauls) resisted conquest against Julius Caesar for seven years, and even their defeat in 52 B.C. near the Gallic settlement Alésia was considered heroic and worth remembering. A thousand years later, the battle is immortalized in the name of a street and a metro station in Paris.

Romans had founded a colony on the Left bank of Seine, right opposite the Île de la Cité on the Lutetia hill (meaning "yellowish", "made from clay"). This is where the Pantheon stands today. The town kept its original name, Parisii Lutetia, till 212 A.C., and was built according to Roman town standards. Gallic wood structures have long perished under the weight of time and war, but Roman stone buildings had better luck: ruins of Thermes de Cluny, the Arena and the Roman temple can be seen even today. The locations of theatre and forum, the obligatory structures in Roman cities, can be determined by looking at the map of modern Paris and finding the Odeon (meaning "theatre" in Roman) and the intersection of two main Roman roads - the modern Rue Soufflot (west-east) and rue Saint-Jacques (north-south). Starting from the 3rd century A.C. the main town of Northern Gallia was increasingly called Paris.

The first Christian bishop of Paris, Dionysius (Denis) from Athens, was martyred for the denunciation of pagan gods. He was beheaded in 260 A.C. on the Mars hill, which was swiftly renamed Montmartre, "The hill of martyrs". Dionysius became a patron saint of Paris and is more well known as Saint-Denis. The burial site of all French monarchs (Basilica Saint-Denis), as well as the boulevard and the street leading to it, are named after Saint-Denis.

Another patron saint of Paris is Sainte Geneviève, whose prayer saved the city from the Hun invasion in 451, forcing Attila the Hun to turn south from the city. Failing to protect Paris from German pagans, Sainte Geneviève managed to convert their Frankish king Chlodwig to Christianity. In 496 Chlodwig was christened in Rheims, and from that moment on all French kings had been crowned in the Rheims cathedral. In 470 king Chlodwig, the founder of the Merovingian dynasty, made Paris the capital of the Frankish kingdom.

The article by Irina Sukharnikova, translation by Ekaterina Ryabova; specially for Sweet Home Abroad

Article address:
http://www.sweethomeabroad.com/article.php?obj_id=331

Carolingian Dynasty

The Frankish kingdom reached its Golden age in 771 during the reign of Charlemagne, whose sire was Pepin the Short, mayor of the palace. The Carolingian dynasty started with Charlemagne. Even though he did not like Gaul and moved the Frankish capital to Aachen, the division of the empire on his death allowed his grandson Charles the Bald to bestow this honour upon Paris. Even then the boundaries of the kingdom of Franks already resembled the modern-day France. Twenty noble families of France, tall and light-haired descendants of Frankish leaders, visibly differ in appearance from the majority of French population even today.

Since the 9th century A.C. warlike Scandinavian viking tribes, also known as the Normans in Northern France, began to plague Europe with raids and plunder. Charles the Bald entrusted the defence of his kingdom to Robert the Strong, Count of Anjou, making him missus dominicus (ruler) of Paris. Robert began by fortifying the ancient city and battling endlessly against the Normans. In 895 they attacked Paris and were granted permission to settle at the mouth of Seine on the condition that they would protect Paris from raids of other war tribes.

The article by Irina Sukharnikova, translation by Ekaterina Ryabova; specially for Sweet Home Abroad

Article address:
http://www.sweethomeabroad.com/article.php?obj_id=332

House of Capet

Hugh Capet, the great grandson of Robert the Strong, was declared king of France in 987 after the death of the last Carolingian king Louis V. That was the beginning of the House of Capet era that continued for over 400 years. The Capetians had chosen Île de la Cité as their royal seat, where a royal castle had been subsequently built. Its mighty towers of Conciergerie can be seen on the bank of Seine to this day. Construction of churches had picked up the pace: a surviving Romanesque nave of the oldest one can be seen at Saint-Germain-des-Prés.

Hugh Capet's grandson, kind Henry I, was married to the daughter of Yaroslav (Grand Prince of Rus'), Anne of Kiev, whose sister had been the queen of Norway at the time. Thanks to these slightly complicated yet politically significant ties, William the Conqueror, the Norman duke, had finally left Paris in peace and opted to conquer England in 1066 instead. During the reign of Anne's son, Philip I, the first Crusades took place that opened many doors to Frankish knights. Wealth and treasures from the East started flowing to Europe.

Anne's grandson Louis VI, along with his friend and confidant Abbot Suger, initiated construction of the first Gothic cathedral in Paris in Saint-Denis. Louis VII's reign saw the foundations of Notre Dame de Paris being laid in 1163. Relics from the Holy Land and treasures of Byzantine Empire were being brought home by the Frankish crusaders, transforming Paris into an influential Christian capital.

King Philip II Augustus (1165-1223) started rigorous construction outside the boundaries of the Île de la Cité by building the Louvre fortress and encircling the city with defensive walls. In the meantime, the most powerful order of Knights Templar began to drain the marshes close to Le Louvre and building their most impressive temple - the residence of Grand Masters of the Templars. However, by decree of Napoleon I the temple had been demolished and the Templars later forgotten, save for the modern metro station and the name of the neighbourhood where Temple once stood.

After acquiring some of the Passion of Christ relics, in 1239 king Louis IX, the Saintly King, built a new church in the royal palace on the Île de la Cité that replaced the older royal chapel. The magnificent Sainte-Chapelle, designed by the Medieval architect and mason Pierre de Montreuil, became one of the most beautiful churches in Paris. Louis IX the Saintly's reign also saw the completion of the main facade of Notre Dame de Paris and the opening of the most famous French university, Sorbonne University, named after the royal chaplain Robert de Sorbon.

King Philip IV the Fair turned his royal court into the most sumptuous in Europe, which was partly done by destroying the Knights Templar, the wealthiest organization in Medieval France at the time. Burning the knights Templar at the stake under Pont Neuf made an end to the Crusades as well. Jacques de Molay was the last Master of the Templars burned among the knights of the order; before dying, he cursed kind Philip for the destruction of the Templars. In fourteen years, the Capetian line had been extinguished.

After Philip IV 's death in 1314, France had no male heirs to ascend the throne, as Philip's son Charles IV died childless. Philip's daughter Isabelle married King of England, and so her son Edward laid claim to the French throne, while aristocracy in France had chosen the nephew of Philip IV the Fair, Philip Valois, as their new king. In 1328 began the era of the House of Valois.

The article by Irina Sukharnikova, translation by Ekaterina Ryabova; specially for Sweet Home Abroad

Article address:
http://www.sweethomeabroad.com/article.php?obj_id=333

House of Valois

In 1337 the Hundred Years' War that went on for 116 years started devouring England and France. In 1429 Joan d'Arc sacrificed her life for Charles VII Valois and for him to be crowned king in the Reims cathedral and swear in on the beautiful Bible written in Cyrillic and given to the cathedral by Anne of Kiev after her own wedding in Reims. Paris had been given its status of capital back once again.

During the reign of Louis XI in 1461-1483 Paris had shaken off the remaining remainders of wars and plagues and turned into a real capital. Gothic masterpieces sprang like mushrooms, of which only a handful lived to see the present day: l'Hôtel des Abbés de Cluny, church Saint-Séverin and Hôtel de Sens are among the surviving examples.

The reign of Francis I deserves a special note, since Francis is considered to be the most Renaissance-oriented monarch of France. Upon losing to his opponent, the emperor of the Roman Empire Charles V, and sending away his son as a royal hostage for seven years, Francis turns to Italy as an icon of everything fashionable, invites Leonardo da Vinci and Benvenuto Cellini to France. At this time, Le Louvre becomes resembling its present-day self, City Hall is being built, projects to construct the royal residence of Fontainebleau and marvellous castles in the Loire valley begin.

The reign of Henry II from 1547 t0 1559 sets the scene for rivalry of two of the most influential women of Paris - his wife Caterina de' Medici and his mistress Diane de Poitiers. After his absurd death by a sliver that chipped off a spear and landed right in his eye during the jousting in the Tournelles palace near Marais, the decision was made to demolish the palace and build the new Tuileries palace.

During the reign of Henry II's sons Paris had been an almost exclusively Catholic domain, whereas the Western France had been largely governed by the Huguenots (French Protestants). On the 23rd of August 1572, on the St. Bartholomew's Day, by the signal of the Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois church bell, over 5 thousand Huguenots were massacred.

The article by Irina Sukharnikova, translation by Ekaterina Ryabova; specially for Sweet Home Abroad

Article address:
http://www.sweethomeabroad.com/article.php?obj_id=334

House of Bourbon

The religious discord between the Catholics and the Huguenots of France came to an end during the reign of Henry IV of Navarre, the first king of the Bourbon dynasty. The king started enthusiastically beautifying Paris, turning the former horse market into one of the most striking squares in the world, today known as Place Des Vosges. After Henry IV had been assassinated by a Catholic fanatic, the power passed on to his widow Marie de' Medici. The future king of France, Louis XIII, was only 9 years old. Marie de' Medici had built the Luxembourg Palace, and her cardinal Richelieu had reformed the educational system, changing the official language of the university education in Sorbonne from Latin to French. Richelieu had also decreed to build the church of Sorbonne and the Baroque palace Palais-Royale.

Thanks to novels of Alexandre Dumas this period of French history made Paris famous for all future generations of readers. The Latin Quarter, where many characters of his novels lived, is one of the most popular quarters of Paris. The narrowest street of Paris, amusingly called Rue du Chat-qui-Pêche (A Cat-Who-Is-Fishing), still exists: not far from there D'Artagnan met Constance in "The Three Musketeers". Here were located the living quarters of the musketeers themselves, near the Saint-Sulpice church. Aramis lived on Rue de Vaugirard, Athos lodged on Rue Férou, and Porthos had an apartment on Rue du Vieux Colombier. D'Artagnan himself lodged on the street that begins at the left facade of the Saint-Sulpice church. A monument for Louis XIII stands on Place Des Vosges, where Dumas accommodated M'lady De Winter. An insignificant king went down in history as the most famous in French literature.

His son Louis XIV turned France into the most powerful state of Europe. During his reign the first boulevards crossed the city of Paris; Saint-Martin canal had been dug; the arcs of triumph appeared at the city border near Saint-Denis; Place Vendôme and Les Invalides have been built. Paris now had its own Academy of Sciences and the Observatory.

During the reign of Louis XV Paris had been turning into the world capital, not without the influence of Marquise de Pompadour, the king's chief mistress. At that time, the Louis XV square had been constructed, and unlike many other squares of Paris, this one is open on all sides. Today the square is called La Place de la Concorde.

Under Louis XV new ideas, principles and social theories flourished: Diderot, Voltaire and Rousseau had been printing Encyclopédie, while Beaumarchais collected money to finance the American revolution from the old cafe "Le Procope".

The article by Irina Sukharnikova, translation by Ekaterina Ryabova; specially for Sweet Home Abroad

Article address:
http://www.sweethomeabroad.com/article.php?obj_id=335

Napoleon Era

The years of reign of Louis XVI had been characterized by a financial crisis and food shortages. Paris had become haven to the Jacobin Club, an influential political organization, whose members created the National Constituent Assembly, demanded adoption of the Constitution, abolition of the feudal system, confiscation of the Church lands, separation of the Church from the State. On 14th of July 1789 the Jacobins seized and destroyed the previously impregnable Bastille prison.

Starting on January 21st 1793, when Louis XVI was executed on the guillotine, Paris had been engulfed in the Reign of Terror. The First Republic was established in France. All bronze monuments had been melted to make cannons, churches looted, monks murdered. During the French Revolution the authority of the military rose significantly, who played an active role in suppressing counter-revolution rebellions and uprisings. On the 9th of November 1799 the military Commander in Chief, general Napoleon Bonaparte, seized power in a military coup. France, weakened by the Revolution and wars, offered little resistance.

After crowning himself emperor, Napoleon I had given France the Napoleonic Code, a civil law reform, and started adorning Paris in style of the ancient Rome. Arc de Triomphe and the Madeleine Church were built. Famous works of art were being brought from all over the world to fill Parisian museums and libraries. By the Napoleon's decree, all old structures along the Jardin des Tuileries and Le Louvre were demolished and replaced with the beautiful rue de Rivoli. Water supply of the city was secured by the many canals dug, yet subsequently filled up, except for the Saint-Martin canal, that was laid out along the Bastille trench and preserved.

In spring of 1814, after the Russian tsar Alexander I entered Paris, Napoleon renounced the French throne for himself and his heirs and retired to his estate on the island of Elba. The restoration of the House of Bourbon took place in France. The throne was ascended by Louis XVIII, the last Bourbon king of France, but his attempts to revert back to the old regime of monarchy provoked people's unrest and allowed Napoleon to regain power. His defeat at Waterloo ultimately brought death upon him.

The article by Irina Sukharnikova, translation by Ekaterina Ryabova; specially for Sweet Home Abroad

Article address:
http://www.sweethomeabroad.com/article.php?obj_id=336

French Republics

The failed attempt to restore Bourbon monarchy resulted in rebellions and barricades across Paris in 1830 and a subsequent instalment of the July Monarchy. The period marked the beginning of the industrial growth of Paris, with railway tracks and train stations being actively built. The population of Paris exceeded 1 million, but the vast majority was living in slums. Establishing the scene of that historic period, Victor Hugo settled his character, a poor boy named Gavroche, on the Place de la Bastille, where Napoleon I once wanted to erect an elephant-shaped fountain. Today the July Column stands on the square.

King's hesitation to implement reforms resulted in another revolution in 1848 and creation of the Second Republic, headed by Napoleon I's nephew Louis-Napoleon. In 1852 the French voted in favour of the Empire, and Napoleon III was crowned Emperor of the French. The new emperor appointed Georges-Eugène Haussmann as prefect of the Seine department in order to rebuild the city of Paris, to get rid of the medieval quarters and create wide boulevards instead. Hausmann studied urban planning in Saint Petersburg; his 7-storey buildings made of white Parisian limestone are indistinguishable from each other save for different window grids. Having been influenced by the beauty of Saint Petersburg, Hausmann initiated a very ambitious urban replanning campaign. The old structure of the city was left intact only in the Latin Quarter and the district of Marais.

One of the masterpieces of the Napoleon III period is Palais Garnier. In 1867 Russian Emperor Alexander II visited Paris and the Saint Alexander Nevsky cathedral that was built on his own initiative, where Alexander prayed to thank God for sparing his life in the assassination attempt in the Bois de Boulogne.

In 1870, after the defeat in the war against Prussia and captivity, Napoleon III was decrowned, and the Third Republic was declared. The Paris Commune refused to surrender Paris to German forces, and their uprising was swift and fierce. Street fighting ruined the city hall and the Tuileries Palace. The communards were executed, and for repentance of their sins the Sacré Coeur basilica was erected on the Montmartre.

In 1885 all riches of French monarchs were sold, and the city began to see structures of metal and glass: the Eiffel Tower, the railway stations of Gare de Lyon and Gare d'Orsay, the beautiful bridge Pont Alexandre III. At the beginning of the 20th century Paris turned into an acknowledged cultural hub of Europe. Picasso, Chagall, Stravinsky, Hemingway all lived and created their masterpieces here. Musée d’Orsay and Musée Rodin have also been opened.

The article by Irina Sukharnikova, translation by Ekaterina Ryabova; specially for Sweet Home Abroad

Article address:
http://www.sweethomeabroad.com/article.php?obj_id=337

Modern times

The Third Republic ended in 1940 with the Nazis entering the city. The Fourth Republic began in August 1944, when general Charles de Gaulle marched along Paris to the Place de l'Étoile. The Fifth Republic was created in 1958, when the French Constitution still in place today was adopted. After an unprompted riot of the Sorbonne students the political climate of the country changed, bringing the era of ambitious projects. The Seine saw the Center Georges Pompidoux rise on the right bank and the Montparnasse tower on the left. The pyramid of Louvre, the Arc de Defense, the Bastille Opera appeared in Paris at that time.

The 21st century Paris is famous only for its man-made beaches on the banks of Seine, but one can hope that a feeble attempt at reconstructing the locals' favourite market Les Halles will be shadowed by the creation of a new symbol of Paris.

Today Paris is one of the most popular cities on Earth. Life here is understood as art, and every visitor is turned into a romantic. 1800 monuments, 140 museums, 145 theatres, thousands of restaurants, cafes and bistros attract millions of visitors annually looking for adventures and unforgettable memories.

The article by Irina Sukharnikova, translation by Ekaterina Ryabova; specially for Sweet Home Abroad

Article address:
http://www.sweethomeabroad.com/article.php?obj_id=338

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