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|région: Île de France|
|département: 75, Paris|
How should one describe Paris? The Prussian State Minister Wilhelm von Humboldt wrote to the poet Friedrich Schiller in 1799: Ich habe in der Tat nie einen Punkt gesehen, der soviel Größe, Pracht und Schönheit auf einmal in sich vereinigt (Indeed I have never seen a place that in itself united so much grandeur, splendour and beauty).
The origins of the city go back to the 3rd century BC when the Parisii founded the first settlement on the Île de la Cité in the river Seine. The Roman town that began to develop after the battle at Grenelle (today in the 15th arrondissement) of 52 BC, which was described by Julius Caesar in his Bello Gallico, became known as Lutetia Parisiorum during the 1st century AD. In the early 3rd century the town already had 20,000 inhabitant, but was destroyed in 280 during the Migrations Period. The name Paris appears first in 360. In 508 Chlodwig made Paris the capital of the Merowingian empire. From the 14th until the 16th century, the kings of France did not reside in Paris but in the Loire region. It was the King Henri IV (crowned 1589) who returned to Paris after having converted to the Catholic faith in 1572. The French Revolution started in Paris on 14th July 1789, and saw the decapitation of King Louis XVI and Queen Marie-Antoinette in 1793. Napoleon I founded the First Empire in 1804, which ended ten years later with the restauration of the kingdom under Louis XVIII. The Second Republic (18481852) and the Second Empire under Napoléon III (18521870) were succeeded by the Third Republic (18711940), which was ended by the Pétain regime (19401944). After a provisional government (19441947) the Fourth Republic was proclaimed in 1947. The constitution of the present, Fifth Republic was passed in 1958, its first president was general Charles de Gaulle. France was one of the founders of the European Union: the Treaty Establishing the European Coal and Steel Community, the first of the four founding treaties of the EU, was signed in Paris on 18th April 1951; it was followed by the Treaty Establishing the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) and the Treaty Establishing the European Economical Community (EEC), both signed on 25th of March 1957 in Rome, and the final Treaty on European Union, signed on the 7th of February 1993 in Maastricht.
Paris was selected by the Council of the European Union to be European City of Culture for 1989. The banks of the river Seine, the historic centre of Paris, were listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1991.
Notre-Dame de Paris is located on the eastern half of the Île de la Cité. It is the cathedral of the Catholic archdiocese of Paris. Notre Dame de Paris was one of the first Gothic cathedrals, and its construction spanned the Gothic period. Notre Dame de Paris is widely considered one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture in the world.
Construction began in 1163, during the reign of Louis VII, and opinion differs as to whether Maurice de Sully or Pope Alexander III laid the foundation stone of the cathedral. However, both were at the ceremony in question. Bishop de Sully went on to devote most of his life and wealth to the cathedral's construction. Construction of the west front, with its distinctive two towers, began about the year 1200, before the nave had been completed, contrary to normal construction practice. Over the construction period, numerous architects worked on the site, as is evidenced by the differing styles at different heights of the west front and towers. Between 1210 and 1220, the fourth architect oversaw the construction of the level with the rose window and the great halls beneath the towers. The towers were completed around 1245, and the cathedral was completed around 1345.
In 1548, rioting Huguenots damaged features of the cathedral, considering them idolatrous. During the reigns of Louis XIV and Louis XV, the cathedral underwent major
alterations as part of an ongoing attempt to modernize cathedrals throughout Europe. Tombs and stained glass windows were destroyed. The north and south rose windows
were spared this fate, however. In 1793, during the French Revolution, the cathedral was rededicated to the Cult of Reason, and then to the Cult of the Supreme Being.
During this time, many of the treasures of the cathedral were either destroyed or plundered. The statues of biblical kings of Judah (erroneously thought to be kings of
France) were beheaded. Many of the heads were found during a 1977 excavation nearby and are on display at the Musée de Cluny. For a time, Lady Liberty replaced the
Virgin Mary on several altars. The cathedral's great bells managed to avoid being melted down. The cathedral also came to be used as a warehouse for the storage of food.
A restoration program was initiated in 1845, overseen by architects Jean-Baptiste-Antoine Lassus and Eugène Viollet-le-Duc. The restoration lasted 25 years and included
the construction of a flèche (a type of spire) as well as the addition of the chimeras on the Galerie des Chimères.
In 1871, during the period of the Paris Commune, the cathedral was nearly set alight: some records suggest that the rebels even went so far as to set fire to a mound of
chairs within the building. Whether that was so or not, the cathedral survived the Commune period essentially unscathed.
In 1939, during World War II, it was feared that German bombers could destroy the windows; as a result, on September 11, 1939, they were removed and then
restored at the end of the war.
[Text adapted from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Notre_Dame_de_Paris]
The Panthéon was originally built as a church dedicated to Ste. Geneviève, but after many changes now combines liturgical functions with its role as a famous burial place. It is an early example of Neoclassicism, with a façade modelled on the Pantheon in Rome, surmounted by a small dome that owes some of its character to Bramante's "Tempietto". Located on the Montagne Sainte-Geneviève, the Panthéon looks out over all of Paris. Its architect, Jacques-Germain Soufflot, had the intention of combining the lightness and brightness of the gothic cathedral with classical principles. Soufflot died before his work was achieved, and his plans were not entirely followed. The transparency he had planned for his masterpiece was not attained. Nevertheless, it is one of the most important architectural achievements of its time and the first great neoclassical monument.
King Louis XV vowed in 1744 that if he recovered from an illness he would replace the ruined church of Sainte-Geneviève with an edifice worthy of the patron saint of Paris. Soufflot was chosen for the construction of the new Église Sainte-Geneviève, a major work in the neoclassical style. The overall design was that of a Greek cross with massive portico of Corinthian columns. Its ambitious lines called for a vast building 110 meters long by 84 meters wide, and 83 meters high. No less vast was its crypt. The foundations were laid in 1758, but due to financial difficulties, it was only completed after Soufflot's death, by his pupil Jean-Baptiste Rondelet, in 1789. As it was completed at the start of the French Revolution, the new Revolutionary government ordered it to be changed from a church to a mausoleum for the interment of great Frenchmen. Twice since then it has reverted to being a church, only to become again a temple to the great intellectuals of France.
Among those buried in its necropolis are Voltaire, Rousseau, Victor Hugo, Émile Zola, Jean Moulin, Marie Skłodowska-Curie, Pierre Curie, Louis Braille, Jean Jaurès,
Alexandre Dumas (père) and Soufflot,
its architect. A widely-repeated story that the remains of Voltaire were stolen by religious fanatics in 1814 and thrown into a garbage heap is false. Such rumours resulted
in the coffin being opened in 1897, which confirmed that his remains were still present.
[Text adapted from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panthéon_(Paris)]
The Arc de Triomphe [left] (arc de triomphe de l'Étoile) stands in the centre of the Place Charles de Gaulle (until 1970 named Place de l'Étoile) which marks the western end of the Champs-Élysées. The arch honours those who fought for France, particularly during the Napoleonic Wars. Designed by Jean Chalgrin in 1806 in the Neoclassical version of ancient Roman architecture, the monument stands 49.5 metres (165 ft) in height, 45 metres (148 ft) wide and 22 meters (72 ft) deep. The monument was inaugurated in 1836 by King Louis Philippe I and is the largest triumphal arch in existence. Major academic sculptors of France are represented in the sculpture of the Arc de Triomphe: Jean-Pierre Cortot, François Rude, Antoine Étex, Jean-Jacques Pradier and Philippe Joseph Henri Lemaire. The four sculptural groups at the base of the Arc are Le Triomphe de 1810 (Jean-Pierre Cortot), La Résistance de 1814 and La Paix de 1815 (both by Antoine Étex) and the most renowned of them all, Le Départ de 1792 commonly called La Marseillaise (François Rude).
In the attic above the richly sculptured frieze of soldiers are 30 shields engraved with the names of major Revolutionary and Napoleonic military victories: Valmy, Jemmapes, Fleurus, Montenotte, Lodi, Castiglione, Arcole, Rivoli, Les Pyramides, Aboukir, Alkmaer, Zurich, Heliopolis, Marengo, Hohenlinden, Ulm, Austerlizt (Slavkov u Brna), Iéna, Friedland (today Правдинск/Prawdinsk), Sierra, Essling (today part of Vienna), Wagram, Moscowa, Lutzen, Bleutzen, Dresde, Hanau, Montmirail, Montereau, Lagny. The inside walls of the monument list the names of 558 French generals; the names of those who died in battle are underlined. Also inscribed, on the shorter sides of the four supporting columns, are the names of the major battles of the Napoleonic Wars: Lille, Hondschootte, Wattignies, Arlon, Courtrai, Tourcoing, Weissembourg (Wissembourg), Maestricht, Aldenhoven, Landau, Neuwied, Rastadt, Etlingen, Neresheim, Bamberg, Amberg, Friedberg, Biberach, Altenkirchen, Schliengen, Kehl, Engen, Moeskirch, Hochstett, Wertingen, Guntzbourg (Günzburg), Elchingen, Dierstein, Hollabrunn, Saalfeld, Halle, Prentzlow, Lubeck, Pultusk, Eylau, Ostrolenska, Dantzig (Gdansk), Heilsberg, Landshut, Eckmulh, Ratisbonne (Regensburg), Raab (Győr), Mohilew, Smolensko, Valontina, Polotsk, Krasnoe, Wurschen, Loano, Millesimo, Dego, Mondovi, Roveredo, Bassano, St. Georges, Mantoue, Tagliamento, Sediman, Mont Thabor, Chebreisse, Bassignano, San Giuliano, Dietikon, Mutta Thal, Gênes, Le Var, Montebello, Le Mincio, Caldiero, Castel Franco, Raguse (Dubrovnik), Gaète, Le Bastan, Le Boulou, Burgos, Espinosa, Tudela, Ucléz, La Corogne, Sarragosse, Valls, Medellín, Maria-Belchite, Almonacid, Ocana, Alba de Tormes, Vique, Lerida, Gudad-Rodrigo, Almeida, Tortose, Gebora, Badajoz, Tarragone, Sagonte, Valence. Further 32 battles are also named on the interior sides of the small pillars: Diersheim, Dusseldorf (Düsseldorf), Grand-Port, Mjaroslawietz, Ypres, Luxembourg, Breslaw (Wrocław), Berg-op-Zoom, Jaffa, Peschiera, Caire, Caprée, Gratz (Graz), C. de Sprimont, Geisberg, Champaubert, Adige, Montagne Noir, Pozzolo, La Piave, Naples, Plaisance, Madrid, Mequinenza, Roses, Astorga, Girone, Olivenza, Toulouse, M. de Rioseco, Oporto (Porto), Fuente d'Ouoro. The battles which took place in the period between the departure of Napoleon from Elba and his final defeat at Waterloo are not included.
Famous victory marches past the Arc included the Germans in 1871, the French in 1918, the Germans in 1940, and the French and Allies in 1944 and 1945.
Charles de Gaulle survived an attack upon him at the Arc during a parade. Beneath the Arc is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from the First World War.
Interred here on Armistice Day 1920, it has the first eternal flame lit in Western and Eastern Europe since the Vestal Virgins' fire in the Forum Romanum in
Rome was extinguished in the year 391. It burns in memory of the dead who were never identified (now in both World Wars).
[Text adapted from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arc_de_Triomphe]
The Grand Palais [left], a large glass exhibition hall, was built for the Paris World Fair of 1900. Built at the same time as the Petit Palais and the Pont Alexandre III, the exterior of this massive palace combines an imposing Classical sont façade with rich Art Nouveau ironwork. The building was closed for 12 years for extensive restoration work after one of the glass ceiling panels fell in 1993. After restoration, the Grand Palais reopened in 2005.
The Petit Palais [right] was built at the same time as the Grand Palais.
It now houses the Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris.
The Basilique du Sacré Cœur de Montmartre [left] was initiated after the defeat of France during the French-German War of 1870/1871. At first the fund-raising was by public subscription only, but in 1873 the National Assembly declared it a state undertaking. The site chosen for the construction is the butte Montmartre, by tradition the place of martyrdom of St. Denis, the first bishop of Paris. Seventy-eight entries were submitted in a competition. Out of these, the plans of Paul Abadier were chosen. The construction was begun in 1875. After the death of Abadier in 1884 six further architects were involved in the building works. The church was completed in 1914, but due to the outbreak of World War I it was consecrated only in 1919. In the same year it received the papal title of a Basilica minor.