Strolling through the narrow streets of our capital, have you ever wondered which are the oldest monuments in Paris? Well, Booster2Success has curated our best list of the oldest Parisian buildings for you! Some monuments have not kept their original appearance over the years. Take for example, the “Maubuée” fountain in the 4th district, whose origins date back to the 14th century, will not be mentioned because its current appearance dates back to 1733. Let’s now set off on a journey through time searching out the oldest monuments in Paris!
The oldest square in Paris – Place des Vosges (1612)
The history of the Place des Vosges, once a royal property, began in 1605, when Henri IV wanted to build a large square. Inaugurated in 1612 on the occasion of the engagement of Louis XIII and Anne of Austria, the place with its shops under the arcades and its red facades has not changed over the centuries. The origin of its current name dates back to 1800 and honours the Vosges region which first paid the revolutionary tax.
B2S’ super tip: Travel across the Place des Vosges and its district thanks to our team building treasure hunt for adults in the Marais!
The oldest bridge in Paris – Le Pont-Neuf “the new bridge” (1607)
In 1578, to relieve the Notre-Dame bridge, Henri III ordered the construction of a new structure stepping over the Seine. Because of the wars of religion, delays accumulated… Finally completed in 1607 under Henri IV, the oldest bridge in Paris seems to have chosen the wrong name! This bridge was indeed “new” and its design was revolutionary when it was inaugurated. Have a look below to the slide and the old map detail. Among the bridges of Paris, it is the only one, and also the first one that is not lined with buildings!
B2S’ super tip: Take the docks under the bridge arches to contemplate the mascarons: some mischievous satyr heads await you!
View of the Pont-Neuf and its masks, Booster2Success© – Detail of the Merian plan, 1615
The oldest tree in Paris – Le robinier du Square Viviani (around 1601)
While not a Parisian monument, this tree is the oldest in the French capital. John Robin, the gardener of King Henry IV, received English colleague seeds from an East Americas species. The venerable black locust tree located in Square Viviani was planted from those seeds around 1601! Later, the botanist Karl von Linné gave this species the name Robinia pseudoacacia. A nice tribute to the one who introduced this plant in Europe. See it for yourself!
The oldest public clock in Paris – L’horloge du palais de la Cité (1585)
At the corner of Boulevard du Palais and Quai de l’Horloge, take the time to admire the oldest public clock in Paris. Since 1370, this tower has been home to the beautiful heirloom clock. In 1585, Henri III modified its appearance. Renovated many times in the 19th century and in 2012, the building was restored to 16th century style. The allegories of Law and Justice line the dial. At the top, the arms of Henri III appear. The lilies of France, the Polish eagle, and the rider of Lithuania remind us that the king reigned over these lands.
Clock Tower of the Palais de la Cité, Boulevard du Palais 75001 Paris – Booster2Success©
The oldest fountain in Paris – The Fountain of the Innocents (1549)
In 1547, Henri II wished to replace a medieval fountain attached to the old Saint-Innocent church and the eponymous cemetery. The king called upon two prestigious artists who remodeled the Louvre, architect Jean Goujon and the sculptor Pierre Lescot. In 1549, they completed the creation of the new fountain. In 1785, following the relocation of the Parisian cemeteries outside the city, this work was moved and modified but retained much of its Renaissance appearance. Today you can see it on Place Joachim du Bellay.
Photo of the fountain today, Booster2Success© – 19th century engraving of the former condition of the fountain – J. Huyot
The oldest house in Paris – The house of Nicolas Flamel (1407)
Nicolas Flamel was a famous Parisian bourgeois during the Middle Ages. Unlike the legend, he was not an alchemist and did not become rich thanks to the philosopher’s stone. In fact, he made his fortune thanks to a happy marriage and some real estate speculation. Like many wealth holders of the time, Nicolas Flamel financed good works. Among the houses he built, the only surviving one, dating from 1407, it housed poor people at that time. You’ll find it located at 51 rue de Montmorency.
The ground floor of this building is now a restaurant, named the Auberge Nicolas Flamel. Be sure and stop in.
Nicolas Flamel’s house and interior of the restaurant l’Auberge Nicolas Flamel – Booster2Success©
The oldest water supply in Paris – The Roman aqueduct (2nd century)
Among the Roman ruins in Paris, you may know of the arenas and thermal baths of the Cluny museum, but did you know that in the current 14th arrondissement a fragment of an old Roman aqueduct awaits you? You will find it in the rue de l’Empereur Valentinien. Starting from the actual Orly Airport area and covering 15 kilometres, the work finishing its route into the heart of Lutetia, in the current Latin Quarter. The aqueduct fell into disuse at the end of the Roman Empire. Near this remains, you will also find the ruins of the Medici aqueduct, the two constructions sharing the same route.
Remains of the Roman aqueduct pipe, 42 avenue Reille, 75014 Paris – Booster2Success©
Oldest monuments in Paris: The pillar of the Nautes (1st century)
The pillar of the Nautes is to this day the oldest monument in Paris. Preserved in the musée de Cluny, this monumental column is associated with the history of the brotherhood of Lutetia’s Nautes. This guild of shipowners and river merchants crisscrossed the Seine to trade across Gaul. In the 1st century, the Nautes financed the construction of this pillar, dedicated to Emperor Tiberius and the powerful Jupiter. Other gods appear in the work, such as Mercury who watches over trade or Vulcan who favours craftsmen. Some Celtic gods are also represented, including Cernunnos with beautiful horns. The pillar of the Nautes is thus a witness to religious syncretism during the Roman Empire.
The oldest monuments in Paris – The obelisk on the Place de la Concorde (-1300)
Let’s end our trip to the oldest Parisian monuments (but not the oldest constructed inside Paris)! The obelisk on the Place de la Concorde dates from -1300 and comes from the temple of Luxor. In 1830, Méhémet-Ali, viceroy of Egypt, offered France the two obelisks of the ancient place of worship. Only one of these monoliths would be transported to France on board the Luxor, a ship specially designed for this occasion. After a journey as long as epic, the obelisk was erected on Place de la Concorde in 1836, where you can still admire it!
B2S’ super tip: Not far from this monolith, our team building to discover the Palais-Royal district awaits you!
Obelisk Place de la Concorde, 75008 Paris – Booster2Success©
The oldest ship in Paris – The pirogues of the Neolithic (around -4800)
Here, at last, is a small bonus for this quest for the oldest monuments in Paris. In the musée Carnavalet exhibited are the remains of pirogues used for fishing, the oldest of which dates back to the 5th millennium BC! As early as this ancient era, men used to sail on the Seine.
Through this article, we plunged into the several thousand-year-old history of Paris, always going back a little further in time. As the city is in perpetual change, we can ask ourselves what Paris will look like in the future, and what are the most interesting architectural projects to enrich this beautiful city?
Photo credit: Booster2Success
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