History of Paris - History & Culture - Paris attractions - Paris art - Paris history guide France

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Paris History And Culture, France

Paris was founded around the end of the 3rd century BC by the Gauls who were called Parisii. In 52 BC Julius Caesar's legions conquered the territory, founding the Roman city, Lutetia on the earlier settlement. Christianity was introduced in the second century AD, while the Roman domination ended in the 5th century with the arrival of the Franks. In 508 Clovis I established Paris as the capital of the kingdom.

The Middle Ages was a period of great prosperity for the city of Paris: construction was started on the cathedral of Notre Dame in the 12th century (the work would continue for almost 200 years), while the swampy area of the Marais was drained to become the area now called the Right Bank. Sainte Chapelle (which contained the remains of the True Cross) was completed in 1248 and the Sorbonne opened its doors in 1253

The Hundred Years' War broke out between Norman England and the Capetians of France in the 14th century, which ended with the defeat of France in 1415 and English rule over Paris. It was only thanks to Joan of Arc that around the middle of the 1400's the English were driven out and Paris was reconquered.

The 1500's were also marked by constant wars, the battles between the Catholics and Huguenots (French Protestants) were infamous and resulted in the massacre of Saint Bartholomew in which 3000 Protestants were killed in the name of religion.

At the end of the 1600's Louis XIV, the Sun King, was crowned in the period of the country's greatest splendor, which can be seen in the monumental palace of Versailles, but this peace did not last long. In 1789 the Parisians revolted and the famous fall of the Bastille occurred, the event that started the French Revolution. The ideals of the revolution shortly paved the way for the Reign of Terror, during which 17,000 people were guillotined, including some of the patriots who had started the revolt. To give the country stability the general Napoleon Bonaparte took over, with the title of Consul for life. In 1804 the Pope crowned him Emperor of the French and Napoleon extended his reign to much of Europe, until his 1815 defeat at Waterloo, in Belgium.

After the fall of Napoleon, a coup d'etat brought Napoleon III to power in 1851 Over a period of 17 years, the new emperor assigned Baron Hausmann with major city planning projects, including the construction of wide boulevards, which changed the appearance of Paris for good. The war with Prussia led to the fall of the emperor and start of the Third Republic at the end of the 1800's.

The Nazi occupation of the capital in 1940 was a sad time in French history. They controlled Paris until its liberation on 25 August 1944. At the end of the war, Paris reconquered its role as promoter of innovation and encouraged a strong liberal movement which reached its peak with the famous student revolt of 1968. During the 1980's, president François Mitterand started the so-called "grands projects", a series of significant city planning projects which brought Paris into the third millennium.


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