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While I am, controversially I know, not a fan of IM Pei’s glass pyramids that stand in front of the Louvre I am grateful for one thing – in excavating for the pyramids parts of the original twelfth century fortress that was the original Louvre and the walls that surrounded Paris were unearthed.  The original fortress was standing until 1190 through the early 16th century when it was partially torn down to make way for the Louvre we see today.  In 1682 Louis XIV left the Louvre to reside at the Chateau Versailles.  In 1793 the Louvre was partially opened as a museum.

In the early twelfth century Paris was just another city in France and not the capital.  Additionally, the Louvre was one of many castles in France and the country was still primarily broken up into feudal territories.  The Louvre, along with chateaus in Fontainbleau, Saint Germain en Laye and Orleans were part of the seat of Louis VI, also known as Louis the Fat.

As legend has it Louis eventually became too fat to travel and oversee his territories and homes.  Therefore it became necessary for his tenants, feudal lords and vassals to travel to his home in Paris to pay homage at the Louvre  beginning the start of Paris as a principal city and royal realm.

Like the Champs Elysees the Louvre is a place in Paris that I try to avoid.  It is overcrowded with loud and pushy tourists and I find it too big to manage and therefore become overwhelmed, give up, and leave.  This time though I had a game plan and thanks to ‘Paris to the Past’ my sole objective for the day was to visit the medieval section of the museum uncovered during the pyramid excavation.  As this part of the museum is relatively small I also opted to visit the special exhibit- Raphaël, les dernières années- but again, not part of the book so not for this blog (it was amazing though!).

If you have not seen old maps or pictures of the original Louvre and the walls that originally encircled Paris I think it would be hard to truly appreciate and understand the walls and rooms found underneath the current building.  The portions of the wall that we see below the Louvre today were once part of a three mile section of wall that encircled the original boundaries of Paris.  Parts of that old wall and Parisian border are now marked by the peripherique, a highway that shuttles thousands of people in and out of Paris by car each day.

We are about halfway through the Middle Ages and its magnificent cathedrals and fortresses.  We are beginning to move from the age where fortresses were necessary and into an age when city centers and castles begin to form.  But, we still have visits to Angers, Saint Chapelle, Vincennes, Orleans and Rouen before we move into The Renaissance.

Next Stop – Angers

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