Wednesday, October 21, 2015

On a recent trip abroad, I finally made it to the Crypte Archaeologique du Parvis Notre-Dame. (I had tried several times on a trip before only to find it closed every time.) And I must say, it was possibly the best archaeology museum I've been to by far!

The museum is built around ruins underneath the plaza in front of Notre-Dame. They date from the earliest Roman settlements in Paris through the 19th century. The museum managed to give a run through of the entire history of the city based solely around features! And it had great digital 3D models you could zoom around in to see what things once looked like. What's a public archaeologist gal not to love?

(Note: The following photos and info are not in chronological order, but are based on the flow of the museum. Sorry if it confuses!)

These Gallo-Roman fortifications from the 4th century served as defenses against barbarians. The town of Lutetia was founded on the left bank but the Ile de la Cite became its heart because of it's defensive location (on an island in the Seine). Blocks from earlier tombs and buildings were used to construct the walls, giving the walls a thrown-together look. You can still see some of the writing and architectural florishes.

The remains of an old quay is still there, lending clues to an ancient port. Current interpretation features a great video projected partially on the ruins as well as a soundscape, letting the visitor feel like you're there!

The two-story basement of a house from the Middle Ages is also still visible. In 1163, construction of Notre-Dame began and the neighborhood got a redesign. A central street, the rue Neuve Notre-Dame, was placed leading from the facade of the cathedral, with houses on either side.

During the 18th century, many medieval buildings were destroyed to make room for new. The Hospice des Enfants-Trouves, a foundling hospital, was built after three churches were demolished. You can see how the wall in the background is a lot more squared and perfect than the previous walls.

With the rue Neuve Notre-Dame also came a business district. Many of the new houses had cellars that opened to the street and allowed residents to have shops in the homes. There's also a big well! Hanging is a historic photograph from the site's first excavation in the late 1800s.

The museum also houses a small bath house from the 4th century. Remains of the heating system, called a hypocast, can still be seen under the hot room, or laconicum. (It's the pile of tiles in the center of the photo, for those of you like me who are less familiar with Roman architecture!) The museum has hung sheer curtains to give the effect of the walls that no longer stand and has some cool 3D simulations of the bath house and surrounding area.

Some of this old construction was salvaged during the construction of Notre-Dame Cathedral. On my next trip, I'll have to look a little closer at it's walls for evidence of this!

My favorite sign! What a great sentiment, something that St. Augustine knows all about!

For more information, check out the website. And don't hesitate to get your ticket booked to Paris today!!

Text and images by Emily Jane Murray, FPAN staff.

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