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The Medieval Paris

In 508, the Salian Franks, under Clovis I, captured Paris and made it their capital until 584.  During the 8th century, the prestige of Paris descended with the promotion of Aix-la-Chapelle [Aachen] as Charlemagne’s capital.  In the 9th century, following the Viking raids, the Count of Paris, Hugh Capet, became the Capetian king.  He rebuilt Paris and made it the official capital of the Frankish Empire in 987. 

By the middle of the 11th century, Paris was administered by the provost of Paris.  During the same century, the first Parisian guilds were formed.  Later, in 1141, the king sold Paris’ principal Seine port to the river-merchants’ guild.  Their coat of arms subsequently became Paris’ coat of arms.  It wasn’t until 1171 that Louis VII conferred a charter upon the river-merchants’ guild, confirming its “ancient right” to monopolize the river trade. 

In ll63, the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris was built.  It is known for both its majesty and its stone carvings.  It is considered to be the most beautiful of all of Paris’s beautiful churches. 

In 1190, King Philip II Augustus, who reigned from 1179 to 1223, had a defensive wall constructed around the part of the town situated on the Right Bank [the north shore].  He also established a water supply for the town and had streets paved.  Philip then left on a year-long crusade, entrusting the administration of the city to the guild. 

The Sainte-Chapelle was constructed in 1248 and the royal palace in 1301.  The construction of these structures on the Cité truly made Paris the heart of France.   

Philip II Augustus ruled France from 1179 to 1223.  He fostered the development of Paris as a governmental, cultural and educational center.  Philip chartered the University of Paris, which had been established on the Left Bank, in 1200.  Because its classes were given in Latin, the Left Bank became known as the Latin Quarter.  He also recognized the natural division of Paris into three parts:  the Left Bank enclosed the academic quarters and the university; the Right Bank contained the mercantile section; and the island included the Cité.  Later, in 1210, he saw to the erection of ramparts that also protected the Left Bank settlement.  This period saw the paving of streets and numerous other improvements.   

In 1220, the crown relinquished, to the townsmen, the right to collect duty on incoming goods.   

During the Medieval period, Paris was not ruled directly by the king, but was overseen from the Châtelet by a royal provost.  The Parisian markets were administered by a provost of merchants.  The provost governed the markets, from his headquarters in the Hôtel-de-Ville, on behalf of the guilds.


                                                More on the Parisian Renaissance >>>




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