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Paris History

Paris arose out of a small fishermen settlement on the Ile de la Cite. The Parisii tribe settled on the tiny island because of its ample supply of fish and because the surrounding Seine River provided protection from invading tribes. Notre Dame stands here today.

Roman legions advanced through the area, conquering the settlement, in 52 AD. The Roman’s

renamed the area Lutetia Parisiorum and continued to control the region for 500 years, setting up numerous administrative and religious buildings some of which still stand today. In 250 A.D., Paris’s 1st bishop, St. Denis, introduced Christianity. He was beheaded not long after. Legend has it that St. Denis picked up his severed head and walked for 4 miles.

Paris FranceOver the next few centuries there were various changes in ruling power. Paris was made a capital city, for the first time, in 508 A.D. by Clovis, the King of Franks. In 789 A.D. the Carolingian dynasty moved the capital to Aix-la-Chapelle. Therefore, leaving Paris vulnerable to foreign aggressors. The Vikings attacked Paris in 886. Eudes, the Count of Paris, fought off the Viking invaders. As a result, his popularity grew and a new dynasty was created. Hugues Capet, the Count’s grand nephew, became King of France in 987 marking the beginning of the Capetian dynasty that continued to rule France until 1328. Over the next few centuries, Paris’s population continued to grow along with the city’s beauty. Monumental achievements included the birth of Sainte Chapelle in 1140, Notre Dame in 1163, and the establishment of the University of Paris in 1215.

Paris hit hard times during the Hundred Year War. The war consumed all resources from 1337-1453. Henry VI crowned himself king of England and France at Notre Dame and the English controlled the city from 1420 to 1436. After the Hundred Year War the city fell back into a period of stability that lasted until the Wars of Religion (1562-1598). The St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre marked the height of dismay. King Henri IV restored sanity by encouraging religious tolerance. Tragically, he was assassinated in 1610.

King Louis XIII and King Louis XIV continued expanding and beatifying Paris. Louis XIV too contributed to the city’s splendor but shunned Paris by moving his court to Versailles. Paris was financially weak under the rule of Louis XV and the king was forced to assemble the Estates General for the first time in over 100 years.

On July 14th 1789 a mob stormed the Bastille marking the beginning of the Revolutionary War. King Louis XV was taken prisoner on August 10th 1792 and beheaded the following year by revolutionaries. The leader of the revolution, Robespierre, was finally arrested. This lead to the rising of Napoleon. Napoleon crowned himself emperor in 1804 at Notre Dame. Napoleon led a series of campaigns to strengthen France’s power throughout Europe until his defeat at the battle of Waterloo in 1815.

In the second half of the 19th century, Europe’s industrial revolution along with the arrival of the railway brought about changes socially, po litically, and economically. Paris grew from ½ million people at the start of the century to over 2 million people by the century’s end. Louis Napoleon was elected president in 1848 and later proclaimed himself Emperor Napoleon III in 1852. The Franco – Prussian War (1870-71) put an end to his empire. Napoleon III was captured and exiled. The Prussians occupied Paris until 1871.

During the late 1800’s and the early 1900’s Paris re-emerged as Europe’s premier artisan city. New ideas in art, architecture, and entertainment flowed out of Paris. France paid a heavy price during WWI loosing over 8 million men. After the war, resilient Paris again bounced back as a cultural center attracting artisans from all over the world. During WW II, Germany invaded Paris and seized control of Paris on June 14th 1940. The Germans were not expelled from Paris until the war's end.

In 1970, the Reseau Express Regional (RER) was established. The RER marked a new era of growth and prosperity. In recent years, Paris has resumed its role as one of Europe’s leading cities. Paris’s heritage is showcased throughout the city making it arguable the most beautiful city in Europe.

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