I had another post planned for today, but in light of the terrible news over the weekend, I wanted to share some facts about the history of Paris as a small way of paying tribute to the city and to the tragic suffering and loss of life.
- The Eiffel Tower is probably Paris’s most famous monument. It was constructed in 1889 for the World Expo, and was actually not popular at all at first. In fact, a committee of artists drafted a petition stating that, “We, writers, painters, scultpors, architects and passionate devotees of the hitherto untouched beauty of Paris, protest with all our strength, with all our indignation in the name of slighted French taste, against the erection of this useless and monstrous Eiffel Tower.” But by World War I, it had become a symbol of national identity when Guillaume Apollinaire made a nationalist poem in the shape of the Eiffel Tower to express his feelings about the war.
- The Jardin des Tuileries sits next to the Lovre Museum. The area is now a garden, but the ‘tuileries’ refers to the place’s origin as a tile factory. The area contains red clay, which was once mined to make red roof tiles. It was transformed into a park, complete with water lilies on the ponds. In fact, Monet painted some of his most famous paintings there.
- Another of the city’s most famous monuments is the Notre Dame Cathedral. The bell in the Notre Dame Cathedral weighs over 13 tonnes and is called Emmanuel.
- The most famous cemetery is called Pere Lachaise. It was opened on May 21, 1804. At the time of the opening, the cemetery was not popular as a burial place, since it was too far from the center of the city. The administrators decided on a marketing scheme of sorts, and with great fanfare and publicity transferred the graves of Jean de La Fontaine and Moliere to the cemetery. After that, Pere Lachaise became far more popular, and went on to house the graves of Chopin and Oscar Wilde, among many others.
- Napoleon I considered Paris to be the capital of his empire, and planned to make it the most beautiful city in the world. In 1806, he issued an imperial decree planning for the “erection of a triumphal arch at the entry to the boulevard by the site of the former Bastille prison that upon entering the Saint-Antoine district, one would pass through this “triumphal arch”. The Arc de Triomphe honours the casualties and veterans of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars. The names of all French victories and generals are inscribed on its inner and outer surfaces. Beneath it lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I.
- Paris is famously known as the City of Light. The name comes from the 1860’s, when Paris streets and monuments were illuminated by 56,000 gas lamps, a new innovation at the time. After the events of last week, we can only hope that the name will hold true today, and that Paris will continue as a place where light triumphs over the dark.