The daily life in medieval Paris!

Going deep into my travel/history library many choices. However, I bet many are intrigue as to what was Paris like in the Middle Ages and see the most beautiful city in the World today. Of course, this will be in my black and white series,no pictures. Therefore, let me share a bit of history with you all, one of my passions, on the daily life in medieval Paris!

Let me start with some key dates such as 508 when Clovis made Paris his capital. 885-886 siégé of the Normans. 987 the sacre of Hugues Capet, return of Paris as capital city. 1180 start of reign of Philippe Auguste with the construction of the Louvre palace. 1226-1270 the reign of Saint Louis or Louis IX that starts the construction of Notre Dame and the Sainte Chapelle. 1337-1453 War of the Hundred years. 1358 uprising of Etienne Marcel provost of merchants. 1364-1380 the reign of Charles V that comes to the Louvre and enlarge the rampart walls of Paris to help defended. 1407-1436 Civil war between the Armagnacs and the Burgundians that bring the intervention of the English, Jean Sans Peur takes control of the city in 1418. 1437 Charles VII takes the city from the English , Paris stop been the principal residence of the king to moved into the Loire valley.

The main character was Philippe Auguste that helps built the rampart wall to protect Paris, A passionate of urbanism the king decided to improve the roads. Also, a push to economic activities around the Halles, Finally, he recognised the University (Sorbonne) in 1200 and made Paris an educational center of all Europe,

Lutéce counted about 8K to 20K inhabitants, From the 7C the population of Paris decreases, mostly in cause of the raids of the Vikings that pillage and burn part of the city, At the end of the 10C Hugues Capet made Paris his capital of the Capetians and the demographic growth takes off, It continues without interruption until the 15C including even during the Hundred Years war, At this time , Paris had 30k inhabitants by 1200 and 200k early in the 14C, In the Middle Ages, Paris was the most inhabited city in western Europe.

With the demographic trend at the end of the 12C and extension of constructions, it was necessary to defend Paris from attacks of the king of England. Philippe Auguste ordered the construction of a huge wall from 1180 that included the equivalents of today’s 1éme,4éme,5éme, and 6éme arrondissements or districts, Paris becomes cut in three parts, The Cité is the episcopal and royal city, rive droite or right bank the most inhabited and very merchants and bourgeois with the neighborhood of the Halles, The rive gauche or left bank became the student town since the foundation of the University in 1200 (Sorbonne).

The trades of Paris show in a book of 1268 by Etienne Boileau identified more than 100 professions, You have food derives, textiles, arts and crafts, or luxury, All with very detail rules and conditions to entered them, Most of the trades were concentrated in the rive droite and around the rue des Orfévres, rue de la Ferronnerie, rue de la Verrerie, quai de la Mégisserie etc, It came to light two powerful corporations, the butchers and the seamen.

The butchers were with strong families and one of the oldest corporations, You can see its power at the Church Saint Jacques de la Boucherie tower that they helped financed, The biggest butcherie was found near Châtelet at the end of the 14C with 19 butchers and 38 stands, Even if the meat was reserved to the most well off its consumption was equivalent to the one in Paris of 1950 !, There are texts like the Description of Paris by Guillebert de Metz in 1434 telling us that in Paris we ate 4000 sheeps, 600 porks, 500 calves, and 240 oxens. The seamen handle all the trafic in the Seine, very powerful they have their own jurisdiction recognised by the king from the 12C. The symbol of Paris becomes a boat with a Latin divise saying « it is tossed by the waves but does not sink » still today those of Paris!

Contrary to most cities that are rule by a town’s charter, Paris was administered by a representative of the king, the provost of Paris, that lived in the Grand Châtelet, However, the powerful seamen corporation was in charge of Paris de facto. Under Louis IX (Saint Louis) in 1263 the provost of merchants backup by four alderman becomes a sort of Mayor, The municipal council had as duty to control the river commerce and watch the ports, cash in the taxes, but also, maintenance of the city ; bridges, streets etc.

The streets of Paris came with having the wooden houses covered with plaster or chalk to limits the fires, consoles to hold up the projecting elements , the panels in wood or metal were works of arts as most could not read, they were displayed in such a way that you knew what it was by the drawing and shape of panels, You came into pigs, chicken, dogs, bears, all of them on the streets of Paris, In 1131 Philippe the oldes son of king Louis VI died after falling from his horse scare of a passing pig ! Paris also, had hundreds of taverns and drank in large quantities, The pavement of the streets began from the 12C with large blocks of sandstone with a thickness of 30 cm (almost 12 inches). They were narrow roads and zigzag streets and given no names for the most parts, They were found by the parish landmarks, The sidewalks were only 1,5 meters wide and roads of vehicules only 5-6 meters wide,sometimes not enough for two carriages, this created heavy trafic (and no talk of congestions then lol!)

The narrow streets were put more in difficulty by the houses that overhang them, The levels when 4 or 5 serve by a stair that advance towards the sidewalks and closer than the next one to diminish the rain falling off, Most houses especially at street level were used as shops built with wood, mud, and straws, The roofs were done with stubble quickly change to tiles, The hygiene was deplorable conditions As to the stone houses covert with tiles from the 14C they were reserve for the elite, The mansions were sumptuosly decorated with a bit of a protected lot with a garden looking fortified.

The garbage was dump everywhere ! There was only one hole per street and many times it was dumped in the Seine, or the Biévre, the butchers cut off the animals on the street which brought many rats, No system of used waters as the first sewer did not come until 1370, In 1186 Philippe Auguste orders the streets to be cover with large blocks of sandstone in some streets with a layer of mud.

In addtion with poor lighting with only three lights in the 14C one by the cemetery des Innocents, another by Châtelet and last one by on the tour de Nésles near the pont neuf.

The misery of the city of Paris arrived at 10% in the Middle Ages( today is 14% under poverty line!!) . By the place de Gréve each morning folks gathered to find labor for the day to feeding and lodging which came the slogan to be by the Gréve meant until the 19C to be without work, At the Middle Ages, the charity was little and the rich simply moved to the outskirt of the city, At the hospital like the Hôtel Dieu that could received 500 persons a work of the churches that gave the charity and was not until the 14C that doctors and surgeons were in permanence in the hospitals.

For feeding the great vegetable gardens were raised north of Paris on the old banks of the Seine. Inside the city of Philippe Auguste small gardens were set up as well, The left bank or rive gauche was covered in vineyards where the wine of Paris was done, The wheat was made in the Grand Pont and the Seine provided enough fish and as well transported from Dieppe and Rouen, the beef from the Limousin and the west of France, By the place de Gréve was the port de Gréve, the biggest in Paris. The water was not good to drink until at the end of the 12C two aqueducts were created by religious orders by the wells of the north of Paris in Belleville and Pré Saint Gervais, fed the waters of the Pré Saint Gervais was the first public water fountain in 1182 at the Halles. By the end of the Middle Age there were 18 fountains in Paris.

The city of Paris on medieval Paris:

The Paris tourist office on medieval Paris:

There you go folks, another dandy historical facts from yours truly on my eternal Paris. It is amazing to see the changes over the years from this dirty city to becoming the most beautiful city in the World! Paris is a mouvable feast alright. Hope you enjoy this historical post as I

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

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