Oracle of History

Guiding you through the ages

Archive for the tag “Paris”

Will History Stand The Test Of Time?

Sometimes when I’m bored I look through my old photos. It often results in me being embarrassed due to poor fashion choices and/or weird camera angles. It also brings back memories. I was particularly amused when I was looking at my photos from my trip to Egypt…..

IMG_1085

 

 …….And I found this gem! The most interesting part to me was that no one was telling her off. Don’t get me wrong I completely understand that if a baby needs changing it needs to be done, but it was fascinating to see how nonplussed everyone was about it. 

This made me think. How attached are we to the preservation of ruins? 

Therefore I decided that it was best to look at the different ways we are preserving our heritage. 

I know that personally, I would be severely disappointed if we let them rot, but on the other hand it would be fun to run and frolic through the ruins freely. I guess you can’t have it both ways! 

Case study 1 

That being said, preservation has also been used as an excuse for European countries to keep priceless artefacts from their country of origin – *cough* England *cough*

For those who don’t know what I’m talking about let me enlighten you….You may have heard of the Parthenon in Athens. One of the most recognizable ruins in the world. 

 The_Parthenon_in_Athens

Well, a British Lord, Thomas Bruce 7th Earl of Elgin to be exact, removed most of the marble sculptures from the Parthenon, taking it back to be housed at the British Museum. They are now affectionately called the “Elgin Marbles” 

Now, I’m a big fan of the British Museum – I almost lived there when I was a student, but this started a feud that has been going on since the early 1800s. It’s almost comical how every year the Greek government asks for them back and every year the British government says no. 

The best is that the latest excuse was that Athens had no way to properly preserve the marbles. So what did Athens do? They built an Acropolis museum of course! Still no luck in returning them though. 

Case study 2 

On the other end of the spectrum you’ve got Egypt, suffering at the moment from political and religious upheaval. They have more ruins than anybody knows what to do with and no one is going to see them. Although, unlike the Greeks they have their most prized relic – the treasures of Tutankahmun – firmly on their own soil, in Cairo. 

tutcarterbw

When I was there I came across a man in the street who claimed to be a curator at the Egyptian Museum (he wasn’t) and have a PhD in Aromatherapy (he didn’t). So I listened skeptically as he ranted about the return of all the Egyptian artefacts, including the Obelisk in the Piazza del Popolo in Rome. 

To which my mother replied: “What about the Obelisk in Paris?” 

His response was of outrage : “No! That was a gift.”

To each their own I guess!

Case study 3 (and last I promise)

The more observant of you may have noticed that I know a lot about Paris. This is because I live there!

One of the most interesting example of historical preservation here is the Arènes de Lutèce (Arena of Lutecia).

Lutecia was the Roman town that Paris now sits on. The current name comes from the Parisi tribe that lived in the area before the Romans stepped in. Due to a massive architectural revamp campaign in the 1860s by Baron Haussmann most of the Roman remains were either destroyed or buried very deep.

arenes-de-lutece-1917 arenes-de-lutece

The arena is one of the true examples of preservation, but also of recycling urban space. It was once an arena meant for lavish entertainment in the Roman era.  Now it’s a public park. Kids play pickup games of football and groups of elderly men play pétanque throughout the year. I’ve even seen a man there walking his cat on a leash! 

This is all to say that there is no right answer when it comes to preservation, but let’s hope that we have enough common sense as a society to realize how important it is to keep our history alive! 

Advertisements

Vive La Révolution!

Most people know about the bloody revolution that overthrew the monarchy in France, but not everyone knows the gory details. There is more than meets the eye to this legendary event in european history.

Warning 

The subject matter I am going to discuss may upset people with weak stomaches and sensitive dispositions. You were warned!

Mme la Guillotine

The woman, the myth, the legend.

La Guillotine became the infamous torture device that would become the one player in the Revolution to outlive them all! 

guillotine-1

Originally created by a French surgeon and a German engineer, it was popularized during the French Revolution as an equalizer. Before the Revolution, the poorer you were, the more gruesome your execution was. When the monarchy was overthrown, the Guillotine became the “humane” way to execute everyone, making them all equal in death.

It may seem odd, but this was one of the justifications for the reign of terror, leading to the death of around 20,000 people. At least  3000 of those were executed in the heart of Paris on the Place de la Concorde. In fact, there were so many executions that they needed to constantly move the Guillotine to stop it from sinking into the soggy ground.

….you can imagine the rest.

guillotine-2

What makes this all so intriguing is that the French government still used the Guillotine as a public form of execution until 1939. The last private one was in 1977!

Public execution in 1896

Public execution in 1896

That is truly keeping their bloody past alive!

MTV Cribs, French Royalty edition  

Joking aside, French Royalty were in pretty big trouble by the time the Revolution came around.

Why?

Because they were spending more than they could afford and letting poor people starve to death.

This is a pretty simplistic way of looking at it, but here are 3 main reasons why the French had had enough :

Un

The French Royalty were spending more than they could afford! France was broke after being involved in two expensive wars – the 100 Years War and the American Revolution. Yet they were still building castles and having feasts. This was in contrast to the general populace who were starving!

Deux  

Natural disasters and bad weather lead to a really poor crop yield that year. This nearly tripled the price of every day bread, meaning that only the rich could afford to buy it.

This is why rumors had spread that the current queen, Marie Antoinette, had reacted to the news that the people were starving with “Let them eat cake.”

I am here to debunk that rumor. She never said that and there is no proof that she ever did. The quote comes from the Confessions by French writer Jean-Jacques Rousseau in which an anonymous noblewoman vents. The book was actually written in 1778 – a whole year before she supposedly said it.

Trois

All were not equal. The lower classes were 98% of the population, but they had no power in comparison to the nobility and the clergy.

8954480_orig

These three factors created a ticking time bomb that only needed a little nudging for an explosion!

Back to the Future

If you’re ever in Paris and interested in seeing remains of the city from the French Revolution then I would definitely suggest wandering around the Latin Quarter. 

Why there?

med-paris

Well, Paris had a major revamping in the 1860s, making it the uniform like city that we know today. Before that, the city was still in the medieval state with narrow and winding streets. The problem with that layout was that it allowed the city to be very dirty, facilitating the spread of crime and disease.

During the French Revolution, these narrow streets also made it very easy to create a barricade.

barricade490x300

Thus the success of the Jacobins!

Bonus

For those of you who are actually interested in a brief break down of the French Revolution here is a good recap to put this post in context :

 

Medieval Manners 101 – Ignoring the giant monkey in the room

Every once in a while I decide to explore a museum by myself and it always leads me down a rabbit hole of adventure.

That’s because history = FUN

The lucky winner today was the Musée de Cluny!

It’s a medieval museum on the grounds of an old abbey in the middle of historic Paris.

What I love about the middle ages is that this period in history was like Game of Thrones, but so much better because it’s real.

1546421_10152142481196101_1450001224_n

My trip to the museum reminded me of how crazy those lords and ladies could be. So I thought I would share the crazy.

Lady of the Unicorn 

The Cluny Museum is actually famous for having this mysterious tapestry of a woman with a unicorn. There are 6 panels – 5 of which actually illustrate the 5 senses.

The sixth is, however, a mystery. The label reads “A mon seul désir,” which basically means “This is my only desire.” The woman is leaving a tent and giving away an expensive looking necklace.

What does this mean? Nobody knows! Investigations must be made, I think.

What struck me the most, however, was the fact that the tapestries featured many different animals that you don’t normally see in medieval imagery.

The unicorn is an obvious one, but each panel also featured a monkey!

I was listening to an audio guide while I was looking at the Lady (and her menagerie) when I noticed that the guide completely skipped over the fact that there are monkeys in the tapestry!

No mention of symbolism or significance – nothing!

So let’s play a game.

I’m going to show you pictures of the tapestry. Let’s see how many you can find.

Bonus if you can tell me the significance 😉

dame-a-la-licorne-f-1

Sense of Touch

My only desire

dame-a-la-licorne-c_0

Sense of hearing

dame-a-la-licorne-e

Sense of smell

dame-a-la-licorne-d

Sense of sight

dame-a-la-licorne-b_0

Sense of taste

Monks are people too!  

Screen Shot 2014-03-13 at 11.14.15

Have you ever had to stand and pray for hours at a time?

I’m guessing not.

Those poor medieval monks did though…

Which is why I was pleasantly surprised to see that they cheated!

Yes, as you can see, they had a very small ledge on the underside of their folding chairs so that they could rest, while still looking like they’re standing up.

Genius!

Where old meets….old (?!)

One of the cool things about this museum is that it actually takes up three buildings. One of which is an old Roman bath!

Note : The French are very picky about their ancient Roman history and say “gallo-romain,” which specifies to the roman province of gaul. It’s their equivalent of saying Roman Britain.

There is actually a room where you can see the divide in between the medieval abbey and the Roman baths.

IMG_2968

Roman Wall

IMG_2969

Medieval fortifications (Roman wall behind me)

I think it’s very cool that you can see the fluidity of change and how we reuse urban space over time.

Bonus picture! 

There was a part of the museum that showcased tapestries that are meant to represent the daily life of the nobility. 

I came across this gem :

IMG_2981

Sorry for the poor quality, but as you can see it’s a woman taking a bath with a bunch of people around her, including musicians.

All I could think when I saw this was how awkward it must have been like this :

Farewell Lords and Ladies, until next time!

  

Post Navigation