Quartier Latin

Quartier Latin (38)

The Latin Quarter, or Quartier Latin, still preserves a great deal of its old spirit. Despite the fact that its streets have been filled with hamburger joints, pizzerias, kebab shops, crêpe restaurants and other fast food outlets, it is still possible to get lost in its narrow streets and get a real feel of its long history. 

The name of this very lively and popular district comes from the old students of Latin, although that was surely not the language spoken by the young or marginalised characters that met at the fountain of Saint-Michel. Once again, it was Haussman who decided to rebuild it and commissioned the project to Davioud, who was inspired by the Fontana di Trevi in Rome and the fountain in the Luxembourg Gardens. It comprises a triumphal arch beneath which is Saint Michael slaying a dragon. 

Older people remember the battles that took place around this fountain and in the boulevard in May 68. In fact, this area has always been socially and culturally active. Just imagine, this was the centre of the Paris Commune. 

If we go back in history, we can find the student and religious past of the district. 

Firstly, as far back as the 5th century, Clovis founded a sanctuary, which would become the Abbey of Saint Genevieve. Later, Louis VI founded another abbey, that of Saint Victor close to the Place Jussieu. In the following centuries, several religious orders established themselves under the protection of these abbeys and other parish churches were built. In the century of enlightenment, Anne of Austria ordered the monastic complex of Val de Grâce to be built, as well as many churches and the restoration of many more.

Secondly, the university developed in this district in the 12th century, close to Notre-Dame, and by the 13th century there were already several independent colleges, such as the Sorbonne, founded in 1257. There was a time in history in which the University of Paris managed to eclipse the fame of those of Bologna and Oxford, but perhaps its rigid religious faith made it succumb before the grand humanist wave of the Renaissance.

This university and religious mixture is clear. For example, the Company of Jesus founded the College of Clermont and as far back as the 17th century built the Plant Garden and the Observatory. And even during the years of the revolution the Regular Higher School and the Polytechnic School were founded here.

Today the Latin District is still one of the liveliest in Paris. On its Boulevard de Saint Michel there are perhaps fewer demonstrations and more shops, but the spirit stays alive in its shops from all over the world, alternative boutiques, jazz clubs, avant-garde cinemas and theatres. Without losing its student spirit, of course, since, for example, here you will find two of the most important lyceums in Paris, where the future elite of France study.

As a final curiosity, look for Rue de St-Jacques. Did you know that it is made over an ancient Roman way? It is also the true precursor of all the streets in Paris. Some say that if you follow it you will arrive in Rome.

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