It is called the Marais, which means swamp. This always conjures up vivid images for me of a full-fledged, modern
If I take a certain passage to go home from work, it spills out next to this ragged bit of stone wall on the left. Closer inspection reveals a "Histoire de Paris" plaque; these are bookmarks that the French have lovingly placed around the city to remind themselves of their past. In this case, Philippe-Auguste built this fortified wall from 1190-1220, to protect the city from marauding invaders. If you look at a map from 1210, the original boundaries outline medieval life on a much smaller scale, compared to the present-day city.
I remember the distinct thrill I felt the day I matched this wall with another wall on the
Some remnants are not as obvious. I don't know how many times I walked past this wall before I noticed the traces of previous buildings. If you look closely (ah, so important!), there are outlines of windows that are blocked up and roof tops that lead into thin air. In this case, historical maps will probably not be able fill in the gaps, but imagination should always be at the ready. How many a young man wooed a lady at that window? How many little ones played on the stoop of the threshold?
Historical fantasies (if I may use such a term) are often filled out by the appearance of a sculpture or two. The guy below appears to be transporting goods and animals about, and the detail in his boots, jacket, and hairstyle are captivating. Before you know it, my medieval walled city is abuzz with gossiping women, pretty damsels, singing birds, mule carts, craftsman, swooning youths, and other figures. It reminds me of the wide-eyed bustle of Victor Hugo's 15th century
"It was a vast place, irregular and badly paved, like all the squares of
"And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
the restorer of streets to dwell in" (Isaiah 58).