Where are the remains of the Roman forum in Paris

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The Roman forum in Paris – then known as Lutetia – was situated in the present-day Latin Quarter, more precisely in the vicinity of rue Soufflot and rue Saint-Jacques. Did you know that you could see part of it today? Follow me in the Boul’Mich in the 5th arrondissement of Paris and I’ll tell you where exactly to go to see them…

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The Roman forum in Paris

You thought that Paris only dates back to the Middle-Ages?

Not quite.

In fact, Paris was already there during the Roman era under the name of Lutetia.

Unlike major Roman sites in Lyon, Provence or Languedoc there isn’t much left to see in Paris from that period. But if you look closely you’ll find some astonishing remains of that past long gone.

The ancient Forum is one of them. 

The Roman Forum in Paris was the economic and religious centre of Lutetia. The emblem of Roman supremacy in the town that totalled up to 10,000 inhabitants.

It comprised a basilica and a temple facing each other and connected by arcaded galleries that sheltered a number of shops. It was an impressive monument, 180 m long by 90 m wide. 

Floor Map of the Forum of Lutetia

The Forum of Lutetia

Model of the Lutetia Forum

Check out what it looked like on this [French-speaking] video – at 00:55:

The rediscovery of the ancient forum was made by Théodore Vacquer (1824-1899) during the construction of rue Soufflot that started in 1847. He revealed the remains of the wall in 1853. It was the same archaeologist who excavated the Roman theatre (Arènes de Lutèce) in 1869.


From a banal carpark to Lutetia

Head to 61 Boulevard Saint-Michel in the 5th arrondissement.

Facing the building is a small staircase leading down to a public carpark. You wouldn’t take it unless you knew you had a rendez-vous with Asterix and the Romans!

On the tiled-covered wall of the corridor you’ll find the amazing 2,000 year-old Roman forum in Paris. Well, actually just a little piece of it. What you see behind the protective screen was part of the forum’s external wall.

Roman Forum in Paris

The wall of the Roman Forum in Paris © French Moments

IMPORTANT NOTE ! Access to the carpark is restricted to its customers. However you’ll be able to spot the wall just as I did through the glass door at the bottom of the stairs.


Where to find it the Roman Forum of Paris?

Closest métro stations: Cluny-La Sorbonne (line 10) or Luxembourg (RER B).

Read more about Lutetia (Paris during the Roman era) on Wikipedia.


Other remains of Roman Paris

There are quite a few remains of the Roman past of Paris. I’ve discovered and photographed most of them but still need to write about these Roman evidences. Here are three Gallo-Romain sites in Paris:

  • The Archealogical Crypt under the square of Notre-Dame (4th arrondissement).
  • The Lutetia Arena (5th arrondissement)
  • The baths at the Cluny museum (5th arrondissement)

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Roman Forum in Paris


 

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About Author

Pierre is a French/Australian who is passionate about France and its culture. He grew up in France and Germany and has also lived in Australia and England. He has a background teaching French, Economics and Current Affairs, and holds a Master of Translating and Interpreting English-French with the degree of Master of International Relations, and a degree of Economics and Management.

3 Comments

  1. Ziggy Hirsch on

    Thanks for the great information on Roman remnants in Paris. Can you tell me when the below ground remains of the Forum were first discovered (and when they were first put on display underground).
    Perhaps you can write an article on the various archaeological discoveries (Roman, medieval,etc.) in Paris, in order of discovery. e.g. Arenes de Lutece-1869, Notre Dame-1960s, Louvre-1984,1991, Institute of France-2015, etc.
    Thanks.

  2. In my previous post, I asked when the Forum remains were discovered. I still don’t know!
    I would love to read a brief archeological history of Paris, not in the order of the original sites, but in the order of the discoveries, themselves. When did we first find out about the forum remains, the Arenes de Lutece, the Kings of Judah heads from Notre Dame, the Archeological Crypt, the Medieval Louvre under the Cour Carrere, etc. The order of discovery fascinates me.
    Also, I was in Paris in May and went down the stairs to see the Forum remnant. But the gate was locked. There was a keypad for entry, but I did not know the code. I was able to spy out the forum wall behind glass through the gare and from a distsnce. Better than nothing, but not great. Any ideas on how to gain entry? Maybe at different times it’s open. We were not there at night. You should warn your readers.

    • Hello ! Thank you so much for your feedback – you’re right, access is restricted but the remains can be seen through the glass door (I got my photo from that door)… but I agree it would be nice to be closer! 🙂
      I also found some information about the year when the Forum was rediscovered, that is 1853 by archaeologist Theodore Vacquer. I retrieved that date from https://geoapps.huma-num.fr/adws/app/a031b266-40f4-11e9-8252-9bef4db631c3/ which is a fantastic source of info for those interested with archaeological maps. I have updated the article with that info. Thank you and have a nice day! 🙂

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