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Beneath Your Feet at Notre Dame Cathedral

Ever visit the Crypte Archéologique? Almost every visitor to Paris eventually comes to Notre Dame Cathedral, but few venture below the Parvis to see what lies below.

But the Ile de la Cité was a very different place than what you see there today. Peel back the layers of the island like an onion to discover what it looked like before Haussmann's late-19th-century transformations, before the great 18th-century fire that gutted the ancient Hôtel Dieu, before the 12th-century Notre Dame Cathedral was built, all the way back to the Gallo-Roman era 2000 years ago when Paris was called Lutetia.

A plaque at the entrance marks the 9th-century battle against the Norman invaders to protect one of the bridges from the invading Normans.

A view of what lies beneath the Parvis de Notre Dame Cathedral.

There are bilingual French-English signs, as well as audio guides in three languages.

That large building running along the Seine to the Petit Pont was the original Hôpital Hôtel Dieu before it burned down. Today it's 19th-century incarnation sits on the north end of the cathedral's square.

A stone block from the Gallo-Roman era ramparts.

The cellars of a house that once stood in front of the cathedral.

Part of the Gallo-Roman ramparts and the Medieval quays of the Seine.

Other important archeological sites around Paris are described as well. One of the largest Gallo-Roman necropolises was found near the 17th-century Gobelins Tapestry Manufacture.

The Crypte Archéologique is located at the west end of the Parvis de Notre Dame. It's open Tuesday-Sunday 10am-6pm. Entrance is €4; audio guides cost €3.

If you'd like to learn more about the lives of the Gauls of Lutetia known as the Parisii, there's also a current exhibition about them, Gaulois, at the Cité des Sciences, Parc de la Villette, through September 2012.

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Reader Comments (7)

Thanks so much for this peek inside. I tried to go last year, but it was closed. It will have to wait til next time. It looks fascinating.
October 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLouise
Norman invasion before they were Norman; the plaque in red print on white stone showing where the “Normans” attacked is not quite correct. More accurately they were Norse Men, Vikings, and in a settlement made 1,100 years ago this year (911 AD) to cease Viking raids, the norse men were, my ancestor in fact, the Viking Chief Rollo Granger, given what is today Normandy by the Duke of France. Rollo my 32 times great grandfather in effect was the first Duke of Normandy (4 timesg-g/father of William the Conqueror). BTW, Rollo is called Rollon in French. The plaque should say “Viking” not Norman but it is informative nonetheless.
November 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterR De Bois
Hey Ron, Thanks for the cool historical background. I should check to see if the French have a different word for Norse Men vs Normans. Stephen Clarke's book "1000 Years of Annoying the French" goes into a lot of detail on the Norman invasions, correcting a few historical myths along the way.
November 1, 2011 | Registered CommenterHeather Stimmler
I saw this underground museum once in Paris, but we didn't have time to visit. The next trip, we made a point of visiting. I loved it! Le Crypte. There is so much history in Paris that began long, long ago, with the Romans, and well before even the Romans. Good job of highlighting one of the often missed, most interesting spots in Paris.
January 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterShay Davidson
We visited here in May, 2014. Excellent presentation on the history and archaeology of Paris. Strongly recommended if you have the time.
July 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCDR
This will remain one of the highlights of our visit to Paris. Intent on visiting Notre Dame, I saw the entrance to Le Crypte and having been part of the world of archaeology in NZ my heartbeat shot up! It is magnificent, the layout and story telling is simply fantastic. Are there any books on the archaeology itself?
Thank you again for some wonderful memories.
June 13, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMeri Low
My most sincere sentiments go out to the people of Paris, the country of France and the world for the devastation of The Notre Dame de Paris. If this was intentional on the part of anyone, they should live in abject shame for the rest of their time.

I am an American of French ancestry, I had the privilege of touring the The Notre Dame and the Roman ruins beneath in June of 1990. It was breathtaking.

I truly share your sorrow on this most terrible of days.

I wish strength to us all in these most uncertain of times.

All the Best.
April 15, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJames Bjornsen

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