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Paris is the largest city and capital of France, home of the Notre Dame and the Sacre Coeur cathedrals.

Patron Saints

Saint Denis

Statue of Saint Denis, holding his head, at the left portal of the Notre Dame Cathedral

Saint Denis, patron saint of Paris and France, was also Paris' first Bishop. He is revered for his role in the Christianization of Paris [c. 250AD]. Denis had been sent from Italy by Pope Fabian to acquaint the Gauls with the teachings of Jesus Christ and his Apostles. This was during the persecution of the Christian community at Lutetia [Roman Paris] by Roman Emperor Decius. Once there, Saint Denis settled on the Île de la Cité in the River Seine. [Roman Paris lay on the higher ground of the Left Bank, away from the river.] Because of their many conversions in the Paris region, Saint Denis and his companions Rusticus and Eleutherius angered the heathen priests. As a result, they were all arrested and decapitated on the highest hill of Mons Mercurius. Mons Mercurius was thereafter known as Mons Martis (Martyrs' Hill) and was held to have been a druidic holy place. The hill is also referred to as Monmartre, which in Old French means "mountain of martyrs".

  • Montmartre

According to the Golden Legend, the site where Saint Denis came to a stop after being beheaded was made into a small shrine. The bodies of Denis and his two companions were buried on the spot of their martyrdom. The shrine was followed by an abbey church whose construction was begun by Saint Genevieve and the people of Paris. It later developed into the Saint Denis Basilica. The church became a place of pilgrimage and the burial place of the French Kings. Nearly every king from the 10th to the 18th centuries lies buried there, as well as many from the previous centuries. (It was not used for the coronations of kings, this role being designated to the Cathedral of Reims;.)

  • Saint Denis' Veneration and Feast Day

Veneration of Saint Denis began soon after his death and his feast day is celebrated on October 9. [The feast of Saint Denis was added to the Roman Calendar in the year 1568 by Pope Pius V, although it had been celebrated since at least 800AD.] He was further venerated in the Roman Catholic tradition as one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers. Specifically, Saint Denis is invoked against diabolical possession and headaches. Saint Denis Cathedral Basiica

File:St. Denis Basilica in Paris.jpg

Cathedral Basilica of St. Denis

  • The Cathedral Basilica of St. Denis (French: Cathédrale royale de Saint-Denis, or simply Basilique Saint-Denis was previously an abbey church [the Abbaye de Saint-Denis]. The abbey church was made into a cathedral in 1966 and is the seat of the Bishop of Saint-Denis, Pascal Michel Ghislain Delannoy.

It is now is a large abbey church in the commune of Saint-Denis, a northern suburb of Paris. In the 12th century, the Abbot Suger rebuilt portions of the church "using innovative structural and decorative features that were drawn from a number of other sources," thus creating the first authentic Gothic building. The basilica is also the prototype for the Rayonnant Gothic style, and provided an architectural model for cathedrals and abbeys of northern France, England and other countries.

File:450px-St denis nave.jpg

The Nave of the Cathedral Basilica of St. Denis

Historical Background

Sainte Geneviève Middle Ages Europe Dagobert I

Gallo-Roman Saint Denis

Sainte Geneviève Middle Ages Europe

In 1140, Abbot Suger, counselor to the King, granted further privileges to the citizens of Saint-Denis. He also started the works of enlargement of the basilica that still exists today.

During the French Revolution, not only was the city renamed "Franciade" from 1793 to 1803, but the royal necropolis was looted and destroyed. The remains were removed from the tombs and thrown together since they could not be sorted out anymore. They were then re-buried in a common ossuary. The last king to be interred in Saint-Denis was Louis XVIII. After France became a Republic and an Empire, Saint-Denis lost its association with royalty.

Reims Île de la Cité

Saint Genevieve (Nanterre, c. 422 - 512)

Saint Genevieve

[Note that the church that became known as Sainte Genevieve was originally planned by the saint and was called at that time, the "Church of the Holy Apostles", built in honor of Saints Peter and Paul.]

Saint Geneviève is the patron Saint of Paris in Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox tradition. Her feast is kept on January 3. She was described as a peasant girl born in Nanterre to a Frankish father and a Gallo-Roman mother who later became a nun. On the deaths of her parents, she went to live with her godmother Lutetia in Paris. There Genevieve became admired for her piety and her devotion to works of charity, although she did encounter opposition for her efforts.

  • Protected Paris from Invasion

Shortly before the attack of the Huns in 451, the panic-stricken people of Paris were ready to flee from their homes, but were persuaded by Genevieve to remain. Genèvieve urged the people to fast, pray to God and perform penance so that their city would be protected by heaven, and their lives would be spared. Many of the citizens passed days and nights in prayer with Genèvieve in the baptistery. But when the crisis neared its peak, and Attila seemed to be right outside the city walls, the people became panic-stricken, and they turned against Genèvieve. They accused her of being a false prophet who would bring about their deaths as well as the destruction of their beloved city, and they threatened to stone her. Genèvieve then gathered the women who had remained behind, and led them outside the walls of the city. With enemy weapons before them, Genèvieve and the women prayed for deliverance. Later that night, Attila turned away from Paris, leaving the city unharmed, and headed south, to Orleans. Genèvieve was proclaimed a savior and heroine.

  • Effected the Release of War Prisoners

Childeric's siege and blockade of Paris in 464 created a serious food shortage that brought the citizens to the starvation point. Geneviève passed through the siege lines in a boat to Troyes, bringing grain to the starving city. She also pleaded with Childeric for the release of the prisoners of war. She said to him, "Release your prisoners. Their only fault was that they so dearly loved their city."

When Childric heard about Genevieve's saintly deed concerning Attila the Hun, he was impressed. After the siege had ended, he sent for Genevieve and, out of admiration, asked what he could do for her. Later, he did liberate captives and showed greater lenience to wrongdoers as Genevieve had requested. This is one of the reasons why Genevieve remains the patron Saint of Paris to this day.

  • Started a Church to Honor Christ's Apostles

Genèvieve is also credited for her role in the construction of a church to honor Saints Peter and Paul. This church, by the way, was built in the middle of Paris and was then referred to as the "Church of the Holy Apostles." King Clovis is acknowledged as having started the church, but managing only to lay the foundation before he died in 511. The church was completed, however, by his wife, Queen Clothilde. After Genèvieve died, her body was interred in the church; and it was later renamed "Sainte Genèvieve". [It was rebuilt in 1746.]

  • Performed Miracles

Genèvieve died on January 3, 512, only five weeks after King Clovis's death. She was in her eighth decade of life [At least one account said she was 89 years old]. Even after her death, miracles were credited to her. Perhaps the most famous account involved the great epidemic of ergot poisoning that afflicted France in the twelfth century. After all efforts to find a cure were unsuccessful, in 1129, Bishop Stephen of Paris instructed that Genèvieve's casket be carried in procession through the city's streets, to the cathedral. According to reports from the time, thousands of sick people were cured when they saw or touched the casket. The following year, Pope Innocent II visited Paris and ordered an annual feast to commemorate the miracle.

  • Genevieve's Veneration & Feast Day

Although Saint Genevieve's feast day is January 3, it is not part of the general Roman Catholic calendar. In the late eighteenth century, Genèvieve's shrine and most of her relics were destroyed during the tumult of the French Revolution, but her cult carried on. Later, many churches in France were named after her. Genèvieve came to be known as the Patron Saint of Paris and, throughout the years, many miracles that favored Paris were attributed to her intercession. Her name is invoked during natural disasters such as drought, flooding, and widespread fever.

[Note: When in 1790 the revolutionary assembly declared all religious vows void, and opened the doors to all the inmates of the monasteries, there were thirty-nine canons at Ste-Geneviève's. This was the end of the abbey and school. The building was demolished shortly after 1800, except for the bell tower.]

Introduction & Overview

File:Notre Dame Cathedral -Reims-.jpg

Notre Dame Cathedral of Paris/Reims [The Roman Catholic Cathedral of Reims]

The splendid city of Paris is both the capital of France and its largest city. It is situated on the River Seine, in northern France, at the center of the Île-de-France region (aka "Région Parisienne," "Paris Region"). Starting out as a small settlement of diverse Gallic and Celtic culture groups, Paris continued to grow, with intermittent periods of decline, down through history, ending up with an estimated population of 2.1 million inhabitants. Its metropolitan area has close to 13 million, and is noted to be one of the most populated metropolitan areas in Europe. Paris is also held to be the most popular tourist destination in the world, with over 30 million foreign visitors per year.

In addition to its astounding development, Paris contains a vast number of celebrated landmarks, along with world-famous institutions and parks. Inside the city of Paris lies the magnificent Notre Dame Cathedral, the Saint Denis Cathedral, built in honor of Saint Denis, the outstanding patron saint of France and the first Bishop of Paris. Another highly revered structure that was destroyed by the French Republic during the French Revolution, was the Abbey Church of Saint Genevieve, the extraordinary patron Saint of Paris.

History of Paris

The River Seine [Paris]

Paris' history spans over 2,500 years, with archaeological findings revealing an ancient habitation of the region around 4000BC by a tribe called the Chasseen. Later, various Celtic and Gallic tribes settled there, such as the Parisii [250AD], a culture from whom Paris gets its name.

Internal & External Conflict

Like many renowned cities of the past, the history of Paris was very turbulent. The diverse tribal groups, while yet agricultural, were in constant civil war until the region came under Roman rule during the Roman Empire period. This domination by Rome came about as a result of an uprising led by the well-known Celtic leader Vercingetorex, and the local inhabitants. The Romans dominated the region culturally as well as politically, stripping them of their own language and religion and making them succumb to Roman taxes and laws. A Roman-Gallic settlement along the Seine called Lutetia [Roman Paris] was created by Rome. The Roman-dominated city of Lutetia grew large under Roman rule until the invasion by Attila the Hun and a crushing defeat of the Romans by Childeric I of the Salian Franks. Attilla drove out the Romans and Childeric's victory brought an end to Roman rule in the area.

Soon after, Frankish [German] Kings such as Clovis I [Merovingians] and Charlemagne [Carolingians] reigned over Gaul [France, Western Europe], uniting the diverse populations and creating a Christian Empire. Charlemagne, of the Carolingian Dynasty, was the first King to receive papal coronation as Emperor of the Romans.

Later, France would become embroiled in religious Wars fought between Catholics and Protestants. Then the storming of the Bastille in Paris would signal the start of the French Revolution that would bring about an end to the unjust monarchical system in France and ushur in the French Republic under Napoleon Bonaparte, only to have it end permanently with the crowning of his nephew [or son], Charles Louis Napoléon Bonaparte, emperor of France . It should be noted that Napoleon Bonaparte was first elected President of the French Republic, but he himself dismantled the Republic and replaced it with the Second Empire of France in 1852 after having himself crowned Emperor. Napoleon was also France's last monarch.

France's current political system is a Republic. The constitution of Oct. 4, 1958 provided the institutional basis for it. The current President, Nicolas Sarkozy, was elected in 2007 to replace outgoing President Jacques Chirac. He functions as the head of the state and is elected for five years.

Early Settlement

It should be stated that Paris is a city in the region of Gaul. [Gaul is another name for modern-day France.] In an historical context, however, the name Gaul is used when referring to the region of Western Europe which is equivalent to the area of present-day France and Belgium, but also includes the Po Valley, western Switzerland, and the parts of the Netherlands and Germany on the west bank of the River Rhine.

As mentioned earlier, the Chasseens, [also Gauls] were the earliest inhabitants of the Paris region, settling there around 4000-3800BC. The region was later populated by various indigenous European tribes called the Celts The Romans made it the center of a Roman settlement shortly after 52BC, naming it Lutetia. The Parisii culture lived in Lutetia [aka Roman Paris] around 250AD, during which time it was renamed Paris, after them. Significantly, at this time, [Lutetia] Paris was also home to a small Christian community that was being subjected to terrible persecution by the Emperor Decius -- to the point that it was nearly dissolved. In response to this alarming situation, Pope Fabian sent Saint Denis to Paris in 250AD to convert the Gauls. The city was Christianized after Saint Denis became its first Bishop. Pope Fabian's intention had been to forge a link between the Gauls and Christ's apostles through the Saint.

  • The Chasseen [c. 4000BC-3500BC]

The Chasseen culture inhabited an area near the Seine River, called Bercy, then spread throughout the plains and plateaux of France, including the upper Loire valleys and beyond; continuing to occupy the area down through the Bronze and Iron Ages, the Roman period and even into the Middle Ages [500-1600AD]. In fact, it has been found that around 3500BC, the Chasséen culture in France had been absorbed into the late Neolithic Seine-Oise-Marne [SOM] culture (3100BC - 2000BC) in Northern France and a series of cultures in Southern France

Archaeological evidence shows that the Chaseen maintained their existence by farming and fishing. Findings include dugout wood canoes, pottery, bows and arrows, and wood and stone tools. They consumed various agricultural products such as rye, panic grass, millet, apples, pears, prunes). This group also herded sheep, goats, and oxen. They lived in huts, and were organized into small villages (100-400 people). Their pottery was simple and they had no metal technology, although they did master the use of flint for tools..

  • The Seine-Oise-Marne (SOM) [3100-2000BC]

The Seine-Oise-Marne culture is the name given to the last discovered culture group that inhabited northern France. It lasted from around 3100 to 2000 BC and was most famous for its stone tombs. In the chalk valley of the River Marne, archaeologists found rock-cut tombs that were had been dug according to a similar design as that of the SOM culture.

Artifacts from this period include transverse arrowheads, antler sleeves and crude, cylindrical and bucket-shaped pottery decorated with appliqué cordons. The SOM's trade links with neighbouring cultures such as Brittany and the Loire, enabled them to use flint and later, copper.

The SOM culture may have arisen from a composite of influences as shown by their grave designs, which were found to be common across Europe. Archaeologists have also discovered comparisons to SOM pottery styles, in Western France, Brittany, Switzerland and Denmark dating from around 2600BC.

  • The Celts [c. 2000BC]

The Celts (Kelts) were considered a diverse group of tribal societies that were living in the Paris Region of Gaul [France] during the Iron Age. By the later Iron Age, the Celts had expanded over a wide range of lands as far west as Ireland and the Iberian Peninsula, as far east as Galatia (central Anatolia), and as far north as Scotland.

Evidence shows that the Parisii, a tribe of Celts, settled in the Paris region around 250AD. Among this group of settlers were the Druids, a learned priestly class, who because of their highly specialized learning and fearfully powerful religion, maintained control of the region.

The Parisii [250-52BC]

Coins of the Parisii

The Parisii (or Quarisii) lived on the banks of the river Seine located in Paris, Gaul from 250BC until Roman domination in 52BC and founded a fishing village. They were also boatsman and traders. The Parisii also participated in the uprising of Vercingetorix against Julius Caesar in 52BC.

Their chief city (oppidum) was on the site of Lutetia, which later became an important city in the Roman province of Gallia Lugdunensis and ultimately the modern city of Paris. (The name "Paris" is derived from Parisii).

The Druids [c. 300BC - c. 200AD]

Although the Druids were also of the Parisii culture, they deserve special mention because of the role which they played in that society, a role which sets them apart from the other inhabitants. The Druids were a religious order, a society of learned priests who, while inhabiting the region, exercised total administrative and religious authority over its inhabitants. This was due to their mastery of language and other intellectual skills, as well as the overpowering influence of their strange religion. Their power over the people began to wane, however, when the Romans invaded the region and began taking control of it, forcing the inhabitants to adopt Roman customs and religion. Through a system of repression by the Romans, by 200AD, the Druid's religion had disappeared from written record. [Phillip Freeman, a classics professor, points out that "In all of these, the women may not be direct heirs of the Druids who were supposedly extinguished by the Romans—but in any case they do show that the druidic function of prophesy continued among the natives in Roman Gaul."]

Ancient Rulers

The Romans [52BC-476AD]

The earliest recorded rulers of the Paris region besides the Druids were the Romans. Their rule officially began during the time of Roman expansion into northern Europe in the First Century. In 52BC, Julius Caesar brought the area under Roman control after an uprising by Vercingetorix.* Later, German Franks of the Merovingian [Childeric, Clovis I] and Carolingian [Pepin, Charlemagne] Dynasties took control. Finally, it the region came under the control of French Kings in 476 AD.

During the uprising by Vercingetorix, the town was reported to have contributed 8,000 men to his army. The Romans crushed the group at nearby Melun and took control of the entire region. By the end of the lst century, Paris' Île de la Cité and Left Bank Sainte Geneviève Hill became the centre of the aforementioned Roman settlement called Lutetia.

Their Cultural Impact

The language and culture of the Gauls, from the time of Rome's conquest in 52BC until the collapse of the empire around 476AD, evolved into a mixed Gallo-Roman culture, although . historians believe that it was "Roman" only in certain (albeit major) social contexts. Rome's dominating influence was most apparent in the following areas:

  • The Druidic religion which existed in the area was ordered suppressed by Emperor Claudius I, and in later centuries Christianity was introduced. The prohibition of Druids and the syncretic nature of the Roman religion led to disappearance of the Celtic religion (which remains to this day poorly understood: current knowledge of the Celtic religion is based on archeology and via literary sources from several isolated areas such as Ireland and Wales).
  • The Romans easily imposed their administrative, economic, artistic (especially in terms of monumental art and architecture) and literary culture, all the more so given that there was little in the pre-existing Celtic culture to compete with these areas.

After becoming a Roman province in 52BC, Roman Paris [Lutetia] expanded greatly becoming a prosperous city with a forum, palaces, baths, temples, theatres, and an amphitheatre.

End of Roman Rule [c. 476AD]

Roman rule in northern Gaul [and Paris] effectively collapsed around 451AD after it was invaded by Attila the Hun, who succeeded in driving out the Romans. Paris feared an attack by Attila afterwards, but this was averted by the prayers of Sainte Geneviève and her followers, that were answered when Attila's soldiers turned away from Paris to the south. For such a miracle, Saint Geneviève remains Paris' patron saint to this day.

Franks [450-751AD]

Following the Romans' defeat by the Franks at the Battle of Soissons in AD 486, Gaul came under the rule of the Merovingians, the first kings of France. By 500AD, the Roman Empire in the West had ended, and Rome had to give up all its Gallic territories.

File:Gallic Chalice.jpg

Gallo-Roman Chalice

Some Franks converted early to Christianity. In 496, Clovis I, who had married a Burgundian Catholic named Clotilda three years earlier, was baptized into the (Trinitarian) Catholic faith by Saint Remi after winning a decisive victory over the Alemanni at the Battle of Tolbiac. According to Gregory of Tours, over 3000 of his soldiers were baptised alongside him. Clovis' conversion to Catholicism would prove to have an enormous effect on the course of European history, for this led to a naturally amicable relationship between the Church of Rome and the increasingly powerful Franks.

It should be noted, however, that although a sizeable portion of the Frankish aristocracy quickly followed Clovis in converting to Christianity, the conversion of the whole of the people under Frankish rule required a considerable amount of time and effort - in some places two centuries or more.

  • The Merovingians [c.450-751AD]

The Merovingians (also Merovings) were a Salian Frankish Dynasty that came to rule over ancient Gaul (known as Francia in Latin) from the middle of the fifth century to the end of the eighth. Their administrative center was along what is now the modern frontier between France and Belgium, in an area known as Toxandria. Merovingian rule was ended in 751 when Pepin the Short was crowned king of the Franks, marking the beginning of rule by the Carolingian Dynasty.

The Merovingians helped to re-shape the map of Europe and give stability to the region that would later emerge as the country of France [See Clovis I]. Even when Merovingian kings simultaneously ruled their own realms, the kingdom was conceived of as a single entity to be ruled collectively by these different kings. By a turn of events initiated by Clovis I, the entire divided kingdom was reunited under a single ruler.

The Merovingians, however, grew weak as kings and were succeeded by the more ambitious Carolingian Dynasty that would itself evolve as the Holy Roman Empire [See Charlemagne]. [Popular culture depicts the Merovingians as descendants of Jesus Christ.]

The Kingdom included all the German Franks and all of Gaul, except Burgundy. However, from its first division in 511 AD, it was in an almost constant state of civil war. In 751, the last Merovingian royal, was deposed.

a. Merovech [c. 447-457AD]

The Merovingian Dynasty owes its name to Merovech [or Merowi], leader of the Salian Franks from c. 447 to 457AD, and legendary founder of the Merovingian Dynasty. The Salian Franks later became the dominant Frankish tribe.

b. Childeric I (c. 457– c. 481AD)

Childeric I was the second Merovingian King from 457 until his death in around 481AD. He succeeded his father Merovech as king, in 457 or 458. With his Frankish warband, he established his capital at Tournai, on lands which he had received as a foederatus of the Romans, and for some time he kept the peace with his allies.

c. Clovis I [c. 481-511AD]

Clovis was the first Merovingian King to unite all the Frankish tribes under one ruler. He was the son of King Childeric I, whom he succeeded in 481AD. He was only 16 years of age at the time.

Before his death in 511AD, Clovis established Paris as his capital [508 AD]. After his death, his kingdom was partitioned among his four sons in accordance with Frankish custom. Clovis was laid to rest in the Saint Denis Basilica in Paris.

d. Dagobert I (c. 623 – 639AD)

Dagobert was of the Merovingian Dynasty, and ruled as King of Austrasia from 623–634AD. He was King of all the Franks from 629–634, and King of Neustria and Burgundy from 629–639. He was the last Merovingian dynast to wield any real royal power.

As king, Dagobert made Paris his capital. During his reign, he built the Altes Schloss in Meersburg (in modern Germany), which today is the oldest inhabited castle in that country. Devoutly religious, Dagobert was also responsible for the construction of the Saint Denis Basilica, at the site of a Benedictine monastery in Paris.

Dagobert was the first of the French kings to be buried in the royal tombs at Saint Denis Basilica-the Church that he helped found. [Also See Dagobert under, "Important People-Christian Converts"]

e. Childeric III [743-751AD]

Childeric III was the last King of the Franks in the Merovingian Dynasty. He reigned from 743 to his deposition in 751.

  • The Carolingians [751-987AD]
File:Bust of Charlemagne.jpg

Charlemagne the Great

The Carolingians were Frankish Kings who started out as mayors of the German palaces. The Carolingian Dynasty succeeded the Merovingian Dynasty, and its most prominent member was Charlemagne [aka Charles the Great], crowned Holy Roman Emperor in 800AD. They became kings of the Gallic territories around 751 AD and is believed to have been founded by Arnulf, Bishop of Metz, in the early seventh century. It was, during the time of the Carolingian rule, that the concept of a Western Roman Empire was revived.

a. Pepin or Pippin [751 –768AD]

Pepin, [aka "the Short," "Pepin the Younger," "Pepin III], father of Charlemagne, was crowned king in 751, with the support of the leading Frankish nobles and Pope Zachary, after the last Merovingian king, Childeric III was deposed, tonsured, and put up in a monastery.

b. Charlemagne [768-814AD]

Charlemagne (Latin: Carolus Magnus or Karolus Magnus, meaning Charles the Great) was King of the Franks from 768 to his death. He was the greatest Carolingian monarch, and was crowned Emperor by Pope Leo III in 800AD. After the division of the empire between his three grandsons under the Treaty of Verdun in 843, the Carolingians continued to hold the throne in all three sections that were created: West Francia, Middle Francia, and East Francia. In the West, which was the nucleus of later France, they continued to be the ruling dynasty until the Capetians ascended the throne in 987AD.

He was the King that expanded the Frankish kingdoms into a Frankish Empire that incorporated much of Western and Central Europe, including Italy. His rule is also associated with the Carolingian Renaissance, a revival of art, religion, and culture through the medium of the Catholic Church. Through his foreign conquests and internal reforms, Charlemagne helped define both Western Europe and the Middle Ages. He is numbered as Charles I in the regnal lists of France, Germany, and the Holy Roman Empire.

Charlemagne's Schools

The lack of literate persons in eighth century Western Europe caused problems for the Carolingian rulers by severely limiting the number of people capable of serving as court scribes. Of even greater concern to them was the fact that not all parish priests possessed the skill to read the Vulgate Bible. An additional problem was that the vulgar Latin of the later Western Roman Empire had begun to diverge into the regional dialects [precursors to today's Romance languages], and were becoming difficult to understand, thereby preventing scholars from one part of Europe from being able to communicate with those from another part.

To address these problems, Charlemagne ordered the creation of schools and he also attracted many of the leading scholars of his day to his court. Among the learned men drawn to the court were Theodulf from Spain, the Frankish scholar Angilbert, and the Lombards, Peter of Pisa and Paulinus of Aquileia. Chief among the scholars drawn to Charlemagne was Alcuin of York, a Northumbrian monk who served as head of the Palace School at Aachen.

File:Christian Scholar Alciun and Others.jpg

Leading Christian Scholars, Alciun and Maur, of the Carolingian Renaissance

Louis V (aka Louis the Pious) [813 – 840AD]

Louis V, also called the Fair and the Debonaire, was King of the Franks and ruled as co-Emperor with his father Charlemagne, from 813-840. He was the third son of Charlemagne by his wife Hildegard. When Charlemagne's other legitimate sons died-- Pepin in 810 and Charles in 811-- Louis alone remained to be crowned co-emperor with Charlemagne following his death in 814.

Louis held this position until his own death in 987 [except for the time 833–34, during which he was deposed]. Louis V was the last king of the Dynasty.

His chief councillors were Bernard, margrave of Septimania, and Ebbo, whom, born a serf, Louis would raise to the archbishopric of Rheims but who would ungratefully betray him later. He retained some of his father's ministers, such as Elisachar, abbot of St Maximin near Trier, and Hildebold, Archbishop of Cologne. Later he replaced Elisachar with Hildwin, abbot of many monasteries.

Importantly, Louis V used Benedict of Aniane, a Benedictine monk and monastic reformer as well as Visigoth, to help him reform the Frankish church. One of Benedict's primary reforms was to ensure that all religious houses in Louis' realm adhere to the Rule of St Benedict, named for its creator, the First Benedict, Benedict of Nursia (480–550).

On his father's death in 814, Louis inherited the entire Frankish kingdom and all its possessions (with the sole exception of Italy, which remained within Louis's Empire, but under the direct rule of Bernard, Pepin's son).

Fall of the Carolingian Dynasty

The Dynasty's downfall was rapid, possibly owing perhaps to the fact that the eighth century was a time of cultural revival, for Europe was still recovering from the collapse of the Roman Empire [c. 476 AD]. In spite of their heritage and support by the Catholic Church, the principle of an electoral monarchy triumphed over the idea of a monarchy that was based on heredity.

The Carolingian Dynasty ceased to rule France upon the death of Louis V. (The Capetians ruled France until the French Revolution and returned to rule after 1815 until Louis Philippe was deposed in 1848.

Although the cadet branches of the Carolingian Dynasty continued to rule in Vermandois and Lower Lorraine, the Carolingians never sought thrones of principalities, but made peace with the new ruling families. Carolingian rule, therefore, had come to an end with the coronation of the first Capetian Dynasty Kings.

  • The Robertians [922-1848]

The Robertians [Robertines], were the predecessors of the Capetians. The family included a large number of forms of Robert including Robert of Worms, Robert of Hesbaye, Robert the Strong, and Robert I of France. They figured prominently amongst Carolingian nobility and married into this royal family as counts of Paris under Odo and dukes of the Franks under Robert with various land possessions.

The Capetian Dynasty of this family line, probably originated in modern-day Belgium. From their first certain ancestor, Robert the Strong came the Dynasty's surname, the Robertians, a name given to the family prior to Hugh Capet's election as King of France.

Charles the Bald Treaty of Verdun 843 840 Northern Italy FranceBrittany Low Countriesmodern Austria Germany East Francia Aquitaine Brittany BurgundyCatalonia Flanders Gascony Gothia Septimania

Carolingians 987 Hugh Capet Capetian dynasty Valois Bourbon Capetians Île-de-FranceParis

a. Robert IV (Robett the Strong) [Born 820, Died 866]

Charles the Bald Hugh CapetRobert of Worms

898 King of Western FranciaRobert the Strong count of Anjou France ParisNormans Siege of ParisCharles the Fat Compiègne

b. Robert I [reigned 922 – 923]

Robert I regined as King of Western Francia from 922 – 923. He was the younger son of Robert the Strong, count of Anjou, and the brother of Odo. He stared as King of the Franks in 888 before becoming King of Western Francia. West Francia, as mentioned earlier, evolved over time into France. [Under Odo, the capital was centered in Paris, a large step in that direction.]

  • The Capetians

a. Hugh Capet [987-996AD]

Hugh Capet was the first King of France of the eponymous Capetian Dynasty, from the time he succeeded Louis V in 987 until his death. Hugh was born about 940. His paternal family, the Robertians, were powerful landowners in the Île-de-France. [King Odo was his great uncle.]

Noyon July 3

b. Robert II (996 – 1031)

Robert III (called the Pious or the Wise) was King of France from 996 until his death. The second reigning member of the House of Capet, he was born in Orléans to Hugh Capet and Adelaide of Aquitaine. Note: The monarchs of France ruled, first as kings and later as emperors (the Bonapartes only), from the Middle Ages [500-1600 AD] to 1870. There is some disagreement as to when France came into existence. The earliest date would be the establishment of the Merovingian Frankish kingdom by Clovis I in 486 with the defeat of Syagrius, the last Roman official in Gaul.

Christian Saints and Holy Places

Saint Nicasius of Rheims (French: Saint-Nicaise) (died 407 or 451AD

Nicasius was Bishop of Rheims from 400BC until his death in 451AD. He founded the first cathedral of Rheims. He foresaw the invasion of France by the Vandals and notified his people of this vision, telling them to prepare. When asked if the people should fight or not, Nicasius responded, "Let us abide the mercy of God and pray for our enemies. I am ready to give myself for my people." Later, when the barbarians were at the gates of the city, he decided to attempt to slow them down so that more of his people could escape. He was killed by the Vandals either at the altar of his church or in its doorway. He was killed with Jucundus, his lector, Florentius, his deacon, and Eutropia, his virgin sister.

After the killing of Nicasius and his colleagues, the Vandals are said to have been frightened away from the area, even leaving the treasure they had already gathered.Sometimes his date of death is given as 451, and that he was killed by the Huns rather than the Vandals. The tradition that he was killed by the Vandals in 407 is believed to be closer to the truth by some scholars.

Saint Clotilde [475-545AD]

Saint Clotilde [aka Clotilda, or Clotild] was the daughter of Chilperic II of Burgundy and wife of the Frankish king Clovis I. In 493 Clotilde married Clovis, King of the Franks, who had just conquered northern Gaul. She was brought up in the Catholic faith and did not rest until her husband had abjured paganism and embraced the Catholic faith. With him she built the Church of the Holy Apostles in Paris, afterwards known as Sainte Geneviève. After the death of Clovis I, in 511, she retired to the abbey of St Martin at Tours.

Venerated as a Saint by Roman Catholics, she was instrumental to her husband's famous conversion to Christianity and, in her later years, was known for her almsgiving and penitential works of mercy.

Saint Benedict of Aniane (c. 747 – 11 February 821)

Around 780, he founded a monastic community based on Eastern asceticism at Aniane in Languedoc. This community did not develop as he had intended. In 799, he founded another monastery based on Benedictine Rule, at the same location. His success there gave him considerable influence, which he used to found and reform a number of other monasteries, and eventually becoming the effective abbot of all the monasteries of Charlemagne's empire.

Saint Benedict died at Kornelimünster Abbey, a monastery which King Louis had built for him to serve as the base for Benedict's supervisory work.

Abbot Sugar [1122]

When Suger became abbot of Saint-Denis in 1122, he began plans to renovate the old late 8th century Carolingian Abbey Church, which had become too small to hold the entire congregation on the main religious feast days. Unlike St. Bernard of Clairvaux, who believed that secular persons should be excluded from the house of God, Suger wished to welcome as great a crowd as possible.

The abbey had also gained an increasingly prominent position in France as a result of its close ties with the French monarchy, ties which strengthened the position of the AbbeyChurch. In 1140, Abbot Suger started the works of enlargement of the basilica that still exists today and is often cited as the first example of Gothic Architecture.

Cathedral of Notre-Dame, Reims

Notre-Dame de Reims (Our Lady of Rheims) is the Roman Catholic cathedral of Reims [pronounced /riːmz/ in English and /ʁɛ̃s/ in French] and lies in northeastern France on the eastern half of the Île de la Cité in the fourth district of Paris. Its main entrance is to the West. It is where the kings of France were once crowned.


Notre-Dame de Reims cathedral replaced the former Abbey of Saint-Remi, an older church, destroyed by a fire in 1211, which was built on the site of the basilica where Clovis was baptized by Saint Remi, Bishop of Reims, in AD 496. [That original structure had been erected on the site of the Roman baths.] As the cathedral, it remains the seat of the Archbishop of Reims.

The Cathedral of Notre-Dame (aka Our Lady of Rheims) is the Roman Catholic cathedral of Reims. The Roman Catholic Archdiocese (official chair of the Archbishop) of Reims is an archdiocese of the Latin Rite of the Roman Catholic Church in France. Erected as a diocese around 250 by St. Sixtus, the diocese was elevated to an archdiocese around 750. The current archbishop is Thierry Romain Camille Jordan, who was appointed in 1999.

Notre Dame de Paris is widely considered one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture in the world.

Christian Converts

Clovis I [465-511AD]

File:Clovis I King of France.jpg

Clovis I King of France Cathedral of Rheims


King Clovis was baptized in a small church [See Church of the Holy Apostles below] which was on or near the site of the Cathedral of Rheims [See Cathedral of Notre-Dame][1]. This act was of immense importance in the spiritual development of Western and Central Europe. As Clovis expanded his dominion over almost all of the old Roman province of Gaul, Christianity also spread to these regions and to more distant areas of Europe as well. [2]


Charlemagne of the Carolingian Dynasty was the first to receive papal coronation as Emperor of the Romans. He was a devout Catholic who maintained a close relationship with the papacy throughout his life. In 772, when Pope Hadrian I was threatened by invaders, Charlemagne rushed to Rome to provide assistance. Shown here, the pope asks Charlemagne for help at a meeting near Rome.

Dagobert I

Around 475AD, Saint Geneviève had a small chapel erected on Saint Denis' tomb, by then a popular destination for pilgrims. It was this chapel that Dagobert I had rebuilt and turned into a royal monastery. Dagobert granted many privileges to the monastery such as independence from the Bishop of Paris and the right to hold a market. Because of the privileges granted by Dagobert, in the Middle Ages Saint-Denis grew very important and merchants from all over Europe (and indeed from the Byzantine Empire) came to visit its market. After his death, Dagobert was interred in Saint-Denis, starting a tradition which was followed by almost all his successors.

Historical Events in Paris and France

Hundred Years War

The Hundred Years' War (French: Guerre de Cent Ans) was a prolonged conflict lasting from 1337 to 1453 between two royal houses competing for the French throne, which became vacant with the extinction of the senior Capetian line of French kings. The two primary contenders were the House of Valois and the House of Plantagenet, also known as the House of Anjou. The House of Valois claimed the title of King of France, while the Plantagenets from England claimed to be Kings of France and England. Saint-Denis suffered heavily in the Hundred Years' War; of its 10,000 citizens, only 3,000 remained after the war.

The Black Death

The Black Death was one of the deadliest pandemics in human history, peaking in Europe between 1348 and 1350. It is widely thought to have been an outbreak of bubonic plague caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis. The black death arrived in Paris in 1348, killing as many as 800 people a day. During this period, the population of Paris was almost 200,000.[14] In 1466, 40,000 persons died of plague in Paris.

The French Wars of Religion [1562-98]

The French Wars of Religion is the name given to a period of civil wars fought mainly between the French Catholics and Protestants (Huguenots), as well as the religious factions in aristocracy of France such as the House of Bourbon and House of Guise (Lorraine). During the Wars of Religion, the Battle of Saint-Denis was fought between Catholics and Protestants on November 10, 1567. The Protestants were defeated, but the Catholic commander Anne de Montmorency was killed. In 1590, the city surrendered to Henry IV, who converted to Catholicism in 1593 in the abbey of Saint-Denis.

In the end, King Henry IV of France issued the well-known Edict of Nantes granting a certain amount of religious toleration to Calvinists. The Edict established Catholicism as the state religion of France, but granted the Protestants equality with Catholics under the throne, and a degree of religious and political freedom within their domains. The Edict simultaneously protected Catholic interests by discouraging the founding of new Protestant churches in Catholic-controlled regions.

St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre

During the Saint Bartholomew's Day Masacre of August 24-October 3, 1572, Catholics killed thousands of Huguenots [Protestants] in Paris. By the 17 September, almost 25,000 Protestants had been massacred in Paris alone. Outside of Paris, the killings continued until an amnesty was granted in 1573 pardoning the perpetrators. Similar massacres took place in other towns in the weeks following. The main provincial towns and cities experiencing the Massacre were Aix, Bordeaux, Bourges, Lyon, Meaux, Orleans, Rouen, Toulouse, and Troyes.[18] Nearly 3,000 Protestants were slaughtered in Toulouse alone.

Revocation of the Edict of Nantes

In 1685, King Louis revoked the Edict of Nantes and declared Protestantism to be illegal with the "Edict of Fontainebleau". After this, Huguenots (with estimates ranging from 200,000 to 1,000,000) fled to surrounding Protestant countries: England, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Norway, Denmark and Prussia — whose Calvinist Great Elector Frederick William welcomed them to help rebuild his war-ravaged and underpopulated country. Following this exodus, Huguenots remained in large numbers in only one region in France: the rugged Cévennes region in the south, from which a group known as the Camisards revolted against the French crown in the early 18th century.

Edict of Toleration [1787]

Persecution of Protestants continued in France after 1724, but ended in 1787 when King Louis XVI issued the Edict of Toleration. Three years later, during the French Revolution, Protestants were finally granted full citizenship.The December 15, 1790 Law stated : "All persons born in a foreign country and descending in any degree of a French man or woman expatriated for religious reason are declared French nationals (naturels français) and will benefit from rights attached to that quality if they come back to France, establish their domicile there and take the civic oath." This might have been, historically, the first law recognizing a right of return. Protestants in France today number about one million. [An edict of toleration is a declaration made by a government or ruler and states that members of a given religion will not be persecuted for engaging in their religious practices and traditions. The edict implies tacit acceptance of the religion rather than its endorsement by the ruling power].

The French Revolution

The French Revolution was a period of social unrest and radical political change in the history of France. The absolute monarchy which granted feudal privileges to the aristocracy and Catholic clergy, was replaced by a form of government based on principles of basic human rights.

The Storming of the Bastille in Paris

"Storming of the Bastille" (Paris)

On July 14, 1789, insurgents set their eyes on the large weapons and ammunition cache inside the Bastille [Prison] fortress in Paris, and began storming it. After several hours of combat, the prison, to them a symbol of monarchist tyranny, fell.

Paris was filled with riots, chaos, and widespread looting. The mobs soon had the support of the French Guard, including arms and trained soldiers. The royal leadership virtually abandoned the city.

Relocation of the Monarchy to Paris

On 4 August 1789 the National Constituent Assembly abolished feudalism The women insurgents, who were responding to the harsh economic situations they faced, especially bread shortages, demanded an end to Royalist efforts to block the National Assembly, and called for the King and his administration to leave Versailles and relocate to Paris as a sign of good faith in addressing the widespread poverty, which they did on October 6, 1789 under the protection of the National guards, and because of LaFayette's convincing argument. Members of the mob then stormed the palace, killing several guards. The relocation by the monarchy legitimized the National Assembly.

The "February Revolution" of 1848 ended the constitutional monarchy of Louis-Philippe I [the last King of the French], and led to the creation of the Second Republic under Napoleon in 1851.

Changes in Power

The French Revolution had brought about a massive shifting of powers from the Roman Catholic Church to the state. By legislation enacted in 1790, Church authority to levy a tax on crops and special privileges for the clergy along with the confiscation of church-held property was abolished. The ensuing years saw violent repression of the clergy, including the imprisonment and massacre of priests throughout France.

Although the Concordat of 1801 between Napoleon and the Church established the rules for a relationship between the Catholic Church and the French State, in 1905, this relationship was ended by the Third Republic via a separation of church and state. In August 1944 Allied troops regained Paris from the Germans, and Charles De Gaulle became the head the provisional French government that became permanent later, and still rules today.


Paris' history, from the very beginning, is generally not very different from that of many other major cities. What makes it unique, however, is the fact that long ago a tiny group of Christians settled there and began a conversion that led to the Christianization of Paris, and ultimately of France. Through the support of the Roman Catholic Church, and the prayers of God's Holy ones in Christ Jesus such as St. Denis and Saint Genevieve, invasions were stopped, decisive battles were won, and healing occurred in the communities. It was this strong religious support and grounding that gave Paris and France its stability and resiliency during its most critical periods throughout history, and helped it to evolve into the Republic it now is, one separate from but notably conscious of the Christ-centered religion of its origin.

Christian Knowledge Base
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