About 200 yards in front of the main entrance to the Gothic Notre Dame cathedral, one enters the Crypt Museum where, underground, one can view some of the archeological history of Paris from pre-Roman times to the late 19th century. These excavations on the Ile de la Cite, the oldest part of Paris, were carried out from 1965-1972. The crypt space was open to the public in 1980 and its display modernized after 2000.
Underground one sees the remains of a quay and its steps to the river where boats tied up to carry on trade in the 1st century. At this time, this Gallo-Roman town was known as Lutetia.Extensive remains outline its defensive walls and ramparts and confirm it as a strategic center for the Roman Empire, as it defended itself against the barbarian tribes coming across the Rhine. Stone structures define the Roman bath system -- the benches, the tepidarium, where one oiled the body and scraped away impurities with a strigil, the caldarium, the heating system, and changing rooms -- where Roman citizens came daily for cleanliness, conversation and pleasure.
Along with these more ancient archeological findings are also layers from cellars of homes from the middle ages.
|Steps to Gallo-Roman quay|
|Diagram of Roman baths|
|CAD of 13th century view of Notre Dame|
|Facade of Notre Dame, 2013|
But even as all the old stones tell stories of the past, possibly the most amazing part of the visit was the 3D Dassault computer display of the construction of Notre Dame cathedral over the course of 200 years, beginning in 1163. One could zoom in and out and rotate the image on any plane for a view from the ground to a view from the air above for any of the four time periods depicted. Computer Aided Design -- amazing to us, but how would it seem to those who built the cathedral!