Paris, Banks of the Seine (1991)

Back to index

France 1939. The Eiffel Tower.

From the Louvre to the Eiffel Tower, from the Place de la Concorde to the Grand and Petit Palais, the evolution of Paris and its history can be seen from the River Seine. 

The Cathedral of Notre-Dame and the Sainte Chapelle are architectural masterpieces while Haussmann's wide squares and boulevards influenced late 19th- and 20th-century town planning the world over. 

  • France 1939. The landmark of Paris, the Eiffel Tower, is visible from everywhere in the city. It was constructed in 1889 by the engineer Gustave Eiffel for the World Exhibition 1889, and was considered so ugly the contemporary public, that they claimed it demolished when the exhibition was over. Everybody knows that the tower still stands :-) 


France 1989. Se-tenant strip of five stamps with a panorama of Paris.

About the middle of the 3rd century BC the Parisii, a tribe of Celtic peoples, fortified the Île de la Cité -- the island in the Seine where the Cathedral of Notre Dame stands today -- located on a spot with shallow water, and in a convenient distance from the great north-south route across the country. 

United Nations (New York) 2006. Notre Dame de Paris.

In 52 BC the Parisii burned their island fort and abandoned Lutetia to the Romans, who renamed the place to Lutetia, and who extended the town to the left bank of the Seine, where they built baths, a forum, and laid the grid for many Parisian streets. In Roman Gaul, Lutetia, which became known as Civitas Parisiorum, or Paris, remained a relatively unimportant city. According to a medieval tradition, Christianity was introduced by Saint Denis, the city’s first bishop, about the middle of the 3rd century AD. Another legend says that Saint Geneviève, the patron saint of Paris, inspired the city’s defense against the Huns in 451 AD. 
  • United Nations (New York) 2006. Notre Dame de Paris. 

They got on well with the inhabitants and, in particular, the shipping people whose emblem was already a vessel whose shape somehow resembled both the island and a boat. It was their chief who represented the town and they who paid for the building of the public baths at Cluny, where one can visit today the Medieval Museum of France, the Cluny Museum, that houses the famous medieval tapestry "The Lady with the Unicorn".  

It was not until the twelfth century, under Philippe Auguste, that the Paris we know today inherited its two chief treasures: Notre Dame cathedral, whose perfectly balanced form represents the archetypal Gothic cathedral, and the Sainte Chapelle, built by Saint Louis to serve as a tremendous showcase for the relics of Christ the Emperor of Byzantium had sold him. 

  • Yugoslavia 1989. World Heritage issue. Notre-Dame de Paris. 

  • France 1947. Notre-Dame de Paris at Île de la Cité. Scan by courtesy of Miomir Zivkovic (Serbia). 

Yugoslavia 1989. World Heritage issue. Notre-Dame de Paris.

France 1947. Notre-Dame de Paris at the Île de la Cité-

France 1947. Air Post Stamp. Panorama of Paris and Île de la Cité.

Invading Germanic tribes ended Rome’s control of Paris, and in 508 the city welcomed the rule of the Frankish king Clovis I. 

Clovis’s successors did not reside in Paris, but after the Viking raids of the 9th century the Capetian kings made Paris the capital of France and rebuilt the city. 

Notre Dame (1163), Sainte-Chapelle (1248), and a royal palace (1301) were built on the Cité, making this island the true heart of France. 

  • France 1947. Splendid panorama of Paris and Île de la Cité, with the Cathedral of Notre-Dame in the center. Air Post stamp, issued at the occasion of the XII Congress of the Universal Postal Union in Paris. The stamp is shown considerably enlarged. 
France 1966. Gothic Art. First Day Cover from Sainte Chapelle.
  • France 1966. First Day Cover cancelled on 22 October 1966 in Paris, showing Sainte Chapelle and one of the stained glass windows of the chapel. See also the postcard immediately on the right from Sainte Chapelle. 

France 1966. Stained glass window at Sainte Chapelle.

  • France 1966. Close-up of the stained glass window in Sainte Chapelle. 

France. Gothic Art. Postcard. La Sainte Chapelle, Paris.
  • Postcard with the interior of Sainte Chapelle, Paris. The Chapel's beauty is outstanding with its strong high-rising lines from the Early Gothic Period. 

King Philip II Augustus erected a wall around the right bank in 1190 and a rampart enclosing the left bank in 1210. Philip’s charter for the University of Paris identified the three parts of medieval Paris: the Cité, the town (ville) on the right bank, and the university on the left bank. A royal provost, ensconced in the Châtelet, ruled Paris for the king; a provost of merchants, residing in the Hôtel de Ville, ruled the markets for the guilds. 

In the 16th century Francis I ushered in the Renaissance by building the new Hôtel de Ville and erecting the original sections of the present-day Louvre. Religious strife between Roman Catholics and Protestants (Huguenots) halted this urban renaissance. Paris was a Roman Catholic stronghold; thousands of Huguenots were killed in the city during the Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre (1572). Not until 1594, when the new Bourbon king, Henry IV, entered Paris, did peace return. The Bourbon kings imposed classical architecture and absolutist rule on Paris. Squares such as the Place des Vosges, new bridges such as the Pont Neuf, and the Luxembourg Palace signaled the Bourbon dynasty’s commitment to make Paris the new Rome. Louis XIV improved city services by illuminating Paris at night, increasing the water supply, and building the Invalides and Salpêtrière hospitals; his successor, Louis XV, laid out the magnificent Place de la Concorde. 

France 1978. Pont Neuf seen toward *ile de la Cité. France 1946. Palais du Luxembourg. France 1947. Place de la Concorde.

The people of Paris rebelled against Henry III (1588) and Louis XIV (1648). When the French Revolution broke out in 1789, they led the way in overthrowing the monarchy and establishing the first French Republic. During the Revolution and under Napoleon the domination of Paris over the rest of the country increased. The city remained politically turbulent during the 19th century. For defensive purposes a new wall (now the Boulevard Périphérique) was built in 1844. Starting in 1852, Emperor Napoleon III, aided by his prefect of the Seine, Georges Eugène Haussmann, radically transformed Paris. 

Czech Republic 1994. T.F. Simon. The Book Quais of Paris. France 2005. Quais de Seine.
  • Czech Republic 1994. A very charming painting by T.F. Simon from the book quais of Paris, with the Cathedral of Notre Dame in the background. 

  • France 2005. Quais of the River Seine, with an allegory of bridges across the river. 

New parks at Boulogne and Vincennes graced the western and eastern edges of the city, and wide new boulevards afforded access to central Paris. The Opéra and the École des Beaux-Arts epitomized the style of this period. The Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871) and the revolt of the Paris Commune interrupted this rebuilding of the city. 

France 1947. Île de la Citè and the left bank of the Seine with La Conciergerie. France 1947. La Conciergerie, the old prison of Paris. France 1947. Louvre Museum and Colonnade.
The Prussians inflicted minor damage, but the Communards burned much of central Paris; 20,000 Parisians died in 1871 defending the city against the troops of the Third Republic (see Commune of Paris, 1871). 

To atone for the Commune’s revolt the Church of Sacré Coeur was built on a hill in Montmartre. Between 1871 and 1914 Paris gloried in the belle époque style that is evident today in the Gare de Lyon, the Pont Alexandre III, and a few stations of the Métro subway. 

  • France 1949. Pont Alexandre III. Air Post Stamp. 

France 1949. Pont Alexandre III. Air Post Stamp.

In the close proximity of Pont Alexandre III is the Palais des Nations Unies, housed in the Impressive Palais de Chaillot, immediately opposite to the Eiffel Tower. 

France 1948. Palais de Chaillot. Stamp #1.

France 1948. Palais de Chaillot. Stamp #2.

World War I (1914-1918) marked the beginning of a period of urban decay for Paris. A burgeoning population depleted city services. Housing never kept pace with demand, and the political strikes of the 1930s weakened the Third Republic’s pledge to improve conditions. Under the German occupation of World War II (1939-1945), Paris endured scarcity but little damage. In the postwar period the Fourth and Fifth republics have failed to check Parisian growth or to provide enough housing, despite massive developments around the periphery of the city and in the suburbs. 

France 1997. François Mitterrand.

France 1997. Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris.

Social tensions have developed in subsidized housing projects that were built in the 1960s. Urban renewal projects in the 1980s included the refurbishing of the Louvre and the construction of a modern opera house at the Place de la Bastille, as well as the inauguration of The National Library, located directly on the left bank of the River Seine in the southeastern part of the city). The library is named after the late French president François Mitterrand. 
  • France 1997. François Mitterrand. 
  • France 1997. National Library in Paris, with the Eiffel Tower in the far left corner. 

Paris 1993. Se-tenant strip of five stamps. Louvre Museum.

Very often people do not believe that there is a Statue of Liberty in Paris. They are wrong. In appreciation for the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor, sculpted by the French artist Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi, Americans living in Paris erected a small replica, mounted next to the Pont de Grenelle, a bridge crossing the Seine, 1.5 km South of the Eiffel Tower. It is 10 meters high, about five times smaller than the original in New York.  
  • France 1959. Semi-postal stamp depicting Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi, in front of the Statue of Liberty, and the Lion of Belfort.  

France 1959. Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi.

France. Photograph of the Statue of Liberty in Paris.

France 1938. Statue of Liberty in New York

France 2004. Statue of Liberty.

There are, of course, many more notable buildings and sites along the river Seine, some of which are Hôtel de la Monnaie, several different issues of Notre-Dame de Paris, several different issues of the Louvre façade and Jardins des Tuileries, Church of the Invalides, Parliament of Paris, Palais de l'Elysée, Chateau de Vincennes and many more. This page offers but a small selection to trigger the taste :-)

Sources and links: 

Other World Heritage Sites in France (on this site). Please refer to the UNESCO-listing, section France for further information on the individual properties.  

Back to index

Revised 09 sep 2007  
Copyright © 1999 Heindorffhus 
All Rights Reserved