Tuesday 29 May 2018

Stones in Paris

The great icons of Paris are all above your head. But one of the enduring symbols of the city can be found at your feet: cobbled streets.

Philippe II (Augustus)
(Wikimedia Commons)
Philip II (Philippe-Auguste) is remembered as the king who transformed Paris into one of the major cities of Europe.

He granted the charter to the university of Paris at the Sorbonne; he moved the outlying food markets to a protected site, Les Halles, in the centre of the city

To defend the city, he constructed the Louvre as a fortress and had a great defensive stone wall erected around the city.

Less well known is the fact that and he had the main streets paved with granite stones to replace the dilapidated paving laid by the Romans several hundred years before.

Later governments extended the cobblestones, and by the middle of the 20th century, almost all the streets in the city were paved in this way.

Cobblestone as missile in May 68
Then came the "Events" of May 1968. The protests of students and workers in the city turned into a violent confrontation with riot police.

Behind the barricades in the Latin Quarter, protesters dug up the cobblestones and used them as missiles.

Beneath the stones they discovered a bed of sand, which gave rise to one of the enduring slogans of May 68: "Sous les pavés, la plage!" — "Beneath the cobblestones, lies the beach!"

From then on, the city authorities switched their preference from quaint (but potentially dangerous) cobblestones to boring (but durable) tarmacadam, a mix of tar, sand and gravel.

This type of surface is much cheaper, easier to lay, and more difficult to use a weapon.

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