Oldest House In Paris
( Originally Published 1921 )
To see it you will have to leave the straight line you are following, and after you have passed the other old church, St Nicolas, you will see the rue de Turbigo cutting the rue Réaumur. A few steps beyond their meeting to the east is the rue Volta (a much too modern name for so old a street). Turn into it. At the end of a short block is No. 3.
That house was built in 1240 and has been lived in ever since.
Notice the arrangement of doors and windows, the stone coping of the show-window which used to hold the lower half of the shutter as a counter at which business was done. The upper half of the shutter made an awning.
1240! Two hundred and fifty years before we were discovered, and it is still solid today. Louis IX was king then. This was country. On one side the old Temple could be seen from here, and on the other, the turreted walls of Paris; all about were groves, gardens, and twisting paths, many of which have become the streets of this old part of town.
Now go back to the rue St Martin and on to the river. There is one more old church, St Merri, where medieval trade-guilds worshiped. We are in one of the oldest and most crowded bits of Paris here; the rue Brisemiche (Break-bread) and Taillepan (Cut the bread) run off the rue Cloître St Merri.
The ancient rue des Lombards is named after the first Italian bankers of the 12th century. Further on, the street was named from its corporation of stained-glass-makers, rue de la Verrerie. We come out, at last, upon the quay, named in 1642 for the Marquis de Gesvres.
Still upon the path of the Phenicians, we cross the Pont Notre-Dame to the Cité and reach the parvis of the Cathedral. That parvis is a word which has roused many conjectures, but it probably stands for "paradise" (a Persian word meaning "garden"), as the approach to a church was sometimes called. Indeed there is a street in Paris, the rue de Paradis, which runs into the approach to that old church of St Laurent which we passed on our way here.
I make no apology for these digressions; they spring from my own habits of curiosity, and I take it for granted that any healthy human being is curious, particularly in a country so full of changes as that of France.