From the martyrdom of St Denis to the massacre of the Communards, fourteen Upper Sixth Form Oundle School historians endured the cold December air to take a journey through Parisian history at the start of the Christmas holidays.
After beginning with the tales of Montmartre, the trip followed the footsteps of France’s patron saint to his shrine. There the group visited the ancient tombs of the kings of France, set amidst the geometric beauty of the world’s first complete Gothic edifice. This style, the architectural hallmark of the Capetian dynasty, is woven into the fabric of the city, and the trip took in the pinnacle of the movement by visiting the translucent, stained glass walls of the Sainte Chapelle. These masterpieces of medieval art were complemented by afternoons viewing the art collections of the Louvre and the Musée D’Orsay.
A trip to the tower of John the Fearless evoked the memories of the civil strife of the fifteenth century, the bells of Notre Dame tolled as they did for the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre and a stop at the site of Henry IV’s assassination brought home the bitter religious struggles witnessed by the city. Just as the years of revolution loom dark over French history, so too do their remnants intrude upon Paris, from the gloomy cells of the Conciergerie to the innocuous outline of the former Bastille and the immense tomb of their most famous offspring: Napoleon I.
The trip concluded with a tour of the palace of Versailles. Magnificent in their opulence, the rooms which had once seen the birth and death of imperial Germany, home to kings who brought about the revolution, were a fitting place to end a tour of the beauty and violence of Parisian history.