The atlas from which this retrospective plan of late medieval Paris is taken was created at the behest of the commission in charge of the 1878 Paris world’s fair, but was not completed until 1880. The 1878 fair celebrated the revival of Paris after the destruction brought by the German siege of the city in 1870 and the fires sparked by the fall of the Paris Commune in 1871. Alphand’s historical atlas was part of a massive government project to preserve historical documents endangered by such modern conflicts, and reasserted Paris’s ancient pedigree and historical endurance. Jean-Charles Adolphe Alphand, a close collaborator with Baron Haussmann, figured prominently in the redesign of many of Paris’s parks, gardens, and promenades. At the time this historical atlas was published under his supervision, he was director of public works and wielded power in the planning of Paris not unlike that enjoyed by Robert Moses in mid-twentieth-century New York.
Since the plan was reconstructed from non-cartographic records, it should not be taken to be a fully accurate plan of Paris at the turn of the fourteenth century. Even so, the partial survival of the grid of Roman Paris (Lutetia) is instructive. The Roman cardo maximus is clearly visible bisecting the city from north to south. On the left (south) bank, it is the modern Rue Saint-Jacques. A secondary cardo (the modern Rue Saint-Denis and Boulevard Saint-Michel) parallels the cardo maximus to the west. Several major streets intersected these streets at right angles in Lutetia, some of which survive in this plan, but there was no proper decumanus here as in Turin. Roman Roads leading from Lutetia either to outlying churches and old Roman temples are also discernable.
Alphand, Jean-Charles. Les Promenades De Paris. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1984.
Boutier, Jean. Les plans de Paris des origines, 1493, à la fin du XVIIIe siècle: étude, carto-bibliographie et catalogue collectif. Paris: Bibliothèque nationale de France, 2002.
Hall, Thomas. Planning Europe’s Capital Cities: Aspects of Nineteenth Century Urban Development. London: Routledge, 2010.
French Ministry of Culture and Communication. “Paris, a Roman city.” http://www.paris.culture.fr/en/.
Albert Lenoir, “Paris de 1285 à 1314,” from Atlas des anciens plans de Paris, by Adolphe Alphand (Paris: Imprimerie nationale, 1880), pl. IV. The Newberry Library, Case oversize F 3997 .408 vol. 2