On the official Paris pedestrian map, the last block of rue Cujas (with the house numbers 16 through 29) is now shown as a solid green line, meaning a public pedestrian space (espace public piéton). Although this is less than a quarter of the street’s total length, it reduces traffic on the entire street by cutting off access to Boulevard Saint-Martin. A yellow dot on the map shows that there is a school in the middle of the block, on the south side of the street, in this case a nursery school.
Formerly, as in this photo from 2011, rue Cujas was a typical Paris street, with two lanes of parked cars and one lane for motor traffic, and with narrow sidewalks on both sides of the street.
The street was named after a sixteenth-century humanist legal scholar, Jacques Cujas (1520–1590), who for a while lectured on civil law at the Sorbonne in Paris. The name Cujas can be pronounced with or without the s in French.
On the north side of the street there are three hotels side by side. This one, the Hôtel Excelsior Latin, is being completely remodeled and expanded as of 2022. The explanatory text, provided by city hall, is entitled: “Rue Cujas: at the heart of the Latin Quarter.”
For its expansion, the hotel has acquired the adjoining building, which until recently was an art cinema called Cinéma Accattone. In the basement of the old cinema, they intend to build a swimming pool for the hotel, but the city ordered an archeological excavation first. Sure enough, the archeologists found remnants including several ancient columns from the first-century Roman forum, reused in the 14th century for the old college of Cluny. So now the archeologists have six months to excavate and study the site, before it is turned into a swimming pool.
This second text panel, also provided by the city government, explains the work of the archeologists and shows the ‘archeological hub’ (pôle archéologique) at the northern edge of Paris, near Porte de la Chapelle, where all the historical artefacts found here on rue Cujas are taken for storage and further study.
The head archeologist for this site, David Couturier, has been quoted in French press reports as saying that their work is a race against the clock. The objective is to discover as much as possible about what this plot of land was used for in Roman times. “It’s kind of a challenge. We have six months, we must gather as much information as possible before leaving the site to the developer.”
See also: Archeological crypt at Notre-Dame.
Next door to the Hôtel Excelsior Latin is another hotel with the unusual name of “French Theory”. I have dealt with this hotel, the former Hôtel Cujas Panthéon, in a separate post.
Next door to “French Theory” is a third hotel, the Hôtel des 3 collèges, which was thoroughly renovated and modernized in 2014.
On the front of this hotel is a plaque which reads: “Miklós Radnóti, 1909-1944, Hungarian poet, lived in this house in 1939.”
It turns out that 1939 was Radnóti’s last year of freedom, because as a Jew he was forced by the Nazis to work in labor camps and cooper mines until they murdered him in 1944. In the words of a website called The HyperTexts: “As the Nazis retreated from the Eastern Front and the Russian army approached, the Bor concentration camp was evacuated and Radnóti and 3,200 of his fellow internees were led on a forced march through Yugoslavia and Hungary. He was shot to death in November near the northwest Hungarian village of Abda, along with 21 other prisoners who, like Radnóti, were too weak to walk. The mass grave in which they were buried was exhumed after the war and Radnóti’s last poems, describing incidents of the march, were found in his trench coat pocket by his wife. They were written in pencil in a small Serbian exercise book.”
My photos in this post are from 2011 and 2022. I wrote the text in 2022.