Philippe Auguste’s wall

The Louvre in Paris began as a fortress, built starting in 1190 at the behest of King Philippe Auguste (1165-1223).

The fortress was at one end of Philippe Auguste’s wall, a system of city fortifications that he ordered built because he didn’t want the city to be left undefended while he went off to fight in the Third Crusade.

This particular crusade was the one that was led by three rival European monarchs who were otherwise not at all inclined to cooperate with each other: King Philippe II (aka Philippe Auguste) of France, King Richard I (aka Richard the Lionheart) of England and Emperor Friedrich I (aka Barbarossa) of the so-called Holy Roman Empire, mainly in what is now Germany.

Barbarossa, on his way to the crusade in June 1190, drowned in the Saleph River in what is now Turkey, perhaps after falling off his horse while wearing heavy armor. He was 67.

A year later, in the summer of 1191, Philippe Auguste came down with a serious case of dysentery during a siege, and decided to return home to France.

That left Richard the Lionheart, who continued to lead the crusade for another year. Richard was on his way home in December 1192 when he was captured near Vienna by the Duke of Austria, who had some serious grudges against him. The duke turned him over to the new Holy Roman Emperor, Heinrich VI, who demanded a ransom of 100,000 pounds of silver for his release.

Philippe Auguste’s wall, with a model of the medieval Louvre

Remains of the medieval Louvre fortress and moat have been excavated and preserved, and can be seen today on the underground level of the Sully Wing of the Louvre Museum, on the way to the department of Egyptian antiquities.

Remnant of Philippe Auguste’s wall in the Marais district

In the Marais district, at the corner of rue Charlemagne and Rue des Jardins-Saint Paul, we can see still these remains of the city fortifications that were built starting in the year 1190. The historical sign at the site says that this is the longest and best-preserved remnant of Philippe Auguste’s wall.

The sign also says that this wall was in the shape of a heart, and that it “enclosed 253 hectares including numerous uninhabited spaces, fields, meadows or vineyards.”

Construction of the wall continued for many years after the Third Crusade. The last sections, on the Left Bank, were not completed until 1215.

Philippe Auguste, having recovered from his dysentery, continued to rule as King of France until his death in 1223 at age 57.

My photos in this post are from 2007 and 2012. I revised the text in 2021.

See more posts on the Marais district of Paris.
See more posts on the Louvre, now said to be the world’s
largest and most-visited museum.

3 thoughts on “Philippe Auguste’s wall”

  1. I’m glad you mentioned this part of the Louvre Don. I never expected to see this on my first visit, but it’s well worth giving the treasures a break for a while to see this part of the building.

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