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When I was little I dreamed about going into the backyard and digging up all sorts of treasures from the past. Finding pieces of history always fascinated me. And how exciting would it have been to bring up something that was ancient! So when we heard from eVous that we could sign up for a visit of the Carreau du Temple in the 3rd arrondisement to get a rare glimpse into an archeological dig right here in Paris, well…

So what is this place you may be asking? Well in 1863 le Carreau du Temple was a market, so popular with the textile (mainly leather), merchants that they had to do a lottery at the start of each day to see who would get what spot inside. Before this, the space belonged to the templers who had a church (Eglise Sainte Marie du temple) at the site. It was in the 18th century however that merchants started to pour in with their wares. You can be sure that it was due to the tax free status that the carreau was privileged to have.

Sadly over the years the merchants dwindled and the upkeep was dismal. The site was a poor shadow of its former self and in 1976 (as apparently was the fashion of the day), the mairie (town hall), made plans to demolish the carreau completely and put up a parking lot! Residents were up in arms and signed a petition to stop the project. Lucky for us, they were successful and the city was actually listening.

In 1982, the site was listed as a historical monument.  Now this brings us to modern times. The city decided it was time to revitalize the site and the opening for submission of project ideas commenced.  The space will be largely “empty,” leaving room to the various “Foires” those big public markets that Paris is so famous for. There will be a small auditorium, a dojo, a gym and a few shops around the exterior. All this under metal and glass allowing in natural light and plenty of air.

But for projects of this magnitude with so much history, the Service Regional d’archéoligie was called in to survey and inspect the site to determine the archeological significance of the site. And so the digging began. At the first layer, a modern cemetery was discovered dating back to the period between the 15th and 18th century, under which lay a medieval cemetery from between the 12th and the 15th century.

I asked the architect who was our guide if they planned on preserving any part of the archeological finds, and sadly it seems that it will not be possible as these items require quite a bit of upkeep. But for the moment the items that are deemed significant are being classified and catalogued.

It was truly a fascinating visit and I was glad to have taken part in it. If you are unable to visit yourself (you have to sign up with the Mairie du 3eme), you can view the videos at the links below (in French). At the Musée Carnavelet you can also find  models of what the Carreau looked like during the time of the templers.

The final project is due to be complete (fingers crossed), by September 2013.

Mairie du 3eme

Musée Carnavelet  – histoire du Paris (Paris history museum)
23 rue du Sévigné Paris 75003
Metro: Saint Paul (line 1)

Information on visiting the site from  eVous