A team of archaeologists from the Institut national de recherches archéologiques préventives (Inrap), directed by Didier Busson (Department of the History of Architecture and Archaeology of Paris) is at present uncovering a new aspect of the history of Lutetia: one of the first residential quarters of the antique town. 

Last modified
10 February 2017

This preventive excavation, curated by the State (Ministry of Culture – DRAC/SRA Île-de-France), is being carried out on top of the Montagne Sainte-Geneviève.

Antique levels under a 17th century convent

In 1632, in the old Rue du Faubourg Saint-Jacques, the convent of the Visitation was founded and built following plans drawn up by François Mansart. The building itself followed the line of the present Rue Saint-Jacques, but its garden stretched much further to the east, as far as the present Rue Lhomond. 
Sold in 1903 by the Order of the Visitandines, the convent was demolished in 1903 to make place for the Institut de Géographie. 
The excavation concerns part of the eastern wing of the convent cloister, set back from the line of the Rue Saint-Jacques. Its foundations have been found as has a thick layer of garden soil. 
Under these levels and protected by them, the remains of the ancient town have just been discovered.

A residential quarter

The present excavation has revealed the existence of a Roman street that can be dated from the reign of Augustus (27 BC – 14 AD). Its creation was preceded, still during the reign of Augustus, by a small pioneer installation doubtless intended to prepare the site before the foundation of the Roman town. One of the research objectives was to give a precise date to this very first construction

A street dating from the time of the Emperor Augustus

Six metres wide, the street was bordered, from the beginning, by ditches. Later, the road level was raised several times until it was abandoned in the 3rd century AD. Gutters and pavements were added. Along the successive street levels, were houses, which were themselves built and rebuilt. Though the interior arrangements could change, the original building perimeters were generally respected. 

The first houses were built of wattle and daub fencing resting on sleeper beams. The floors were of beaten earth. The excavations should improve our knowledge of these first dwellings and enable us to date them more precisely. Masonry was in use by the second third of the 1st century AD and little by little replaced preceding techniques. From the 2nd century AD the interiors became more complex: there were paved private baths heated by hypocausts. Fragments of wall painting, from collapsed buildings, were also found.

The abandon of the quarter in the 3rd century

During the 3rd century AD the quarter was progressively abandoned, the masonry was partly robbed out, which meant that archaeologists only found wall fragments or backfilled trenches, floors and everyday objects. Human occupation was concentrated around major public buildings then in the Île de la Cité, which was protected from the 4th century by a rampart. 
A comparable shrinking of towns happened all over Gaul at this time. 
The land was not reoccupied for another fourteen centuries when the Convent of the Visitation was built.
Site Director : Didier Busson, Department of History of Architecture and Archaeology of Paris, Department of Cultural Affairs, Mairie de Paris.
Curation : Regional Service of Archaeology (Drac – Île-de-France)
Developers : Université Pierre et Marie Curie
Contact(s) :

Mahaut Tyrrell
​Media communication
​Inrap, media partnerships and relations
+33 6 07 40 59 77
mahaut.tyrrell [at] inrap.fr