Tales from the Crypt… The Archeological Kind

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Tales from the Crypt… The Archeological Kind
Halloween is in the air. But the crypt in this story is different from the ghouls and ghosts you might have just conjured. The Archeological Crypt on the Île de la Cité is less horror and more history. This underground world is almost a secret — hidden in plain sight just beneath the Parvis Notre-Dame. It is one of the few places in Paris where you can descend just a few steps and travel back 2000 years into the Gallo-Roman world of Lutetia.   The Île de la Cité Archeological Crypt © Meredith Mullins Its rebirth was in 1963, as developers were considering an underground parking lot near Notre Dame. As they dug into the area that is now the Parvis, they discovered the foundations of Roman fortifications, including ramparts and thermal baths, as well as the remains of a docking port by the original path of the Seine.   The Thermal Baths © Meredith Mullins © Meredith Mullins The saying “and the rest is history” couldn’t be more true in this case. For the next seven years, excavations were conducted and, in 1980, the Crypt was opened to share the new discoveries with the public.   Carving from the Pillar of the Nautes (circa 4th century) © Meredith Mullins After the devastating fire affecting Notre Dame in April 2019, the crypt was closed. Before it could reopen, the toxic lead dust that plagued much of the area around the fire had to be removed from the ruins and the ventilation system. The next problem to be solved was the mold that developed because the ventilations system was closed down for the cleaning process. The Pillar of the Nautes (Model/Original in the Musée Canavalet) © Meredith Mullins

Lead photo credit : The Île de la Cité Archeological Crypt © Meredith Mullins

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Meredith Mullins is an internationally exhibited fine art photographer and instructor based in Paris. Her work is held in private and museum collections in Europe and the U.S. and can be seen at www.meredithmullins.artspan.com or in her award-winning book "In A Paris Moment." (If you’re in Paris, a few rare, signed copies are available at Shakespeare and Company and Red Wheelbarrow.) She is a writer for OIC Moments and other travel and education publications.


  • Barnaby Conrad
    2020-11-12 10:41:43
    Barnaby Conrad
    Wonderful photographs of Notre Dame! And a fascinating story. I lived in Paris from 1982-88...and miss it dearly. Thank you for sharing the inexhaustible magic of Paris. Barnaby Conrad


  • Janice Baiden
    2020-11-05 06:04:16
    Janice Baiden
    Thank you for your superbly written article complete with your inspiring photos. I am also appreciative for the two quotations you included from Victor Hugo and Viollet-le-Duc. You brought me as close to Paris as I can be without getting on a plane, which, of course, is not possible right now. My deepest thanks!