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Arenes de Lutece Place de la Contrescarpe-Rue Mouffetard

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Leave the eglise St.Etienne du Mont and take the rue de Cujas eastwards, make a left to the rue du Cardinal Lemoine and a right into the rue Monge. You will arrive at a park where the ARENES DE LUTECE are waiting for you. The “Arena Lutetia” are remains of a Roman arena destroyed in the 3rd century. Completely forgotten during 1500 years they were rediscovered in 1869, when new streets were planned and diggings ordered. Despite we cannot register these arenas among the best-known Roman theatres, these ruins are one of the two most important Gallo-Roman remains of Paris (the others being the Thermes de Cluny, also in the 5th arrondissement). My sources inform me that it was one of the largest amphitheatres of Gaul and that at least 15,000 spectators could watch the gladiator fights or theatre performances. What you see now is mostly a reconstruction and the arenas are a public garden now.  

Arènes de Lutèce

Return rue Monge and continue until you arrive at rue Lacepede. Make a right and you’re heading to the PLACE DE LA CONTRESCARPE, bordered by ancient houses, typical for the Parisian image book, with its pigeons and hobos, cafes and restaurants. Have a look at no.1: this house used to be the “Cabaret de la Pomme de Pin”, where Rabelais got drunk very often.
Take now the RUE MOUFFETARD , a picturesque and typical Paris street, symbol of authentic Parisian scenery. Sloping down it is packed with grocery shops, butchers, restaurant and cafes. The Parisians call it the “Mouff” and is today, despite not always lucky renovations, one of the picturesque streets in Paris. 

Rue Mouffetard

This is a street to walk, paying attention here to a dormer-window, there to a beautiful door with its iron wrought decoration. You can discover old signboards, small squares and passages, a little fountain of Marie de Medicis (17th century) at the corner of the rue du Pot-de-Fer. Back yards are to find (if still open) like the one at no.52, a bas-relief representing a magnificent oak is to see at no.69, part of a 100 years old restaurant, “Le Vieux Chene”. The lower part of the Mouff’, with its permanent morning market turns the street into a vibrant, coloured and vivid animation. 

If you like this kind of food, delicatessen and some junk markets and you want to enjoy it fully, come early in the morning, and preferably on Saturday. The market ends around 1.30 pm. But, and there is unfortunately a “but”, the numerous grocery shops are not more what they used to be. Quality is lowering, the “clothing” business is setting in, and Greek restaurants are replacing the traditional French bistros, leaving an odor of skewers behind.
I’m leading you the last part of this post: the egilse Saint-Medard. But before arriving there, you will cross the rue de l’Arbalete. At no. 3 of this street the famous sculptor Auguste Rodin was born!
At the end of the Mouff’ the EGLISE SAINT-MEDARD, a charming church (access 41, rue Daubenton) where the building started in the 15th century but only finished in the 17th. The Renaissance influence is evident, especially in the widening of the choir. The chapels are decorated with beautiful masterpieces (the first choir chapel has a work attributed too Zurbaran).
But let’s end with an amusing anecdote: the cemetery of Saint-Medard was in the 18th century the stage of hysterical crisis and convulsions around the tomb of a Jansenist, to whom the people attributed the gift of healing. The authorities decided to close the cemetery, and somebody wrote on the wall " By King's order, it's prohibited to God to make a miracle on these premises".  

Bibliography: Vie et histoire des arrondissements de Paris, ed.Hervas, 1985-1988, 20 volumes—Nouvelle Histoire de Paris, ed.Hachette (20 vol.since 1971), Le piéton de Paris, by L.P. Fargue, ed.Gallimard 1997—Paris, 2000 ans d'histoire by J.Favier ed.Fayard 1997---Le quartier de la Mouff"" by J.Hermelin, brochure 1998, Guide du Routard 1998-99.