The oldest house in Paris, a wander around le Marais and a step back in time:
No. 3 Rue Volta has one of the most unusual claims in Paris. It’s apparently the oldest house in Paris and it’s situated in the very heart of Le Marais, one of Paris’ trendiest neighbourhoods.
In French, le Marais literally means ‘the Marsh‘. And that’s exactly what this area was until the 13th Century.
During the middle ages, the population of Paris exploded. It grew to the point where the entire population could no longer reside within the city walls. Around the same time, the sewers were constructed in an attempt to alleviate the strain of a growing population on the Seine and its surrounding countryside.
As a solution to the lack of space, it was decided that the marshy area to the north of Notre Dame would become reclaimed land. At some point in the 1200s, both the Knights Templar and a religious order known as the community of St Martin des Champs built their monasteries there.
Considering that people have inhabited the Paris and the area surrounding the city since time immemorial, you’d be forgiven for thinking that there are many old houses around the city. However this definitely isn’t the case.
The reason why becomes apparent when you delve a little into the architecture of Paris. Major demolition works were led by Haussmann in the late 1800s. The city was reconstructed in a style favoured by Napoleon. It’s also why every house in Paris looks like that. One of the only districts to escape complete demolition was le Marais.
The house at No. 3 Rue Volta is seemingly proof of this. For a long time, historians and academics alike believed that the house dated back to the 1300s. The timber framing and buckling walls suggested that the house was hundreds of years old.
All is not as it seems
However, all is not as it seems. Documents were discovered in 1979 that show that the house was actually constructed in the middle of the 17th Century. The house was actually commissioned by a wealthy family who were particularly fond of medieval architecture.
It turns out that the real oldest house in Paris isn’t far from 3 Rue Volta. It’s actually the house that belonged to famed alchemist Nicolas Flamel.
Although the timber framed house at 3 Rue Volta isn’t actually the oldest house in Paris, it’s still a beautiful place to see and unique among a sea of Haussmann architecture.