Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Palais des Thermes

The Palais de Thermes de Cluny is the oldest building at least partially built from brick in Paris and one of the few remaining structures from the settlement of Lutèce or Lutetia. Originating in the 2nd or 3rd century BC when the Romans occupied the site, it housed baths, a frigdarium and a gymnasium. The building was open to all members of the public and was an area where people socialised. It is believed that this structure, like many other such Roman baths, contained an exceptional display of mosaics, but the only thing visible today after centuries of attacks and misuse are the red veins of Roman brickwork.

The Romans were the first to truly popularise the use of brick in their structures, using a longer and narrower brick than other civilisations, and one which was later to influence architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright. It was they who would export both brick and brick making skills across their empire, ensuring its long lasting success.

This building can be visited today and is contained within the Musée de Cluny. This museum, which concentrates largely on one person's collection of artefacts from the middle-ages, is housed in the 15th century Hôtel de Cluny, itself an exceptional and rare example of gothic architecture in Paris. It is interesting to see how this Hôtel was built around and on top of the previous Roman structure, and parts of the brickwork from the 'thermes' can still be seen on the left-hand side of the entrance courtyard.

Address: 6, Place Paul Painlevé 75005
Architect: Unknown
Year of construction: 2nd or 3rd Century BC.


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