Arenes de Lutece is one of the most important remains from the Roman-Gallic period of Paris, when the place was known as “Lutèce“.
The historical tourist attraction, located within the Quartier Latin district, belongs to a group of important remains from the Roman-Gallic, together with Paris’ Thermes de Cluny (Roman baths).
Arènes is an amphitheater, which, when it was fully intact, could seat around 17,000 spectators. Some of the more notable events held here included gladiator games.
PHOTO: A view to the amphitheater arena, taken from the top-most part of the southern spectator stands…near of which goes a small path through a small garden to the nearby street.
PHOTO: The amphitheater’s southernmost stands and the main entrance (towards the left of the picture).
The amphitheater was build during the first century A.D. The arena is, in fact, one of the oldest amphitheaters of its kind ever to be build in the ancient Roman province of Gaul.
In its original state, the amphitheater was partly covered, and surrounded by a wall of 2.5 meters. Spectator seats started from the top of the wall, with seating available at over half of the arena’s curves.
With a length of 41.2 meters (the arena’s elliptic shape was 52.50 m x 46.8 m), the place provided flexibility as a multi-use venue, suitable for theater spectacles and gladiator fighting.
Slaves, the poor, and women were seated on the upper parts of the stands, while male citizens of the ancient Roman empire had seats closer to the action.
The arena also had a sun shade for the hottest summer days, build out of fabric.
When Lutèce was badly destroyed and pillaged by the barbarians in 280 A.D., the amphitheater was partly dismantled, to provide material for the defensive wall at Île de la Cité.
Due to being partly dismantled, the arena’s role diminished, but it was again taken into use by King Chilpéric (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chilperic_I) in 577, to be used as a venue for spectacles.
However, in 1210, the amphitheater was again taken out of use, with the arena filled in, to make way for a new defensive wall, Wall of Philippe Auguste (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wall_of_Philippe_Auguste).
Hundreds of years later, even though the Paris district was still called “Les Arènes“, nobody knew where the ancient amphitheater had exactly been.
The arena’s northern parts were rediscovered by Théodore Vaquer, during construction work on Rue Monge, in 1860-1869…
…when Compagnie Générale des Omnibus had the intention of building a new tram station at the location.
Later, when Couvent des Filles de Jésus-Christ building was demolished in 1883, a total of 1/3 of the ancient amphitheater came into view.
To save this ancient treasure, a society, called “Société des Amis des Arènes” (“Friends of the Arènes”) was founded, with founding members including author Victor Hugo.
Thanks to the efforts of the society, the municipal council of Paris decided to renovate the attraction and make it a public park (work, which was completed in 1896).
Today, Arenes de Lutece is a significant Paris tourist attraction, with the ancient stage and parts of its nine entrances renovated to original condition.
The seats are not the same as they originally were, but many of the same elements were used by the renovators, that they believed to have been used in the original seating.
As a public park, Arenes is open daily:
- 8:30am – 5pm during the winter season, and
- 8:30am – 9:30pm in the summertime.
Throughout the year, the arena acts as an event venue for several festivals, including the famous Arènes du Jazz, held annually in July.
Arenes de Lutece
49 Rue Monge, 75005 Paris, France
The closest M7 line stop is at “Place Monge“.