France has from time immemorial seen the hand of man excel in his wondrous works. From Gallo-Roman vestiges to majestic cathedrals, towns and villages offer visitors marvelous treasures.
Over 80,000 buildings, countless parks and formal gardens are evidence of this incredible craftsmanship.
France has a history dating back 2000 years and what is interesting is that it possesses vestiges of all the periods of those 2000 years as well as before its own affirmation.
Pre-History and the world famous Lascaux caves with drawing dating back 17.000 years. A museum has just been opened that replicates, to perfection, the original cave drawing. The original cave is closed for preservation due to wear and tear from tourism. The video visit above is in French (for practice!) but the visual presentation is worth viewing and is totally understandable.
Ancient Greece (1000BC-500BC) is represented by the Jardin des Vestiges, an archaeological site where you can visit the remains of Marseille’s ancient Greek port. Ancient Rome (100BC-99AD) is well garnished throughout France. For instance, Lyon is adorned with an amphitheatre, baths and aqueducts. Arles is another landmark of restored Roman ruins as well as Alesia where Caesar defeated the Gaulish chieftain, Vercingetorix. This is the background for the world-renowned Asterix comic series devoted to the Roman period in history.
The Early Medieval (500AD-1000AD) period is epitomized by the Basilica of St Denis (Basilique Saint-Denis) just North of Paris, which is named after France’s patron saint. The cathedral basilica is thought to be the actual site where Saint Denis was buried after his death in around 275 AD.
The High Medieval (1000AD–1300AD) era is one of intense construction. One wonders about the means, both in workmanship and finances, deployed to build such masterpieces as Notre Dame Cathedral, the Sainte Chapelle and La Conciergerie in Paris, the Cathedral and the Saint-Remi Abbey in Reims, the Cathedrals in Lyon, Autun and Vienne The Rocamadour Shrine, the St-Trophime Church in Arles, the Abbaye Saint-Victor in Marseille and other Abbayes in Fecamp and Moissac, the Basilica of St Sernin in Toulouse as well as one in Vezelay. Just a tour of of these vestiges would guide you around all of France.
There are other historic periods to bring us up to date … but we shall cover them in a follow-up post: The Normans (1000AD-1099AD), Hundred Years War (1400AD-1499AD), Early Modern (1500AD-1800AD), French Revolution (1700AD-1799AD), Late Modern (1800AD-1945AD), World War One (1900AD-1999AD), World War Two (1900AD-1999AD)
For details about these sites and many others click here. France is a haven of historical sites, monuments and castles as attested by the more than 40 distinguished monuments on the UNESCO World Heritage list.