The Louvre: A Medieval Fortress






The iconic Louvre Museum, the most visited art museum in the world renowned for the variety of famous pieces it has within its halls, was not always used in the same function as it is today. The Louvre initially served as a secure fortress during the reign of the medieval kings of France and was a symbol of the authority of the monarchy for years to come, repurposed into a royal palace and then into the museum we know of it as today. The history of the modern art museum that we see as a national symbol of France today is equally, if not more, as captivating as the magnificent art it holds inside. The juxtaposition of the medieval ruins with the modern museum seemed surreal, as centuries of history were concentrated into one central location.

As is expected, the Louvre is a feat that cannot be completed in just one day. Even though I have visited four times already, I still feel like I could use a few more days to really understand all that the great museum has to offer. Each of the wings offers insight into the past from many different eras and regions, from ancient Roman sculptures to Napoleon’s rooms.  

One of my classes, Paris Collage, looks into how architecture plays an importance into the historic buildings of Paris. During a class trip to the Louvre, it was surprising that we remained outside of the Louvre the entire time (yes, we were freezing in the Parisian wind). However, the impressive building has an amazing history surrounding it. In the 12th century, the Louvre served as a fortress for the walled city of Paris, right at the outer limits.  In one of the exhibits, you can see the remnants of a tower while you are walking through what used to be the moat (which is a super cool feeling). My professor explained how expansions of the original fortress allowed it to become to royal palace and then finally the art museum we know of it as today. Upon further analysis of the facades of the Louvre, you can make out the time period of the construction, as well as who was the leader of the country at that time. Through the allegories depicted through decoration and ornamentation, you can further understand the symbols that were important to France and its royalty throughout history.

Walking in the moat of the Louvre, tower to the right.
The outer wall of the medieval Louvre’s moat.

The Louvre is definitely a must-see when visiting Paris, but it is important to appreciate more than just the vast collections of art within its walls. The history of the museum is fascinating, especially when you realize that the building has been used for various functions for over 800 years while always holding a special place for France. Although I recommend spending a day or two in each of the Louvre’s wings, I wouldn’t miss the impressive architecture on the outside that combines several different artistic movements.