National Geographic : 1989 Jul
ACastle Under the Louvre In the heart of Parisa medieval fortress is unearthedbeneath the renowned museum and former palace of kings. By PETER MILLER ASSISTANT EDITOR Photographs by JAMES L. STANFIELD NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC PHOTOGRAPHER PATRICETHOMAS,EXPLORERAGENCY THEY FOUND IT just below the surface of the Square Court (above), unmolested by the centuries. No army had assaulted it. No wrecker had pulled it down. It was the foundation of the original Louvre, erected at the close of the 12th century by the great fortifier King Philip Au gustus. Strategically positioned on the western wall of Paris, the first Louvre was a square citadel with a great tower at its center and ten smaller ones around its perimeter. The towers were spaced no more than 80 feet apart to maximize the firepower of the French crossbow with its range of some 200 feet. Spires added by Charles V in the 14th century lend a fairy-tale quality to the castle in a scene from Les Tres Riches Heures (facing page), an illuminated manuscript commissioned by Charles's brother Jean, Duc de Berry. In this miniature depict ing the labors of October, the Louvre is viewed from the duke's residence, the Hotel de Nesle, across the Seine. The old fortress was excavat ed as part of a 12-year, billion dollar campaign to restore and reorganize the Louvre from top to bottom. Begun in 1983, the Grand Louvre Project envisions a museum more than twice as large as before, with a better organized collection and such comfort-oriented new facilities as a cafeteria and restaurant, a museum shop and bookstore, and a 420-seat auditorium. The centerpiece of the project, the celebrated glass pyramid over the main entrance, opened its doors in late March, inaugurating a new era for the palace, which has already witnessed 800 years of French history.