One of the most attractive and respectable districts of Paris grew up from a swamp – literally! That’s how the Marais gets its name, from the French word for marsh. The church ordered the land to be drained early in the 12th century and the Order of the Temple was the first to build a monastery here. In the early 17th century the Place Royale, or Royal Square (now the Place des Vosges) was built in the Marais. That transformed a modest district, attracting the wealthiest families of Paris. Residents became a who’s who of famous Frenchmen and women – Cardinal Richelieu, Madame de Sevigne and the famous writers Victor Hugo, Alphonse Daudet and Georges Simenon all lived here. Today’s Marais attracts culture vultures to its museums. It is also home to two large, and contrasting groups: the Jews of Paris, who settled here in the 12th century, and a prominent LGBT community of more recent origin.
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