Paris at the time of Philippe Auguste

Everyday life

Les Halles

Les Halles -Market

Prior to Philippe-Auguste, there was an open air grainmarket at Champeaux. In 1181 Philippe-Auguste had "la foire St-Lazare" moved there. This was the origin of "Les Halles" quarter, or market district. The market was situated between the church of Saint Laurent and the Leproserie Saint Lazare (which today are rue de Faubourg Saint-Denis and Boulevard Magenta). The King had taken over this "lepers fair". In 1182 the market was enlarged, following the confiscation of some jews' houses..

By 1137, Louis VI had already moved a market from la place de Grève to this area. At first it was in the open air. Later two buildings were built there. There were doors that secured these buildings at night to allow the market traders to leave their merchandise there safely. In 1187 the cemetery of Saint Innocents was enclosed by a wall in order to separate it from the Champeaux market. Jacques Broussard, in his book "Nouvelle Histoire de Paris" tells us about this cemetery situated near the church of Saint Innocents and called "cimetiere des Champeaux".

"It was a large square crossed by passers-by, where goods were sold. Parisians were in the habit of burying their dead there. But it was not possible to inter the corpses properly due to the wet weather and the mass of rank and filthy mud (...) Guillame le Breton in his "Philippide" adds that it was open to pigs and full of refuse, that prostitutes exercised their trade there and that the King had it surrounded with a raised stone wall. Thus the district and the market were cleaned up. It was under Philippe-Auguste that all these works were undertaken, notably that two large buildings were constructed, and that the market began to be known as "Les Halles". The market was completely within the bounds of Philippe-Auguste's surrounding wall." Probably at the start of the reign of Philippe-Auguste, the market mainly attracted traders in small wares, greengrocers and grain merchants.

In 1222 a market-fair was established in the square in front of Notre Dame. It was a market for pork products; pork fats and pork meats. It traded on only one day. We must remember the importance the pig during the Middle Ages, as they were much-prized animals during this period.

Equally we hear of the Lendit market-fair in the open countryside on the Saint-Denis road. Philippe-Auguste supervised its establishment in 1215. For the duration of the market, the market traders had to abstain from trading at Les Halles. However, unsold produce from the market could be put on sale again at Les Halles.