The Origin of Arrondissements

If you’ve been to Paris you will know that Paris is divided into twenty districts. We call such a district an arrondissement, and they are numbered in a circle from the middle, clockwise around and out. Therefore, if you draw a line from #1 out to #20, you will have a squiggle like a snail shell on the paper.
The French love escargots (snails) yes, but the nice little garlicky creatures had nothing to do with the numbering of the districts. The districts had developed naturally from the 13th century due to what was where and how to get there. The twenty districts as we know them today however date from 1860 when the Bureau de la Ville de Paris finally decided on their borders. The name arrondissement, by the way, was first used in 1795; to be exact, in the law of October 11, 1795, which determined the borders of the twelve arrondissements in existence at that time.
Street naming had started in the 12th century already and then the name was carved into the stone buildings or written on wooden boards fastened to trees or hedges. For example on a street where there was a popular butcher, the street had become known as Rue du Boucher.
The current street name plates – white lettering on blue – dates from 1844 and I don’t think that it will ever be changed.
There are (when I last counted there were) over 6,000 streets in Paris. Each has a charm of its own despite that today not all of them are safe to walk along after night has fallen – even in daylight but don’t ever say that I told you so.

One Response to “The Origin of Arrondissements”

  1. Comment by Joaquin Martinez | 05/29/11 at 6:52 pm


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