Despite the abundance of somber Gothic architecture, the 4th arrondissement of Paris is known as lively, boisterous and fun-loving, because it comprises the southern part of the former Le Marais district. Nowadays it is divided into quarters: Quartier Saint-Merri, Quartier Saint-Gervais, Quartier de l’Arsenal, Quartier Notre-Dame.
With its many shops, cafés, little streets and magnificent medieval architecture, the 4th arrondissement is small enough, and certainly lovely enough to be the perfect place to take a walk and soak up Parisian atmosphere. It is most recognised for the lower Le Marais and its numerous gay bars. It is also the home of a large Jewish community.
The first dwellings in this area date back to Gallic times. In early Midle Ages, with the establishment of the shrine of Saint-Gervais, the area experienced a boost in population and importance. In the late 19th century a sizeable Jewish community settled there. The current limits of the district were demarcated in 1860.
The thirteenth quarter was named to commemorate the 7th-century eremite and abbot Saint-Médéric (Merri), the patron saint of the Right Bank. He is also the one to whom the Church of Saint-Merri is dedicated.
The heart of the fun-loving Le Marais, the fourteenth quarter was, paradoxically, named after twin martyrs: Saints Gervasius and Protasius, mentioned both in ‘The Golden Legend’ and by Saint Augustine. The St-Gervais-et-St-Protais Church of Paris is famous for its connection to the Couperin family of musicians.
The fifteenth quarter owes its name to the royal arsenal, which was located in this area since the 16th century.
The sixteenth quarter is where one of the most famous and admired Gothic edifices in the world is located: the Notre Dame Cathedral.