Chaque âge a ses champions,
Chaque temps a ses héros.
La seule variable est la raison pour laquelle ils sont choisis.
Every age has its champions,
Every time, its heroes.
The only variable is why they are chosen.
Nestled by the Pantheon at the crest of the Montagne Sainte-Geneviève is my favourite Parisian church. Huysmans described it as one of the most beautiful churches in Paris.
Built in stages from the early 16th to 17th centuries its style ranges from flamboyant gothic to high renaissance. The enduring impression is one of beautiful lightness and exquisite detail. The predominantly white marble interior is a confection of carving and, as a French friend put it so well…
“I like it as it so light. It has none of the “lugbre” of most churches in Paris.”
I just love the word “lugubre”.
Add to this the only remaining Rennaisance marble rood screen in Paris, the oldest organ, the tombs of Racine and Blaise Pascal you have enough to tempt you to visit.
Then of course there is St Genevieve, the Patron Saint of Paris.
If you love Paris, then it seems only fitting to visit her tomb. This astonishing Saint started life as a peasant girl and lived (depending on the sources) to an amazing 92 years of age. This was a miracle in itself seeing she was around from 422-512 AD while various hordes, Huns and battles raged across Europe. Amongst other holy works, Genevieve, before the attack on Paris by the Huns under Attila in 451, persuaded the panic-stricken Parisian not to not to flee but to say in their homes and pray. It is claimed that the intercession of Genevieve’s prayers caused Attila’s army to go to Orleans instead.
History does not record if Orleans was grateful to St Genevieve for sending the Huns their way.
Her remains were interred in the original abbey (now vanished) near the current church and her relics were trotted out on a regular basis to save the city as in 1129 when they apparently cured Paris after a bout of Ergot poisoning.
After the original location of her tomb became too crowded, St Etienne du Mont was constructed but if you visit it today, the extraordinary gothic tomb in which you will find the sarcophagus of St Genevieve herself is actually a gothic confection created in the 19th Century on a design from Viollet-le-Duc (vile man).
The sarcophagus is original, but is now empty, as the revolutionaries, determined to install their own god’s of Equality and Reason, removed all of St Genevieve mortal remains and, according to historical accounts, flung them in the sewer. Quelle horreur!
Far too much for a sweet old lady me thinks and, after God was reinstalled in the churches after the Revolution they tried to make up for their disrespect by installing the current shrine.
So if you visit the Pantheon (which, by the way was actually built for St Genevieve until the Revolution came along and they chucked poor Genevieve away) then take a look inside St Etienne du Mont and light a candle for the Patron Saint of Paris.
NOTE: The steps from which Owen Wilson departs on his time travelling in Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” are the actual steps attached to St Etienne Du Mont.
Thanks so much to the many kind readers who sent their best wishes for last week’s post.
Curtis Bausse wrote a fascinating account of a recent visit from the French “Minister for Overseas” (love the title) to the Îles Glorieuses (The Glorious Island) of which I had never heard. It is great to get a glimpse of a part of the world unknown by many.
You can read the post here.
Anyone wanting to share their French posts are very welcome to leave links in the comments and I will add them in a summary in next week’s French Friday.
Since writing this post Paris became victim to a concerted terrorist attack which shocked the world. I want to express my deepest sympathy to all those who fall victim to terrorism.
Daily Post weekly photo prompt: Ornate