More thoughts on Paris

I’m still processing my trip to Paris. We saw so much, and I learned so much about French and European history, that I need time to process it all. (Although I don’t think I’ll ever keep all of the King Louis straight – what’s the plural of King Louis? – couldn’t they have used a few more names so they didn’t have 18 Louis and 4 Henrys?) 

1. There is nothing subtle about France. As our guide, Fr. Ed Udovic frequently said, the motto of France is, “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth overdoing.” The palaces, churches, and monuments are over the top. 

In Gothic churches, the middle door always depicts the Last Judgment.  In this one, Cathedral du Notre Dame in Amien, you can actually see the damned being led into the mouth of the Leviathon. Yikes:

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Sacre Coeur on Montmartre. (Just up the hill from the actual Moulin Rouge, which Emma thinks is cool):

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(Moulin Rouge):

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You really can’t get a sense for the scale of Napoleon’s tomb, which is at Invalides. But let’s just say that it’s about 20 times the size that he was:

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Fontainbleu (where Napoleon had the audacity to install a throne):

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2.  Nearly everyone I met was very friendly to Americans.  I know that this was not always the case, but I have to say that people were willing to use whatever English they had to communicate, and most people very helpful.

3. There is a museum for everything in France.  Case in point, we went to the Museum of Public Assistance.  I got the sense that it was not frequently visited – go figure- but I was surprised that it actually contained some interesting things.

The Mona Lisa (this is probably one of the worst photos of the Mona Lisa ever taken, but I wanted to prove that I really was at the Louvre):

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Winged Victory (ditto):

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Nice butt:

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4. There are a lot of churches. Well, maybe it just seemed like there are a lot because we visited every one.   (I may have lost count, but I think we toured ten.) Actually, the more amazing thing is the size of the churches, which according to Fr. Ed contributed to the decline in church attendance in France, which is currently only at 15%.  According to Fr. Ed, the government owned the churches (and still does), and was therefore responsible for building new ones.  It was cheaper to build a few big churches than a lot of small ones, so they built massive churches to serve as many as 50,000 parishoners.  The working-class had to work six days a week, and the last thing they wanted to do on their one day of rest was spend hours traveling to and from church. Not sure if it’s true, but it made sense.

I won’t show every church, but here’s the chapel in the Vincentian Mother House.  St. Vincent’s remains are encased in a wax effigy, which is in a sliver box above the altar. What’s interesting about this chapel is that generally, the sight lines in a Catholic church point to the altar. In this one, every sight line points to Vinny:

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The church of St. Denis, which is the only church in Paris which still has a joubet (the big thingy that separates the altar from the people. They were all removed after Vatican II):

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Window depicting St. Vincent DePaul:

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5. I realized on this trip how little I know about World War I, which Europeans refer to as “The Great War.” (If I’m the only one who didn’t know this, you can skip this paragraph, and we’ll just chalk it up to inadequate history teaching at Shamokin Area High School.) Europe lost 30% of it’s males between the ages of 16-15. In the Battle of Somme, 350,000 men were killed in one day. Every church in France has a World War I monument.

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More tomorrow…

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