Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Three Churches

First of all, today is Bastille Day (and no, I didn't visit the Bastille, or the column that marks its spot, but this morning on NPR (Morning Edition) there is a feature about music related to the French Revolution for those into that!)

Well, after my visit to the Jardin du Luxembourg, I was only a few blocks from Saint-Sulpice, an enormous church built in 1646 (that took more than a century to build).

I first heard of Saint-Sulpice in The DaVinci Code – it was the church that the albino monk tore apart as he demolished the Rose Line on the floor and then killed the nun when he didn’t find what he wanted.
Needless to say, filming was not done at St. Sulpice (though I confess to being eager to check out the movie to see how close they came to getting it right!)

Act III of Massenet's Manon takes place there, too.

Much of the controversy has to do with the copper line, founded by Jean-Jacques Olier, who had it designed according to the Golden Mean of sacred geometry.

In Brown's controversial novel, chapters 19 and 22 echo the notions that the Sulpice meridian is the same as the Paris Meridian (in the novel called "the Rose Line") that the church was built on the site of a pagan temple, and that the seminary attached to the church was unorthodox.
In the years following the publication of the novel, tourists would sometimes be seen knocking on the floor near the obelisk, searching for hollow spaces.

Wikipedia takes a different view. They say the meridian line on the floor of Saint-Sulpice is not a part of the Paris Meridian.

According to wikipedia , that line and the obelisk are called "the gnomon." In 1727, the priest of Saint-Sulpice requested the construction of the gnomon to help him determine the time of the equinoxes and ultimately, Easter. A meridian line of brass was inlaid across the floor and ascending a white marble obelisk, nearly eleven meters high, at the top of which is a sphere surmounted by a cross. The obelisk is dated 1743.

In the south transept window a small opening with a lens was set up, so that a ray of sunlight shines onto the brass line. At noon on the winter solstice (December 21), the ray of light touches the brass line on the obelisk. At noon on the equinoxes (March 21 and September 21), the ray touches an oval plate of copper in the floor near the altar.

Constructed by the English clock-maker and astronomer Henry Sully, the gnomon was also used for various scientific measurements: This rational use may have protected Saint-Sulpice from being destroyed during the French Revolution.

The windows are large and arched and Delacroix murals are featured in the chapel.

While organ recitals are supposedly the thing to hear in this space, that I did not see. The church, however, was simply beautiful.

It was nearly dinner time and on the way back, I noticed a poster for a Vivaldi concert at Ste. Chappelle. This was the one church I wanted to see most of all, and the thought of hearing a concert there was so exciting I couldn’t wait to get home and tell Jerry.

After a lovely dinner at home (oh, it was so good)…

… we set off for Ste. Chappelle, just barely arriving in time to be seated. (The fellow at the door said after, we could go to the lower chapel, which was supposed to be where holy relics had been kept.)

The concert was by the Les Solistes Français, with Paul Rouger as the lead violinist. The septet included violin, viola, bass, cello and harpsichord, and from the first note, it was simply heavenly.
Imagine – you are sitting in this space.

... surrounded by enormous windows, still catching the early evening sun.

The chandeliers dim, the musicians walk to the front of the church...

... and begin to play for more than an hour.

And while I’d missed Rick more than once on this trip, it was at this moment that I became horribly homesick, knowing how much my classical music-loving partner would be cherishing this moment.

They don’t miss a note. The sound fills the church like something one would expect to hear as they prepare to enter heaven.

The light moves around the church as it gets a bit darker. And then it is over.

Of course I buy a CD...

... which Paul Rouger autographs!

But alas, it is too late to see the lower chapel. Jerry explains to a woman on site, and she makes a call, leaves our name and writes a note in French on our ticket stub. “Come back,” she says. “They’ll let you in.”

Did they? Stay tuned!

We walked back, stopping at one of Jerry’s favorite café’s in the Marais, called Les Marronniers (Chestnuts), where I had their drink of the day – an interesting cocktail with cucumber in it. Fresh and different.

Then we stopped in at St. Gervais, a large church behind the Hotel deVille. Eveything in this church was massive and far different from the elegant and light Ste. Chappelle. But it was beautiful.

The stone angels were particular favorites of mine, and I suspect they’ll find their way into a collage sometime soon.

(If you feel you can use the stone angel in your collage work, feel free to double click and she'll come out rather large and useful!)

I didn’t take photos of the chapel, as a group was in a prayer vigil there, but it was quiet, beautiful and peaceful.

By the time we got home, I was ready to crash. Gardens. Churches. Music. Café’s. It was a big day!

Things I Learned Today:

Sainte Chappelle was built to house “The Crown of Thorns” – a relic presumed to be from Christ’s cross and acquired by Louis IX in 1297 from the emperor of Constantinople. Louis paid more for the relic than he did for the construction of the church – nearly three times more.

It pays to read posters on walls and poles! You just might find a good concert!

Sampling a “drink of the day” at a café may be delicious and fun, but I wish I’d had the wine – the might have seemed a little more French. Or maybe not!

People watching is simply glorious!


ols1 said...

I love people watching too. Just loved the photos of the cathedrals - the architecture is just so gorgeous.

paris parfait said...

So glad you got to experience all these things - so many people come to Paris and don't really see it, other than in a very superficial way. xo

Beth said...

I would have loved to seen that concert in that wonderfully beautiful setting. I still feel like I am with you as you tell the stories and show the pictures! Thank you so much my friend for these wonderful posts!

Annie said...


I loved touring these churches (church collector that I am LOL) I was delighted to see the chamber group performing there. The accustics must have been transcendent.

joyce said...

I enjoyed reading about the Saint Suplice....I always wonder how much of the Davinci Code, and the following Angels & Demons, is true.

anno said...

I would have gone for the drink of the day, too. And maybe had a glass of wine afterward! It sounds like you had a week of rich experiences, so lovely.

~*~Magpie's Nest said...

thank you for sharing that glorious stone angel, along with your photos and lovely descriptions of your adventures....ahhhhh!

Herzblatt said...

I needn`t go to Paris.....I only have to look in your blog....Wonderful pictures!!!
I wished to sit next to you in the church for the concert.....I love church concerts, because there is always a beautiful sound!!
Come on, we share a drink of that day....but please without cucumber....:-))

Joanne Huffman said...

What an incredible place for an excellent evening of music! And, I love the photo of the stone angel.


MSchuess said...

Jeanie - these stories and pictures are so good! If ever I go to Paris, I know I'll be thinking "Oh, this is where Jeanie was when she said..." Today's entries about Ste. Chapelle were amazing. Thanks for bringing it all back home to us.

Shelley said...

Beautiful. All of it. I would have enjoyed the concert too.

Pam Aries said...

Bonjour mon ami ! You are living the life..thank you for sharing this wondrous journey!

Anonymous said...

I feel as if I were along on your trip after reading your wonderful travelogue.

I loved going to the cathedrals in England. We got in the habit of attending Evensong services everywhere. Our favorite was in Wells, where we were able to sit in the first row right behind the choiristers in the choir loft and read over their shoulder :)

Laura said...

Wow! My heart is going pitter-pat just thinking about hearing a concert in that setting!!!!!! That is a moment of a lifetime.

When important things happen around the world (like the first three tenors concert), my Mom and I say, "That was the place to be on the earth that night."

You were in the exact place to be on earth that night!

jet1960 said...

Oh, I would have loved to have been there for that concert! Thanks again for showing all these lovely pictures.

Kristine said...

Jeepers, I didn't visit for a few days and see what I was missing?
that will teach me. What a fabulous trip!

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