Monday, 22 May 2017

Paris Day 11

Today was our last day in Paris so we set off in a brilliantly sunny day to explore the remaining sites on our list. Paris has treated us so well, only once have I wet my umbrella for only about 10 minutes the weather has been amazing.

We headed firstly to the Catacombs of Paris, the capital of France, is often called La Ville Lumière (meaning ‘The City of Light’), however, beneath this bustling European city of 12 million people, lies a dark subterranean world holding the remains of its former inhabitants.  A network of old caves, quarries and tunnels stretching hundreds of miles, and seemingly lined with the bones of the dead.
A true labyrinth in the heart of subterranean Paris, at 20 meters underground, the ossuary brings together the remains of about six million Parisians, transferred between the end of the 18th century and the middle of the 19th century, as the cemeteries of the capital closed down of insalubrity.

The name of ‘Catacombs’ was given to this ossuary in reference to the Catacombs of Rome, a name originally given to an ancient cemetery situated not far from the Appian Way. The Cemetery of the Innocents (near Saint-Eustache, in the area of Les Halles) had been in use for nearly ten centuries and had become a source of infection for the inhabitants of the locality. After numerous complaints, the Council of State decided, on November 9th 1785, to prohibit further use of the Cemetery of the Innocents and to remove its contents.

Disused quarries were chosen to receive the remains; the City of Paris had in fact just completed a general inspection of the quarries, in order to strengthen the public highways undermined by them. Building work was done on the “Tombe-Issoire” quarry, using large quantities of stone, strengthening the galleries and completed by digging out a staircase, flanked by a well into which the bones could be thrown.

The transfer of the remains could begin after the blessing and consecration of the site on April 7th 1786, and it continued until 1788, always at nightfall and following a ceremony whereby a procession of priests in surplices sang the service for the dead along the route taken by the carts loaded with bones, which were covered by a black veil. Then, until 1814, the site received the remains from all the cemeteries of Paris.

Since their creation, the Catacombs have aroused curiosity. In 1787, the Count d’Artois, the future Charles X, made the descent, along with Ladies of the Court.  The following year a visit from Madame de Polignac and Madame de Guiche is mentioned. In 1814, Francis I, the Emperor of Austria living victoriously in Paris, visited them. In 1860, Napoleon III went down with his son.

Entering the Ossuary

We then caught the train to the Church of Saint Sulpice, known as the "Cathedral of the Rive Gauche", the patron of the church, was a 7th-century bishop of Bourges noted for his piety and his resistance to the tyranny of the Merovingian kings. Built over a site once dedicated to Isis.
Construction began in 1646, was expanded on a larger scale in 1670, stalled from 1678 to 1719, then resumed under Gilles-Marie Oppenordt and was mostly complete by 1745.

St Sulpice is the second largest church in Paris (120m) after Notre-Dame Cathedral. The revolutionaries converted the 13m long x 58m wide and 34m high church into a Temple of Victory! A wealthy and fashionable church on the Left Bank, Saint-Sulpice went on to host the christenings of none-too-devout Marquis de Sade and Charles Baudelaire as well as the wedding of author Victor Hugo.

During the Revolution, the Church of St-Sulpice was damaged and turned into a Temple of Victory. It was restored and redecorated in the 19th century with the help of Eugène Delacroix.
Saint-Sulpice Church unusual facade. When you stand in front of the majestic St Sulpice Church, try to imagine the area ten centuries ago. In the 13th century St Sulpice area was considered so out-centered, that the abbots of Saint-Germain founded a small parish church for their labourers.

In the church square, a fountain by Visconti (1844) bears sculptures of four bishops of the Louis XIV era: Fenelon, Massillon, Bossuet, and Flechier.

When we arrived the Sunday morning mass was coming to a close so we sat quietly and waited, being blessed with the singing of the choir and accompanied by the tremendous organ, played by a woman.

Joan of Arc

The church's organ (1781) is one of the world's largest, with 6,588 pipes, and has been played by musicians like Marcel Dupré and Charles-Mari Widor. 

Another masterpiece of St-Sulpice is Servandoni's Rococo Chapelle de la Madone (Chapel of the Madonna), with a Pigalle statue of the Virgin. This amazing chapel had an atmosphere that was so majestic, peaceful and serene. Of all the Madonna chapels I have seen so far this trip this chapel really moved me. I again was blessed to be able to sit in the chapel with only a couple of other people in silence and be drawn to the superlative statuette of the Madonna. The chapel itself was very dim, and the vividness of the statuette almost came to life in the little alcove. Every detail was so clear, right down to the eyes on the snake at her feet. 

As the service had finished, whilst I was sitting in the chapel, the organist then treated the people who were staying behind to listen to the last song being played, with an amazing piece using all the pipes of the organ and showcasing how truly amazing this organ is. Again I felt so moved as though I was being given a gift from my grandfather in again hearing his favourite instrument being played so expertly, just as he did in the Cathedrals at home. As I moved out of th chapel and walked towards the entrance the piece came to its crescendos finish trumpeting at his full glory and this did bring tears to my eyes. I felt so open and loved by my experience in the chapel and then I almost felt as though my dear grandfather was there with me.

St Anne Chapel

Da Vinci Code fans will especially be interested in the meridian line or gnomon, a narrow brass strip that the monk uses as a reference point in his quest for the Grail. It runs north across the nave and transept to an obelisk next to the statue of St. Peter.

The meridian line is a fascinating astronomical instrument of the 18th century, used to study the planets and determine the date of Easter each year. The sun's rays enter the church through a small opening in the south transept and rest on the line at various points throughout the year. On the winter solstice, the rays hit the obelisk; on the spring and autumn equinoxes, the bronze table. The obelisk bears a Latin inscription that doesn't quote Job, but describes the use of the meridian line. 

The classic 18th century church sits on the site of the Rose Line, an alchemical pathway upon which other churches, temples and buildings that were used as the headquarters of secret societies were built. The church itself was purported to be the headquarters of several secret societies. 

Inside, the main attractions of St-Sulpice are the Delacroix frescoes (1855-61) in the Chapelle des Anges (Chapel of the Angels), on the right inside the entrance. Subjects include Jacob wrestling with the angel, St. Michael defeating the devil, and Heliodorus being driven from the temple. 

Our next stop was the Panthéon (temple to all the gods’) in the Latin Quarter in Paris. It was originally built as a church dedicated to St. Genevieve and to house the reliquary châsse containing her relics but, after many changes, now functions as a secular mausoleum containing the remains of distinguished French citizens. It is an early example of neoclassicism, with a façade modeled on the Pantheon in Rome, surmounted by a dome that owes some of its character to Bramante's Tempietto. 

From 1874, paintings on canvases depicting the history of Saint Genevieve and the epic of the Christian and monarchical origins of France come to decorate the sanctuary. 
The pendulum of Foucault. Installed in 1851, disassembled and then reinstalled in 1995, it proves the rotation of the Earth.
The Pantheon has a crypt which is in the subterranean chamber which is the final resting place for many well known (and some historically famous) French writers, poets and scientists.  These important people include: 

1. Voltaire
2. Rousseau
3. Victor Hugo 
4. Marat
5. Emile Zola
6. Jean Moulin
7. Soufflot 
8. Louis Braille
9. Marie Curie

Looking out from the courtyard of the Pantheon at the surrounding buildings.

Back on the train to go to the Musée national du Moyen Âge, formerly Musée de Cluny. The history of the Hôtel de Cluny and the museum was founded in the XIX th  century are closely related to the family Du Sommerard. Adviser-Master to the Court of Auditors, Alexandre Du Sommerard (1779-1842) is among the fans of this first half of the XIX th century that aroused new interest in the medieval period. It unites a vast collection devoted to the arts of the Middle Ages and settles in 1832 in a part of the hotel. After his death, the State acquired in 1843 the Hotel de Cluny and its collections, rich in nearly 1,500 objects.

Here a painting with the three Mary’s and John the Baptist.

The Frigidarium (cold room) the major remnant of the Northern Thermal Baths of Lutetia. This vaulted space (almost 15 metres high) hosts the Pillar of the Nauti, offered to Jupiter by the Parisian Nauti and dated 14-37AD making it the most ancient known monument of Lutetia. 

Most of the stain glass panels date from the 12th & 13th centuries. 

The Lady and the Unicorn Tapestry, discovered in the Chateau de Boussac and acquired in 1882, some of the most stunning examples of millefleurs style tapestries. Commissioned by a member of Le Viste family, whose coat of arms appear throughout, illustrate the five senses along with a sixth sense, which represents love and understanding.

Preaching of Ceres accomplishing a rite in honor of Cybele

Narwhal tooth called unicorn horn.

And then we are back home in our unit for the last night.

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