On our last day in Paris (we left via overnight train for the Italian coast) we visited Notre Dame. This was actually not on my must see list when we went to Paris, even though The Hunchback of Notre Dame was one of my favorite books in highschool. I remember weeping for an hour after I finished it. But, when we decided to take the night train out of Paris we ended up with an extra day to take in some extra sites. Oh so glad it ended up this way. Notre Dame was definitely a highlight of Paris for me.
The facade of Notre Dame is so interesting. There are statues of the Kings and Apostles in so much detail. One is rather odd. A saint holding his own head in his hands. The story goes that when Christianity was advancing across Europe the Bishop of Paris, St. Denis was beheaded. He got up from the beheading, tucked his head under his arm and headed north. He stopped at a fountain and rinsed it off. Then continued on until he found just the right place to go to heaven.
Also, there are the Kings of Judah, which have their own interesting head story. During the French Revolution (1789-1793) people mistook these Biblical kings for French Kings. In a rage over oppression rebels stormed the church crying "Off with their heads!" They lopped off the heads of all the Kings of Judah! Thankfully, a school teacher lived nearby who had more sense than the masses at that point. He picked up all the heads and buried them in his backyard. They stayed there until 1977! They were accidentally found! Can you imagine?! The church had since been repaired. So, the heads now stand in the Cluny Museum a few blocks from Notre Dame.
In characteristic Rick Steve's humor he finds something hilarious in the most austere things. From Rick Steves' Paris: "The Central Portal. It's the end of the world, and Christ sits on the throne of judgement (just under the arches, holding his hands up). Below him, an angel and a demon weigh souls in the balance. The good people stand to the left, looking up to heaven. The naughty ones to the right are chained up and led off to....a six-hour tour of the Louvre on a hot day."
|Patron Saint of the Orient|
|Joan of Arc|
Imagine this: They broke ground on Notre Dame in 1163. Their great-great-great-great-great-great grandchildren attended the dedication mass two centuries later!
I cannot even grasp the kind of faith, vision, and spirit it took to undertake such a thing that you had no hope of seeing the completion in your lifetime. I like projects I can pick up and finish in one sitting. I don't even want to undertake something that will take me a week or month to finish. That's why a full-sized quilt overwhelms me to make. The Cathedrals? Well, they are just in a league of their own!
|The inscription says:|
TO THE GLORY OF GOD
AND TO THE MEMORY OF
ONE MILLION DEAD
OF THE BRITISH EMPIRE
IN THE GREAT WAR
1914 - 1918
AND OF WHOM THE
GREATEST PART REST
|St. Thomas Aquinas|
Here we stopped to pray for the unborn, recalling St. Thomas appearing to Dr. Adasevic. If you have never read the doctor's conversion or his encounter with St. Thomas Aquinas, please go read it. It is truly profound.
|The altar piece|
One thing that really impressed us was that although a tourist hot-spot, it was still very much a holy place. We came in at the end of morning mass. As we walked the around the church we noticed enclosed glass rooms. These are the confessionals, which we did not photograph--because they were all being used! We saw people praying and weeping. So beautiful that reconciliation is offered at all times even in the midst of the crowds. There was always a safe place where sinners could meet grace. I think our Protestant churches could learn a few things.
Next post: The Bell Tower! SANCTUARY!!!!!