Monday, April 20, 2009

The Forum des Halles, Paris (2009)

The new and the old: the Forum des Halles and St Eustache

Young people in a hallway in the Forum

Covered passageways with shops


Rain on cafe table--nobody could eat outside

April 18th was a cold wet day in Paris, so I headed down to the general area of Les Halles and the commercial centre known as the Forum. This area used to be a major market for Paris, having hundreds of stalls selling just about everything imaginable. It was also a very important area for butchering animals for fresh meat, so much so that St Eustache celebrated a Mass annually for the pork butchers working for the city's famous charcuteries. As problems of hygene persisted century after century, various solutions were attempted, but with limited success. Finally, the whole area was redeveloped into a major transportation hub for the city and suburbs (RER), a large Forum des Halles was created, and one has to search to find any charcuteries in the area.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Cemetery called 'Le Pere Lachaise', Paris

This tableau greets visitors as they arrive at the cemetery.

One of many winding walkways

Rows of mausoleums, the one now white has recently been restored.

The largest mausoleum, near the crematorium, has two levels above ground.

This mausoleum also has one level slightly below ground.

"You and I"

The most simple, yet most self-assured marker I have seen.

Nobody seems to know who Leilah Mahi was, but
many have photographed her picture.

Is this the same guy?
A painter otherwise unknown to me.
Upper portion of Chopin's grave.

A gentleman honouring the memory and work of Allan Kardec

Many like to photograph Edith Piave's family tombstone.
"God reunites those who love each other." I have the complete
recordings of this wonderful singer.

There are many sweet words, but was this brother
equally loved in life?

The grave may be here in perpetuity, but will anybody tend it?
Small seeds often destroy sturdy tombs.
One of hundreds of service paths
Looking at a rusted iron grill behind broken glass,
seeing it through a hole broken in the back of this mausoleum.
Once stately, this expensive mausoleum now lacks a working door and stained glass window.

The Eastern Cemetery called Cimetière du Père-Lachaise (or simply Père Lachaise) is the most famous graveyard in Paris and one of the best known in the world. It spreads over more than 100 acres and is walled in the manner of a medieval monastery. When you encounter people selling maps outside the cemetery, you know you will soon be entering a labyrinth of tombs, walkways, paths and streets. The land was protected from city expansion by the Jesuits who built several buildings, retaining the rest of the land as woods and park. But they were suddenly expelled after someone tried to assassinate Louis XV, the land changed hands and Napoleon I eventually purchased the property, turning it into the Eastern Cemetery.

This cemetery has also become a park for thousands of visitors. There are many roads running through the cemetery, all paved in cobble stones and lined on both sides with tall stately trees which were undergoing their spring prunning during my visit. The grave sites seemed somewhat crammed together, though possibly no more so than in Canada. The custom is to cover each plot somehow with large horizontal stones or possibly even small buildings. I was intrigued by the little family mausoleums which covered one, two or more plots. These expensive stone structures reminded me of ancient Greek treasuries lining the road to some sacred place on a mountainside. Some of these mausuleums are still in good repair, others have doors which have rusted through or no longer close, stained glass windows at the back which are either in need of a good cleaning or are broken, and walls which need attention. I appreciated one grave that was particularly well-tended, even though the gentleman died nearly a century ago, but so many other more recent graves obviously lack loving visitors.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Preparing for Maundy Thursday at St Severin Church in Paris

Setting up tables in central aisle

Preparing the central table for Maundy Thursday evening

Table down the central aisle, chair turned to face the aisle

Even chairs in the side aisles are oriented toward the central aisle.

Reading lecturn approached by climbing wine crates

Seminarians assist in preparations

Arranging new flowers behind the baptismal font
(the flowers were then removed on Good Friday)

Crucifix before it was covered in black

Seminarians drap crucifix in black cloth in the chapel reserved for prayer.

Statue covered in black for the remainder of Holy Week

Washing candles for Holy Week and Easter

Discussing preparations

Light shines through stained glass windows

Good Friday--the table is removed and chairs oriented normally for worship.

The central pillar in the double ambulatory represents The Tree of Life

Jeudi saint, Holy Thursday, is sometimes called "Maundy Thursday", from the Latin mandatum or command, referring to a statement made by Jesus after washing his students' feet as a sign of willingly serving them in life: This I command you, that you wash one anothers' feet. Some denominations still follow this request annually on the Thursday before Good Friday, but most churches are uneasy with invading personal space by touching other peoples' feet and so they readily find reasons for ignoring this explicit command, the last one given by Jesus.

I visited L'église Saint Séverin on the afternoon of Maundy Thursday. This old church is located in the Latin Quarter (where the monasteries and schools used to operate in Latin), close to (what is now) the Cluny Museum. I find that it is nearly impossibly to have a meaningful visit at the Cathedral of Notre Dame these days, with tourists lining up for blocks, but other charming churches just a few blocks away are wonderfully quiet. That afternoon, volunteers and seminarians were scurrying around St Séverin, setting up a table which ran down the centre aisle of the sanctuary, from the back of the church to the altar. The tables were covered with many white cloths and were being decorated with greenery. All of the chairs were then oriented 90 degrees from the altar, facing the table--and each half of the sanctuary facing the other half. This was in preparation for celebrating the Last Supper Jesus had with his students. The church remained open all that night for prayers and meditation.

I was impressed that this was a church with community involvement, able to get volunteers to look after flower arrangements, decorations, and that annual ritual of draping all the crucifixes and images in black until early Easter morning, when everything returns to brilliant splendor. The small church also relates closely to seven seminary students this year.