Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Basilique Notre-Dame des Victoires, Paris

The Basilica (sometimes called Église or Church) of Our Lady of Victories is located in Paris, in the 2nd arrondissement near the Stock Exchange (Rue Notre-Dame des Victoires; the nearest métro is Bourse).

Augustinian monks (sometimes then known as Les Petits Pères, the Little Fathers) had purchased the property in order to build a convent and place of worship.  Almost immediately after dedicating the grounds, Louis XIII agreed to finance the church if it were dedicated to the Virgin Mary, to whom he credited his recent important military victory over the Protestants in the lengthy siege of La Rochelle (September 10, 1627-October 28, 1628).  Construction began in 1629, but a serious lack of royal funds stopped all work until about 1656.  The incomplete church was dedicated in 1666 and the basilica was finally completed in 1737.  Ironically, shortly after the Revolution (50 years later), the basilica which was built in honour of Catholicism's victory over Protestants was then emptied of Catholics in order to house the national lottery and stock exchange.  However, under the First Empire (10 years later), it reverted to being a place of worship for the local parish.

As you walk through this basilica, you are immediately struck by all the white marble plaques thousands of individuals, most of whom donated a plaque in thanksgiving for the Virgin's help during their military service in various wars, local and foreign, particularly during the 1800s.  Entire walls and even a few arches are now covered with more than 36,000 plaques.  Some are explicit and dated, others only allude to having been helped by Mary.

I recalled two salient things when observing and enjoying this church:  (1) Although I am a practicing Protestant, there I was, photographing a church built in thanksgiving for the defeat of  some Protestants, and (2) although I, like so many of my ancestors, am a pacifist, there I stood, looking in amazement at 36,000 expressions of thanks, many of which concern the granting of personal safety while being hired (or conscripted) to kill others.  As these two ironies sank into my thinking, I stopped to offer a special prayer that all Christians will seek to be more Christlike, and that all wars will cease.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Église Saint-Merri, Paris

The parish church of Saint Merri is located in the 4th arrondissement in Paris on the Rue de Rivoli (near the métro Hôtel de Ville and the Georges Pompidou Centre).  The Abbot Méric (died 700 and canonized a little over a century later) was viewed as the patron saint of the right bank, the business district of the city.  His name was eventually contracted to "Merri".

What initially attracted me to Saint-Merri was its unusual open-door policy.  Facing one of the city's busiest streets, both of the front doors frequently remain wide open during the week, inviting those with weary feet to enter, pause, rest, enjoy, and reflect.  This is what all churches and temples ought to do.  It is so satisfying to stand at the back of the apse (completed 1552, look down the long nave (completed 1520) toward the majestic organ pipes at the back, and see the open doors admitting both people and light into the church.

The organ was completed in 1650 and refurbished and enlarged at various times, most recently in 1947.  Somehow, it would seem that the basic organ and at least some of the art survived the ravages of the French Revolution.  The church was transformed into a factory for the manufacture of saltpeter in 1793, and before being rededicated as a place of worship (1803).

A modest altar-table has been placed forward at the crossing of the transept (completed 1526).  To this flamboyant Gothic style (built in the Renaissance) have been added various sculptures in the Baroque style, including the brilliant burst of golden clouds over the high altar at the back of the choir.

The rose window in the north transept.

One never tires of the beautiful geometric patterns of marble used in the magnificent apse.

I have never seen the high altar be used, but it would seem appropriate on the patron's feast day.




Monday, December 19, 2011

Vancouver Cantata Singers' 9th annual Christmas Reprise 2011

The Vancouver Cantata Singers performed its 9th annual Christmas Reprise at the Holy Rosary Cathedral on Saturday afternoon, December 17th, 2011.  The first photos record just a bit of our dress rehearsal the previous evening in the Cathedral.  The reverberant sound is very satisfying for choral music.

The next afternoon, Jesse Read once again took photographs of the concert from the organ loft at the back of the cathedral.  You can almost spot him in the balcony, leaning over the camera on the tripod.

This Spanish carol kept singers moving.

12 men from the choir + our singing conductor.

Bibel's Ave Maria is sung from the three aisles at the conclusion of each Christmas Reprise.

Watching music--watching conductor
The audience stood to join enthusiastically in singing The First Noël at the end of the concert.