Monday, September 22, 2008

Ile de la Cite

Sunday morning we got up early and headed down to Ile de la Cite and the Ile St. Louis.  They are two small islands located in the middle of the Seine River and are connected the the left and right banks of Paris (and each other) by beautiful, large bridges.

This point marks the center of Paris and it is directly in front of the Notre Dame Cathedral.

Where I definitely believe in God, I do not align myself with any one religion.  I respect people's faith throughout the world.  My group of friends is diverse--Jewish, Catholic, Mormon, Atheist, Agnostic.  I love that we're able to talk about our beliefs without getting heated or defensive and I realize it's because we aren't trying to prove that any one of us is right.  We just share information.  I'm of the mind that your religion is largely determined by where you were born and how you were raised and I have a hard time saying that someone in the Middle East or China, who is living a devoted and honorable life is wrong because they don't believe the way I do.  

That being said, I love churches and temples.  I love the spirit with which they are built, the hushed energy of faith and hope and belief of a better world that seems to be inherent within their walls.  

Notre Dame blew me away.  Construction began in the year 1160 and wouldn't be finished for hundreds of years.  The intricacy of its facade and the gorgeous detail inside was breathtaking.  And its size?  Overwhelming.  It was a question that came up throughout the trip--how incredible it was that not only did these structures remain, but HOW on earth were they built?
We were at Notre Dame for a Sunday mass and I loved strolling around its perimeters, listening to the service in French.  Beautiful candles lit the way and light poured in through stained glass windows that I hadn't noticed when I was outside.  The only word I can think to describe it was reverent.

I lit a candle and said a prayer before we trotted over a few blocks to see St. Chapelle, another church on the Ile de la Cite.

St. Chapelle was finished in 1248 and originally used to house Jesus' Crown of Thorns and some original pieces of the cross.  From my limited research, it sounds like the authenticity of those items was disputed even then and they are no longer on display (except for a few times throughout the year).  St. Chapelle is known mostly for its stained glass windows.  They were spectacular.  Most of the building was destroyed during the French Revolution and reconstructed, but roughly two-thirds of the windows were originals.

We then headed over to the Conciergerie.  Formerly a castle before the king headed over to what is now the Louvre, the Conciergerie was turned into a prison in 1358 and its most famous prisoner was Marie Antoinette.  It felt as imposing as this photo looks.  But that feeling was dulled slightly when we passed through a GIFT SHOP on the way to see a reproduction of Marie Antoinette's cell. 

Beheadings were common and I felt very disconnected from the information we read.  Such acts of violence were not only performed, but watched by citizens of the city at that time.   It is something that I still can't reconcile in my mind ... not only to sentence someone to death, but to witness it.  It still makes me shudder.

On a less serious note ... I met French Boyfriend #2 at the Conciergerie.  He was a guard and checking people through the entrance as it is located right next to the Palais de Justice, which is still used for judicial matters.  He also made me shudder, but in a MUCH, MUCH better way.  He was tall with short brown hair and blue eyes.  Readers, SSG loves a man in a uniform.  Mrs. Bob and I joked that I should have put something metallic in my bra and pretended to have NO idea what the problem was as I had to pass back and forth through the metal detector.  But alas, that was thought of too late and since it was security related, there could be no photos.  Sorry ladies (and Wah-dah-tay!).  

A snippet of my journal from that evening:

I don't know that any one religion is the way.  But I do know that faith has kept people returning to this place for almost 1,000 years.  To cleanse.  To pray.  To forgive.  To become better.  And so maybe religions are the stories we need to get us to, and understand, this place of hope.

Snapshot of Coco:

Hallelujah (Elisa) 
Sogno d'amore (Andrea Bocelli)
Golden Slumbers (Ben Folds)
Stay With You (John Legend)
Faithfully (Journey)
Beautiful (India Arie)


Wah-Dah-Tay said...

Wow! It's amazing how a simple glance to the past provides the realization on how far we have come. The present, and the future need that comparison for validation. I am starting my Monday with a renewed sense of life. Thank you.

Living on the Spit said...

I am so loving this travel journal and oh my, the boyfriends!!! When will this be out in book form, please? Love it.

belladella said...

I love visiting old churches. I am not the every Sunday kind of church girl- haven't been for a long, long time, but there is something about these old, ornate structures that lifts me. Beautiful photos.

Weren't you just blown away at the age of things? It always blew my mind. Here in the states something is old at 150-200 years. To walk in old churches and castles built in the 1100's-1200's- amazing!

Big Hair Envy said...

Churches are amazingly beautiful. Although I've never been to Europe, I have been to Mexico City and visited several churches there. Like you said, they are places of beauty and reverence, with a side of love :) What could be more precious??

(Sometimes!) Serendipitous Girl said...

You guys sure know how to make a girl feel good! That's it, I'm going on vacation ALL THE TIME. Au revoir!

Big Hair Envy said...

Just so you know, I have other photos of Hawk tushies. Would you like to come over and eat apple betty while we look at them? BTW - some are 18, some are 16....sad, but true. It's hell to get old...