Visiting Paris is an ongoing pleasure

Monday 3 March 2014
by  Carol LARREY
popularity : 100%

The French capital stands as a reminder of centuries marked with joys and tears, enlightenment and obscurantism. We would like to revive the past, set the decor, and plunge into the medieval atmosphere that has long disappeared with modern times. But while Paris has significantly changed, traces are still visible. This guide will take you to those sites rarely put forward, recalling the great schism within Christianity. It will allow you to place the major events in their context and visit where they happened.

Our first excursion takes us “where it all began” in the university and print shop district. In 2009, Calvin’s jubilee was celebrated… in Geneva!?! Had it been in Paris, everybody could have seen the tower window that allowed the future reformer to flee the police across the rooftops. Today, Calvin’s Tower is a preserved historic landmark and a vibrant witness to the beginning of the Reformation. This is where Calvin’s character was forged! Not too far from there, a courtyard honors his professors. Further on, we find the college dormitory that housed Jacques Lefèvre d’Étaples, who translated the Bible into French, and the Estienne print shop, where the first edition came off the press.

A second excursion takes us to the neighborhood called “Little Geneva” because of the high concentration of Protestants living there in the 16th century. This is where the first Protestant church was organized, first pastor ordained and first baptism held. This is where secret passageways made holding illegal meetings easier! We will become acquainted with some of the locals come to Paris at the demand of royalty. These were the best in their skill: architecture, art, entertainment, music, medicine.

Then come the divisive issues and the unfortunate reactions that followed. A third excursion explains these conflicts. By examining the front of Notre-Dame, the underlying problem appears clearly: the foundations of the faith differ. We’ll learn a few words of Latin at the nearby hospital, talk about the furniture in the Catholic churches that were modified in response to Protestant criticism, see the statue that was desecrated during the reign of King François 1, and take the time to learn some vocabulary: an expiatory procession, a placard, a Host. Our excursion ends with the mysterious gate that remains walled ever since 1559.

Do you have the slightest idea of the price of real estate in the first arrondissement of Paris!? Still in effect, a decree dating back to 1569 prohibits the construction on an empty lot, former site of the house where the Gastine family held illegal worship services. In this fourth excursion, we can put our feet on that very spot of land and sing the psalms that cost them their lives. Our excursion takes us several places to reflect upon the dedication of those who accepted to suffer and die for their convictions. The condemned were not entitled to a traditional burial, but some are honored in other ways. A mural in a ballroom, a stone in a park: these make very unique memorials.

The fifth excursion describes the Saint Bartholomew’s Day massacre, which will certainly touch you deeply and leave you emotionally affected. The astrological column in the center of Paris recalls the superstition and fear of the day and sets the stage. It’s stirring to wander into the guardroom where the soldiers sharpened their daggers, worked up their courage, and prayed for God’s strength for what they thought to be a divine mission. We’ll take the time to clarify some rumors: Was a sculptor killed on his scaffold while chiseling decorations on the façade of the Louvre? Did the King fire from his bedroom window? Which bell announced the beginning of the massacre? We’ll also discover the stories of some who survived: the pastor’s son held for ransom, the young man playing dead between corpses, and the doctor known for his soporific concoction.

For excursion six we take bicycles on the towpaths along the Seine River. This will give an idea of the efforts the Parisian Protestants had to make when traveling to the only place of worship authorized by the Edict of Nantes. On the way back we’ll make a detour to locate the Charenton-Saint-Maurice Temple site and the archaeological diggings of 2005.

Excursion seven follows the itinerary taken by Henri IV’s Minister from his home in the Marais district to the Charenton Temple. Sully became famous for having begun the phenomenal job of tracing and paving the main roads of France. However, the one he took to the temple didn’t benefit from this convenience until years after he was gone. As we travel by foot or bicycle, we’ll be reminded of the dangers and disadvantages the Protestants met at that time. We’ll become acquainted with some colorful characters along the way. Arriving at the temple site, a drawing will allow us to locate the different buildings, mill and cemeteries. Our journey will then take us to a hidden panoramic viewpoint in the Bois de Vincennes. To end the excursion we’ll hunt down biblical thoughts etched by prisoners into the dungeon’s walls.

Did you know there’s a statue in Paris bearing the names of six reformers? Along with snakes, the devil and the dragon, the reformers’ books are subdued under foot by the Catholic Religion. This statue praises the Sun King for having “dissipated the darkness” from the country. Excursion eight takes us back to the time when every Frenchman, regardless of his convictions, was inevitably Catholic, or at least had to observe the rites. What was life like during those years?

During the 19th century the public squares were redecorated with statues. Gutenberg proudly holds the “first page of the first book” printed. What text can be read? Michael Servetus is chained to the stake with his Bible. Who funded the installation of such a hideous statue, and what was the inscription now covered with cement? In the Luxembourg Garden we find the gracious”Marguerite des marguerites” honored with her mother, her daughter and other famous women. Then, we will evoke the merits of great men of faith honored on the front of the Mayor’s Office (l’Hôtel-de-Ville), in the Napoleon Courtyard of the Louvre, and in front of the National Assembly.

“No to tolerance, yes to freedom!” exclaimed Pastor Rabaut-Saint-Etienne. Our last excursion starts at the Place de la République to discover those Protestants involved in the establishment of civil rights. For the French Revolution, the first step to freedom meant erasing everything that recalled Religion. This counteraction critically troubled the country. About that time, numerous exiled Protestant families came back to France bringing funds and starting charitable organizations. Among other services they created a Scripture publishing company. Did you know that it was Napoleon Bonaparte who granted places of worship to the Protestants? We finish our excursion by discovering another aspect of the Eiffel Tower. This symbol of France in the eyes of the world today was built on an improvised Protestant cemetery. Let’s look at this tourist attraction with a new perspective. May it remind us of past errors and teach us lessons that are essential to better live today.


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