The beauty of Place des Vosges is a good place to start today’s post. While we visited this historic park yesterday, I was too jet lagged to thoughtfully write about it. Upon reflection, I was awed by its natural beauty combined with the thoughtfully planned surrounding architecture. I learned that this square was built by Henry IV in 1605, with the hope of making it the centerpiece of the Marais. It seems like Henry’s wish came true, as evidenced by the popularity of the place. Pete and I rested quietly on one of the shaded benches, as kids frolicked in the historic fountain and others read books and painted in a relaxed manner. The cafes overlooking the park were full with happy diners. It was a joyful way to end our first day in Paris.
Today was another sunny day in Paris. We rose early to avoid the lines at Saint Chapelle, a 13th century cathedral of glass, built for King Louis the IX, the only French king who is now a saint. (Fun fact for all you trivia folks.) This cathedral was built to house Jesus’ supposed crown of thorns! (Bummer, the crown is not here anymore…it has been moved to Notre Dame and only comes out on the first Friday of the month.) Anyway, as we made our way up from the ground level into the main cathedral, it was like going from a cavern of darkness into the LIGHT of heaven! My soul was filled with a sense of wonder and awe as I entered the church. Perhaps that was King Louis’ intention, he wanted to create a place of light, to combat the darkness of the crown. Whatever his intention, it is a place where the Divine – the Risen Jesus – can be experienced for the one who opens her heart to Him. Recall the crucifixion is not the end of the story.
I have no idea how artisans in 1242 managed to make over 6,500 square feet of stained glass depicting more than 1,000 different scenes from the Bible. It was mind-boggling to stand in the middle of the church and stare at the light streaming in from every direction. The photos below don’t do it justice, but will give you an idea of what we were privileged enough to see. If you have not, put this on your bucket list the next time you come to Paris!
We meandered around the streets, stopping for a few photo ops. I even managed to get Pete to smile!
We took a rest at Cafe Shakespeare. I even had a delicious lunch complete with coconut yogurt, fruit and GF granola. (I bet you’re psyched LNM.) Browsing the Shakespeare and Company bookstore was a highlight and I smiled broadly when the gal stamped my newly purchased C.S. Lewis book with the signature store stamp.
Our last stop of the day, before a much-needed rest for my aching back, included a visit to St. Severin church. We stumbled upon this Gothic church on the edge of the left bank and were grateful we did. It was a welcome respite in the midst of a hot Paris day. Upon entering, the brightness of the day faded and sweet coolness of the air greeted us like an old friend. I heard angelic French singing from the far corner and investigated. I discovered daily Mass being celebrated in a side chapel. I stood for many moments listening to the readings in French, hoping to catch a phrase I understood. Frustration set in so I moved to a quiet corner of the church and took out my daily reading…in English. How wonderful to realize that today is the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul. I found Peter and together we read the gospel and I prayed for him in a special way.
As I made my way around the church, I came across a tender statue of St. Therese of Lisieux. I have a special devotion to Therese, thanks to my mom Joan. She loved this Saint of the little way who lived in a town/Carmelite convent not too far from here. Therese yearned to do great things for God in her life, but when she realized that her destiny as a Carmelite nun would prevent her from these things she promised God that she would be LOVE in the heart of the Church. My mom was a lot like Therese from this standpoint – she was LOVE in the heart of our family. She taught my siblings and I how to love in all the little ways, which are always the most important and lead to loving in the big ways. In America, we refer to Therese as the Little Flower but the French refer to her as Petit Therese. Either way, she is a great intercessor for all of us. I lit a candle and asked her to bless all those reading this and to bless all those whom I’ve promised to pray!
Our day will end with dinner at a lovely Marais restaurant later tonight. (The French eat late!!) Until then, I am grateful for this little apartment with its big windows looking out onto the street and the warmth from my heating pad. Balance is the name of the game on this trip.