The city of a million cathedrals and the granddaddy of them all – Notre Dame. As I am sure you are all aware, Notre Dame suffered a terrible fire not just two weeks ago. Our original plan was to attend Sunday mass there but obviously, this was not meant to be. On Friday, before Jack and Kim arrived, Richard and I did a little church exploring on our own to find the perfect church for Sunday Mass. So, when we met up with them on Sunday morning we already had a plan to sightsee a few cathedrals and then attend Mass at 1 PM. We hopped the subway to the nearest station to Notre Dame and joined the thousands of people already lining the streets. The streets nearest to the church have been blocked off so the closest view that one can get is from across the river (or, of course, on the river). We wandered down the street saddened by the destruction left behind by the fire. We crossed the Pont de l’Archeveche at the rear of the Cathedral, took a few pictures and followed the crowd around the island. Ile de la Cite (Island of the City) is the centre of Paris and the location where the medieval city was refounded. It was used as a defensive position from the Huns in the 7th century and the Vikings during the 9th century. Three medieval buildings still remain on the island – Notre Dame Cathedral established in 1163, Sainte-Chapelle built in 1245 and Conciergerie Prison where Marie Antoinette awaited execution in 1793. The buildings are amazing and we walked down the streets taking pictures and recalling books and movies that used the island as a backdrop. It is interesting to note that the Notre Dame Cathedral became most famous after Victor Hugo’s novel “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” was published in 1831. It was of course made even more famous after Disney made the animated picture based on the book.
Once we left the island, we wandered through the narrow streets of the Old Latin Quarter to Saint Severin Cathedral. It is one of the oldest churches that remains standing on the Left Bank and it continues to be used as a place of worship. As mass was to be starting shortly at this church, we did a quick tour through and moved on to our next attraction.
The original foundations of the church of St. Germain des Prés were laid in the 3rd century A.D. but the church standing today was built in 1163 and is the remnant of what was once a rather large monastery complex. It is considered to be the oldest church in Paris. The church is under heavy restoration at the moment though masses do still take place there. We drank in the history and left to attend our 1 PM mass at Saint Sulpice, just a couple of minutes down the street.
St. Sulpice is only slightly smaller than Notre Dame and thus the second largest church in the city. Construction of the present building, the second church on the site, began in 1646. We chose this church for mass because of its beauty but also because the Cardinal was speaking. We thought that there would probably be a lot of pomp and circumstance and we were not disappointed. We arrived to the sounds of the Great Organ coming from the building. This organ built in 1862 is considered to be one of the best three in the French Kingdom. It has been rebuilt to accommodate more modern technology without altering its historic design and is still one of only three “100 stop” organs in the world. The almost two hour French mass was filled with music provided by a wonderful choir, special presentations and of course all the other things associated with a mass. We estimated that there were at least 3000 people there. It was absolutely amazing!!
After mass we stopped for a small bite to eat, took the subway back home and while the Bonekamps headed to their hotel, we prepared to entertain.
Jack and Kim arrived at our BNB around 6:30 for a meal of pasta, bread, wine and a few appetizers. It is the first time that we have hosted since we left home last year. What a great time we had!! Lots of reminiscing, plenty of laughs and a wonderful evening with friends. Can’t wait to do it all over again tomorrow!!
Noter Dame Views from the Perimeter.