Lost and found in Paris.

SJ2Eglise  Val de Grace is a magnificent church built in Paris in the 17th century. Anne of Austria had it erected in her gratitude for finally giving birth to a male heir. Its great dome dominates the surrounding area. I figured that if I could see it, I could also easily find it. Not. I walked along Rue Saint Jaques, following the street signs and enjoying the views. Actually it seems strange that people running to work or to one of the numerous schools in the area do not stop and stare, marveling at the sheer beauty of the buildings all around them. I strolled on, happily taking pictures. Here is the wrought-iron fence, here is the eponymous military hospital which surrounds the church, and here is another street. No entry to the grounds.  But there was a huge market around the corner and lots of shops, so I continued my stroll until I noticed that the church dome was sort of dwindling behind me. I stopped at a gated entrance, and the male guards, with that typically French attention to a female clearly lost, dropped whatever they were doing. Oui, Madame? Ah. What do I say? My French is quite primitive, and their English is practically non-existent. Yet where there is good will, there is hope. Le sonair, il grrring, grrring! said one of them, gesticulating widely. I walked back, found a bell, pushed, and it went Ring-ring. Alas, when I got to yet another guard, he told me the church was closed and no, I couldn’t just step around the corner to take a picture from the outside. I walked around some more, found an information stand, and pieced together the relevant information. The church is open to the public on certain days, from 12 noon to 6 pm, including Sundays. Admission is 5 euros.

I went to Rue Claude Bernard, crossed it to Rue Ulm, and marched straight on to Pantheon which I could see in the distance. Behind it there is a very pretty old church called Eglise Saint Genevieve, named after the patron saint of Paris. It dates back to the 5th or 6th century. According to legend, King Clovis had the first church erected on the site to immortalize Saint Genevieve and her good deeds. He amd his wife Clothilde are both buried there, near their revered saint. The streets on both sides of the church are named Rue Clovis and Rue Clothilde. A lovely building with extensive gated campus and a tall chapel directly opposite the church is King Henri IV Lyceum, founded in the good king’s era and still standing. At regular intervals it disgorges noisy groups of teenagers outside.

After a millennium of changes, renovations and restorations, the church was more or less left in peace. I guess this is why it looks rather old outside, and absolutely breathtakingly gorgeous inside. It is clear that it went through several periods, all of them good. Admission is free.





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