Monday, April 1, 2013

Easter Sunday in Paris

We don't usually make a big deal out of Easter Sunday. Sometimes we  have dinner with my family, but normally it is pretty low key. The most notable Easter dinner in recent memory is having peanut butter crackers and diet coke with the Nobles while sitting on a wall outside a Shell station in Mexican Hat, Utah halfway between Monument Valley and the Valley of the Gods.

However, we hear the bells of the Eglise St. Etienne every day from our apartment. So, we decided to attend Easter Sunday mass. It is just around the corner from us, tucked in behind the Pantheon and next to the frozen food store. Very convenient.
This church originally was the Abby of St Genevieve who was buried there in the 6th century (yes, 6th century), and was rebuilt, starting in 1492 when land was given to Paris to build a larger cathedral. It was rebuilt as the Cathedral of St. Etienne (St Stephen) who was a very early Christian martyr. See Wikipedia for all the "facts".  There is a sculpture above one of the doors depicting the stoning of St. Stephen. The founder of St Vincent de Paul was a parishioner in this church.

This is a beautiful church with the altar in the middle with the people in the front and the back looking towards the altar. There is a huge organ at one end and stained glass windows all around.

The ceilings are vaulted which show highlights as the sun comes through the window. And there are beautiful spiral stone staircases on each side of the altar to a walkway above. 
Very impressive

The mass itself, an Easter High Mass, was very solemn. It began with a procession of a half dozen altar boys carrying huge candles. Then all 6 priests associated with the church followed. They came around the side of the church, then up the middle aisle, with the strong smell of incense trailing behind them. It was very cold in the church and despite some modern conveniences like a couple of lights and a PA system, I felt like I was back in the middle ages. The chairs were small and connected with pieces of wood and there were no kneelers in the church, so people either stood or sat during the ceremony depending on their whim. We decided not to take any pictures during the mass.

There was a baptism during the mass which must have been very special for the parents and baby Anna.

After the mass, the procession led outside where all the priests greeted the attendees. The organist played while the priests and congregation exited. We waited til he was finished before leaving. It was an amazing performance by the organist and the organ absolutely filled the whole church with its powerful sound. This was a pleasant and spiritual way to spend our Easter Sunday morning even though it took 1 1/2 hours.

We may even go back again.

But the day was not over. After a light lunch in the apartment, we discovered that there would be a gospel performance at the little Eglise St. Julien le Pauvre. This is the oldest church in Paris and located just across the Seine from Notre Dame. There is a small park next to the church that has a few benches and what looks like ruins from Roman times. It is a peaceful little park and it is also a great place from which to view Notre Dame.

Here is the view across the river to the Ile de la Cite and the silhouette of Notre Dame.

We paid our money and entered to find a place to sit. There was a pretty good crowd  but we got great seats in the small church.

The group was made up of a pianist, bass player, 3 male singers and 5 females. Each one took a turn as the lead. The woman below was fantastic. She had great range and tons of emotion. We are not sure where they were from, but probably not the States. They had an accent that might have come from one of the French colonies. They sang typical spirituals in English and possibly African. It was difficult to tell.

Seeing and hearing them perform in this environment was emotional and inspirational. After some prodding, we all got to our feet to clap and join along in the singing.

Lots of Fun...

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