Saturday, April 19, 2008

France - Part 3 A Church on Acid

Anyone who has been to France knows the French are into churches. In Paris, Notre Dame is only the beginning. St. Chapelle is not to be missed - if you are lucky enough to be there during the annual 22 minutes when the guards are NOT on strike. We finally made it for the first time in eight visits to Paris- and at least 16 attempts. It was built by Louis IX in the 1240's to house relics from the Holy Land believed to be the Crown of Thorns and part of the True Cross. Its stained glass windows, which essentially surround the entire upper floor, make it feel as if you are in a tiny jewel box. The steps of the Basilique du Sacre Coeur afford a stunning view of the city. St. Surplice, made famous in Dan Brown’s book, The Da Vinci Code, is a worthy destination on the Left Bank.

Further afield, there’s Chartres, Mont St. Michele and the cathedral at Rheims. The chapel at Omaha Beach in Normandy, sitting in the American Cemetary will bring a lump to your throat. Almost every chateau will have a private chapel. Finding a church to look at in France is easier than falling off a log. Every town, village and wide spot in the road has an ancient catholic church. And that is not saying anything about ruins, abbeys and holy sites.

Every evening on the barge, as we gathered for our cocktails on the deck, we would listen to the church bells calling the faithful to evening mass. It was quite the charming backdrop to our end of the day libations if not a bit of a contradiction to the start of our evenings of booze, food, wine and general merriment.

So by the time we arrived in Celon, we had seen *plenty* of churches. Touring yet another one was not high on our list of destinations. Kathy Missen, the proprietress of our bed and breakfast, Le Canard au Parapluie Rouge, was very clever in convincing us to go see the church in Le Menoux across the Creuse River.

“Well, it has an, um, *interesting* interior.”

“You mean like it has unusual stained glass windows?”


“An early baptismal font?”

“No, not exactly.”

“Oh, a mural by some Godly ancient French painter or, even better, by an Impressionist painter!” Now I’m getting excited. I LOVE impressionist work.

“Well, yes, that’s it…sort of.”

So off we set. We find our destination but are not too impressed. Like its brethren all over the countryside, it looks like just another dusty, quiet church.

But then we ventured inside…

HOLY SH...cow! I mean, Oh My G...Goodness. Well! Sorta leaves you breathless, doesn’t it? (You didn’t think I was going to curse, did you? C’mon, I writing about churches here…CATHOLIC churches. And right under the picture of Jesus - jeez.)

Boy! What I wouldn’t give to have been present at the opening. Do you suppose they really KNEW what the artist was going to do? And let him? I’ll bet they had a fifty gallon drum of smelling salts right there in the vestibule.

Of course, the artist’s signature sort of gives you a clue. *Paging Dr. Leary. Timothy Leary, please* Gotta love the 60’s.

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