My hotel is not far from the location of both the Bastille and the Seine River. So this afternoon, I went out to experience a Saturday afternoon walking through parts of Paris.
I walked along the Seine, the river that basically defines Paris, towards??le de la Cit?, an?island?where the city began in the Middle Ages. The Seine is crossed by dozens of bridges that help to connect the city. The oldest,?the beautiful Pont Neuf (the "New Bridge" of 1607), is at the western end of the island. Bridging the city, bridging culture.
The?Cath?drale Notre Dame de Paris is located nearby and becomes a focal point as you walk towards??le de la Cit?. It is awe-inspiring today. One can only imagine what it would have been like for French peasants in?mediaeval?Paris. Even today, France's"Point z?ro", the reference point for all distances highways starting in Paris, is located on the square directly in front of the cathedral.
The facade was stunning. It's amazing to think that the figures were not only carved by master craftsman. They used be painted and were used to teach stories of the religion to the illiterate townspeople through the centuries.?
I had arrived in time for the Saturday evening mass. Whether or not Catholicism is your tradition, I encourage readers to consider respectfully attending a mass at Notre Dame -- or any kind of service or observance at major religious sites around the world, if possible.
Religion, after all, is also reflection of the culture in which it is practiced. It is often another form of cultural communication. In French Catholicism, I can see elements that are particular to French society. At the same time, I was also able to basically understand the service because it followed the traditional form known in many Christian churches around the world. And when the service reached the traditional "passing of the peace", I was struck by all the languages and forms that people were using to say "PEACE" to each other. So simple, yet so powerful - an attempt to bridge some divides.
Another reason that I enjoyed the service was the ability to hear the great organ of the cathedral - considered one of the best in all of France - and to hear the Notre Dame choir sing portions of the Mass, including Mozart's well-known choral piece, "Ave Verum Corpus".?It is not that often that you can hear this music used in the venue and for the reason that it was written.?Churches and other religious venues often present programs that can allow one -- free or at an affordable cost -- the privilege of hearing some great music. In fact, the Cathedral is sponsoring a concert of Gregorian chant this week, an important and unusual form of western music.?And for students on a budget, you can't beat that.?
By the way, the sign on the park at the back side of the Cathedral indicates that wifi is available, in case you get desperate for email. The Internet. It's everywhere...