March 2008 and my free time in Paris, with daylight, amounted to one afternoon is all. So what did I do? I had in mind three destinations. First my favorite museum of the Middle Ages, the Cluny la Sorbonne (which is undergoing some renovations and is free during this time of internal upheaval). I enjoyed my favorite objects of art, and especially this one:
Next I made a beeline for the Pere Lachaise cemetery to visit my friends Heloise and Abelard once more, since I recently (2006) read/wrote about them again (also see this 2007 link where they are mentioned once again). BUT, and let this be a lesson to you/me, I messed around with other views of interest for a while, and when I finally started to walk toward their monument a security person made it very clear I was instead to make a beeline to the nearest exit: the cemetery had closed already and I would be locked in soon if I did not move quickly. Two days later, and summer hours were to take effect, keeping it open longer. Oh well, my fault for not paying attention.
So what did I find so interesting as to make me lose my train of thought? Views like this of a veritable city of the dead where many world-renowned artists and leaders are interred:
This area had what I considered some astonishing monuments, privately erected, like this figure kneeling in apparent sorrow, but in the presence of one or more departed loved ones' spirits:
And this one with a child writing thanks on behalf of a nation for a deceased military figure:
And this one with a symbolic rendering of the beauty that now is a deceased loved one? There is some symbolic transition from the smaller figure at left through the flying figure to the magnificent one that is the main attraction, suggesting perhaps the transition from death through spirit to a new life?
But what really caught my eye, and made me lose time I didn't realize I did not have, was this very large public monument which I first saw from an angle. An upright and healthy looking figure of a woman is walking into a doorway called "To Death," while people in all states of repair and disrepair are huddling by the entry apparently trying to keep from going in, clinging to the last vestiges of life?
And below what appears from this high vantage point a family of dead including a child? I will walk around this and take a closer look, join me if you wish and see if my interpretation is yours:
This last scene seemed to be a symbol of death coming for all ages, these are two adult women, very different in age, and the child is a girl child. This seems to symbolize three generations of women. Is the angelic being above them calling their souls into her realm of beauty and new life?
From this vantage point it also became more clear that two were entering death's doorway, and upon entry were whole once more, in contrast to those at the sides apparently clinging to life's last vestigial moments:
It was at this point, almost convinced it would be desirable to walk into that central door to face death and become a beautiful new me surrounded by equally beautiful new 'yous,' that the security person made it clear I had overstayed my welcome and had to walk to the nearest exit to which she pointedly pointed.
So, having been booted back into the land of the living, I was hoping to make it to my favorite seat in the Sacre Couer to hear the evensong by the sisters who perform this devotional music nightly before the evening mass. Just before I went in I took this photo looking back on the city from the Montmartre. The Notre Dame is right here † (the twin towers below).
By the time I came out it was quite dark, so that was it for my sightseeing this week. But I did have quite a trip a few days before, visiting a research facility in northeastern France. Some highlights of that tour are on the page linked below.
Highlights of my tour to the French radioactive waste management organization's (Andra's) underground research facility near the village of Bure.
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