THE perks of being by yourself (or with yourself) when traveling is you own your time -- all of it! Wander aimlessly, stop and look at any time, as many times, at interesting points, linger longer when you want, rest when tired, eat when hungry.
I find fun and fulfillment in walking through streets I’ve never passed before, discover new niches, and what excites me most is entering places of worship I’ve never been visited before.
There is something about churches and temples that lure me into it. I don’t know what it is. I must have been a member of the clergy in my past life, or perhaps a janitor who devoted his entire life cleaning one.
I was lucky enough to revisit the famous churches in the French capital with friends touring the city for the first time. However, in my lone time, I was able to visit several more. Here are two more interesting holy places in Paris worth checking out.
From the Opera district in the 8th, my wandering feet took me to the 6th arrondissement at the left bank of the Seine, the Saint-Germain-des-Prés. Far? I never noticed as I was loving the sights and sounds, the familiar and the unfamiliar, along the way.
The beautiful tree-lined boulevard of the Saint-Germain-des-Prés is home to the city’s famous cafes like Les Deux Magots, once the meeting place of the literary and intellectual élite of Paris.
The most important landmark of the area is the Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés (3 Place Saint-Germain des Prés) run by the Benedictines, built during the time when the area was considered as “beyond the outskirts” of Paris during the early medieval period. It also gave its name to the quarter that developed around the abbey.
Founded in the 6th century by Childebert I, King of Paris (511-558), the Abbey, under royal patronage, became one of the richest in France. Having a scriptorium in its premises, the abbey was a center of intellectual life in the French Catholic church from the 11th century to the time it was disbanded during the French Revolution.
Points of interest—the choir area, with its apsidal east end, provides an early example of flying buttresses, a Gothic architecture feature; and the in one of the chapels is tomb is where the tomb of philosopher Rene Descartes is located.
Just before departing the City of Lights, I was directed to the Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. It is commonly referred to by its address, "140 rue du Bac," or simply the street on which it is situated, the rue du Bac.
To the shopaholics, it’s in the area of Le Bon Marche Rive Gauche, the oldest and only department in the left bank. To find the store is easy but to locate the Chapelle Notre Dame de la Médaille Miraculeuse is tricky; it’s tucked in one of the alleys beside the high-end store. If you missed the directional signage by the Metro exit, any local, English speaking or not, can direct you to the place, just say “miraculous medal,” and don’t forget to say merci after getting directions.
The chapel was constructed in 1813 in the Hôtel de Châtillon, dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus when it was blessed on August 1815, and by imperial decree, attributed to the Daughters of Charity. The chapel was expanded in 1849, went into several transformations and the look as we see it today was completed in 1930.
A number of apparitions were experienced by Catherine Laboure in this chapel: on three successive days, while at prayer, Saint Vincent de Paul showed her his heart (each time in a different colors -- white for the color of peace, then red for fire, and then black, to indicate the coming misfortunes that would come upon France and Paris in particular); Laboure saw Christ present in the Sacred Host; on the feast of the Holy Trinity, Christ appeared as a crucified King, stripped of all his adornments; she received three visits from the Blessed Virgin Mary that came with requests (to establish Children of Mary, creation of a medal with an invocation. The medal is called miraculous).
Points of interest: the tabernacle, installed before the French Revolution, is unchanged since 1815; the ivory crucifix installed in 1850 atop the tabernacle, where the Blessed Virgin appeared on the third apparition; the incorruptible body of St. Catherine Laboure encased in a glass coffin.
Two interesting spots where my walking took me. Happy moments I was grateful for. And, if there were a couple more things to be thankful for, it would be the smart phone and selfie stick I had with me. With that thought, I kept on walking.
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