Monday, February 15, 2010

Pictures Of Jesus And Stuff

My good friend Alison, who just happens to be house sitting for us while we are in Paris, loves to tell stories about American tourists. She's Australian and has done a lot of traveling, and seems to have a hilarious American tourist story for every city she's visited. My all time favorite is when she saw some Americans waiting in line for the Uffizi Gallery in Florence and the lines were really long. The American tourist in front of her was getting antsy, and when they saw some other American tourists coming out of the gallery they seemed to be summing up if it was worth the wait when they asked "So, what's in there anyway?" and the other American tourist said "Oh, you know, pictures of Jesus and stuff."

I love it. And we wonder why Europeans don't take Americans seriously.

So, whenever I go to museums with classical European art, you know, the ones with lots of pictures of Jesus, I think about this story and have a little laugh to myself. And we had just that kind of experience when we went to the Musée national du Moyen Age (Museum of the Middle Ages) in one of the oldest parts of Paris. You walk around a corner and bam, it hits you, a castle in the middle of the city. The boys did okay at this museum, mostly because of the story of St. Denis. I mean, it is pretty compelling.


St. Denis introduced Christianity to the Gauls around 250 AD, becoming the first bishop of Paris. He was martyred when the Romans beheaded him on a hill outside the city. Most historians think this is the origin of the name “Montmartre” (the hill of the martyr). According to a legend that appeared three centuries later, the slain St. Denis stood back up, picked up his head, and walked all the way to the current site of the Basilica St. Denis, where he collapsed and was buried. The church denounced this story during the 17th century, having come to the conclusion that St. Denis was most likely executed at the spot where he was buried, not at Montmartre. Any time you see a statue of a saint carrying his own head, that’s St. Denis (there’s one on the façade of Notre Dame).

The boys loved the idea of this dead guy picking up his head and carrying it across Paris, so they had to check it out. Here's the photos:

An ancient well in the courtyard of the castle/museum. The boys looked down and you couldn't see the bottom. Good thing there was a grate blocking it.

The man of the hour, St. Denis. I'd like to thank him for carrying that head across Paris so my kids could be interested in medieval history. He deserves his place in heaven for that feat alone.


More guys with missing heads, but the heads were found close by. Actually, these statues used to be on the facade of Notre Dame way back when.

Max with his map and timeline of the museum. The boys had fun finding the things in the pictures.

Jack's favorite was the two coffins we found in a back area. Scary.

This carving from a triptych blew me away. I have to say, I am always in awe of the dedication these artists had towards their faith in Christ. To spend this much time creating something to celebrate his life and death is truly inspirational.

Another head, this time the one of Christ after the crucifixion. It was really creepy and moving because it looked so real.

And there's always some Mary thrown in for good measure. I loved the color on this statue, and was in awe that it was still so vibrant seeing as it was created in the 1600's.

I love these leaded glass windows, and that you can see the castle wall through it. When I look through this kind of window I like to think of all the people who have looked through them before me, and how the view has changed over hundreds of years.

At the end of the day, the kids did pretty well, but I suspect that sweet smile Jacks wearing in this photo has something to do with the fact that it is time to go home.


TaylorCrew said...

Love, love, love the Musee de Cluny!! My mom and I will be in Paris at the end of April for five days tacked onto the end of my PhD supervision in England. I would LOVE a compiled list of Paris Practicalities i.e. great (inexpensive) places to eat, favorite shops (any place for pretty French lingerie, chocolate, books etc. - you know, the essentials), what the Parisiennes are wearing in the Spring - seriously, still black in the Spring? Plus, anything else you would NOT miss!