Wednesday, June 8, 2011

I'm in Reims

The day of travel was another one filled with exciting discoveries. As I am driving from one city to another I am deliberately avoiding the toll highways. Two reasons. Actually three reasons. So far I have saved about $100 in two days from not paying tolls. The car gets much better gas milage at the lower speeds than at the 130km/hour speed limits on the toll highways. And third, I get to turn off the road at will to check out anything that remotely seems interesting to me.

Let me continue with last nights posting because I was not sucessful in uploading all the pics I wanted to.

Before arriving at Reims last night, I pulled into a small town called Beaujeu. The signs about a medeival town and an 11th century church caught my attention. I drove into a charming town and pulled up to a beautiful church. There was notice in the parish bulletin asking for volunteers for a newly formed committee. They are planning the anniversary of the parish's founding.  Would you believe - 1000 years. A PARISH MILLENIUM CELEBRATION. The parish of Notre Dame in Beaujeu, France was founded in 1013. My God!!!   We worked hard over a 25th anniversary.

Anyway, here is pic of the inside of their church. Another beaitful 12th century gothic, wonderfully intact.

Notre Dame de Beaujeu in the Beaujolais region.
As I turned to leave, I put my hand in the holy water font and noticed a sign that I had missed on the way in. It says a great deal about this parish community.

Its a small sign in plexiglass over the holy water font at the entrance of the church. It translates, "In passing, allow yourself to be (literally) "penetrated" (meaning filled to the core) by the beauty of this holy place. Look, and be silent. The Lord and these stones have something to say to you." 

Driving into Reims, I stopped at the village on Cluny. It was already late in the afternoon. Unfortunately, as I got there,, the skies opened up. I was looking forward to visiting the remains of the Abbey. In its heyday, it was one of the largest and most influential abbeys in Europe. But like many of these great places, it was destroyed in the French revolution. Many of the monks were executed. Today, of course the French goverment that was formed by the revolution now heralds the value of this place as a major example of patrimony in the French history, as they collect entrance fees to the ruins of what was the largest church in Christendom before St. Peter's in Rome. Ironic, isn't it?

Before arriving in Reims, I stopped in a small town to find a place for lunch. Joinville, France. A sign with the picture of the street running alongside the canal caught my attention.

Joinville, France. The canal that joins the Saone and the Marne rivers runs along the central street. This canal is an important economic tool for this area. The Saone River clows into the Mediteranean, the Marne flows into the English Channel. With this canal built in the 15th century, you could take a boat from England to the Mediteranean without entering the Atlantic Ocean. The steeple above the rooftops is - you guessed it - another 12th century gothic church.

The interior of Notre Dame Church, Joinville.

IN the rear of this church is a 13th century "calvaire" of calvary. It is a traditional grouping of persons, always including, Mary, Mary Magdelene, and St. John, over the dead body of Jesus. But they also include figures of people who could not be there, Because they are contemporaries of when the statue was carved. In this case, St. King Louis the 9th of France, Jean Joinville, the titled lady of the town who gave the art piece, as well as other personages from the time the statue was carved.

The stained glass windows in the clerestory, or the high wall above the arches in the nave are all of the Jerusalem Cross, from the crusades, and the "fleur de lis", the symbol of the Monarchy in France, as well the symbol for the Virgin Mary.

Reliquary containing the "sash" of St. Joseph, husband of Mary. This band of tapestry cloth which is wrapped around the roll was given to this parish by St. Louis de France, on his return from the crusades.

After I get back, remind me that we have to some classes on the use of relics in the church. This band of cloth purported to be the sash of  St. Joseph, cannot possibly authentic. It is embroidered with French words, has the fleur de lis all over it, and includes images of France that could not possibly be known at the time of Jesus. And still this "relic" is the center of a huge annual celebration. Let's talk about this when I get back.

Today I arrived in Reims at about 3:30pm. Checked in to my hotel and headed out as soon as possible. I decided to wait until tomorrow when I would have more time to visit the Cathedral. Instead, I found a "coiffeur" and had my hair cut. (I think the last one in Europe before I get home). I wandered into the Church of St. Jacques Compostello. It is another magnificent 12th century gothic, beautifully preserved. It is another living parish. As I walked, there were three elderly ladies sitting at a table right in the entrance. There was a sign, "Acceuil". Welcoming area, or reception. They were distributing leaflets about the church and thier parish. And of course asking where people are from. I had a great time with. In a short while, as I was walking around the church, a gentleman approached me and said the ladies at the entrance told him I am a priest. He is the sacristan. He invited me to the Mass at 5:00pm tomorrow.

The nave of St. James Church, Reims. This is in a high gothic style. It has the balustrade above the arches, which the other examples I have pictured in the past days do not. Also the size and style of the pillars alternates as the arches are set towards the front of the church.

The transept chapel containing the altar of the Blessed Sacrament.
I was told by the sacristan that I had to visit the Church of St. Francis in Reims. He seemd to imply that he thought it is more beautiful than the Cathedral which draws hundreds of thousands of people to Reims.

I will report on that tomorrow.

Glad to be back on line.

Blessings everyone.