Viewing the Crown of Thorns at Notre Dame

The Crown of Thorns, inside its protective case

Gargoyles. The rose window. Victor Hugo’s hunchback. Flying buttresses. These are just a few of the countless reasons why Parisians and visitors to the City of Light visit and fall in love with Notre Dame de Paris, the stunning gothic cathedral that often is included with the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe as iconic symbols of Paris. But for Catholics, indeed for all Christians, the church also is host to one of the most important relics in all of Christendom—the Crown of Thorns, allegedly worn by Jesus during his crucifixion. And visitors to the cathedral can see this most holy of artifacts all day on Good Friday. Continue Reading →

Conciergerie: The Tears of Marie Antoinette

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Everyone who’s even a little bit familiar with French history knows that Marie Antoinette and her husband, King Louis XVI, were made about a foot shorter on top during the French Revolution. And you’re probably also familiar with Marie’s alleged–and oft-disputed–statement “Let them eat cake!” when told the poor didn’t have bread to eat. But what happened to her between the time of her arrest and her execution? Most of that period was spent imprisoned in the Conciergerie, a sprawling, medieval fortress-like facility on the western tip of the Ile de la Cite. And you can pay a visit to the facility—and tour the very rooms where Marie Antoinette spent her final days. Continue Reading →

Remembering the Nazi Impact on Paris

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Straddling the eastern tip of Ile de la Cite just behind Notre Dame is the Memorial de la Deportation, a tribute to the more than 200,000 French men, women and children—including homosexuals—who died in Nazi extermination camps during World War II. The memorial is a poignant reminder of the role racism, antisemitism, homophobia and flat-out hatred played in the deaths of nearly 50 million people worldwide during WW II. Continue Reading →

An Easter Visit to the Dazzling Sainte Chapelle

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It’s Easter weekend in Paris—called Paques in French. And visitors to the City of Light can enhance their appreciation of the role of Catholicism in the history of Paris through all of the fine art and architecture that can be seen via the city’s 125-plus churches. One of the very best of these—and a must-see destination for first-time visitors—is the dazzling Sainte Chapelle, located just a few blocks from its more famous cousin, Notre Dame. Continue Reading →