Royal History at Saint-Germain-des-Pres Church

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If you’ve visited Paris’s chic Saint-Germain-des-Pres neighborhood—and in particular either of the district’s historic cafes, Les Deux Magots or Café Flore—you’ve undoubtedly at least seen the Eglise de Saint-Germain-des-Pres. It was this very church—originally founded in the mid-6th century as a Benedictine abbey—that gave the name to Paris’s Saint-Germain-des-Pres district as the abbey for centuries owned all of the Left Bank land in the area. Sadly, though, few tourists do more than admire the scenery or perhaps take a photo or two. And that’s a shame, because the church itself is well worth a visit if nothing other than for its rich history deeply intertwined with France’s Merovingian kings who ruled the nation for 300 years beginning in the middle of the 5th century. Continue Reading →

Marais Museum Chronicles History of French Jews

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There are more than 150 museums in the City of Light, ranging from tiny exhibitions to huge world-renowned institutions like the Louvre and the Musee d’Orsay. But many Parisian museums fall between the obscure and the famous, and one of the most interesting of these is the Musee d’Art et d’Histoire du Judaisme/MAHJ (Museum of Jewish Art and History). The museum, housed in an historic 17th century Marais mansion, chronicles the rich and sometimes very complex history of Jews throughout Europe and North Africa—with a specific focus on French Jews—from the Middle Ages to present day through its world-class collection of paintings, sculpture, religious objects, manuscripts, textiles and historic documents. Some of the most fascinating artifacts are nearly 800 years old. Continue Reading →

Saint Etienne du Mont: A Gothic Gem

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There are many huge—and hugely popular—churches in Paris that make it onto most tourists’ must-see lists: Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur, Saint Sulpice, etc. But the City of Light is home to more than 125 churches, and some of the most interesting and most beautiful are among the less-popular and out-of-the-way houses of worship. One that’s definitely worth a visit is Saint Etienne du Mont in the Latin Quarter just a block from the more-often toured Pantheon. Why should you add Saint Etienne to your sight-seeing itinerary? Not only does the church’s history stretch back more than 1,500 years but it also contains the shrine of Saint Genevieve, the patron saint of the City of Paris. And it’s one of the rare churches in the world (outside of Italy) where two Popes have held Mass. Continue Reading →

Celebrating Easter (Paques) in Paris

High-end chocolate Easter egg

Nominally Catholic—but in reality mostly secular—France does, indeed, celebrate Easter (called Paques in French) every year. But the celebrations in the City of Light are not nearly as Jesus-y for the faithful or as candy-filled for the non-church-going as are those for Americans. Yes, all of the churches throughout Paris will hold a series of masses on Easter Sunday. And yes, sweet treats are an integral part of Parisian Paques family traditions, including Easter eggs. But that’s where the similarities between Easter in the U.S. and Paques in France end. Continue Reading →