Tuesday, November 29, 2016

An emotional visit to St. Eustache Church in Paris

St Eustache is one of the premier churches in Paris. A church has stood on this site for almost one thousand years. The current church, however, was built in the 16th and 17th centuries and is in the Gothic style with Renaissance decorative elements. It has been enlarged several times and chapels were added during the time of Colbert the great financial minister of Louis XIV.

I came to this beautiful Gothic church not because of its historical connections, though it has many, nor for its beautiful architecture and Renaissance glory, which it has in abundance. I came here because my ancestress, Anne Pineau de la Vieville, was baptized here before coming to Canada as a fille du roi, basically what we would now call a mail-order bride, albeit one with a dowry supplemented by the King. I had hoped to find some trace of her here, but there was none. For my own interest, I found the baptismal font and took a photo in the hopes that it was the one she was baptized in. She shares the sacrament with some illustrious company, Cardinal Richelieu, Moliere and Jeanne Antoinette Poisson, (the future Marquise de Pompadour, Louis XV's mistress). Louis XIV made his First Communion here, as I am sure Anne did.


What I did find here was the magnificent Coysevox monument of Colbert, Louis XIV's minister. It is an exceptional piece. I had done my homework, so I knew I would find it, but I didn't expect to find a wooden screen protecting a chapel which was saved by the Princess of Lambale who worshipped here. The chapel opposite has lost its wooden screen and has a metal one like all the other chapels. Just walking through this historic church was a special moment for me on so many levels.

This church is noted for the quality of its acoustics, which are good enough that Berlioz performed his "Te Dium" here for the first time, and Liszt his "Messe de Gran". Unfortunately, we were here on a weekday and didn't get to experience this aspect of St. Eustache. It is really was a shame since in addition to its past tradition it has a magnificent new organ with has been quite a phenomenon in the music world.

I don't want to leave the impression that this is just a historical site; it is a vital, living parish, and Mass is still celebrated here. The church is open daily from 9:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m., and a priest is available from 3-7:30 p.m.

This is just one of the family churches I visited in Paris but certainly it is one of the most impressive. 

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