Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Guess what - there's a church behind the Panthéon!

Today was my Paris and literature course, and we took a nice walk around the Latin Quarter. It was such a beautiful day - my black coat was definitely overkill. Before we met up at La Fontaine Saint Michel (the typical rendez-vous point for everyone in Paris), I got there early and got another Lebanese sandwich for lunch - Fahita, chicken with some kind of tasty sauce in that awesome bread and a mint tea! They know me in that store now, but haven't once asked where I'm from, so I'm assuming they can't tell I'm foreign.

On our walk, we started by looking at some 17th and 18th century buildings, one of which Balzac set a short story in and also where Pablo Picasso painted Guernica. Across the street, Louis XIII was crowned a few hours after Henri IV was assassinated. Poor Henri IV. Then, we walked by a bar, talked for a few minutes about the tower of Le Palais de Justice, and then went into l'Eglise Saint-Severin. It's right by my Lebanese sandwich place (across the street). This church is really neat on the inside - it's not much to look at on the outside, which is why I had never walked in before. Inside, there are stained glass windows from the 70's, but also architecture that dates back to the 16th century. There's this column inside that's twisted and the ceiling is so chaotic - the whole building is actually, because it's such a mixture of different architectural styles. Also inside, there are plaques from students thanking Saints for allowing them to pass their exams - and some are really recent too! One of them was from an ENS student. You'd think that, by then, the students would realize that they passed their exams because they studied and not because of a saint, especially an ENS student, because they study all the time. Then, we walked straight past the Panthéon (because the professor says it's ugly...) and to the little church behind it: L'Eglise Saint Etienne du Mont. This one is even more incredible - the front is all Baroque (but certainly doesn't need to be fixed) and detailed, there are incredible spiral staircases inside, and Sainte Genevieve, Jean Racine, and Blaise Pascal are all buried there. I can't believe I never thought about that church before. I know the story of the Panthéon - Louis XV was sick, prayed to Sainte Genevieve to get better, and when he did, he build the Panthéon in her honor (it was originally a church). Well, where would he pray to Sainte Genevieve? In the church that's right there!

After that class, I had my philosophy-specific methodology class at CUPA. Immediately afterward, I had one of those moments when I couldn't believe my progress in French. He asked us if God exists, to define God, to define man, to talk about perfectibility and the potential for perfectibility, and more - all in French! And we (there were only two of us students in the class) never once used the excuse "I can't explain it in French. It's too complicated. I don't have the vocabulary. Etc." I remember learning all the songs for the verbs, but I can't remember if back then in 7th grade I actually believed that I would be able to speak French one day, let alone discuss incredibly vague and difficult concepts with a La Sorbonne professor (and ENS graduate, by the way). And now, I have tons of work to do on my philosophy assignment since I now know exactly how I should structure a paper (even though I don't have to write the entire paper). They should teach philosophy like this in the US! It's so much more interesting than the Hopkins class I took. I absolutely love how they even have a philosophy behind how they organize their dissertations. Honestly, I don't think Americans are taught to structure essays quite as specifically. We're just told we should have an introduction and a conclusion and that the body paragraphs shouldn't be too long. We also pick one thing to say and then say it whereas the French essays address many different viewpoints all with the general goal of making your actual opinion stronger.

Oh, and I taught English. The best part was when Olivier called a bookstore a library (because the French word for bookstore is librarie). It was funny to hear a French person mess up in exactly the opposite way that an American would. In all my French classes, those "false friends" were always a problem, and when people tried to say the word library, they'd say "librarie" instead of "bibliothèque" because "librarie" sounded like library.

I'm going to go to bed so I can finish reading my history chapter and practice my flute tomorrow morning before sorting out an SNCF problem. I think I'll also go to l'ENS and ask around if the party is open to people who aren't technically students. The party is going to be held in a bar! There's a bar INSIDE l'ENS!! I never would have guessed that. Anyway, I'll put pictures from the walk up tomorrow.

Saint Severin

An ENS student thanking God for doing well on a concours. 

The modern stained glass in Saint Severin

St. Etienne-du-Mont

The incredible inside!

Jean Racine. Why isn't that guy in the Pantheon?

1 comment:

  1. I am so jealous, it sounds like you had the best day! Glad that you are having such a great time.