Wednesday, August 22, 2018

For the people

The simplicity and starkness of the church of Saint-Jaques-du-Haut-Pas is striking, especially after you've visited many churches throughout Paris.  The two main reasons for its plainness are the poverty of its original parishioners and the presence of the Jansenist movement in its early history.
The organ at the Saint-Jacques-du-Haut-Pas church.  Tom found this part
of the church's floor, a dark wood herringbone, to be very interesting.

The parishoners wanted a more Gothic-style church (like that of the other Saint Jacques' church, Saint-Jacques-de-la-Boucherie, of which only the bell tower remains -- the well-known Tour Saint Jacques), but they could not afford it.  Because of the difficulty in raising funds in the impoverished parish, the church of Saint-Jacques-du-Haut-Pas took a long time to build. 
Inside the church of Saint-Jacques-du-Haut-Pas.

The Catholic church heirarchy wasn't terribly supportive of the poor folk in this area.  When they didn't even have a parish yet, they'd taken to praying in the Benedictine monastery located there.  The monks felt inconvenienced by this imposition, and so demanded that these common people leave.  So in 1582 the bishop gave permission for a small church to be built on the site at what is now the rue St. Jacques and the Rue de l'Abbé de l'Epée.

The congregation quickly outgrew the small church, so Parliament created a new parish there in 1633.  Then the decision was made to name the new church for Saint Jacques Le Mineur, the other Saint Jacques (or Saint James in English).  The church is also dedicated to Philip the Apostle.

The nearby abbey of Port Royal was the home of the Jansenist movement.  When the Jansenists installed an annex near the site of the Saint Jacques church, their influence was felt. Wikipedia says that Jansenism "was a Catholic theological movement, primarily in France, that emphasized original sin, human depravity, the necessity of divine grace, and predestination." Jesuits didn't like Jansenists, and accused them of being like Calvinists.  I can see that, but I don't think Calvinists are all that bad.

Finally, Anne Genevieve de Bourbon, who was a protector of the Port Royal abbey stepped up and offered significant funds to construct the church.  The main work was finally completed by 1685, thirty-two years after Parliament created the parish.
The Rue Mouffetard, in the 5th arrondissement.

Jean-Denis Cochin was the priest at Saint-Jacques-du-Haut-Pas from 1756 to 1780.  He was mainly occupied, throughout his life, with helping disadvantaged people.  He founded a hospital for them nearby; it was named Hôpital Saint-Jacques-Saint-Philippe-du-Haut-Pas initially, and it treated poor workers who were injured in nearby rock quarries.  Later, it was named for Father Cochin.  Today, Hôpital Cochin is a major public assistance hospital, and home to the system's central burn treatment center.  Since 1990, it has also been a biomedical research center, specializing in genetics as well as molecular and cellular biology.

In the late 12th century, before the Benedictines were installed at the site of what is now the Saint-Jacques-du-Haut-Pas church, that land was owned by the Order of Hospitallers, a medieval Catholic military order which was headquartered in Jerusalem.  I find it odd to think that the Catholic church had military orders, but those were the days of the Crusades. 

The Hospitallers' main job was to care for the poor, sick, and injured people who made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem.  They originated in Italy, in a place called Altopascio, hence the name Haut Pas.  They built a small chapel on this site in 1360, but Pope Pius II suppressed their order in 1459.  That's what left the land open to the Benedictines in the 1500s. 

Isn't it interesting that the site's early development was dedicated to helping the poor and that was reinstated with the departure of the Benedictines and the arrival of the parish of Saint-Jacques-du-Haut-Pas?

The church of St. Médard, at the southern end of Rue Mouffetard.

Our long walk began with a subway ride to the Place Maubert and a walk down the rue Montagne de Sainte Genevieve, a humble and non-gentrified spot in the 5th arrondissement.  Then we continued down the rue Descartes and rue Mouffetard, which some people claim is the oldest street in Paris.  But I think, how can that be, because it was outside of Paris when it was built?

Details.  The pedestrianized Rue Mouffetard is charming as can be, with its cobbled surface, colorful shops, and quaintness galore.  At the end of it, we visited the St. Médard church briefly.  After admiring the flowing fountain near the church, we continued westward.
Lovely scarlet and gray leash for a cat, for sale on rue Vavin.

On the Rue des Feuillantines, we paused to see that the City of Paris has a technical school there for glass artisans, including people who make verrieres -- these glass-and-metal structures and awnings that we admire so much.  This was also the site of the Barbet school, which was attended by Louis Pasteur from 1838 to 1843.  Earlier, Victor Hugo spent part of his childhood here on this street named for the convent of the Feuillantines.

After we visited the church of Saint-Jacques-du-Haut-Pas, we walked along the southern edge of the Luxembourg gardens and skirted over toward the Boulevard Montparnasse on the colorful rue Vavin.  Right in front of us was one of our favorite brasseries, Le Select, so we stopped for refreshments.

Refreshments at Le Select, on the Boulevard Montparnasse.

After a good, long pause, we continued down the boulevard to the Rue de Sevres, back into the 15th arrondissement.  We paused again to rest on a bench in front of the future home of the left bank Hilton Hotel.  The main building it will occupy is the former centrale téléphonique from 1900 (renovated in the 1930s) on the Avenue de Saxe.  When it was established in 1900, it was one of seven centraux téléphoniques in the city's "new" telephone network.  Some of today's phone network's apparatus is still in the structure, and it will remain there when the Hilton opens.
The former centrale téléphonique on the Avenue de Saxe is scheduled to open
as the new left-bank Hilton Hotel in 2019.

We meandered over through the Boulevard Breteuil and Place Georges Mulot neighborhood to the Avenue de Suffren, where I spotted a small apartment that I'd seen listed for sale, next to the Hotel Bailli.  It looks nice, but would be noisy since it faces the sidewalk on the street level.
Restaurant Félix, on the Avenue de Segur, in the 15th arrondissement.

At last, it was time for dinner at Félix, on the Avenue de Segur, where we dined on July 16.  I promised myself then that I'd try the razor clam starter course, which I did.  It was excellent, even though one of the clams had some gritty sand in it.  That's probably the supplier's fault, not the restaurant's. 
Razor clams starter course at Félix.

We each selected the delicious filet mignon de porc for our main course, and we finished with a café gourmand (includes three small desserts) for Tom and creme brulée for me.  The creme brulée was divine.  The evening was lovely.  By the time we walked home, we'd logged 8 miles and lots of memories for the day.

Filet mignon de porc, above, and assorted small desserts, below.

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