Sunday, June 28, 2009

First Day in John Calvin's Paris

Brittany and I arrived in Paris this morning bright and early... well the day was pretty bright, I, however, was not. I had taken benedryl to help me sleep on the plane and it hadn't worn off. It's now evening and I've been sitting on our fifth floor balcony overlooking the Latin Quarter and thinking about Calvin walking the streets below 500 years ago. I thought as I relaxed after a long day of walking and exploring back alleyways of what he wrote about justification solely as a gracious act of God, "Whatever men study to add from the power of free will to the grace of God is only a corruption of it [the grace of God]; just as if one should dilute good wine with dirty water." I reflected soberly on his apt metaphor.

We did spend a wonderful Lord's day, first at the Scots Kirk for morning worship (Calvin would not have been impressed; the minister seemed more impressed with political correctness than than the majesty of Christ). Next we sniffed out several places where I had read about Calvin's connection to those places but had not been successful at finding any actual guide book material on them (this is the majority of Calvin sites in Paris).

We found the Couvert du Cordiliers, which is reported by some historians to be the church that Nicolas Cop preached his All Saint's Day sermon, penned in all likelihood by Calvin himself, an exposition of the beatitudes that clearly defined Cop, the rector of the University of Paris and son of the royal physician, with the the Reformation rediscoveries of justification by faith and Christ alone for salvation.

We found the weary old house King Francis I gave to court poet, Clement Marot, who later had, like Calvin, a "sudden conversion" and was forced to flee France for his life. In Geneva, Calvin put him to work helping with the versification of Psalms for the Geneva Psalter (I asked at a used book faire if the seller had one; my daughter confirmed that my French was correct; the problem was, he'd just never heard of a psalter before, and he was selling religious books... tragically sad).

We visited St. Etienne du Mont where St. Genevieve, patron saint of Paris is buried (and reflected on what Calvin wrote about pilgrimage to venerate such relics as a chief error "contravening reformation"), also, and more importantly, where Blaise Paschal is buried, and the Tour St. Jacques where he made important discoveries about the effects of altitude on barometric pressure (I'm sure his discovery helped us get here in a pressurized aircraft cabin safely). We also bumped in to Hemmingway, James, Joyce, Louis Pasteur, and Erasmus related sights. We discovered a tiny street named Rue de Jean Cauvin, near the University of Paris where he studied.

We ended up at St. Sulpice, the large Roman Catholic church to see what got Calvin so upset about the established church in his day. Not much has changed (more about the latest papal indulgence later). But the organ playing was good and so was the singing (you can watch and listen at or at the link on the title of this post).

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