Friday, July 3, 2009

Calvin Tour: first day in Paris

We left Hotel Minerve on the Rue des Ecoles in the heart of the Latin Quarter for a short walk to the Paridis Latin, today a sizzling Paris nightclub, but in the 1140s it was an abbey founded by Bernard of Clairvaux. In the 15th century it was the College Cardinal Lemoine where Lefevre taught free grace, sovereign electing love, and predestination. It was the place where young William Farel came and first heard the glorious gospel that he could be saved, not by his sacremental attempts at faithfulness, but alone by the blood and imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ.

Next we walked up the Rue Cardinal Lemoine to St. Etienne du Mont where Pascal is buried and where Calvin as a student at College de Montaigu only two doors away would no doubt have gone to mass; he very likely would have taken mass many many times in this very church. While a student at College de Montaigu, from 1523-1528, Calvin would have in all likelihood often attended mass at this 13th century church. It is notable that at the Pantheon just across the street are buried two of the most ardent advocates of rationalist philosophy contradictory to Calvin and Reformation Christianity, Voltaire and Jean Jacques Rousseau. I read from the papal indulgence for the 2000 anniversary of the birth of St. Paul—2009, current indulgences in the RC church. Not much has changed. Consider the monstrous irony of selling an indulgence in commemoration of the Apostle of free grace and imputed righteousness! “…having a righteousness, not our own…”

Of particular interest is the College de Fortet one block away on the Rue Valette. Here Calvin lived and studied Greek and Hebrew from 1531-1533, and from here he escaped out the upper window of the tower on the inner courtyard. After Cop’s All Saint’s Address at Couvent de Cordelier, and word got out that Calvin had either crafted the entire biblical exposition, decrying abuses and false doctrine in the Roman church, or contributed significantly to it, Calvin was a hunted man. It is a private courtyard with locked entry, so we were particularly grateful to the Lord for his kind providence in getting our entire tour group of 49 people into the significant Calvin site.

We paused in front of College de Montaigu at the plaque that commemorates Erasmus’s time of study at that college of the University of Paris. It is today the library of St. Genevieve, a vast library with first edition holdings of many great works by the who’s who of Western Civilization. These names are carved in stone on the upper panel of the exterior of the college, including Calvin, Luther, Melanchthon, Margerite de Valois, Clement Marot, even Las Casas. Brittany and I succeeded in getting in Montaigu for all of 2 minutes before we were summarily escorted to the door (not before I managed to make a photograph). Now way for the entire group.

Passing by the vast buildings that make up the Sorbonne, the University of Paris, we made our way to 27, Rue de Conde, the House of the Bronze Horse, gifted by Francis I to his court poet, Cement Marot. Marot became a true Reformation Christian and began versifying Psalms, perhaps right within these walls in the shadow of the Odeon Theatre (Brittany Bond and Gina Biber in front of the House of the Bronze Horse). When word got out, he too was a hunted man and fled first to the court of Renee of Farrar, Christian Duchess, one time betrothed to Henry VIII of England (get in line). Eventually he made his way to Geneva and assisted Calvin and others in versifications of the Psalms for singing in worship, the first edition of which appeared as the Geneva Psalter in 1551.

Making our way over to the Rue des Ecoles Medicine, we entered the gateway into the Couvent de Cordilier, where Nicholas Cop delivered his address; this 1533 address was the Rubicon for Calvin and the other Reformers in Paris. The building is today part of the School of Medicine of the university and frankly in disrepair. There is no plaque commemorating most of these sites, especially none here. Several of us climbed the circular stairway on the southwest tower (see video of this and many other cites on my youtube site), clearly Calvin vintage.

Our morning tour concluded here, and Brittany hailed a taxi to get Harry (87) and Eunice (86) Desoto, our most senior travelers, back to Hotel Minerve, air conditioning, and rest. From there we went on to La Procope Café, which claims to be the oldest coffee shop in the world, established 1685 (the year Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes, and resumed persecution of Huguenots… not sure if this makes coffee shops all bad or not; not being a coffee drinker, I’m a bad one to make that call). We went on to the Musee d’Orsay, where ma belle Cheryl dutifully picked out ten paintings or statues she liked best and briefly explained why. After picking up a cake for Paul Darby’s 50th and He and Dawn’s 15th anniversary, we headed back for another fine dinner in the dungeon (see photos) at the Bistrot de la Montaigna.

After dinner the hearty headed off to the Eiffel Tower, a monument to Modernism, lit up, vast crowds picnicking and drinking wine on the lawn, North African immigrants aggressively hawking mini Eiffel Towers to everyone. Back to hotel late, tired and full of Paris. I do wonder how many people have been so charmed by Paris that they’ve happily sold their souls for the lights, the cafes, the wine, the women, the monuments to man’s achievements—it is all so charming and happiness inducing--until one is awakened with cosmic rudeness in hell.

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