West Virginia University in Vendée, France
Paris in our pocket...
June 5, 1998
Madame Benoist guides the WVU-V group through a little visited area of the Quartier Saint-Germain. The cafés and restaurants here were once frequented by the likes of Voltaire and Benjamin Franklin.
After a ride through the métro WVU-V arrives at the Basilique de Saint-Denis, the very first gothic church in Europe. Like Richelieu centuries later, the Abbot Suger worked to assure the royal authority of his kings, Louis VI and Louis VII. This site already was home to the tombs of Clovis, Charles Martel, and other great leaders of the French. Now all the kings of France would be buried in this seat of the French Monarchy. Napoleon himself wished to be buried here, but the restauration of the legitimate monarchy under Louis XVIII would deny him this priviledge. His tomb is now relegated to Les Invalides.
The WVU-Vendéens gather before the funeral statues of the great Renaissance monarchs, Henri II and Catherine de Médicis, contemporaries of Elizabeth I of England. Their son, François II would marry Mary Stewart of Scotland. Upon Henri II's death in a sporting round of the joust (killed by one of his best friends, Montgomery), François II would be king for only a year. His wife Mary, briefly queen of France, would return home to become "Mary Queen of Scotts", and would soon be beheaded by her dreaded enemy Elizabeth of England. France would then know some of its darkest days as François' brothers, Charles IX and Henri III would rule over a country divided in civil war between Catholics and Protestants. Neither having a direct heir, the throne by right would go to the Protestant Henri de Navarre. Navarre, to strengthen his claim, had married Marguerite de Valois (Queen Margot), the sister of François II, Charles IX, and Henri III. On the night of their marriage in 1572, Catherine de Médicis and her son Charles IX would order the terrible Massacre de la St. Bartholomew. Thousands of Protestants in Paris and around France would be tortured, defenestrated, or simply cut to pieces. Henri de Navarre would barely escape with his life. He would also continue the fight to defend his claim to the throne, but would only be allowed to ascend upon his conversion to Catholicism. Once well established on the throne, Henri IV (de France et de Navarre) would put an end to the religious wars by signing in 1598 the Edit of Nantes. This year France celebrates the 400th centenial of the first declaration of religious freedom in the world.
Madame Benoist speaks to the Vendéens about the statues of Louis XVIII and Marie-Antoinette, both beheaded during the Revolution, Louis in January 1793 and Marie-Antoinette in October.
After the visit to Saint-Denis, several of the Vendéens visit the Musée du Quai d'Orsay where great works of the 19th century are exhibited.
Manet's famous "Luncheon on the Grass" is but one of hundreds of the masterpieces held in the Quai d'Orsay.
The American artist Whistler and his compatriot Mary Cassatt (from Pittsburgh) also work in Paris during the years of Monet, Manet, Cézanne, Renoir, etc.
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Go on to June 6, 1998.