The Quest For Saint Louis
The second part of Mr. Reynolds' entry on his trip to Paris describes his quest for Saint Louis, the most pious of French kings. He describes the shattering disappointments and the saving graces:
We hurried to the church of Saint Denys hoping to find his tomb. There we saw the ruin and wreck of the Revolution. Revolutionaries dumped the bodies of France’s great rulers into a common grave. The church itself is a jumbled collection of desecrated graves and royalist attempts at restitution over the centuries. The whole effect is awful . . . producing both awe and horror.
Walking through the lower level of the church was moving. Deep under the alter we prayed where Saint Denys, the early Christian martyr, may wait the Last Trump. We saw the tomb of the last kings of France, including the sad remains of Louis XVI and his Queen. All through the shattered church the commentary provided by the government droned in the ear, explaining all the desecration dryly. The Church of Saint Denys was a sad ruin which smelt of decay, mold, and ruin. Walking from it in a smattering of rain, was the low point of my time in Paris.
Saint Louis was there, but lost in the jumble of the ages. (...)
The second time I climbed the hill of the Sacred Heart, I stood beneath the great statue of the saintly King. It was a new statue by Parisian standards, but it was glorious and shining in the sun.
It was then I understood the strength of Christendom. Christ’s Kingdom is never really defeated, facing new foes, dying new deaths, but creating more legends as a result. Christendom seemingly has no power in France, but even its ruins were unforgettably beautiful. Even the dry bones are bones and there is nothing to replace them.
Read the entire entry on his quest here.
The portrait of King Louis IX by El Greco, from Web Gallery of Art, is in the Louvre.