Despite having arrived in Paris Saturday so exhausted from travel, this Wandering Anglican had the bright idea of getting up early, attending the 8:30 said Mass at St. George's Anglican (which we had found online prior to our trip) and the heading out for a day's tour of Paris before my meetings began on Monday.
It didn't quite work out that way.
We had looked at the Metro (subway) maps to figure out which trains to take to get there, and I estimated 20 to 25 minutes travel time. We left the hotel right about 8 -- and then discovered it was a bit longer walk to the Metro than just "a few minutes." Purchasing our tickets took longer than expected because Kathy ended up helping a Japanese couple purchase theirs: the wife spoke some English but the agent had neither English nor Japanese. Changing trains from Line 12 to Line 6 at Montparnasse-Bienvenue was an obvious but wrong move. M-B is a huge underground station that took a lot of time to navigate -- we would would have done better at the small Pasteur station. (Lesson learned.) We did figure that the small Kleber station was closest to the church, but got turned around and walked a few extra blocks,
When we finally got to St. George's the building looked like any other, but the signs outside told us we had arrived. Sometime well after 9 AM. Very, very late.
The door was open but the place was quiet and nobody was present. Walking down the stairs (the only open direction) was a bit like descending into catacombs: dark, warm, but beautiful. The first thing we saw was a beautiful little chapel straight ahead and down.
A little further and we could see the Nave, all in brick, with a round wall in front, and a beautiful statue of Mary off to the right.
But all was behind closed gates so we headed back up the stairs and rencountered Jane, who advised that the next service was the full Mass (choir and incense, the website said) at 10:30. We left and returned about 10:15, realizing this was a major change in our plans.
But it was worth it! The service was beautiful and worshipful (though the modern language kept tripping me up), their choir --all volunteer!-- sung like angels (setting a very high standard for our Schola Cantorum to reach), and copious incense (which oddly caused me coughing spells, unlike at Smoky Matt's, Dallas). But over and above all that we saw a parish that is alive, very much a parish family like St. Bartholomew's, something I haven't seen very often in the churches I've visited on my travels. If I were somehow to end up moving to Paris, this would become my, um, "continuing" home.
During the Coffee Hour we learned more about St. George's. A few decades ago the old Victorian structure had to be replaced; I was told the story of the architect who designed this church, but in the days of business and exhaustion since I have forgotten too many details to relate it reliably.
Still, among other things I learned about the oddity of the curved wall in the Sanctuary. It was, I was told, because cars do not make sharp right turns. While my jet-lagged brain was trying to interpret this I was told it was due to a car-park entrance/exit ramp on the other side that the architect had had to accomodate. All I can say is that he did a wonderful job. And there were so many other elements he did well, including the unusual and expressive lighting -- a work of art!
It was 1 PM by the time we left, our plans in shambles (we never got to the museums or other sights, all we did was to return to the hotel, nap, have dinner and go to sleep), but it was all worth it. If I ever return to Paris, I will visit again. (Click on the title to visit their website.)