Carolingian & Crusader Travel Journal: Day 10

Statue of Charlemagne @ Notre Dame

Today was our last day to tour in Paris, and it was a full day.

After beginning at Rue Cler, we made the short walk to Les Invalides, which is, among other things, a museum of French military history.

Les Invalides’s collection of suits of armor was fascinating. I was struck by the difference between the 16th century French and German armor.

The French were beautifully and ornately engraved with various patterns and precious metals. The Germans were well-designed but lacked any aesthetic value and were completely utilitarian. It reminded me of our hotel rooms on the trip.

We stayed in 5 star hotels in France and Germany. Our French rooms were beautifully decorated with many decorative touches. Our room in Germany was large, clean and functional but with little or no thought given to aesthetics.

Also, located at Les Invalides is the tomb of Napoleon. The tomb is bizarre in it’s size. My thought was it was a big tomb for a small man with a big ego.

Napoleon’s Necklace

In the museum section on Napoleon, besides his horse–which is stuffed and on display–I found interesting the painting of Napoleon in his full royal dress.

In the painting Napoleon holds a scepter in his right hand with a small statute of Charlemagne on the end and in the other a scepter reminiscent of Louis IX (Saint Louis of the 7th & 8th Crusades). Napoleon also wore a necklace with that combined Byzantine and Carolingian designs, and a wreath reminiscent of the Roman emperors.

I had seen this painting before but had never realized how ridiculously over-the-top this was. Napoleon was portraying that all the power, glory and spiritual authority of the Romans, the Byzantine Empire, Charlemagne and Carolingian Empire, and Saint Louis was embodied in him.

I had never been to the Eiffel Tower, so we took a taxi there after Les Invalides. We had lunch outside in a small restaurant near the Eiffel Tower, and I’m sad to say I had my last crepe of the trip . . . it was a crepe confiture with strawberry jam, for those of you keeping score.

Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris

Cindy and I had been to Saint Chapelle before, but Ann had not and we wanted her to see it. So, we went there after lunch.

Saint Chapelle is the private chapel Saint Louis built as a repository for the True Crown of Thorns, which he purchased from the Byzantine Empire. Saint Louis paid more for the crown of thorns than it cost to build Saint Chapelle, and neither were cheap. The inside of Saint Chapelle is breathtakingly beautiful. It is one of my favorites.

The so-called True Crown of Thorns is supposedly the crown of thorns Jesus wore during His crucifixion. Is it real? I doubt it, and as with all relics, it’s a cheap substitute for and distraction from a relationship with Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit, who is today working miracles without the necessity of martyr’s bones, True Sponges or other objects of veneration.

If these things were ever useful in facilitating a relationship with Jesus, there is little need for them today. With the distribution of the New Testament made possible by the printing press and the Reformation, people can find Jesus in the revealed Word of God. A Bible or Bible app is a lot cheaper than a finger from John the Baptist or splinter from the True Cross.

Our last stop of the day was at Notre Dame. I use the term “our” metaphorically because in reality I was the only one who went there. Cindy and Ann, probably weighted down from their sins of each having illegally eaten a grape off the vine while walking through a vineyard in Champagne, declined the two block walk and opportunity to see one of the greatest cathedrals in the world. They opted instead for a glass of champagne across the street from Saint Chapelle. Such was the cross I had to bear this entire trip.

Notre Dame Cathedral was an appropriate end to our trip because outside the cathedral is a grand statue of Charlemagne on his horse, a fitting reminder for all, whether Atheist or Christian, Muslim or Buddhist, that this Christian king changed the world for the better. GS