Friday, September 30, 2011

the cathedral


As a French major in college, I got very used to studying and talking about art, architecture, literature, and anything else that can be intellectually criticized. So I blame academia for this post--I just can't help myself from giving a little history lesson when I have so many perfect opportunities for it here!

The Cathedral, from across the river

This, again, is the Evreux Cathedral of Notre-Dame. It is one of the largest and oldest in France! Although there was a thorough renovation in the late 1800's for needed restoration throughout the Cathedral, some of the oldest parts of the structure date to the 1100's. During World War II, most of Evreux was badly damaged by bombing, but the Cathedral was one of the only buildings in town that was not hit very hardly, or nearly at all. There is currently exterior work being done to clean the stone façade of the church. It is about 20% finished, and will take quite a while due to the size of the job, but from what has been completed, it looks very nice. Exterior lights were also installed in the past decade, so it is illuminated at night! It's very pretty, and seems to light up the whole town!

The organ in the Cathedral is really beautiful, and quite new. There is an organ festival going on throughout the month of October, with famous organists from around France and the world coming to play this organ. It is one of the treasures of this church!

The main nave and organ

Another important and cool aspect of the Cathedral is its reliquary. Many relics have been acquired or donated to the Cathedral throughout the nearly 15 century history of this diocese. In fact, during the French Revolution, thanks to Evreux's proximity to Paris, many relics were saved from looters and revolutionists and transported to the Cathedral in Evreux, and have remained here ever since! There is a piece of the True Cross in the reliquary, as well as a portion of the skull of St. Matthew!

The reliquary cabinet

This Cathedral is very beautiful, and it is such a blessing to be able to come here every day to pray! I still can't believe that I can call it my church for the year! I just joined the Cathedral's choir, so that will be another mini-adventure in itself. We had our first practice of the year last night, and it was very fun. I'm the youngest member, and the only American...all of the older women were very funny and everyone is very nice  to me. They're going to have to be patient with me as well as I try to learn all of the church songs that they've been singing their whole lives! I'm looking forward to it though :)

One last fun intricacy of the church: I found this little guy the other day. Gargoyles and funny statues like this have 2 purposes for churches. Functionally, they serve as gutter drains, and you can see the holes in their mouths that drain the rain water. The word "gargoyle", appropriately enough, comes from an old French word meaning "throat"! More spiritually, they were meant to scare off bad spirits from the church they were protecting. That is why they sometimes look menacing. I find this one, and his friends around him, rather playful and cute!

My favorite gargoyle :)

pax christi.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

St. Vincent de Paul and farmer's markets!!!


We should always remember that Christ Himself said that by gentleness we inherit the earth.
-St. Vincent de Paul

Blessed feast of St. Vincent de Paul! This great French saint is know best for his selfless work for the poor and underprivileged. And DePaul University in Chicago is named after him! St. Vincent was born in a small town in southwest France around 1580, and was ordained a priest in 1600. He dedicated his life to serving the poor and is a wonderful model to us now of service, humility, and charity. He died in Paris, where his relics still remain. Only his heart is incorrupt (meaning that it never decayed after death--a miracle!), and it is on display in a reliquary at the motherhouse of the Daughters of Charity in Paris. The rest of his remains are contained in a wax model of his body, which is in the Chapel of St. Vincent de Paul in Paris. I was blessed to visit this church twice this past summer and pray in front of his relics! Woah.

France is home to many important saints in the Catholic Church, but this country is important in a lot of other ways too! Easily one of the most characteristic and charming aspects of French culture is its farmer's markets. Found in every town and city throughout France, outdoor markets are a staple for purchasing produce, dairy products, meat, and other goods for the week. In Evreux, there is a market on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Some towns have markets every day, some have them once a week. It depends on the size and location of the town, and the needs of the townspeople!


I love going to farmer's markets (in Urbana, in Park Ridge, anywhere!), so I couldn't wait to check out Evreux's! Saturday morning, I set out for yet another adventure, eager to see what I would find!

This market is in the parking lot of the grocery store downtown, and it even creeps into some of the surrounding alleys. I was blown away when I first saw it! I was expecting some produce stands, flowers, maybe some local products like honey and wine, but what I found was a vegetarian's paradise! (With some meat thrown in...) It was a maze of fruits and vegetables--some I've never even heard of! I can't wait to try new things and learn some new recipes :) In addition to rows and rows of produce, they also sell flowers, dairy products like eggs and lots of cheese, mushrooms, wine, honey, cured and fresh meats, clothes, and pastries. I walked up and down rows of stands for about an hour! I was a very happy camper!

Look at all these fruits and vegetables! Yum!

I will certainly be a regular here, just like all the other townspeople! Next Julia Child???

pax christi.

Friday, September 23, 2011

I'm here!


After a hectic day of travelling with luggage heavier than myself...I finally made it to Evreux, France. The town that I will call home until next spring!

one of my favorite river walks near city hall and the bell tower

Evreux is a medium-sized town that is surrounded by beautiful hills, farms, and apple orchards in Normandy. As a region in northwest France, Normandy is most famous among Americans as being the landing in WWII for the D-Day invasions. Normans are also known to be particularly friendly to Americans--a characteristic that I have already experienced!

When I arrived on Tuesday, I was greeted at the train station by my contact professor, who is so nice and friendly. He took me to the hotel that I'd be staying at until I found a permanent residence in town. I crashed pretty quickly, making sure I'd have enough energy and rest to start exploring the next day!

The past 3 days have been filled with just that--lots of exploring--as I continue to discover all that this little town has to offer. There are plenty of adorable cafés, bakeries, shops, and monuments to frequent. The Cathedral in Evreux is also one of the largest in France. So cool!

Cathédrale de Notre-Dame, Evreux

I have felt so blessed the entire time that I have been here so far. Everything has been falling into place perfectly--and that's because God must've truly wanted me here! I still have some settling in to do, but I am confident that it will all continue to go smoothly. All summer, and continuing into the fall, my favorite quote (and mantra) has been from St. Irenaeus, one of the great Fathers of the Church. "The greatest glory of God is man fully alive". I am so hopeful that I'm following His Will right now because I do feel so alive! Seeing so many beautiful places and meeting so many people brings me a total sense of exhilaration. I pray that sensation follows me all year, as I continue to try new things, visit new places, and meet new people. God is so good!

pax christi.