Since there was no Sunday sketch this week, in the spirit of penitence I offer you this Virgin Mary and a secret, a place that nobody goes to, so don’t tell. It is the most spiritual place in Paris and you would have to be a clod of earth not to feel your spirit soar as you step into its holy spaces.
It is the Chapel of St. Louis at the Hopital Salpetriere. Some of the most beautiful places in Paris are hospitals, built in the reign of Louis XIV. But many of the others, such as the Hotel des Invalides where Napoleon is buried, are well-known. This isn’t. The simple facade reminds me of Santo Spirito in Florence. There are beautiful heather shrubberies on the grounds.
The ceiling soars and high windows let in shafts of light. It is empty, undecorated. The main space is octagonal and eight smaller chapels spin off it. Here, the sick were separated from each other, the destitute from the insane, the sick from the “fallen” (women, that is).
Ste. Anne looks on while I make the sketch. The only sound is the cooing and whirring of pigeons who are left unchecked. It is not at all hard to imagine the generations of troubled people who came here to pray. And perhaps were comforted.