The Spirit Lifts

01389325f4fc7c7cf8c876720f1994ba9388d3c829Since 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. 0107431b3f394208170804bc54236044ce2a9d2c7e01c445651dcd7e392c6c6a21340f3f8ed54b37c66cThe simple facade reminds me of Santo Spirito in Florence. There are beautiful heather shrubberies on the grounds.

010343f85f78810f8723c7c045749a700c1bb4e037Through a  patinated door, you enter a space of shadow and light. Yours eyes adjust.

0118b2fccdd4200eea3927774843f68345e0a3ef220199a71e0876893da5bcd748e2abb470d4a06ccd15 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).

01970b9337f00d1636140db5848ffbb925879b4aa5 No one is there. That tiny figure is me, and it gives you a feeling for the volumes.

011e403c44e509be40a3262df5fa78b26d081783ec012b54a8af72b06179640257cb68203d56609869ab 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.

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