[00:00:00] Annie Sargent: This is Join Us in France episode 381. Trois cent quatre vingt un.
[00:00:22] Annie Sargent: Bonjour, I’m Annie Sargent and Join Us in France is the podcast where we talk about France. Everyday life in France, great places to visit in France, French culture, history, astronomy, and news related to travel to France. Today, I bring you a conversation with Elyse Rivin of, Toulouse Guided Walks about the Saint Denis cathedral in the Paris region.
[00:00:47] Annie Sargent: So I guess today it’s going to be tales from the crypt or perhaps we’ll tell you about a beautiful place where French Kings and Queens were laid to rest.
[00:00:59] Annie Sargent: This podcast is supported by donors and listeners who buy my tours and services, including my very popular itinerary planning service.
[00:01:08] Annie Sargent: You can browse all of that at Annie’s boutique https://JoinUsinFrance.com/boutique.
[00:01:14] Annie Sargent: This week I want to tell you about my GPS self-guided tours of Paris on the VoiceMap app.
[00:01:20] Review of Annie’s VoiceMap tours
[00:01:20] Annie Sargent: Derek wrote a review of my tours on the podcast Facebook group. And this is what he wrote. I want to put in a big plug for Annie’s VoiceMap tours. They were the perfect way for my wife and I to explore neighborhoods. One afternoon, we did her Saint Germain des Prés and the Latin quarter tour. And the next we did Le Marais and Ile de la Cité at only $9 a piece, they were worth their digital weight in gold. I wore one earbud and my wife wore the other.
[00:01:52] Annie Sargent: It knows exactly where you are due to GPS. So you can literally leave it in your pocket and have Annie telling you where to turn what to see. It’s the little things in the tour that make them great. We never would have seen the cannon ball in the wall, the cute little spice shop, the tiny streets, the best wine shop ever, and so many other things without the tours. Thank you, Annie. Do more, more.
[00:02:18] Annie Sargent: Thank you for the kind words Derek. And, I’ve done five tours and I’ll probably do more because I enjoy everything about them.
[00:02:26] Annie Sargent: And by the way they only cost $8 if you buy them on my website and you get an even bigger discount, if you buy more than one.
[00:02:37] Annie Sargent: If you’ve taken my tours, please talk about them and review them on the app because I work very hard to craft the best GPS self-guided tour possible. And I am very grateful to those of view who take them, review them and share them. Merci beaucoup !
[00:02:54] Annie Sargent: After my chat with Elyse, I’ll tell you a little bit about how French elections work because our presidential election is coming up very fast.
[00:03:02] Annie Sargent: I’ll also tell you about an important archeological find this week underneath Notre Dame. The things you find when you start digging under a church.
[00:03:24] Annie and Elyse talk about Saint Denis Cathedral/Basilica
[00:03:24] Annie Sargent (2): Bonjour Elyse !
[00:03:26] Elyse Rivin: Bonjour Annie !
[00:03:27] Annie Sargent: We have a fun discussion today about a place that’s, you know, fun.
[00:03:32] Elyse Rivin: Kind of fun.
[00:03:33] Annie Sargent: Some of it!
[00:03:34] Elyse Rivin: It’s kind of fun. Actually. It’s a place that really, really, really talks about the history of the Kings and Queens of France.
[00:03:47] Annie Sargent: Yeah.
[00:03:47] Annie Sargent: And it talks about something else too that’s one of my most favorite things to talk about in the world. And that is stained glass windows.
[00:03:56] Annie Sargent: Oh, very nice. Yes.
[00:03:57] Elyse Rivin: Yes. And so, uh, Fun, I guess so. Actually I have a couple of gory things to tell as we get along in this story. So I’m not sure if that’s gonna be fun, or not but
[00:04:09] Annie Sargent: We’ll see.
[00:04:10] Elyse Rivin: We’ll see.
[00:04:11] Annie Sargent: And we haven’t said yet, but we’re talking about Saint Denis the Basilica
[00:04:15] Elyse Rivin: And the Abbey.
[00:04:16] Annie Sargent: And the a of Saint just a little bit north of Paris
[00:04:20] Elyse Rivin: It’s actually limit, as they would say, limitrophe with Paris. It’s really on the Northern end. And according to what I was just reading it’s five kilometers, which is really nothing. It’s two miles uh, north of the limit of the city of Paris. So it’s, it’s really a part of Paris almost, except that it has its own separate, mayor, you know, I mean, it’s it’s actually, a, it’s a city.
[00:04:43] Saint Denis Basilica is not in a great neighborhood
[00:04:43] Annie Sargent: So a very quick aside, Saint Denis is the poorest department in France. The Basilica is not in a great neighborhood. If you go, I recommend you either take a taxi or an Uber. Voilà problem solved.
[00:04:57] Elyse Rivin: Problem solved. The thing is the department is, is, uh, saint seine
[00:05:05] Annie Sargent: C’est la Seine saint Denis.
[00:05:06] Elyse Rivin: Right. And this is the town of Saint Denis, which is a very big immigrant population at this point. And unfortunately, compared to what it was for centuries and centuries is now very, very poor. So it, I don’t honestly don’t know if it’s dangerous, but it’s, it’s disorienting to get out in certain parts of it because you don’t know where you are. You, I mean it, it’s very strange
[00:05:31] Annie Sargent: If you’re from New York or a big city like that, you’ll be fine taking the train. But if you’re not, if you’re a small town person, just take a, an Uber or taxi.
[00:05:41] Elyse Rivin: Exactly. And, and it is a fact that, uh, there are, I don’t know, if we could say millions, but certainly hundreds of thousands of people who are interested in the history of France do go to visit the Abbey and the and the Basilica.
[00:05:54] Annie Sargent: Because it is extraordinary.
[00:05:55] Saint Denis Basilica or Cathedral?
[00:05:55] Elyse Rivin: It is extraordinary. Yeah. And maybe just to explain, because I even went back online to make sure that I knew what the difference was, what is a Basilica as compared to a cathedral?
[00:06:06] Elyse Rivin: Well, it, uh, because we have a Basilica here in in Toulouse, which is, uh, the beautiful church of Saint Sernin, but we also have a cathedral. And the cathedral in a district is the head church. That’s usually where there’s a Bishop or an arch Bishop. So it’s in a hierarchy like in, in a corporation, that’s where the top people are.
[00:06:26] Elyse Rivin: But a Basilica is a church that is an honored church because it’s usually devoted to some Saint, uh, that makes it a very important church in the history of the religion. And so, uh, that is why certain churches are called basilicas. It’s actually an honorary title. It’s not a parish church, it’s not a cathedral. In some cases it’s actually more important than the cathedral. And, uh, the thing about Saint Denis is that it’s not only a Basilica, which is a title it’s had for a long time, but it is genuinely one of the oldest churches ever established in France.
[00:07:07] Annie Sargent: Mm-hmm
[00:07:08] Elyse Rivin: It goes really, really, really far back.
[00:07:11] Saint Denis Basilica, a church with ancient origins
[00:07:11] Annie Sargent: Right. I think maybe it’s got started um, at the same time as Notre Dame or
[00:07:17] Elyse Rivin: Oh, no much earlier, much earlier, much earlier, the actual building that we see now has had so many reincarnations And I’ll talk a little bit later about the last one, which came actually in the 19th century. but, uh, no, when when I say this is the oldest church, let let’s start at the beginning.
[00:07:35] Elyse Rivin: You were going to. Did Say that thing you were going to say?
[00:07:39] Les Visiteurs: Montjoire Saint Denis !
[00:07:39] Annie Sargent: Yeah, it’s funny because when you say Saint Denis, the thing that pops in my head immediately is this funny bit in the movie Les Visiteurs where they just yell
[00:07:51] Annie Sargent: Montjoinre Saint Denis que trépasse si je faiblis and then they start hitting each other with their swords, and I don’t know what it means, but it’s funny, you know?
[00:08:01] Elyse Rivin: Well, that’s, what’s so interesting is that, uh, it is funny. And if anybody has. Not seen the visitors. It’s actually very funny. really is Especially the first one.
[00:08:10] A brief history of Saint Denis, the man
[00:08:10] Elyse Rivin: But the history of Saint Denis. St. Dennis st. San, he was, the um, somebody who was alive in the two hundreds in the third century.
[00:08:22] Annie Sargent: Mm-hmm
[00:08:22] Elyse Rivin: When the region that we’re talking about was still part of the Roman empire actually. And he was sent or he went whether he was sent or he went, I don’t know, with two colleagues, to christianize the area. So
[00:08:36] Elyse Rivin: So he came, they think he came from, from Rome, but, who knows actually, but he arrived, in what was then, Roman Paris, which was called Lutèce. And and he obviously, um, annoyed the people who were ruling the city because he was martyred. Right. Um, and this was a, in, in. I mean, I can make jokes about it, but of course, this was not very fine for the people who were martyred, but it was in this time, in the third century and fourth century ad before this world around here got Christianized that, uh, there were times when it was okay to be a Christian at times when it was not. But if you were a proselytizer, it was not necessarily a good thing.
[00:09:19] Annie Sargent: Right.
[00:09:19] The myth of Saint Denis
[00:09:19] Elyse Rivin: Really, you know, and you risked your head and that’s what happened to him. So, number one, the myth of Saint Denis, he was decapitated, which unfortunately was the case of a lot of these early saints at the place where we now have, uh, the church in Montmartre.
[00:09:39] Annie Sargent: Right.
[00:09:40] Elyse Rivin: Which is why it was called the hill of the martyrs at the time.
[00:09:43] Annie Sargent: Right.
[00:09:44] Elyse Rivin: Under the Romans. Now this is a fact more than that. I don’t know as factual information. However, I will tell you what you can read about as a myth. And he wasn’t the only one. But in this moment, this is a particular story of Saint Denis, he he took his head, put it under his arm and walked north.
[00:10:05] Annie Sargent: Of course, as you do,
[00:10:06] Elyse Rivin: As you do. And, within um, two days or maybe three, he wound up, uh, on the other side of what is Montmartre, which is of course the Northern end of Paris anyway.
[00:10:18] Elyse Rivin: And this is where he finally, I guess, just collapsed and was buried.
[00:10:22] Annie Sargent: Okay. Yeah. Mean you can only do so much with your head again,
[00:10:26] Elyse Rivin: under your arm.
[00:10:27] Elyse Rivin: You can only, you can only go so far, right? It is a fact that he is buried In the place where there is now the, uh, church and the a, of Saint Denis and that is how it’s got its name. And he became the first Christian, marty of Paris. And that is why all of this is dedicated to him.
[00:10:47] Elyse Rivin: So in the visitors, when they cry that out, it’s because under the medieval times, and even earlier Charlemagne and all of the, the earliest earliest, earliest of the medieval Kings.
[00:11:00] Elyse Rivin: Saint Denis was one of the, their crying calls when they went into battle.
[00:11:06] Annie Sargent: Oh, I see. I see. Okay.
[00:11:08] Elyse Rivin: Because Saint Denis was destined to protect the Knight and the Kings.
[00:11:13] Annie Sargent: I see. So they, they’re kind of calling on him to protect them or give him strengths or something.
[00:11:20] Elyse Rivin: Yes, exactly. Right. And so that is why they’re not calling on somebody else.
[00:11:25] Annie Sargent: Right.
[00:11:25] Early rulers of France
[00:11:25] Elyse Rivin: It is a fact that there was, uh, there was a settlement there that was actually under the Romans. It was called Catacules. It was extremely important on, uh, there was a road that went up to the Northern parts of Europe. And so it was extremely wealthy under the Romans because it was a trading route right there, basically. And what happened was. That at the end of the third century, when when this, this person, uh, was actually buried there with his two colleagues, with his, accolades, um, there was a small Christian community there.
[00:11:59] Elyse Rivin: And what happened was that within a hundred years, the Roman empire basically had disappeared. And the very first of the Frankish Kings, you know, and I don’t wanna go into too much weird detail, but it’s really important to understand that that’s why France called France. It was these Frankish kings who had taken over this part. There was basically what is Northern France and Belgium and, uh, a little bit further, the Northern Northwestern part of Germany, they were rulers there. They became the rulers and among the first ones was a man named Clovis.
[00:12:28] Annie Sargent: Right.
[00:12:29] Elyse Rivin: Who I think everyone in, in France learns about in, in school anyway. And he converted to Christianity
[00:12:35] Annie Sargent: mm-hmm .
[00:12:36] Elyse Rivin: And so it was that early on, under. Clovis that the first small church was built, which means at the end of the three hundreds.
[00:12:43] Annie Sargent: Yeah. That’s a long time.
[00:12:44] Elyse Rivin: That’s a long time ago. And then what happened was that you get a, his descendants, which includes a fair number of people until we get to a man named Dagobert..
[00:12:55] Elyse Rivin: I don’t know why that name, I, I, every time I wrote it on the. pay it, but I thought I really can’t laugh when I say this name, you it’s dag O bad, but Hey, they had weird names back
[00:13:06] Elyse Rivin: then.
[00:13:06] Elyse Rivin: Do you know the song?
[00:13:07] Elyse Rivin: No.
[00:13:08] Le bon Roi Dagobert a mis sa culotte à l’envers
[00:13:08] Annie Sargent: Le bon roi Dagobert a mis sa culotte à l’envers. Le grand Saint Éloi lui dit Oh mon roi ! Votre Majesté est mal culottée. C’est vrai lui le roi je vais la remettre à l’endroit. .
[00:13:23] Elyse Rivin: Oh, I love it. You’re gonna have to translate it. I’m not gonna take
[00:13:25] Annie Sargent: Well, so, so the good king Dagobert put his pants on backwards. And somebody tells him The grand Saint Éloi. So a Saint tells him that he is not well outfitted and, and the king says, oh, thank you. I will put it back on correctly. Just the silly kid song.
[00:13:51] Elyse Rivin: It it’s very silly. It’s really very, very silly, but there you go.
[00:13:56] Elyse Rivin: Anyway. Um, but Dagobert was, um, someone who was one of the first people to enlarge the very small church that had been there. And he could the very first Abby, which means that he made it into a monastery, right. It was a Benedictine monastery. And he did that so that he could be buried there,
[00:14:18] Annie Sargent: Uhhuh .
[00:14:19] Elyse Rivin: And that was in the middle of the six hundreds.
[00:14:21] Annie Sargent: Okay.
[00:14:22] Dynasties of French Kings
[00:14:22] Elyse Rivin: And this is all the first dynasty. And I’m gonna use the word several times. I’m not even gonna mention the name of the dynasty, but just to understand that that he’s one in the smack dab in the middle of what is one of, of the first important dynasty of Kings that ruled France, which eventually became a much bigger country.
[00:14:39] Elyse Rivin: And so what happened was that they decided that Saint Denis was going to be what they called an ad sanctos. I love this. This is Latin. Okay. Ad sanctos, which meant that the Kings and all of the members of the Royal family would be buried there because it was next to the Saint and the Saint is Saint Denis.
[00:15:04] Elyse Rivin:
[00:15:04] Elyse Rivin: And so this is what doctrine. There’s actually a doctrine that was, uh, in installed by the, I guess the Bishop or whatever, but he made this official, so that from then. on this would be the resting place of the Kings.
[00:15:17] Annie Sargent: Right. Because proximity to a Saint made it more likely that you would be saved in the hereafter. the, The sanctity of the Saint rubbed off on you or something.
[00:15:27] Elyse Rivin: Yes. And I think it’s also, I would guess it was considered to be an honor
[00:15:31] Annie Sargent: Sure.
[00:15:31] Elyse Rivin: If you go to any major cloistered monastery that still exists in France. You very often see the slabs in, in the floor where there have been people that have been buried there. But so this was the idea. So starting in the six hundreds, it became extremely important.
[00:15:47] Elyse Rivin: And therefore the church of Saint Denis was considered to to be very sacred because it had the Kings buried there as well, and their Queens and their, and their ladies. And the Royal sons were educated by the monks, the Ben Benedictine monks in, in this particular monastery. Which of course, when you think about it, even in 1400 years ago, ago, uh, three or four miles is not that far. You know, if, if you’re thinking about if they lived in the Paris in, in, In the city, in the city center, I mean, you didn’t have to go too far to, get there, but they lived there obviously, and this continued.
[00:16:25] The original church of Saint Denis is sacked by the Vikings
[00:16:25] Elyse Rivin: This is the, so it was the five hundreds, the six hundreds, the seven hundreds, the eight hundreds, which, uh, goes through the entire dynasty uh, this particular dynasty you get to the 800 S when the entire church and the monastery, like almost everything else is sacked by the Vikings.
[00:16:45] Elyse Rivin: And the Vikings came through on the Seine River and basically pillaged everywhere. Some of the original church was saved, but not that much of it, but it was after the Vikings finally left for good, why they stopped after a certain point, I have no idea. But they, they reinforced the walls around it and they moved on to the next dynasty, which is the dynasty basically of Charlemagne and his children.
[00:17:12] Annie Sargent: Okay.
[00:17:12] Elyse Rivin: And they reinforced everything and it was still very, very prestigious. And we still have all the Kings and the Queens pretty much being buried there.
[00:17:21] Annie Sargent: Mm-hmm
[00:17:23] Elyse Rivin: And this takes us into the heart of the middle ages.
[00:17:27] Year 1000, between Romanesque and Gothic styles
[00:17:27] Elyse Rivin: When you get to the year, 1000, it’s another world all together and there’s a lot more prosperity and France is not totally unified, but a good chunk of it has now been unified and there’s the feudal system in place.
[00:17:41] Elyse Rivin: And, uh, you have. Many many, many monasteries and many churches everywhere. Mm-hmm and you have the beginning of churches that are no longer just these, you know, squat things that we now call the old Romanesque style, which is the rounded arches and kind of squatish looking buildings. And various places in the north, particularly in Ile de France and the region around Paris where they’re experimenting and trying to make things a little bit lighter and a little bit higher.
[00:18:13] Abbé Suger
[00:18:13] Elyse Rivin: There was this Abbott, uh, his name was Abbé Suger. It’s written like sugar. S U G E R, but it in fact is pronounced Suge, and.
[00:18:27] Annie Sargent: Some people say sugeR
[00:18:28] Elyse Rivin: I know I just had this conversation with my husband, but my, my professor at the university said Suge, so I’ll go with him. It doesn’t matter. His name was Suger.
[00:18:39] Elyse Rivin: He wrote, he apparently was criticized by many of the other theologians and, and, uh, some of the bishops because he had what would be considered to be a rather idea of what should be done with the church, but he was a very brilliant, very well educated man. And he obviously had some notions also of construction because what happened was he looked around at some of the churches that were being built in Normandy of all places, where pretty much his ideas began by traveling to some of the churches in the monasteries of Normandy.
[00:19:11] Abbé Suger and gothic architeture: more glass
[00:19:11] Elyse Rivin: And he went back to Saint Denis he said, it’s now time to get rid of this church, that dates from the 600, 700 S whatever renovation time, let’s start all over again. We’re going to make a new church.
[00:19:23] Elyse Rivin: And this time we’re going to make a church that has a new concept. And the concept had to do with what has come to be known as Gothic architecture.
[00:19:32] Annie Sargent: Right.
[00:19:34] Elyse Rivin: Because what he did was, and the reason he did it is why I find it so fascinating. He said, I want builders to be able to make taller walls so that they can put in more and more and more window. That is more and more glass because I want to have tall stained glass, which was something extraordinarily expensive. Having colored glass was something that was like gold.
[00:20:00] A sense of eternity and of the Spirit of God
[00:20:00] Elyse Rivin: It was that difficult to make, and it was extremely expensive to make because he wrote a thesis where he talked about how light and color brings you to a sense of eternity and to heaven and that for people to go into a church, he wanted them to be literally in a sense, blown away by how beautiful it was by the color and by the light coming through the color. And that, that would give them an idea of what heaven was like if they were a good Christian.
[00:20:31] Annie Sargent: Right. The reflection of the light against the walls. And it is true that at Saint Denis you see some beautiful colors.
[00:20:38] Elyse Rivin: You see some beautiful colors. So it took a long time, it it took about 35 years. He actually lived a fairly long time himself. He had the money, he had the means to do it. They basically rebuilt and enlarged the church and they added what we now call, a, a de ambulatory. Which means when you go to a big, big church and most people who’ve visited church in France. And I would guess even a in England and perhaps in Germany, You know that there’s a part where you have chapels behind the altar and you can go from one to the other. And it kind of circles around in a U shape.
[00:21:13] Elyse Rivin: That’s called the deambulatory. That’s where these chapels all are. And he had the builders make the walls as high as they could. It’s not the highest of course, you know, there were other churches and cathedrals, including Notre Dame that came afterwards that were inspired by this. But what he did was he made the very first full Gothic church with Gothic windows.
[00:21:37] Elyse Rivin: And there is one window that actually shows him kneeling down because in those days, that’s what they did. They would show the donator or the inspiration for a particular window at the very bottom of the windows.
[00:21:49] Elyse Rivin: And so by the end of the 11 hundreds, the new Saint Denis existed. And it was the very first full Gothic church with beautiful tall stain glass windows that were in all of these chapels. There were total. at the Time of 14 double windows all the way around.
[00:22:08] The construction of Notre Dame began right after Saint Denis was finished
[00:22:08] Annie Sargent: Right. So it’s about the same time as Notre Dame, because Notre Dame was 1182.
[00:22:14] Elyse Rivin: Exactly. At Notre Dame was started at the moment when this was finished.
[00:22:19] Annie Sargent: Okay. Okay.
[00:22:20] Elyse Rivin: Literally they, they took the ideas and, and, uh, it, they. Simply went a couple of miles further. And it was also obviously the same time when they started a bunch of the other places too. There was Laon. and then there’s, um, uh, I’m not sure if Reims was a little bit later, but there were two of the, or three of the other places that they started just about at the same time. but it’s considered that Saint Denis is the very, very first.
[00:22:47] Making room for more Kings and Queens
[00:22:47] Elyse Rivin: So here we now have the, basilica and the monastery, which has been enlarged enormously, partly because of this Abbott who wants to make this gorgeous Gothic church. And also it was enlarged to make more room to bury more of the Kings and Queens. And they had to have more floor space, to put all of these, uh, stone sculptures in because what you have there of course is what are called gisants.
[00:23:17] Elyse Rivin: Les gisants is basically, uh, um, a flat it’s a, it’s a relief sculpture above ground tomb, which usually, you know, you’ve seen them sometimes it’s nights with their arms crossed, you know, and with their armor. They’re usually very beautifully carved and everything, but that each one, for a specific king or queen and sometimes princess and people like that.
[00:23:39] Annie Sargent: Yeah. They have a whole bunch of them.
[00:23:40] Elyse Rivin: They have a whole bunch of them, so they had to in include much more floor space in order to have room for them because they were running out.
[00:23:48] Annie Sargent: Right. And they also have these kind of mini chapels inside of the church with, uh, famous people buried inside as well as a crypt down below.
[00:24:00] Elyse Rivin: Yes. And the the crypt down below has the relics of Saint Denis.
[00:24:05] Annie Sargent: Okay.
[00:24:06] Elyse Rivin: That’s I mean, to, to whatever extent you can carbonate and at least know that it’s a certain time period that is considered to be actually the relics of Saint Denis. But one of the reasons why it stayed such a holy place is because the relics of Saint Denis have been there ever since the 200 S basically. If assuming if you can say that the body is really from the two hundreds probably is him.
[00:24:33] The glorious days of Saint Denis
[00:24:33] Elyse Rivin: Who knows? You know, So this is the beginning of the glorious glorious times for Saint Denis, it becomes famous for the beauty of the church. And it becomes famous for being the holy site of the funeral site, basically of all the Kings of France. What happened strangely enough is that the century afterwards, which I hadn’t known was that they decide to redo it after all the work that he did so that in the late 12 hundreds, they enlarged it again.
[00:25:07] Elyse Rivin: They added more windows, more of these gorgeous stain glass windows. They added more space for the burial of the Kings. And that church is basically the church that existed up to the time of the French revolution. And it of course became the King’s church. Right? I mean, this is, you know, so, we’ve talked about it.
[00:25:29] Elyse Rivin: I know you’ve had even other people come on and talk in length about the, you know, the, the French revolution and, and how it was such an incredibly important and, um, up. Up heaving kind of event in France. Well, I was doing a lot of reading about this, partly because I am very interested in the history of stain glass windows.
[00:25:49] Louis XIV removes some funding from Saint Denis
[00:25:49] Elyse Rivin: And partly because when you start reading, you just keep on reading and so on and so on, right. You get to Louis the 14th and Louis the 14th, now this is right before this is of course, a hundred years before the revolution. He decides that the, uh, monastery of Saint Denis is a bit too rich. They, this was something that happened in many of the Benedictine monasteries all over France. They were basically having a rich life that was not very monastic. And so he downgraded them a little bit
[00:26:20] Annie Sargent: mm.
[00:26:22] Elyse Rivin: That was his way of punishing them. And he said that a lot of the revenue that was going to them was going to be given somewhere to another Abby, to another monastery because. I mean, I’m using my own words, but it was like, you can’t do this anymore. You know, Uh, this is like fiscal evasion, you know? Nevermind.
[00:26:40] Annie Sargent: Okay. Um,
[00:26:41] Elyse Rivin: So basically by the time I get to the French revolution, even though all the kings, including Louis the 14th are buried there, it is not as important in the minds of people as it had been for all these centuries and centuries and centuries.
[00:26:56] Elyse Rivin: But it is forever and ever associated with the dynasties that have ruled France. So you have four major dynasties and the last one is the dynasty of the Bourbons And those are the Louis Louis and Louis, you know,
[00:27:10] Annie Sargent: know, mm-hmm,
[00:27:10] Elyse Rivin: The last dynasty before we get to the French revolution. And this is what happens now
[00:27:17] The quasi destruction of Saint Denis at the French Revolution
[00:27:17] Elyse Rivin: I’m going to take another, piece of paper because I wrote this down with red because it so impressed me that I thought I have to. Give you this information the French revolution was very anti ecclesiastic and it was very anti monarchy.
[00:27:33] Annie Sargent: Right.
[00:27:34] Elyse Rivin: And they decided they, there were people who really ran the revolution specifically when it got to be the part that was very violent. So we are in the year, 1792, they decided that the one church and the one monastery that represented everything that was bad in the history of France in relation to the monarchy was Saint Denis which had been known and visited by millions of people over the hundreds of years that it existed because of all of these tombs, these sculptures and the gorgeous stain glass, windows.
[00:28:14] Elyse Rivin: And so the revolution went to Saint Denis and they basically destroyed it. And this is what they did. They didn’t simply tear down the monastic buildings, which is what they did in many, many parts of France. Really? Usually they left the churches, but they destroyed the monastic buildings at Saint Denis they tore down most of the monastic buildings.
[00:28:41] Grave dessecration
[00:28:41] Elyse Rivin: They took the roof off of the Basilica. They destroyed most of the stained glass windows. Why? To take the lead that was used to hold the small pieces of gorgeous colored glass together to melt down, to make bullets. They took the tombs of the Kings going as far back as Clovis and they destroyed the tombs and they took the bodies out.
[00:29:16] Elyse Rivin: And they took the bodies of all of these Kings and Queens. This is how many they took. They destroyed the tombs of 42 Kings 32 Queens, 63, princes 30 Abbots, the heads of the monastery and various other royal people who were also buried there.
[00:29:38] Elyse Rivin: They took all of the bodies. They put them into an enormous.
[00:29:44] Elyse Rivin: What is called in France a fosse commune an enormous open trench. They covered it with live lime to disintegrate the bodies, covered it up and basically left Saint Denis in total ruin.
[00:30:04] Annie Sargent: Wow.
[00:30:05] Elyse Rivin: Total ruin. I made a list. I color coded it to show which of the Kings that we think about, you know, that we know when we talk about France a lot were destroyed and it’s most of the ones that we talk about. And when we talking about things, I mean, it, it’s absolutely amazing.
[00:30:23] Elyse Rivin: They took out Clovis, who was one, of of course, the first, uh, the founder of the first dynasty, but they took out all of the Louis. They took out Henri the fourth. Uh, they took out François the first. They took out a whole bunch of these Kings and the Queens, and they destroyed their bodies.
[00:30:40] Elyse Rivin: In Napoleon. Was basically he had basically gone from being a revolutionary to taking over everything.
[00:30:51] Annie Sargent: Yeah. Yeah. I guess you can put it that way.
[00:30:53] Napoleon Bonaparte rebuilds Saint Denis
[00:30:53] Elyse Rivin: Yeah. I mean, basically, you know, it was like, he decided he knew best and he was going to start running things. And he decided that he was going to reinstate the glory of Saint Denis, but first of all, it had to be rebuilt, which took an enormous amount of money and an enormous amount of time. But what he did do after the fighting actually stopped. And when he finally really took power, he decided to re consecrate the, the the building itself. He set up a huge amount of money to start rebuilding a good part of it. But he also decided. Because he was Napoleon that not only was he going to reinstate something in honor of the four dynasties of Kings that had ruled France, but he was going to make a fifth section for the emperors that were going to come after him.
[00:31:46] Annie Sargent: Oh
[00:31:47] Elyse Rivin: Yes. So that there was not just the four dynasties there were the four dynasties. And then there was the dynasty of the emperors
[00:31:53] Annie Sargent: Plus the emperors.
[00:31:54] Elyse Rivin: Plus the emperors. Right. Unfortunately for him, it didn’t work out quite that way. But it is a fact that they started to rebuild so that the last king to be buried, there was actually Charles the 18th in 1824 after the revolution after Napoleon and in the midst of the renovation.
[00:32:15] Only five of the windows are original
[00:32:15] Elyse Rivin: Now, the renovation the rebuilding of Saint Denis took all of the 19th century and sadly even though most people would not know it. Um, most of the windows, except for five are not the original windows.
[00:32:32] Annie Sargent: They don’t, they don’t look old enough to me. You know, they, I mean, I didn’t know this, but they, they do look like they’re more modern than
[00:32:43] Elyse Rivin: Well what apparently.
[00:32:44] Elyse Rivin: Uh, and I was there once, but I was really. I was there with, with my husband and my, my deceased Mo mother-in-law and she was really, um, very, very interested as a, as a French woman who was a historian in the dynasties of France. And so to be honest, even though I love stain glass windows, I didn’t really. Pay much attention to them.
[00:33:08] Recovering the bones and putting them back into Saint Denis
[00:33:08] Elyse Rivin: We were looking at all these tombs of all these people who I didn’t know anything about, you know, basically, you know, I was like, you know, walking around, because what they did was in starting at the beginning of the 19th century. And it’s very macabre to me, but but whatever. Um, they went to this enormous pit where all of these bones were and they dug out a bunch of them.
[00:33:29] Elyse Rivin: Now, Of course it would be different. This is 200 years later. They could actually do DNA testing now and discover probably some of the, you know, who was, who, but what they did was they took a bunch of them out. I guess they figured they were all Royals anyway, one way or the other. Yeah.
[00:33:44] Elyse Rivin: And they made, uh, a space for them back inside the, church that is where they put the bones back in.
[00:33:52] Annie Sargent: Okay. So they retrieved some
[00:33:53] Elyse Rivin: So they retrieved some of them and by by retrieving them, what they did was they made a list. Not of the bones because they don’t really know whose bones they have, but of all of the Kings and Queens who would’ve been in their tombs, but who had been taken out during the French revolution.
[00:34:13] Elyse Rivin: So they, they recognize the fact that this had happened, you know, and they bring them back in and now there’s a kind of a commemorative, uh, thing for them. But what was fascinating to read about was that there are five windows that are still, the originals, Which is really more from somewhere between the 11 hundreds and 12 hundreds, uh, most of the other windows.
[00:34:36] Elyse Rivin: And they say very clearly the windows that are the darkest are obviously the oldest, you know, uh, but they’re in very bad shape. And one of the things I thought was very interesting to read about was that the, the people who are interested in preserving Saint Denis and in giving it back it’s allure, because it’s certainly important in the history of France.
[00:34:58] Elyse Rivin: They are up against a certain amount of resistance. It was nominated to be a, a world UNESCO heritage building just the way Saint Sernin is here.
[00:35:08] Annie Sargent: Mm-hmm ,
[00:35:08] Lack of funds at Saint Denis today
[00:35:08] Elyse Rivin: But it was refused because of the state it’s in, even now. And apparently the federal government and the culture, the the ministry of culture the. is not giving it a lot of money to keep up the building and to go back. They rebuilt the roof. They, they rebuilt most of the walls. Almost in identical, you know, identical fashion, but they haven’t been able to give it the, the luster, I guess, that it had uh, before this time. So when you go again, what you see are reproductions that were, they say it’s interesting because 19th century stain glass windows, usually you can see that they are indeed 19th century windows, even when they’re very, very well done.
[00:35:54] Scattered stained glass windows
[00:35:54] Elyse Rivin: They said that they found the best glass makers, they could find in the beginning of the 18 hundreds. But of course it does not reproduce exactly what was made before. The thing is, is that when the pieces were, when the windows were destroyed, a lot of the pieces were recuperated by museums and people who came and took them. So believe it or not, there are pieces of the glass from Saint Denis, in churches, in England. There are pieces in churches in the United States. There are pieces in, uh, the metropolitan museum in New York city, which has a huge medieval, uh, collection, uh, of art and, and armor and things like that. And so they can’t even bring it all back together.
[00:36:37] Elyse Rivin: There are a couple in the Cluny that we’ve seen together, you know, that are, that are actually from there. The, there are some in the museum of archeology that is in Saint Germain en Laye, but they’ve scattered so much. That there’s not enough for them to actually bring together and make a genuine window. That’s that’s really fully from, from the 11th hundreds, which is a shame. Which is really a shame. So the glory of this place, which was the very first magnificent Gothic church with these gorgeous windows and which really represented the four major dynasties of, of rulers in France, was crumbled, you know, basically by the French revolution and the work, it took in the entire 19th century and a lot of work by Violet le Duc to try and bring it back to something that resembled what it was before.
[00:37:28] Violet le Duc renovation
[00:37:28] Elyse Rivin: And the one place, uh, that is really like it was before is the Western portals with the three doors because they had enough drawings and information that they could redo it. So that it was exactly the way it had been before. Very much like they did some of the work on Notre Dame. But some of the other pieces are a little bit different from what they were before.
[00:37:52] Elyse Rivin: Yeah. But it’s really a fascinating place to go. If you want to get an idea of important these dynasties and how important the Kings and Queens of France actually were. And one last bit. Because I, this all made me so happy and excited to read about.
[00:38:10] Discovering new graves from the 500s under Saint Denis
[00:38:10] Elyse Rivin: I can’t tell you why it’s really in the 1960s, you know, they’ve been doing a lot of archeological digging and now we have lasers. I don’t know if they had them in the sixties, whatever, but one, some archeologist was working in a piece of Saint Denis where they discovered that underground, that there was actually a corridor that led to the oldest part from the five hundreds.
[00:38:34] Annie Sargent: Mm.
[00:38:35] Queen Arégonde wife of Clotaire
[00:38:35] Elyse Rivin: Which apparently was really buried so far down that they didn’t even know it existed. So they were doing this digging. And what happened was they came upon a tomb and they opened it up. And inside this tomb, they discovered a full skeleton of a woman preserved well enough that they knew immediately that it was a woman. She had long blonde hair. She was clothed. The clothing had actually not completely disintegrated.
[00:39:02] Elyse Rivin: And she had all of her jewelry, which was given, I guess she was, you know, buried with her jewelry and in. included rings and a thing that had her name on it. And it turns out that she was, her name was Arégonde and she, was the third wife of Clotaire the First, who was one of the earliest Frankish Kings under the Mérovingiens. She lived from 516 to 575. This is documented.
[00:39:35] Elyse Rivin: And they were able to do all kinds of testing on her to find out how old she was when she died, what diseases she had and everything was completely preserved inside the tomb so that she is considered to be the oldest, fully equipped Tomb from the earliest part of the middle ages found in Western Europe.
[00:39:58] Annie Sargent: Wow.
[00:39:59] Elyse Rivin: And her remains, uh, are in some, some vault in the archeology museum. And her jewelry is on display in the archeology museum, in Saint Germain en Laye and I went online to look at it cuz it’s absolutely gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous. And, uh, what I didn’t know was that in this earliest dynasty, the Mérovingiens, which lasted 300 years, actually from the beginning of the 500 S to the end of the very end of the 700 S the Kings were allowed to have as many wives as they wanted.
[00:40:30] Annie Sargent: Oh, I see.
[00:40:31] Elyse Rivin: So she was wife number three, but she was lucky because it was her son that became king. Ah, yeah. you know, I mean, there’s probably some nice in fighting between the
[00:40:41] Annie Sargent: right. Yeah. I can’t imagine.
[00:40:43] Elyse Rivin: And it’s interesting too, because it said that according to the church, of course, there was no such thing as polygamy, but the Kings. who were from basically Germanic ancestry, decided that that did not apply to them.
[00:40:57] Annie Sargent: Sure..
[00:40:58] Elyse Rivin: So Madam Arégonde or Queen Arégonde is the oldest known queen to have been buried in Saint Denis..
[00:41:08] Annie Sargent: Very nice. Well, you know, I thought the church looked good. Like it looked a bit. Cold
[00:41:16] Elyse Rivin: Cold Mm.
[00:41:18] Annie’s impression of Saint Denis
[00:41:18] Annie Sargent: The color of the stone is, um, is a kind of a darkish, well, not dark, but you know, it’s a gray, it’s definitely a gray. And so it, it gives this impression of being severe. It’s not a, it’s not a church when you walk in that you’re like, oh, warm and fuzzy, you know, not a bit. But if it’s sunny outside and you see the sun beams going through the windows and hitting the walls is just gorgeous.
[00:41:47] Annie Sargent: It’s, it’s pretty a beautiful church. And my impression was that there were a lot of people buried there. I’m sure. I heard about the revolution because I took a tour. They offered tours that, uh, and I, I recommend you do that. Like you show up and you look at the ticket office, you have to pay a little bit to go into the crypt, or maybe you, I don’t remember if you have to or not. I paid anyway, to get a get a tour..
[00:42:15] Annie Sargent: Right. Uh, and the tour guide was gonna start half an hour later. So it was perfect for me. And they do tours every day. Pretty much I now with COVID who knows if they’ve resumed the tours or not a lot of places haven’t so we’ll have to see if that that comes back or not.
[00:42:34] Annie Sargent: But I, I thought it was really interesting to take a tour. Because then the, the tour guide could show us things, you know, which obviously I promptly forgot because they tell you so many things,
[00:42:45] Elyse Rivin: It’s hard to remember it all.
[00:42:47] Annie Sargent: Yeah. Uh, the tour guide is like a wealth of information, but it’s good because now if you listen to the podcast, you can, you know, you have Elyse’s recap and will help you, you know, get Right.
[00:42:59] French dynasties at Saint Denis
[00:42:59] Elyse Rivin: And and if I understand, correctly, because I do remember seeing a bunch of the tombs, but the part that they. Spent the most time bringing back to life is the, is the last dynasty, the Bourbons. So it, there is a huge gallery with the tombs that have been basically preserved or redone that are the, the Bourbons. So basically the last full dynasty starting really with Henry the fourth. um,
[00:43:25] Annie Sargent: and,
[00:43:25] Elyse Rivin: and of course the age, the oldest ones are probably the ones that would’ve been the hardest to, to bring back, uh, To to life in the sense that they would’ve had more work to do on them. Um, and I think since most people remember more, you know, things about Louis, the 14th and people like that, you know, it means more to most people visiting than it would be for the ones that were, you know, a thousand years ago And, and and like that.
[00:43:51] Annie Sargent: So Louis, the 15th was all so buried there and they also desecrated his grave.
[00:43:55] Elyse Rivin: Yes. In fact, the, of the ones that, uh, from, from that time period, the ones. So they, did, they did away with Clovis, which of course is like saying, Hey, you started this whole thing. We’re gonna get rid of you. You know, that’s they, um, they, they did Hugues Capet who the Beginning of the Capetian. Right then. uh, they did a few of the Valois. and now for most people out there, it wouldn’t make any difference. They don’t have any idea who Really the Valois were. Um, but, but the one of the last ones was of course uh, François the First, interestingly enough, he was, no, I made a mistake when I said he was, um, destroyed there.
[00:44:32] Elyse Rivin: He was not, he was not destroyed and I don’t know why, but they did. They started with Henry the fourth, his two wives, Margaret France, Maria de Medici
[00:44:44] Elyse Rivin: Clap up Louis the 13th, his wife, Ann of Austria, uh, um, Louis, the 14th. His wife Marie Thérèse of Austria Louis the 15th, his wife, who was from Poland. And that was when it stopped.
[00:45:01] Elyse Rivin: They did not do Louis the 16th, strangely enough. Why? I have no idea. Maybe at the time his tune was not there because it is now. And of course they didn’t do the ones that came afterwards because they were brought in after the revolution actually stopped all of that. So they, most most of the Bourbons were destroyed.
[00:45:21] Annie Sargent: Mm wow. Just crazy story. I can’t, we can’t explain why the
[00:45:27] It’s hard to understand why Revolutionaries behaved the way they did
[00:45:27] Annie Sargent: revolutionaries did this. I mean, we know that the church had really pushed the limits, uh, for centuries and people were getting fed up, but why did they have to. Well, first of all, kill the king because of, you know, a constitutional monarchy would’ve done just fine.
[00:45:49] Annie Sargent: The way it is in England. Would’ve been just as good I think. And also, why did they have to do that in Saint Denis? What’s the point of vindictive like that? And maybe it was a form of. Terrorism, like we will scare you into submission, but
[00:46:07] Elyse Rivin: honestly, I don’t know. I mean, mean, uh, um, I was reading it, it got me upset and I said something to my husband and he looked at me as if, to say, why would you care one way or the other? And I thought because you can’t take away history that existed, you know, And so it’s one thing to understand why there was a revolution, why they wanted to change things.
[00:46:34] Elyse Rivin: And it is true that certainly, certainly, uh, the last couple of hundred years, there was an enormous amount of abuse on the part of the monarchy in terms of the wealth that they had, that they accrued and the way people were really dying of starvation and, and they were making wars everywhere. So you can understand that, but why go and. Take out the bones of bodies, you know, and it is very strange to to me.
[00:47:00] Annie Sargent: I would be upset if they did that to the family cemetery in my village. It doesn’t, it’s not because they’re Kings, you just don’t do that.
[00:47:08] Annie Sargent: Well,
[00:47:08] Elyse Rivin: you know, I mean, the it’s a kind of fury that, that that it. it it’s, You know, I’m sure psychologists would have a, a way of describing it, but it doesn’t undo the past. You know? I mean, so it’s like, if it’s one thing to say from now on, this is not what we want anymore. This has got to stop, but it’s, it’s like, it’s like a child having a tantrum only it’s far worse. Cause It’s really, there’s something obscene about it to me. Really. you know, Uh, it, it’s very gruesome. It’s kind of obscene and it’s also totally irrational.
[00:47:42] Elyse Rivin: You know, I mean, on some level, I think it’s totally irrational. So it, it, it doesn’t make a difference. And of course there was a part of the revolutionary committee that did want to save the king and they didn’t like him necessarily, but they didn’t want to kill him. Uh, The regiside was not part of their program, you know?
[00:48:02] Elyse Rivin: And so of course in the end, what happened was they also lost their heads, you know, so um, But then the result of that is that you get Napoleon afterwards who thinks, oh, whoopy, we’re gonna start for the fifth dynasty. You know, here we
[00:48:14] Annie Sargent: go. Yeah.
[00:48:15] Elyse Rivin: And that never happened either.
[00:48:16] Annie Sargent: You know, mm-hmm ,
[00:48:17] Elyse Rivin: uh, I mean, it,
[00:48:18] Annie Sargent: it
[00:48:19] Elyse Rivin: let’s face it, especially if you come from a new country, like the United States or Australia country or Canada, I mean, all of this is fascinating and it’s a history that goes so far back.
[00:48:30] Elyse Rivin: It’s hard to even absorb completely.
[00:48:33] Elyse Rivin: Yeah,
[00:48:33] Elyse Rivin: But I think Sans fascinating.
[00:48:36] We recommend Saint Denis for people who’ve visited Paris several times
[00:48:36] Annie Sargent: It’s a beautiful place. It’s well worth a visit, especially for people who’ve been to Paris several times. I think it’s really a, um, very sobering kind of well, not sobering, but it’s, it’s just a, an interesting place that has quite a bit of beauty to it.
[00:48:53] Elyse Rivin: it
[00:48:54] Annie Sargent: with the caveat that it’s in the middle of a not great neighborhood. Not that it’s necessarily a dangerous neighborhood,
[00:49:00] Elyse Rivin: Oh. But it’s
[00:49:01] Annie Sargent: funky,
[00:49:02] Annie Sargent: but, but are you gonna see things that, uh, you know, you’re not used to, so
[00:49:07] Elyse Rivin: it’s the poor part of life and it’s not what touristy usually.
[00:49:11] Elyse Rivin: you know, that’s basically, it Just just a, you know, talking about the, the stained glass and how beautiful it is, uh, Louis IX, Saint Louis. Who of course is the one who created the sound chapel. Yeah. He, of course is buried there as well. You know?
[00:49:26] Annie Sargent: So
[00:49:26] Annie Sargent: was he also pulled out and
[00:49:28] Elyse Rivin: all that?
[00:49:28] Elyse Rivin: No, apparently not. okay. I figure why maybe, maybe there was something they could easy access to, you
[00:49:33] Elyse Rivin: know
[00:49:34] Elyse Rivin: yeah. Who knows,
[00:49:34] Elyse Rivin: who knows, but anyway, um, it’s beautiful. And just think if you go there, it’s the very first, you have, It’s this Abbott who decided that colored glass was going to inspire people. And thank goodness for that. We have all these absolutely gorgeous stained glass windows and Gothic churches.
[00:49:52] Annie Sargent: Thank you so much, Elise. That was very, very interesting. Merci beaucoup !
[00:49:57] Elyse Rivin: You’re welcome.
[00:49:59] Elyse Rivin: Au revoir
[00:50:01] Annie Sargent:
[00:50:01] Thank you Patrons and Donors!
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[00:51:10] Annie’s Itinerary Planning Service
[00:51:10] Annie Sargent: Another way to support this podcast is to hire me to be your itinerary consultant. Here’s how it works. You purchase the service on, https://joinusinfrance.com/boutique. Then you tell me what you have in mind. I do my research. I write up what I think is best for you. And then, and I think that’s the part people enjoy the most. I talk about it with you on the phone for a whole hour, if you need it. And you get to ask me all your questions and really once you’ve done that you are ready for the best time in France.
[00:51:42] This week in French news
[00:51:42] Annie Sargent: This in French news, French people are continuing to do whatever they can to help the people of Ukraine.
[00:51:49] Annie Sargent: This week. I heard a very touching interview with a young man from Bordeaux who just felt like there must be so many women and children escaping this war that, uh, there was a need for baby products.
[00:52:02] Annie Sargent: So he loaded up his beat beatup car. He said he too has a ghetto car with all the baby products that he could find both purchased and donated. And he drove them to the Ukrainian border. He thought he’d just unload and head home, but he’s been there for a couple of weeks now organizing more baby product deliveries and he says the need is great. And that there are no major NGOs, uh, in the area where he is. So it is definitely helping lots of people.
[00:52:36] Annie Sargent: A woman who normally runs a Gîte near Marseille was interviewed . She is now hosting a couple of Ukrainian retirees who arrived to Marseille with their four grandchildren, the parents stayed behind in Ukraine to fight.
[00:52:52] Annie Sargent: She prepared her Gîte, filled up the fridge with food and tried to communicate with them. But, uh, it didn’t go so easily because they don’t have any language in common, but she said, they seem really happy to have a safe place to stay with the kids and that they have been sleeping a lot.
[00:53:11] Annie Sargent: 20,000 Ukrainian refugees have arrived in France already with the goal of taking in. At least a hundred thousand as soon as possible, they are mostly families with children. I heard one elementary school teacher saying that the little Ukrainian boy in her class is doing really well. He didn’t understand any French at all when he first arrived, but these are kids who already know you can Ukrainian and Russian.
[00:53:39] Annie Sargent: Many of them also know some English they. They will be conversational in French within three months and totally fluent within six months. Now, if we could just keep their parents safe and make it possible for them to go home, I think that’s what most of them want to do. And I understand that.
[00:53:58] Annie Sargent: A handful of people have asked me if situation makes it more dangerous to visit France. And it. It doesn’t um, Ukraine is far from France, physically, even if we are very close to them in spirit.
[00:54:14] Archeological find under Notre Dame
[00:54:14] Annie Sargent: There’s been an archeological find underneath Notre Dame we’re back to the crypt. Institut National de Recherche d’Archéologie Préventive That’s Inrap. . Yes. It’s a thing. We have emergency archeologists in France.
[00:54:33] Annie Sargent: They’ve been working inside of Notre Dame since early February, because they had a sneaking suspicion. There might be some interesting stuff under the cathedral floor, they were right. Uh, they found a sarcophagus that nobody was expecting to find, they already know it’s from the 13 hundreds, which means not long after the cathedral was built.
[00:54:59] The remains of the Jubé at Notre Dame
[00:54:59] Annie Sargent: They snuck an endoscopy camera inside and they can see cloth and hair. The remains seem very well preserved. So who knows who’s under there can’t wait to find out.
[00:55:13] Annie Sargent: They also found the remains of the Jubé. Uh, Jubé is a rood screen. It’s, uh, something that used to be common in cathedrals, but they were taken down. Uh, most of them, uh, with, uh, changes in the liturgy. Uh, one spectacular that’s left in Paris is the one at Saint Etienne du Mont and. So back to the archeologists, the Inrap team has until March 25th to complete their work.
[00:55:42] Annie Sargent: Those who watch too many movies are going to say, oh no, they’re going to open an old sarcophagus buried underneath a cathedral since the 13 hundreds, what could possibly go wrong? But I say for the Inrap they are ready for any curses the dead might throw at them for disrupting their peace
[00:56:08] How French elections work in a nutshell
[00:56:08] Annie Sargent: The French election is coming up and I want to explain how it works here, briefly. In France, we vote for one thing at a time. So the only decision we’ll have to make this time is going to be about the president. We’ll go back when it’s time to vote for mayor and back again, when it’s time to vote for representatives, this is good because it keeps things simple, but it also means that we have go back to the polls more often. Despite that France usually gets pretty good turnouts. Although it’s been eroding the last couple of elections, so let’s hope people turn out and vote.
[00:56:44] Annie Sargent: We vote in two rounds unless one of the candidates gets more than 50% of the votes in the first round. That’s never happened under the current constitution, which is the fifth constitution. Whenever we make a change to the constitution, we have to start over again with a new one. So we’ve amended our constitution five times, which is why we are on the fifth constitution.
[00:57:08] Annie Sargent: But because we have 12 candidates who are running, it’s extremely unlikely that anyone would win, uh, in just first round. It’s not gonna happen.
[00:57:19] Annie Sargent: The French voting system could not be simpler. You register in the place you live and you don’t have to do that until you move. Which for most French people is not very often.
[00:57:31] Annie Sargent: So you go to the poll, uh, in your area with your ID. Uh, when you enter, you pick up an envelope and a piece of paper with the name of each candidate, or at least you pick up a few of them. So it’s not obvious who you’re gonna vote for, and you go behind a privacy curtain, you put the name of the person you want in the envelope.
[00:57:52] Annie Sargent: You go to the table where the officials are sitting, you show your ID, they find your name in the big. Book and they get you to sign the register indicating that you voted and then they invite you to put your envelope in a big plexiglass box that invite, you know, everybody can see that you’re just putting one in there and then you shake the mayor’s hand or give him a fist bump these days.
[00:58:15] Annie Sargent: And off you go, that’s it. In my village, it takes two minutes. It’s literally, it’s a two minutes affair. But even when I voted in downtown Toulouse, which was a lot more crowded than my village, it never took more than five minutes. Then later in the day, volunteers show up to count the votes by hand, they make stacks of the different names of paper that people, uh, Chose and by 8:00 PM, the percentages are announced officially on TV.
[00:58:45] Annie Sargent: There are no voting machines. Uh, requests for recounts are possible, but they don’t happen that all often. The results are known on the day you vote. It’s very straightforward. Political parties are not involved in the voting per se in France, which is the way it should be, in my opinion. It’s city staff and volunteers who do it. Of course, some of these people have opinion, you know, about politics, but it’s not like the political party sends. Here’s my guy, I’m sending you my guy and he’s gonna fight for the right of my candidate to win. No, we don’t do that. Okay. French people normally like to complicate everything, but when it comes to elections, we’ve kept it simple. And I think that’s a very good thing.
[00:59:33] Annie Sargent: Show notes for this episode are on. Join Us in France dot com slash 381, the numeral. And that’s also where you’ll see Elyse’s notes about our conversation today. Sometimes she gets to talk about all the things she had written down. Sometimes she doesn’t. So it’s good to have her notes and also a full transcript of the conversation.
[00:59:56] Annie Sargent: I would really appreciate if you enjoy the show that you tell someone about it, uh, share it on social media. If you know somebody who’s going to France, remember you can tag them. Go to the, Join Us in France page, share the post and tag them in it so that they will see it. And I bet they will be very greatful because people want to have better information about their next trip to France.
[01:00:23] Annie Sargent: Next week on the podcast, an episode with, Brian Gamutz where we talk about whether to go or not to go, how do you make that decision? When are you ready to travel again? Uh, so that’ll be next week on the podcast.
[01:00:40] Annie Sargent: Send questions or feedback to Annie@JoinUsinFrance.Com. Thank you so much for listening and I hope you join me next time. So we can look around France together. Au revoir !.
[01:01:00] Annie Sargent: The Join Us in France travel podcast is written, hosted, and produced by Annie Sargent and copyright 2022. By addicted to France. It is released under a creative comments, attribution non-commercial. No derivatives license.