tour saint jacques.

The thing about Paris is that if you just look down a street, you're bound to see something impressive. If you're like me, you want to feel smart, so you take a guess at what it might be. If you continue to be like me, you don't actually know that much, and so you end up guessing one of a handful of things that you know are in Paris. So if it's a church, you guess Notre Dame, and if it's a huge old building, you guess the Louvre. If it's a ginormous metal tower, you guess the Eiffel Tower, and you are probably right about that one.

We planned things as we went in Paris, and that meant a lot of random meandering. You see a cool thing down the street, you go look at it, lather rinse repeat, until you've walked all day long. Luckily, there are cafes all along the way, and it is perfectly acceptable in Paris to be drinking either coffee or alcohol at all times of day. Once we saw a man having a glass of wine and a cup of espresso at nine o'clock in the morning.

One of the cool things we saw down the street was the Saint Jacques Tower. Built in the early 16th century, there used to be a church attached. However, the church was demolished for its building materials after the revolution. It was built to honor St James the Great, better known as James, son of Zebedee. You know, one of those guys that hung out with Jesus. Turns out, he is the patron saint of Spain, because he made it all the way to Iberia, preaching the good news.* There are pilgrimage routes from all over Europe leading to the place where his remains are contained in Santiago de Compostela. The tower in Paris is the starting points of one of these routes. Supposedly, there is a relic, a piece of St James' body, inside the tower. We were not able to find out what it was, but we did make jokes about a finger bone. St James had a sense of humor, right?

The tower itself is really beautiful. Paris is lousy with huge old buildings, but this particular one is in what is known as the flamboyant gothic style. I admired the gargoyles in particular. If I ever get my own flamboyant gothic tower, I want gargoyles like that. At the base of the tower is a statue of...Blaise Pascal (there is a statue of St James on top of the tower). Pascal did some important experiments in atmospheric pressure there (maybe, it might have been at another church instead, because history is confusing).

Entrance to the tower was barred by an iron gate, with a sign that said tours would happen every hour on the hour. They let seventeen people in at a time. I was not particularly interested in waiting in line or climbing three hundred stairs. However, Josh, who had never heard of Saint Jacques Tower half an hour previously, suddenly had his heart set on seeing the finger bone of an apostle. In fact, this was the last day of the season that the tower would be open to visitors, and since it was sort of fragile, there was talk of closing it down to the public for good. We waited outside the fence with a small crowd. A couple of times, a soft-spoken man came out and said something in French which would cause most everyone else to disperse. Only until we were standing next to someone bilingual did we find out that we needed tickets to get in, and all this standing around looking hopeful wasn't going to do any good.

So we walked around the tower and took some pictures. Then we saw something cool down the street and walked that-a-way.

*Supposedly, he later appeared to fight with the Christian army against the Muslims, where he picked up the nickname "Moor-slayer," which doesn't seem like the kind of thing that Jesus would be about. However, if you look up this battle, the first thing you'll read is that it never happened. Religion is confusing.

No comments: