Different cities absolutely have different personalities, and we absolutely have different ways of feeling about them. Paris? Thrilling. It is so beautiful, with the Seine running through it and many tree-lined, leafy streets, all punctuated by gorgeous gardens, buildings, and sculptures. Sometime the shops and their decorations are also fun and interesting. But you cannot visit here without thinking that you are somewhere very special.
Last summer, we were here for about a month. Oddly, we didn’t go to the Eiffel Tower (often considered to be an internationally-recognized symbol of France), as we had visited it many years ago and just remembered the tons of people there. So we took some photos of it from a distance and were satisfied. But we wanted to take a long walk one day, and the Eiffel Tower seemed a worthy destination. We were stopping and looking at other sites along the way and spotted something we hadn’t seen on previous trips, the Holy Trinity Cathedral of the Russian Orthodox Church, which is within sight of, and a very short walk from, the Eiffel Tower.
The cathedral’s construction was agreed to by French President Nicholas Sarkozy in 2007, who at the time was hoping Russia would buy French Mistral warships. The project was directly financed and controlled by the Russian state, and from the beginning of the project, many were worried that the site would be used to further Vladimir Putin’s global ambitions. Some countries with embassies in that area were worried that it would be used to monitor their communications. Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow presided at the Cathedral’s inauguration. The patriarch recently blessed the invasion of Ukraine, declaring that the sacrifices of Russian soldiers on the battlefield will wash away their sins.
After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, many thought the the site would be razed. President Emmanuel Macron has stated that Russia shouldn’t be “humiliated.” Although we don’t like to criticize our gracious hosts, we would like to point out that many of the targets of the Russians have been Ukrainian cultural and religious sites, and the Russian leadership does not seem to be overly concerned with sparing the Ukrainians humiliation – though one could say that much humiliation has gone in the other direction.
A poster in the school area announced registration for Sunday School classes for the 2023-2024 academic year. One of the services provided is conversations with an Orthodox psychologist regarding the moral and spiritual education of children. Insert your own dark humor here. We are somewhat passionately in Ukraine’s corner, as you can see. It is unfortunate that a symbol of genocide such as Holy Trinity Cathedral is allowed to stand and spread propaganda so close to the French national symbol, the Eiffel Tower, so as to not “humiliate” a mass murderer. (Note: Some information for this post is from a Wall Street Journal Article published February 16, 2023.)
Anyway, back to the Eiffel Tower – we were somewhat surprised, but not absolutely shocked – to see that one can no longer stand underneath the Tower. The entire site is sealed off in plexiglas, and only if you pay, do you gain access. The prices are below, in a photo. You can climb up and down for a modest price, or go all the way to the top and back via elevator for almost $30. But nobody gets inside without paying something.
We discovered names at the top of the base, wondering who they were – perhaps donors who made the tower a reality? No…nothing so crass. Eiffel wanted to engrave the names of 72 French scientists from all disciplines to honor them, as the tower celebrated the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution. All of the scientists lived and worked between 1789 and 1889, and all had passed away by the time the Tower was inaugurated except for Hippolyte Fizeau, who died in 1896 and to whom we owe the precise measurement of the speed of light. Since the tower is crowned with the names of illustrious scholars, it becomes a kind of scientific pantheon, celebrating the power of the human mind. What a great national symbol!
🔹🔹 If you enjoyed reading our post, you can subscribe to our website to automatically receive every blog we publish. Just go to our “Contact” tab. In the gray box at the very bottom, it says – SUBSCRIBE TO BLOG VIA EMAIL. Just put in your email address, and we will appear in your Inbox! Also, right above it, there is a small form to send us a message, if you wish. (But please note, you cannot hit “Reply” on the post emailed to you to send us a message. You must use the Contact tab.)