mon sacré cœur

in case you haven’t heard yet, we got some good news yesterday.  the French marriage and adoption bill, which was recently passed by both the National Assembly and the Senate, has cleared its final hurdle and was signed into law tomorrow by President Hollande.  the first marriage between same sex couples will take place in Montpellier some time in the next two to three weeks.  last night Froggy turned to me with a smile and asked, “so, do you still want to get married?”

it’s somehow fitting that my post today is about Sacré-Cœur, the place where Froggy first proposed to me.  it’s one of my favorite places in Paris, and if, like me you are a fan of Jeunet’s Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain (aka Amélie in English-speaking countries), you will recognize the area in front of the basilica from one of the movie’s scenes.

i’m not in that part of town very often, but i’d met a friend for drinks in Montmartre, and when i realized how close i was to Sacré-Cœur, i knew that i had to climb those gajillion steps to the place with the best view in Paris.

as usual, i saw some interesting street art along the way:

and then i came to the uncomfortably crowded section of Montmartre just near the basilica. i’ve never been a fan of crowds, but these days they are even more difficult for me, so instead of panicking as soon as i was surrounded by throngs of souvenir buying, loud-voiced tourists, i pulled out my camera, and suddenly, all those people and all that noise melted away.  all that was left was this:

the giantess on the hill, looming large.

i got in the line to go inside the basilica, and as i entered the massive doors, one of the guards shook his head at me and told me i had to put my camera away.  there was music playing and a service going on, but i ignored all of that and walked with a purpose.  i was looking for a place to light candles, and very quickly, i came to a silvery statue of Mary and baby Jesus.  it didn’t feel right though….there was something creepy about that version of the Virgin.  she was cold and metallic.  she had none of the warmth of the one under which i light candles in Notre Dame.

i continued walking until i came to a chapel at the back of the basilica.  inside, there were two or three people on their knees in front of a large white altar.  the statue above the altar showed Mary with a toddler-sized Jesus standing on her lap.

notre dame de la paix/our lady of peace

the adoration and tenderness on her face broke something open in me, and i found myself kneeling in the pew closest to her, weeping.  i can’t tell you how long i was there… i was so lost in my despair, imploring God or the Universe or possibly just luck to let me be the woman with that look on her face.  a woman with her child, alive in her arms.  when i was finally able to calm the trembles and ease the painful tightness in my throat where the hint of a scream was lurking, i looked around me.  everywhere i looked there were images of a mother and her child.  paintings and statues in different styles showing slightly different poses of the same thing.  mother and child, mother and child, me and little sun…   and then i looked up and saw the stained glass.  mostly monotone blues telling another story of the same mother and child.  a mother holding the broken body of her child.  mother and child again, me and little sun again.  and me again, weeping for my lost little boy.

at some point, i pulled myself together, and i began once again to look for a place to burn candles.  i passed the area that was dedicated to one of the biblical Josephs, and decided it was the perfect place to burn a candle for Burning Eye‘s little boy.  there was a stained glass window with “Joseph” spelled out in it, and i tried to surreptitiously snap a picture of that for my friend, but one of the more vigilant guards caught me in the act and called over to reminded me that what i was doing was not allowed.  my chest was still heaving a bit and i was sniffling slightly when i mumbled some not-so-nice things at the guard.  i’m glad he didn’t hear me.

just before the exit, i found the place i was looking for, a statue of Saint Michel, the archangel Saint Michael.  i dreamt about him once, about a statue of him, that is.  it was long before i saw the statue of Saint Michel in the Latin Quarter of Paris and said, “ah, there you are!” in both surprise and delight.

place Saint Michel

Saint Michel, the spiritual warrior and Saint Michael the healer. “ah, there you are, again,” i thought with just the smallest flicker of hope, when i saw him in a empty corner of the basilica.  i lit two candles under him, one for AlwaysMy3Boys‘ little boy and one for my little sun, too.  i think we could both use a little bit of Saint Michel’s kind of power in our lives right now.

and then i went back outside and exhaled and saw this:

the view held me for a long time.  i didn’t even notice the crowd i later saw in my photos.  i walked to a quiet spot next to a lamppost and tried out my mostly untested zoom lens.  when was done taking pictures, i turned to look for a path out, and i noticed that someone had tagged left a message on the lamppost:

what is missing....

what is missing and what’s to come?

it made me smile, because, you know, i like parisian lampposts.  i sometimes find them rather charming:

lovely lamp near Sacré-Cœur

next to my lovely lamppost friend, there was a leafy green path that led down to the bottom of the hill.   it was quiet and mostly empty, and there were flowers blooming everywhere.


when i got to the bottom of the path, i found that i was actually in a park, a narrow leafy-green path of a park.  i walked out the gates and was greeted by a sunny sight on an overcast day.

du soleil

while i was taking pictures of the restaurant, i noticed a boy standing in the window a few floors above it.  he’d been watching me change lenses and zoom and fiddle with settings, and when he saw me looking at him, he smiled.  it was pure sunshine.  i returned the smile before motioning to my camera and then to him and making a questioning gesture.  his smile widened and he nodded.  the camera loved him, too

soleil boy

after i finished capturing the soleil, i walked in the direction i thought would lead me to a métro. as i passed the side of the building where the boy was, i turned and saw him and his mother, her hand on his shoulder, watching me walk away.  the three of us all smiled and waved at the same time.  

after a bit more walking and sight-seeing, i found the métro station i’d been seeking, and i headed home.

métro invader

métro invader


9 thoughts on “mon sacré cœur

  1. Suzanne

    Beautiful post! I know exactly what that is like, to gaze at the madonna images and resonate so deeply. When I see images of Mary holding her dead son, my heart breaks all over again. Yes. I know what that is like.

    *beautiful* photos!

    1. le petit soleil Post author

      thank you, Suzanne. it’s strange to be attracted to an image that is not a part of my religious upbringing. i’ve been looking through my old photos, it would seem that i’ve been obsessed with this particular image of her (and of the pieta, as well) for a long time.

  2. Greg

    A lovely post with lovely pictures, my dear. Thank you for sharing this, and know that my spirit is with you on your journey. And when is the wedding?

  3. marchisfordaffodils

    Oh that is so lovely, the boy at the window. These moments of what I guess we have to call grace – they are galling at the same time as they comfort because we shouldn’t need the comfort and I am always reluctant to look for grace in fear that acknowledging grace allows others to minimize my grief. But such a beautiful moment. I love these posts of yours, where you walk your city and share it and yourself with us.


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