Mactan Shrine (Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu)

Mactan Shrine.  On the left is the small building housing two plaques while on the right is the Magellan Monument

Part 4 of the Bluewater Maribago Beach Resort & Spa-sponsored City Tour

This shrine is dedicated in honor of Lapu-Lapu (the Philippines’ first National Hero) and the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan and was erected on the supposed spot where the Battle of Mactan (April 27, 1521) took place. The shrine has three prominent monuments

Lapu-Lapu Monument

The 20-ft. high Lapu-Lapu Monument, beside the shore, features a bronze statue, on a pedestal, of Datu Lapu-Lapu, sculpted with great realism, holding a kampilan (curved sword) on his right hand and a shield on the left.  The Magellan Marker, shaped like a large headstone, allegedly marks the spot where Magellan fell dead in the hands of Lapu-Lapu’s men.

Magellan Monument

A little farther away is the 30-ft. high Magellan Monument, on a base of several levels and surrounded by a low fence. It consists of plain, coralstone obelisk, on whose apex rests a sphere, mounted on a tall plinth that rests on a tripartite structure – an octagonal base, on which rests a tall quadrilateral structure, divided into a lower part, decorated with high relieves of vases, and an upper part pierced by narrow arches.

Relief of a vase

The monument is inscribed with texts. On one side is A Hernando de Magallanes, Ferdinand Magellan’s name written in the original Portuguese language.

Inscription with Magellan’s name

On a second side is the phrase Glorias Españolas (“Glory to Spain”),  on the third is the phrase Siendo Gobernaor Don Miguel Creus (the Spanish governor of the Philippines at the time) and on the fourth side is the phrase 1866 Reinando Ysabel II (the Spanish monarch at that time).

Inscription with Gov. Miguel Creus’s name

The monument was said to have been built in 1866 during the administration of Augustinian Fr. Simon Aguirre, who was cura (parish priest), from 1857 to 1871, of Opon (the old name of Lapu-Lapu City).

The plinth with two plaques

Between the Lapu-Lapu and Magellan monuments stands the Philippine flag.  East of the Magellan Monument is a small building housing a plinth flanked by plaques.

The Lapu-Lapu plaque

The plaque about Lapu-Lapu (installed by the Philippine Historical Committee in 1951) reads:

Lapulapu

Here on 27 April 1521, Lapulapu and his men repulsed the Spanish invaders, killing their leader Ferdinand Magellan thus Lapu Lapu became the first Filipino to have repelled European aggression.

The plaque about Magellan’s death

The other plaque about Ferdinand Magellan (installed by the Philippine Historical Committee in 1941) reads:

Ferdinand Magellan’s Death

On this spot Ferdinand Magellan died on April 27, 1521 wounded in an encounter with the soldiers of Lapu Lapu, Chief of Mactan Islands. One of Magellan’s ships, The Victoria, under the command of Juan Sebastian Elcano, sailed from Cebu on May 1, 1521 and anchored at San Lucar de Barrameda on September 6, 1522 thus completing the first circumnavigation of the earth.

The huge mural painting

Behind the plinth is a huge mural painting depicting the battle. The Battle of Mactan is reenacted along the shores near the shrine during the 27 April Kadaugan sa Mactan Festival.

The Kadaugan sa Mactan re-enactment site

Mactan Shrine: Punta Engano, Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu.

Bluewater Maribago Beach Resort & Spa: Buyong, Maribago, Lapu-Lapu City, 6015, Cebu. Tel: (032) 492-0100. Fax: (032) 492-1808.  E-mail: maribago@bluewater.com.ph.   Website: www.bluewatermaribago.com.ph.  Metro Manila sales office: Rm. 704, Cityland Herrera Tower, 98 Herrera cor. Valero Sts., Salcedo Village, Makati City, Metro Manila. Tel: (02) 887-1348 and (02) 817-5751. Fax: (02) 893-5391.

Regina RICA (Tanay, Rizal)

Regina RICA

Regina RICA

The 13.5-hectare Regina RICA, one of the most popular pilgrimage sites here in the Philippines, was established in 2009 by Sr. Mary Epifania “Eppie” F. Brasil, OP (founder of the Dominican Sisters of Regina Rosarii On May 13, 2005 in Quezon City). The sisters holds dear the words of Jesuit theologian Karl Rahner “In the days ahead, you will either be a mystic (one who has experienced God for real) or nothing at all.”

Handumanan

Handumanan

Their primary mission is to teach as many people as they can about contemplative prayer and the contemplative way of life.  This wonderful place of prayer, pilgrimage and peace is not a park or a recreational activity area.  Rather, it is for those seeking to experience God.

Souvenir Shop

Souvenir Shop

Handumanan, the first place that will welcome you upon entering, has a souvenir shop, visitor center (where names are entered in the registration folder at the counter), a booth where you can write petitions and a donation area.  RICA volunteers here also orient visitors of the do’s and dont’s while exploring the Regina RICA.

Our Lady of Regina RICA

Our Lady of Regina RICA

The hilltop Regina RICA‘s centerpiece is the iconic, 71-ft. high statue of Our Lady of Regina Rica, a sculpture of the Blessed Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus made by the artist/sculptor, Jose “Jojo” Barcena Jr..

Happy angel

Smiling sculptured angel

Below her feet is a canopy of clouds with 17 sculptured angels – 16 smiling and the 17th, inside the mantle, which is the crying (symbolizing sorrow for the sins we commit).

The author

The author

Inside the statue is an adoration chapel called SULOD (Sanctuary of Universal Love and Devotion), Regina RICA’s sanctuary of universal love and devotion chapel. Sulod is an Ilonggo word (the sisters are mostly Ilongga) meaning “enter.”

S Trail at El Shaddai Hills

S Trail at El Shaddai Hills

Just like a pilgrim, the best way to experience Regina RICA is by foot. However, for those who can’t walk inside the facility, there are also shuttle vans or golf carts (PhP5 per pax) that can take visitors, from the gate, to the chapel and all the way to the SULOD on top of the hill and back down again.

Brick

Brick with footprints of those who gave their love offerings

There are 2 ways to get to Our Lady of Regina RICA and its SULOD.  First, you can take Mary’s S (sacred) Trail at El Shaddai Hills, a pathway of 308 steps trail made with bricks (some with footprints of those who gave their love offering) that leads directly to the icon. Here, you have a great view of the RICA Chapel just below the hill.

Candle Station

Candle Station

Second, you can follow the Way of the Cross, 14 stations that leads you along a winding road that also leads you to the icon on top of the hill but also tours you to Regina RICA’s other facilities – the Organic Gardens, Regina RICA Chapel, San Jose Rotonda (has a 13-ft. high statue of St. Joseph looking at his family), 13 Candle Stands, Koi Pond, Flower Gardens, Kakahuyan and Sunflower Trail.

Regina RICA Chapel

Regina RICA Chapel

 

Interior of chapel

Interior of chapel

Upon reaching SULOD, visitors are briefed on what they should do and observe once you enter the adoration area. They will also provide information and history about the Regina RICA, future and current projects and more.  After the briefing, visitors will be prompted to go upstairs where a sister of the congregation will invite them to join a short yet spiritually enlightening prayer and meditation in front of the exposed Blessed Sacrament, after which they will be guided to the exit so they can accommodate the next batch.

Orientation inside SULOD

Orientation inside SULOD

At the Pilgrim’s Labyrinth, visitors are encouraged to slowly follow the path all the way to the center (where they can offer their prayers and meditate) and also the path to go out. On its left side is a gazebo called Tilipunan (from the Ilonggo word meaning “gathering place”).

Pilgrim's Labyrinth

Pilgrim’s Labyrinth

Tilipunan

Tilipunan

There are  candle houses with candles (PhP20 each) in various colors, which represent different intentions – red for courage, blue for peace, green for hope, orange for good health, violet for financial prosperity, brown for safe trip/good job, aqua for thanksgiving, yellow for joy/friend, white for success, rose for love/family and all of the above for abundance.

Candle House

Candle House

The  Pahuwayan sa RICA Columbary and Ossuary is another interesting work of art of Jojo Barcena Jr.

Pahuwayan

Pahuwayan sa RICA Columbary and Ossuary

Columbary entrance

Columbary entrance

Regina RICA also has a  dozens of gazebos, bahay kubo, tents, some animals, livestock,  at least 3 waterfalls, a creek, a set of 10,000 trees and a vegetarian-themed restaurant (Pasilungan) at  a place called Handong (an Ilonggo word meaning “shade”).

Pasilungan

Pasilungan

Regina Regina Rosarii Institute for Contemplation in Asia:   Marikina-Infanta Highway, Sitio Aguho, Brgy. Sampaloc, Tanay Rizal. Open daily (except  Tuesdays), 8 AM to 5 PM. Admission: free. Parking fee: PhP50. Tel: (+02) 985-3878 and (+02) 401-2036. Mobile  number: (0919) 269-4286. E-mail: reginarica@yahoo.com. Website: www.reginarica.org.

Schedule of Masses
Mondays-Saturdays – 11 AM (except Tuesdays)
Sundays – 11 AM and  3:30 PM
Every 4th Saturday of the month: 6 AM

To attend to the pilgrims’ need for silence and respect the sanctity and cleanliness of the area, each one is required to be on their best behavior when they are inside the sacred place.  There is also a dress code – no short shorts sleeveless blouses, spaghetti straps and too revealing upper garments.  If you are wearing inappropriate clothing, you can borrow long skirts and shawls in stores inside the place. Visitors are required to take off their shoes once they enter SULOD. You can take pictures anywhere inside the whole facility except inside SULOD.

Tanay Tourism Office: G/F, New Tanay Municipal Hall, M. H. del Pilar St., Tanay, Rizal 1980.  Tel: (02) 7361059 and (02) 6551773 loc 212-213.  Mobile number: (0998) 988-1590. E-mail: tanaytourism11@gmail.com. Website: www.tanay.gov.ph.

Colosseum (Rome, Italy)

The Colosseum

The Colosseum

The oval, entirely free-standing Colosseum or Coliseum,  an iconic symbol of Imperial Rome, is situated just east of the Roman Forum. Following the reign of Nero, it was began by emperor Vespasian in AD 72 and completed in AD 80 by his son and successor Titus. Further modifications were made during the reign of Vespasian’s younger son Domitian (81–96).

The outer wall

The outer wall

It has suffered extensDSC00278ive damage over the centuries, with large segments having collapsed following earthquakes. In 217, the wooden upper levels of the amphitheater’s interior was destroyed by a major fire (caused by lightning, according to Dio Cassius) and was not fully repaired until about 240.  Further repairs were done in 250 or 252 and again in 320. Gladiatorial fights are. Various parts of the Colosseum were restored under Theodosius II and Valentinian III (reigned 425–455), possibly to repair damage caused by a major earthquake in 443.  More work followed in 484 and 508.

 

The outer wall (left) and the nearly intact inner wall

The outer wall (left) and the nearly intact inner wall

The great 1349 earthquake severely damaged the Colosseum.  The outer south side, lying on a less stable alluvial terrDSC00283ain, collapsed and much of the tumbled stone was reused to build palaces, churches, hospitals and other buildings elsewhere in Rome. The interior of the amphitheater was extensively stripped of stone, which was reused elsewhere.  The marble façade was burned to make quicklime. The bronze clamps, used to hold the stonework together, were pried or hacked out of the walls, leaving numerous pockmarks which still scar the building today.

 

The Colosseum interior

The Colosseum interior

In 1807 and 1827, the façade was reinforced with triangular brick wedges and, in 1831, 1846 and in the 1930s, the interior was repaired. In 1810–1814 and 1874, the arena substructure was partly excavated and, in the 1930s, was fully exposed under Benito Mussolini. Between 1993 and 2000, due to the effects of pollution and general deterioration over time, a major restoration program was carried out at a cost of 40 billion Italian lire ($19.3 million/ €20.6 million at 2000 prices).

The raked areas that once held seating

The raked areas that once held seating

Here are some interesting facts and trivia regarding the Colosseum:

  • Built of concrete and sand, it is the largest amphitheatre ever built.
  • One of Rome’s most popular tourist attractions, it receives millions of visitors annually.
  • Elliptical in plan, it is 189 m. (615 ft./640 Roman ft.) long, 156 m. (510 ft./528 Roman ft.) wide and has a base area of 24,000 sq. m. (6 acres). Its outer wall is 48 m. (157 ft./165 Roman ft.) high. Its perimeter originally measured 545 m. (1,788 ft./1,835 Roman ft.). The central arena is an oval 87 m. (287 ft.) long and 55 m. (180 ft.) wide, surrounded by a wall 5 m. (15 ft.) high, above which rose tiers of seating. The arena itself was 83 m. by 48 m. (272 ft. by 157 ft./280 by 163 Roman ft.).
  • Its outer wall was estimated to have required over 100,000 cu. m. (3,531,467 cubic ft.) of travertine stone which were set without mortar and  held together by 300 tons of iron clamps.
  • According to the Codex-Calendar of 354, the Colosseum could accommodate 87,000 spectators, although modern estimates put the figure at between 50,000 and 80,000, having an average audience of some 65,000.
  • The Colosseum was used for gladiatorial contests (last mentioned around 435) and public spectacles such as mock sea battles (for only a short time as the hypogeum was soon filled in with mechanisms to support the other activities), animal hunts (continued until at least 523, when Anicius Maximus celebrated his consulship with some venationes), executions, re-enactments of famous battles, and dramas based on Classical mythology.
  • In the Early Medieval era, the building ceased to be used for entertainment but numerous vaulted spaces in the arcades under the seating were later reused for housing and workshops.  It was also reused as a fortress (around 1200 by the Frangipani family), quarters for a Christian religious order (from mid-14th century until as late as the early 19th century), a quarry (stones from the Colosseum were taken for the building of other sacred sites), and a Christian shrine (in 1749, by Pope Benedict XIV).
  • The Colosseum is also depicted on the Italian version of the five-cent euro coin.
  • The Colosseum has become a symbol of the international campaign against capital punishment. The color of the Colosseum’s night time illumination changes from white to gold whenever a person condemned to the death penalty anywhere in the world gets their sentence commuted or is released,or if a jurisdiction abolishes the death penalty (most recently on November 2012, following the abolition of capital punishment in the American state of Connecticut in April 2012).
  • Large concerts, using the Colosseum as a backdrop, have been held just outside. They included  concerts o Ray Charles (May 5, 2002), Paul McCartney (May 11,  2003), Elton John (September 3, 2005), and Billy Joel (July 31, 2006).
Cross dedicated to the Christian martyrs, placed in 2000 by Pope John Paul II

Cross dedicated to the Christian martyrs, placed in 2000 by Pope John Paul II

The iconic Colosseum has been featured in numerous films:

Roman Holiday

Roman Holiday

Demetrius and the Gladiators

Demetrius and the Gladiators

Colosseum seating

Colosseum seating

The remainder of the present-day exterior of the Colosseum is, in fact, the original interior wall. The surviving part of its monumental façade comprises three stories of superimposed arcades framed by half-columns of the DoricIonic, and Corinthian orders and surmounted by a podium on which stands a tall attic decorated with Corinthian pilasters, both of which are pierced by windows interspersed at regular intervals. At the second- and third-floor arcades, arches framed statues, probably honoring divinities and other figures from Classical mythology. The north side of the perimeter wall, though still standing, has distinctive triangular brick wedges at each end that are modern additions, having been constructed in the early 19th century to shore up the wall.

Maenianum Primum

Maenianum Primum

Positioned around the top of the attic are 240 mast corbels that originally supported a retractable awning,known as the velarium (a canvas-covered, net-like structure made of ropes, with a hole in the center), that kept the sun and rain off spectators over two-thirds of the arena and sloped down towards the center to catch the wind and provide a breeze for the audience. Working on the velarium are sailors specially enlisted from the Roman naval headquarters at Misenum and housed in the nearby Castra Misenatium.

Maenianum Secundum

Maenianum Secundum

DSC00299The amphitheater was ringed by 80 numbered outer entrances, many of which have disappeared with the collapse of the perimeter wall (only entrances XXIII to LIV still survive) at ground level, 76 of which were used by ordinary spectators.  All four axial entrances, richly decorated with painted stucco reliefs (of which fragments survive) consisted of a northern main entrance  reserved for the Roman Emperor and his aides and three other axial entrances most likely used by the elite. Special boxes at the north and south ends, for the Emperor and the Vestal Virgins, provide the best views of the arena. They were provided with separate tunnels to permit them to enter and exit the Colosseum without needing to pass through the crowds. A broad platform or podium, for the senatorial class (they  were allowed to bring their own chairs), flanked them at the same level

Maenianum Secundum in Legneis

Maenianum Secundum in Legneis

Fragment of an ancient Roman equestrian statue

Fragment of an ancient Roman equestrian statue

The maenianum primum, the tier above the senators, was occupied by the non-senatorial noble class or knights (equites) while the next level up, divided into two sections, is the maenianum secundum, originally reserved for ordinary Roman citizens (plebeians). The lower part (the immum) was reserved for wealthy citizens while the upper part (the summum) was for poor citizens. The maenianum secundum in legneis, a level added at the very top of the building during the reign of Domitian (either standing room only or having very steep wooden benches), was a gallery for the common poor, slaves and women. Gravediggers, actors and former gladiators were banned altogether from the Colosseum.

The author

The author

Inscriptions identified the areas reserved for specific groups (boys with their tutors, soldiers on leave, foreign dignitaries, scribes, heralds, priests, etc.) with the names of some 5th century senators still seen carved into the stonework (presumably reserving areas for their use). Stone (and later marble) was provided for the seats of citizens and nobles (presumably they brought their own cushions with them).

L-R: Kyle, Cheska, Jandy and Grace

L-R: Kyle, Cheska, Jandy and Grace

Curved passages and low walls (praecinctiones or baltei) divided each tier into sections (maeniana) and were further subdivided into cunei, or wedges, by the steps and aisles from the vomitoria. Each row (gradus) of seats was numbered, permitting each individual seat to be exactly designated by its gradus, cuneus, and number.

Hypogeum

Hypogeum

The arena (part of it re-floored), comprising a wooden floor covered by sand (harena or arena is the Latin word for sand), covers the hypogeum  (literally meaning “underground”), an elaborate two-level subterranean network, built by Emperor Domitian, of tunnels and cages beneath the arena where gladiators and animals were held before contests began. It was connected by underground tunnels to a number of points outside the Colosseum. Caged animals and scenery pieces concealed underneath were provided instant access to the arena by 80 vertical shafts while larger hinged platforms, called hegmata, provided access for elephants and the like.

Hypogeum (2)

A museum, dedicated to Eros, is located in the upper floor of the outer wall of the building.

Base of the statue of Praefectus Urbi (Prefect of Rome)

Base of the statue of Praefectus Urbi (Prefect of Rome)

Colosseum: Piazza del Colosseo, 1, 00184 RomeItaly. Open daily, except January 1 and December 25. Tel:  (+39) 06 39967700 (Mondays-Saturdays, 9 AM -1:30 PM and 2:30 -5 PM).  Tickets (€2) can also be bought (often avoiding a long queue) at the ticket offices in Via di San Gregorio (Palatine), Largo Salara Vecchia (former Largo Romolo e Remo  – Roman Forum) and Via Sacra (Roman Forum, Arco di Tito). The Colosseum, together with the Forum/Palatine Hill ticket, is valid for both.

How to Get There
The Colosseum is located a few hundred yards from Piazza Venezia, and close to the Forum.

  • On “B” line Metro station Colosseo
  • “A” line Metro station Manzoni, then two stops of Tram No. 3 going southwards
  • Bus lines 60, 75, 85, 87, 271, 571, 175, 186, 810, 850, C3, and the electric minibus 117
  • Tramway Line No. 3.

Abolition of Tobacco Monopoly Monument (Laoag City, Ilocos Norte)

Abolition of Tobacco Monopoly Monument

This obelisk of clay and brick was erected on November 28,1882 by alcalde mayor (provincial governor) Don Jose Moreno Lacalle as a gesture of thanksgiving to King Alfonso XIII of Spain for abolishing the hated tobacco monopoly, during the incumbency of Gov. Fernando Primo de Rivera, in accordance with a royal decree issued on June 5, 1881.

NHI Plaque

The tobacco monopoly,  established by Gov. Jose Basco y Vargas by virtue of the royal decree of February 9, 1780, aimed to bring in large profits for the government and make the Philippines the leading tobacco producer of the world.

However, it oppressed the Ilocano farmers and landowners as no one could raise or sell a single leaf of tobacco without first having permission from the government.    The suppression of the monopoly was completed in 1884 and tobacco remains to be a major cash crop in the province.

Abolition of Tobacco Monopoly Monument: A. Bonifacio St., Laoag City, Ilocos Norte.

How to Get There: The monument is located at the foot of Marcos Bridge, over the Laoag River.

Mauthausen Memorial (Mauthausen, Austria)

Mauthausen Memorial

Mauthausen Memorial

Come morning, after breakfast at our hotel, Grace, Manny, Jandy, Cheska, Kyle and I were met by my wife’s cousins Popong and Freddie at the hotel lobby.  Once assembled, we boarded the rented van driven by Freddie that would take us on our 88.7-km.  journey to Mauthausen Memorial, site of the first concentration camp established by the Nazis in in Upper Austria after their annexation of country in March 1938 and one of the last remaining concentration camps from World War II in Europe.

Mauthausen

The idyllic Mauthausen countryside today

On our way out, we also picked up Vicky, another of Grace’s cousins, and her husband Isko who were to join us on our trip. Our journey took us a little over an hour, with a short stopover for snacks and a toilet break.  Upon arrival, Freddie parked the van at a big parking area just outside the complex. Upon alighting, we first walked to the new, raw gray concrete visitor’s center, just outside the site’s walls.

The modern Visitors Center

The modern Visitors Center

Designed by architects Herwig MayerChristoph Schwarz, and Karl Peyrer-Heimstätt, the center was inaugurated in 2003.  It  covers an area of 2,845 sq. m. (30,620 sq. ft.). and has a book shop, information desk, workshop, toilets and a cinema. There is also a cafe but it has different opening hours depending on the time of year.

Inside the Visitors Center

Vicky, Freddie, Grace, Manny and Popong inside the Visitors Center

The camp, situated on a 265 m. (869 ft.) rise of above Mauthausen town (2014 population: 4,913),  on the Gusen River that flows into the Danube River, presently has a serene setting that belies its sordid past as, during World War II, Mauthausen was a labor camp designed to kill its inmates. The main camp of Mauthausen consisted of 32 barracks surrounded by an electrified barbed wire, high stone walls and watch towers.

Barracks and guard watchtower

Barracks and guard watchtower

From its beginnings, in August 8, 1938 (when prisoners from the Dachau concentration camp were sent to Mauthausen to begin the camp construction), to its liberation by the US 11th Armored Division, 3rd US Army on May 3, 1945, the concentration camp, one of the largest labor camp complexes in the Third Reich, worked people to death mining granite to build the granite fortress-prison of the main camp, pave the streets of Vienna and build Adolf Hitler‘s grandiose architectural projects. About 190,000 people from all over Europe were imprisoned in Mauthausen.

Czechoslovakia Monument

Czechoslovakia Monument

They included non-Germanic people groups (Jews, Slavs, Soviet prisoners, Czech and Polish intelligentsia, Roma, gypsies, etc.) who didn’t fit the Nazi ideal of racial superiority, perceived social threats (homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc.), and political dissenters (Social Democrats, Communists, anarchists, etc.). Mauthausen’s most famous inmate was Simon Wiesenthal who created the Simon Wiesenthal Center after the war to locate fugitive Nazi war criminals.

Poland Monument

Poland Monument

Inmates here were literally worked to death at the rock quarry (known as the “Wiener Graben”) and their daily diet was only half the calories necessary for subsistence.  Certain groups were simply summarily executed (including via a gas chamber) by the Nazi regime.

Soviet Union Monument

Soviet Union Monument

Over 100,000 people died. In 1949, it was declared a national memorial site and, on May 3, 1975, 30 years after the camp’s liberation, Bruno Kreisky, the Chancellor of Austria officially opened the Mauthausen Museum . The Mauthausen site remains largely intact, but much of what constituted the sub-camps of Gusen I, II and III is now covered by residential areas built after the war. Today, Mauthausen Memorial stands as a reminder of the darkest days of Austria’s history.

Mongol Gate

Mongol Gate

We entered the camp via the main entrance that former prisoners referred to as the Mongol (or Mongolian) Gate. The two identical guard watchtowers towers above the gate give the appearance of Chinese architecture. As there was a ready supply of granite, there was extensive use of this stone, making Mauthausen as the most ornate concentration camp during the war. The camp’s stone construction also made the camp look the same as when it was built in 1938.

Courtyard of SS Garage

Courtyard of SS Garage

There was once a metal eagle and swastika above the gate but it was removed when the camp was liberated in 1945. The stairs on the right lead down to the S.S. Garagenhof (garage yard) which was used  for S.S. celebrations and as an assembly area for inmates during delousing actions. Overlooking the garage is the balcony where camp commandant S.S. Col. Franz Ziereis would give speeches to his S.S. guards and inmates.

Roll Call Square

Roll Call Square

Once inside the camp, we stood on a wide open courtyard called “Roll Call Square” located in front of the hospital and gas chamber. Each day, there were 3 roll calls held in this courtyard (reduced to 2 after 1943) and inmates were assembled to hear speeches and instructions from Ziereis. The prisoner’s working day started at 4.45 AM in the summer and 5.15 AM in the winter. The day ended at 7 PM.  A number of memorials to the victims of Mauthausen are located in the roll call area.

Sarkophag Memorial

Sarkophag Memorial

Straight ahead is the “Klagemauer” (“Wailing Wall”). When prisoners first arrived here, they had to pass an initiation ritual which included passing hours and, sometimes days, standing facing “The Wailing Wall” while chained to iron rings set in the wall.

Memorial plaques at Wailing Wall

Memorial plaques at Wailing Wall

They were also interrogated and brutally beaten.  Today, the “Wailing Wall” and the wall on the left now have numerous personal memorial tablets placed there by families of the victims and a wide range of countries. There’s also a memorial to Pope John Paul II‘s visit to Mauthausen Memorial on June 24, 1988.

John Paul II Visit Memorial

John Paul II Visit Memorial

Behind the granite wall, on the right, is the quarantine camp while the building on the left, with 2 chimneys, is the hospital which contained a gas chamber in the basement. In the former kitchen is a Catholic church. The majority of the prisoners sent to Mauthausen were Catholics.

Catholic chapel

Catholic chapel

To the left of the Mongol Gate are some of the remaining wooden prisoner barracks that have been restored using the same materials used during the camp construction. These barracks were overcrowded and the sanitary conditions deplorable.

Barrack interior

Barrack interior

Each barrack had two bedrooms and two living rooms located on the left and right sides of the entrance. The prisoners were not allowed to spend much time in the living room, being forced to stay in the bedrooms, with two or three in the same bed. In front of the entrance, in the middle of the barrack, was the bathroom.

Barracks bathroom

Barracks bathroom

At the ground floor of the old infirmary is a very well explained (they also have an English translation) museum, opened in May 2013, covering the history of Mauthausen, from its inception in 1938 to the liberation of the camp on May 3, 1945.

Exhibits (8)

Museum exhibits

Museum exhibits

On display are samples of letters, clothes (the prisoners were forced to wear colored triangles in order to identify the category to which they belong – Gypsy, gay, Jewish, political prisoners, etc.) and other artifacts seen inside the camp.  This kept us occupied for quite a long time.

Typical striped concentration camp inmate clothes

Typical striped concentration camp inmate clothes

Next, we went down the basement where we followed the scene of the crime and the murder of prisoners. The gas chamber, refrigeration room, dissection room and crematorium complex, the very disturbing sections of the camp, are definitely not for the squeamish or for children.

Disinfection Room

Disinfection Room

The gas chamber, completed and used by the spring of 1942, could murder 120 people at one time and it is estimated that around 10,200 prisoners were gassed in this room. However, its construction was inefficient and the prisoners often died of suffocation rather than the gas. The Judas Opening, a hole in the door of the gas chamber, allowed the curious or, better said, the sadists, to see what is happening inside the chamber.

Crematorium

Crematorium

The dissection room was were, after a person was gassed, they were taken to have their gold fillings removed. The box on the right was for the collection of the fillings.  After their fillings were removed, their bodies were stored in the refrigeration room before being taken to the crematorium.

Portion of the high-voltage electric fence

Portion of the high-voltage electric fence

The dissection room was also used for cruel medical experiments and for taking organs from living people. The organs were bottled and stored on shelves.  The crematorium ovens was the final procedure in the murder process of tens of thousands of inmates of Mauthausen.

Crematorium Memorial Room

Crematorium Memorial Room

Then there is the Room of Names which displays and lists the etched names of 81,000 known victims (the names are also available to view via the internet) onto various horizontally placed black glass plates.  We then left the building and walk a short distance before returning to an older part of the museum.

Room of Names

Room of Names

On a green field at the entrance in the concentration camp, between the main camp and the quarry steps, is the Memorial Garden, originally the site of the S.S. administrative barracks.

Hungary Monument

Hungary Monument

Jewish Memorial

Jewish Memorial

In 1949, the site was turned into a memorial garden with the first memorial being donated by France. Today, there are now 22 monuments and more than 30 inscribed plaques, donated by numerous nations subjugated by Germany during the World War II, to remember their prisoners from Mauthausen.

Bulgaria Monument

Bulgaria Monument

Monument to Women

Monument to Women

Also inside the camp are many graves of different nationalities. Barracks 21–24 and Camp II, formerly used as quarantine camps after 1944, now house remains of the inmates from the “American cemeteries” which were transferred here in 1961.

Camp II (Quarantine Camp)

Camp II (Quarantine Camp)

Just past the Memorial Garden Prisoners is the “Todesstiege” (“Stairs of Death”), were Jewish inmates were forced to run up the 186 steps carrying huge packs with 25 kgs. of blocks of granite on their backs from  the Wiener Graben. The weight was gradually increased and, as the prisoners tired, they would fall backwards striking other prisoners, some of them being killed by the blocks that fell, and causing a domino effect, with the S.S. guards placing bets on who would fall.

Remembering the dead at Barracks 21-24

Remembering the dead at Barracks 21-24

For their sick entertainment, the sadistic S.S. guards would frequently take those that survived that fate to the top of the quarry and often forced them to jump or push them, over the narrow ledge of the quarry, to their deaths in a procedure called the “parachute jump,” cynically referring to them as “Fallschirmspringer” (“parachutists”). Today, the ledge is now overgrown with trees and bushes but, from an observation point, we can see the valley below.

Stairs of Death

Stairs of Death

Our visit to this concentration camp was educational, making us see the awful conditions the inmates were forced to live when the world was at war, and also left us speechless as we understood the pain people here experienced at this place.  It was like taking a trip back into time that, even though it is horrific, it is still part of history, a history that, for the sake of the world’s future, none should ever forget or pretend that it doesn’t exist. The Mauthausen Memorial truly deserves a visit, not just for the camp itself, but for the memory of all the people who lost their lives here.

L-R - Isko, Manny, PPopong, the author, Grace, Kyle, Jandy, Vicky and Cheska

L-R:- Isko, Manny, Popong, the author, Grace, Kyle, Jandy, Vicky and Cheska

Mauthausen Memorial: Erinnerungsstraße 1, 4310 Mauthausen, Austria. Tel: +43 7238 22690. Fax: +43 7238 2269 40. Admission: 2 EUR. Open daily, 9 AM – 5:30 PM (March 1 – July 10); Tuesdays – Sundays, 9 AM – 5:30 PM (July 11 – October 31) and Tuesdays – Sundays, 9 AM – 3:45 PM (November 1 – February 28).  Audio guides, in a variety of languages, are available for 3€. There are a number of guided tours available but it is a case of checking the website or phoning the visitor’s centre. During winter, some parts of the camp aren’t accessible for safety reasons (ice). Website: www.mauthausen-memorial.at.

Arc de Triomphe (Paris, France)

Any visit to Paris is never complete without visiting the Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile (Triumphal Arch of the Star), one of the city’s most famous monuments and the linchpin of the Axe historique (historic axis) – a sequence of monuments and grand thoroughfares on a route which runs from the courtyard of the Louvre to the Grande Arche de la Défense (built in 1982). Prior to our visit, we had seen its twice smaller cousin, the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, which stands west of the Louvre.

Arc de Triomphe

Arc de Triomphe

Standing at the center of the Place Charles de Gaulle (originally named Place de l’Étoile), at the western end of the Champs-Élysées, the Arc de Triomphe is located on the right bank of the Seine at the centre of a dodecagonal configuration of twelve radiating avenues.  It honors those who fought and died for France during the French Revolutionary and the Napoleonic Wars.

The monument, designed by Jean Chalgrin in the astylar design, was started in 1806, after the victory at Austerlitz by Emperor Napoleon, halted during the Bourbon Restoration, and completed, between 1833 and 1836, during  the reign of King Louis-Philippe.

L-R: Grace, Jandy and Manny

L-R: Grace, Jandy and Manny

This  Neo-Classical version of the ancient Roman triumphal  Arch of Titus, sets the tone for public monuments with triumphant patriotic messages, its iconographic program pits heroically nude French youths against bearded Germanic warriors in chain mail. Here are also some interesting trivia regarding the Arc de Triomphe

  • Before the Arc, a three-level, elephant-shaped building , designed by French architect Charles Ribart, was proposed on this spot. The building would be entered via a spiral staircase that led up into the elephant’s underbelly. It was to have a form of air conditioning, the furniture would fold into the walls and there would be a drainage system in the elephant’s trunk. Ribart was all set to start building, but the French government ended up denying his request.
  • Sadly, Napoleon never got to see the finished product as the Arc was completed 15 years after his death.
  • Though designed by Jean Chalgrin, he died  in 1811 and the work was taken over by Jean-Nicolas Huyot.
  • The Arc de Triomphe is located at the center of 12 avenues which radiate outward.
  • Although Napoleon never got to see the completed monument, he had a wooden model of the completed arch built so that, in 1810, he was able to enter Paris from the west with his new bride Archduchess Marie-Louise of Austria.
  • The monument, built on such a large scale, stands 50 m. (164 ft.) high, 45 m. (148 ft.) wide and 22 m. (72 ft.) deep. The large vault is 29.19 m. (95.8 ft.) high and 14.62 m. (48.0 ft.) wide. The small vault is 18.68 m. (61.3 ft.) high and 8.44 m. (27.7 ft.) wide.
  • Beneath its vault, in the chapel on the first floor, lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I, interred on November 10, 1920, Armistice Day . Its  eternal flame burning (non-stop since November 11, 1923) in memory of the dead who were never identified (now in both world wars), was the first  lit in Western and Eastern Europe since the Vestal Virgins‘ fire was extinguished in the fourth century.
  • The Arc de Triomphe costed 9.3 millions French francs, a gigantic amount of money at that time.
  • The Arc de Triomphe was the tallest triumphal arch in existence until the completion of the 67 m. (220 ft.) high Monumento a la Revolución in Mexico City in 1938. The slightly taller, 60 m. (197 ft.) high Arch of Triumph in Pyongyang (North Korea), completed in 1982, is modeled on the Arc de Triomphe.
  • Following its construction, the Arc de Triomphe became the rallying point of French troops parading after successful military campaigns and for the annual Bastille Day Military Parade.
  • After the interment of the Unknown Soldier, all military parades (including the French under Marshal Ferdinand Foch after the victory in 1919) have avoided marching through the actual arch. The route taken is up to the arch and then around its side, out of respect for the tomb and its symbolism. Both Germans  (under Hitler) in 1940 and the French (under de Gaulle) and Allies in 1944 and 1945 observed this custom.
  • A United States postage stamp of 1945 shows the Arc de Triomphe in the background as victorious American troops march down the Champs-Élysées and U.S. airplanes fly overhead on August 29, 1944.
Shields engraved with the names of major French victories in the French Revolution and Napoleonic wars

Shields engraved with the names of major French victories in the French Revolution and Napoleonic wars

Richly sculptured frieze of soldiers

Richly sculptured frieze of soldiers

Battle of Aboukir ((July 25, 1799)

Battle of Aboukir (July 25, 1799)

Funeral of Gen. Marceau (September 20, 1796)

Funeral of Gen. Marceau (September 20, 1796)

  • The shorter sides of the four supporting columns are inscribed with the names of the major French victories in the Napoleonic Wars.
  • Two unsuccessful assassination attempts took place at the Arc de Triomphe – against Charles De Gaulle on August 22, 1962 and Jacques Chirac on July 14, 2002. Both men survived.
  • Although the Arc de Triomphe is a symbol of France’s victories, German armies have marched underneath or around it on two occasions – on February 17, 1871 (after the French defeat in the Franco-Prussian War), and the Nazis on June 14,1940 during the German Occupation in World War II.
  • The last time the Arc de Triomphe had a full-scale cleaning, through bleaching, was from 1965 to 1966.
  • The annual Tour de France bike race finishes here.

The four main sculptural groups on each of the pillars at the base of the Arc are:

Le Départ de 1792 (or La Marseillaise) by François Rude

Le Départ de 1792 (or La Marseillaise) by François Rude

Le Triomphe de 1810 byJean-Pierre Cortot

Le Triomphe de 1810 byJean-Pierre Cortot

The main sculptures are not integral friezes.  Rather, they are treated as independent trophies applied to the vast ashlar masonry masses. Inside the monument is a permanent exhibition, opened in February 2007, conceived by the artist Maurice Benayoun and the architect Christophe Girault.

Cheska and Kyle

Cheska and Kyle

Here are some historical trivia regarding the Arc de Triomphe:

  • On December 15, 1840, Napoleon’s remains, brought back to France from Saint Helena, passed under it on their way to the Emperor’s final resting place at the Invalides.
  • During the night of May 22, 1885, prior to burial in the Panthéon, the body of Victor Hugo was exposed under the Arc.
  • It is said that on the day that the Battle of Verdun began in 1916, the sword carried by the Republic in the Marseillaise relief broke off. To conceal the accident and avoid any undesired ominous interpretations, the relief was immediately hidden by tarpaulins .
  • On August 7, 1919,Charles Godefroy, the replacement of Jean Navarre  the pilot who originally was tasked to make the flight (he died on July 10, 1919 when he crashed near Villacoublay while training for the flight), successfully flew his Nieuport biplane under the Arc in tribute to the airmen killed in the war.
  • On May 31, 1961, U.S. President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, accompanied by French President Charles de Gaulle, paid their respects by laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
  • On August 17, 1995, as part of a campaign of bombings, the Armed Islamic Group of Algeria exploded a bomb near the Arc de Triomphe, wounding 17 people.
The author

The author (at left)

Arc de Triomphe: Place Charles de Gaulle, 75008 Paris, France.  Tel:+33 1 55 37 73 77. Website: www.arcdetriompheparis.com. You can climb the 284 steps to the rooftop (9.50€)..

Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel (Paris, France)

After our all morning tour of the Louvre and lunch at an outdoor café, we made our way, by foot, to the Bateaux Parisiens boat docking station, near the Eiffel Tower, where we were to embark on a Seine River Cruise.  We passed a number of Paris landmarks along the way.  The first was the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, a triumphal arch  derivative of the triumphal arches of the Roman Empire; in particular that of Septimius Severus in Rome.

Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel

Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel

Located in the Place du Carrousel, it was designed by Charles Percier and Pierre François Léonard Fontaine and was built between 1806 and 1808, on the model of the Arch of Constantine (312 AD) in Rome, by Emperor Napoleon I as an entrance of honor of the Tuileries Palace, the Imperial residence, and to commemorate his diplomatic and military victories of the previous year. The more famous Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile, across from the Champs Élysées and designed in the same year, is about twice as massive but was not completed until 1836.

DSC05462

The Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel is located at the eastern end of Paris Axe historique (“historic axis”), a 9-km. long linear route which dominates much of the northwestern quadrant of the city. It is, in effect, the backbone of the Right Bank.  Looking west, the arch is perfectly aligned with the obelisk in the Place de la Concorde, the centerline of the grand boulevard Champs-Élysées, the Arc de Triomphe at the Place de l’Étoile, and, although it is not directly visible from the Place du Carrousel, the Grande Arche de la Défense. Thus, the axis begins and ends with an arch.

Bas-relief of The Battle of Austerlitz

Bas-relief of The Battle of Austerlitz

When the Arc du Carrousel was built, however, an observer in the Place du Carrousel was impeded from any view westward as the central part of the Palais des Tuileries intervened to block the line of sight to the west. When the Tuileries was burned down during the Paris Commune in 1871, and its ruins were swept away, the great axis, as it presently exists, an unobstructed view west was opened all the way to the Place du Carrousel, the Louvre and the more famous Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile. Also, with the disappearance of the palace, the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel also became the dominant feature of the Place du Carrousel.

The Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel seen from the Louvre

The Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel seen from the Louvre

This monument is 19 m. (63 ft.) high, 23 m. (75 ft.) wide and 7.5 m. (24 ft.) deep.  Its 6.4 m. (21 ft.) high central arch is flanked by two smaller ones, 4.3 m. (14 ft.) high, and 2.7 m. (9 ft.) wide. An example of Corinthian style of architecture, around its exterior are 8 marble Corinthian columns topped by an entablature whose upper frieze has sculptures of 8 soldiers of the Empire: Auguste Marie Taunay‘s cuirassier, Charles-Louis Corbet‘s dragoonJoseph Chinard‘s horse grenadier and Jacques-Edme Dumont‘s sapper.

Statue of a dragoon

Statue of a dragoon

On the pediment, between the soldiers, are bas-reliefs, executed in rose marble, whose subjects are devoted to the battles of Napoleon and were selected by Vivant Denon, the director of the Napoleon Museum  (located at the time in the Louvre), and designed by Charles Meynier. They depict:

It was originally surmounted by the so-called Horses of Saint Mark that adorned the top of the main door of the St Mark’s Basilica in Venice, which had been captured in 1798 by Napoleon. In 1815, following the Battle of Waterloo and the Bourbon restoration, France ceded the quadriga  to the Austrian empire which had annexed Venice under the terms of the Congress of Vienna. The Austrians immediately returned the statuary to Venice.

Quadriga of the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel - Copy

Quadriga of the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel

The horses of Saint Mark were replaced in 1828 by a quadriga, atop the entablature, sculpted by Baron François Joseph Bosio, depicting Peace riding in a triumphal chariot led by gilded Victories on both sides. The composition commemorates the Restoration of the Bourbons following Napoleon’s downfall.  The Arc du Carrousel inspired the design of Marble Arch, constructed in London between 1826 and 1833.

Seine River Cruise (Paris, France)

Seine River Sightseeing Cruise via Bateaux Parisiens

After our morning tour of the Eiffel Tower, we made our way, by foot, to the boat docking station at Port de la Bourdonnais where we hopped aboard a popular and modern Bateaux Parisiens glass-topped trimaran  to embark on a quintessential, scenic and leisurely cruise along the Seine riverbanks.

Port de la Bourdonnai

Bateaux Parisiens trimaran

All aboard …..

Bateaux Parisiens has a fleet of four trimarans, three named after legendary French actresses (Catherine Deneuve, Isabelle Adjani and Jeanne Moreau) and another after a French businessman (Pierre Bellon). They each hold up to 600 passengers.

The author

Our trimaran, with terrace and exterior passageways, was well equipped, clean and well maintained, with plenty of outdoor seating at the upper deck.

Jandy and Grace

The company also has nine smaller boats, some of which are used for dinner cruises and private events.  They offer high priced lunch and dinner, to the sound of the resident band, with a choice of four different a la carte menus, on separate restaurant boats.  All boats follow the same 12-km. long route.

Notre Dame Cathedral

Eiffel Tower

Louvre Museum

Grand Palais

A fantastic introduction to the highlights and magic of Paris, we soaked up the passing sights of iconic, world-famous monuments and landmarks as we cruised up and down  the Seine River.

Musee d’Orsay

National Museum of the Legion of Honor and Orders of Chivalry

National Assembly

Registry of the Paris Commercial Court

On the left bank are the Notre Dame Cathedral, the National Museum of the Legion of Honor and Orders of Chivalry, Conciergerie, National Assembly, Les Invalides, the Institut de France, and the Musée d’Orsay.

Paris City Hall

Institut de France

Hotel Dieu

 

Paris Conceiregerie

On the right bank, during the return trip, are the Louvre,  the Grand Palais, the Obelisk at the Place de la Concorde, Tuileries Garden, the Paris City Hall, and the Eiffel Tower.

Pont Neuf

Pont Alexandre III

Pont au Double

Pont de la Tournelle

We also glided beneath beautiful historic bridges (more than 30 bridges span the river), including the famous Pont Neuf. Even the Seine riverbanks, collectively designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1991, are a sight to behold.

Pont de Sully

Pont de l’Archevêché

Pont des Invalides

Pont d’Iéna

Pont Marie

Pont Saint Louis

After half an hour, our boat turned around and cruised back up along the opposite bank. Our 1-hour cruise ends back at the original departure point near the Eiffel Tower.

Passerelle Debilly

Passerelle Léopold Sédar Senghor

Bateaux Parisiens: Pontoon 3, Port de la Bourdonnais, 75007 Paris, France. Tel: +33 825 01 01 01 and +33 1 76 64 14 66.  Open 9:30 AM – 10 PM. Website: www.bateauxparisiens.com. Admission: adults (€15), children under 12 yrs. (€7), free for children under 3 years old. Ticket will be valid for one year at any given time. Departures: April to September (from 10:15 AM -10:30 PM, every 30 mins., no departures at 1:30 PM and 7:30 PM), October to March (from 11 AM -8:30 PM, at least every hour). Book online in advance to avoid queues. The boat also departs from Notre Dame Cathedral. Audio guide commentary with musical accompaniment, from a handset, available in 13 languages (English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, American, Russian, Dutch, Polish, Chinese, Japanese and Korean). Smoking is not allowed on the boat and animals are not permitted on board.

How to Get There: Champ de Mars Tour Eiffel (RER C) 5 . Nearest metro: Trocadero or Bir Hakeim

Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal (Paris, France)

A number of places we visited in our itinerary, as prepared by my brother-in-law Manny, included religious pilgrimage sites and, here in Paris, he made it a point to visit one.  On our very first day in the city, right after our visit to the iconic Pantheon, we dropped by the Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal.

Pilgrims waiting outside for the chapel's opening

Jandy (back turned) with pilgrims waiting outside for the chapel’s opening

Marian shrine, it is the site of 3 Marian apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary said to have been experienced by then 24 year old Marian visionary St. Catherine Labouré in 1830.  On the first visit, the night of July 18, she received a request that a Confraternity of the Children of Mary be established.

Compound of the Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal

Compound of the Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal

Later, on a second apparition on November 27, she was to request the creation of a medal with the following invocation: “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.”  The reverse side bore the letter “M” surmounted by a cross and over 2 hearts, one encircled by a crown of thorns and the other pierced with a sword. From May 1832 onwards, the medal, which is extraordinarily disseminated and said to convert, protect and perform  miracles, is called as the Miraculous Medal by the faithful.

The Miraculous Medal

Invocations on the Miraculous Medal

It was also here that, for three successive days, while at prayer, St Vincent de Paul, showed her his heart, each  time in different colors – white (the color of peace), red (the color of fire) and then black (an indication of the misfortunes that would come upon France and Paris, in particular). Shortly after, Catherine saw Jesus Christ present in the Sacred Host and, on June 6, 1830, the Feast of the Holy Trinity, Christ appeared as a crucified King, stripped of all his adornments.

Statue of St. Louise de Marillac

Statue of St. Louise de Marillac

The construction of a chapel began in the medieval Hôtel de Châtillon in 1813 and, on August 6, 1815, the solemn benediction of the chapel was dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. By imperial decree, it was attributed to the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul where Catherine entered on April 21, 1830, a few months before the apparitions. In 1849, the chapel was expanded after the apparitions to accommodate all those who wish to pray at the altar and, in the following years, underwent many other transformations. The present chapel is a complete renovation done in 1930, the year of its centenary.

Statue of St. Vincent de Paul

Statue of St. Vincent de Paul

The Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal is more commonly referred to by its address, “140 rue du Bac,” or, simply, the street on which it is situated, rue du Bac.  We arrived there 30 mins. before its 2:30 PM opening and crowds of Roman Catholic pilgrims were slowly gathering outside the gate. 

The interior of the chapel

The interior of the chapel

Upon entering, we first visited the chapel.  Its walls are beautifully decorated with mosaics and murals and over the altar (where the Virgin Mary Mary promised prayers will be answered) is a white marble statue of the Blessed Virgin sculpted in 1850 and crowned with 12 stars.  From her outstretched palms, rays of graces lead down to the floor.

The white marble statue of the Blessed Virgin

The white marble statue of the Blessed Virgin

Its tabernacle, which dates back to the 17th or 18th century, is unchanged since 1815. The tabernacle came from the chapel of the Sisters of Mercy, installed there before the French Revolution, and allocated to the Daughters of Charity in 1800.  St. Catherine said that it was in front of the tabernacle that the Blessed Virgin Mary prostrated herself on the night of July 18, 1830. She also appeared above it during the third apparition on December 30, 1830. In 1850, an ivory crucifix was placed on top of it.

Murals around the altar

Murals around the altar

The body of St. Louise de Marillac and the heart of  St. Vincent de Paul, founders of the Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul, are kept there. Lying inside a glass coffin, at the side altar of the chapel, is the uncorrupted body of St  Catherine, found miraculously preserved after it was exhumed in 1933, over 56 years after her death on December 31, 1876.  Pope Pius XII declared her a saint on July 27, 1947. 

Tomb of St. Louise de Marillac

Tomb of St. Louise de Marillac

Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal:  140 Rue du Bac, 75340 Paris, France. Tél : +33 (0)1 49 54 78 88. Fax : +33 (0)1 49 54 78 89.  Open daily, 7:30 AM – 1 PM and 2:30  – 7 PM, Tuesdays, 7:45 AM – 7 PM.

How to Get There: Take the Sèvres – Babylone Paris Métro  (Lines10 – 12) or Bus 39, 63, 70, 84, 87 and 94.

Pantheon (Paris, France)

The Pantheon

The Pantheon

After mass and tour of Notre Dame Cathedral and our first lunch in Paris at La Bucherie, we proceeded, on foot for 1 km. via Rue St. Jacques, to the nearby Pantheon in the 5th arrondissement on the Montagne Sainte-Geneviève.  The Panthéon (from  the Greek word  meaning “Every god”),  a building in the Latin Quarter was originally built as a abbey church, dedicated to St. Genevieve  (the patron saint of Paris), that would house the reliquary châsse containing her relics.

The interior of the Pantheon

The interior of the Pantheon

However, after many changes, it now functions as a secular mausoleum containing the remains of distinguished French citizens. By burying its great people in the Panthéon, France acknowledges the honor it received from them. As such, interment here is severely restricted and is allowed only by a parliamentary act for “National Heroes.”

The underground crypt

The underground crypt

An early example of Neo-Classicism, it was designed by Jacques-Germain Soufflot and combines the lightness and brightness of the Gothic cathedral with Classical principles.  With an imposing peristyle modeled on the Pantheon in Rome, it is surmounted by a dome that owes some of its character to Bramante‘s “Tempietto”. However, its later role as a mausoleum required that its 40 great Gothic windows be blocked. The Panthéon looks out over all of Paris.

Entrance to the underground crypt

Stairs leading to the entrance to the underground crypt

Started in 1758, its construction proceeded slowly. Soufflot died in 1780 and he was replaced by Jean-Baptiste Rondelet, his student. The church was finally completed in 1790.  Upon the death Honoré Gabriel Riqueti, comte de Mirabeau on April 2, 1791, the National Constituent Assembly (whose president had been Mirabeau) ordered that the building be changed from a church to a mausoleum for the interment of great Frenchmen.

Portico of Corinthian columns

Portico of Corinthian columns

Architect Quatremère de Quincy  oversaw the project, reducing the height of the towers, took off the cross which capped the dome, closed most openings of the dome and changed the pediment. Mirabeau was interred there on April 4, 1791, the first person to be so honored (his remains, however, were disinterred on November 25, 1794, buried in an anonymous grave and are yet to be recovered).

DSC00799

In 1806 Napoleon I re-converted the Pantheon into a church, changed the pediment and replaced the cross. In 1830, Louis-Philippe decided that should be a Pantheon again, having a new pediment built and stripping the building of any religious feature. However, in 1850, Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte re-converted it into a church, again installing a new pediment and replacing the cross on the dome where it has since remained. During the current major restoration project, the cross of the dome, retained in compromise, is again visible. In 1885, the building was finally returned to secular use and converted into a Pantheon. Victor Hugo‘s ashes were the first to be transferred to the Pantheon.

One of 3 bronze doors

One of 3 bronze doors

This vast 110 m. (352 ft.) long, 84 m. wide and 83 m. (272 ft.) high building has a Greek cross plan, 4 naves and is raised 11m above pavement level. It has a massive portico of twenty-two 20 m. high Corinthian columns. The three bronze doors are topped with marble sculptures representing respectively the Baptism of Clovis, Sainte-Geneviève and the Hun Attila.

Tomb of Voltaire

Tomb of Voltaire

Tomb of Jean-Jacques Rosseau

Tomb of Jean-Jacques Rosseau

Its crypt , no less vast, follows the cross shape of the building and is composed of a large vestibule where we saw the graves of the philosophers Voltaire and Jean-Jacques Rousseau.. At the entrance to the vestibule is the heart of Léon Gambetta (1838-1882) the founder of the Third Republic, placed in an urn on November 11, 1920.

Urn with heart of Leon Gambetta

Urn with heart of Leon Gambetta

The 4 side vaults follow the layout of the arms of the cross. The western vault, the longest and largest, is divided in two corridors. The right hand side contains the remains of 41 important figures of the Empire. The southern vault has no grave. 

The frescoed ceiling

The frescoed ceiling

Soufflot’s masterstroke, concealed from casual view, is the impressive triple dome, each shell fitted within the others.  Permitting a view through the oculus of the coffered  inner dome of the second dome, it is frescoed by Antoine Gros with The Apotheosis of Saint Genevieve. The outermost dome, built with stone bound together with iron cramps, is covered with lead sheathing  rather than the common French period practice of carpentry construction. The massive weight of the triple construction is passed the outwards by concealed  flying buttresses  to the portico columns.

The pediment

The triangular pediment with sculptural group of David d’Angers

The triangular pediment once had a sculptural group called “The Fatherland Crowning the Heroic and Civic Virtues,” created by Jean Guillaume Moitte  but, upon the Bourbon Restoration, was replaced with one sculpted by David d’Angers in 1837.  The philosophers Voltaire and Rosseau are represented, seated on the left hand side of the sculpture. The inscription above the entrance reads Aux Grands Hommes La Patrie Reconnaissante (“To great men, the grateful homeland”). Inside, there are no benches, chairs or altar, just gigantic murals; Corinthian columns and sculptures bathed by light pouring in from the dome’s opening.

La Convention National

“La Convention National” of Sicard

The interior of the building has sculptural groups, representing scenes from the French Revolution, all placed in front of the gigantic columns supporting the dome.  The sculptural group La Convention Nationales, sculpted by Sicard in the early 1920’s, dominates.

Monument to Diderot

Monument to Diderot

Monument to Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Monument to Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Valmy 1782

Valmy 1782

Mural scenes, done by Puvis de Chavannes and Jean-Paul Laurens, were commissioned In the 1870’s by the Marquis of Chennevières (the Director of Fine Arts).  They revolve around the beginnings of Christianity in France and the French monarchy through the life of St.Denis (the first bishop and patron saint of Paris) as well as the life (her childhood, miracles) of St. Geneviève (the other patron saint of the city), the siege of Paris by Attila and his Hun warriors, the Emperor Charlemagne, the baptism of King Clovis, and the life Joan of Arc and King St. Louis.

Mural of The Baptism of Clovis

Mural of The Baptism of Clovis

Among the famous and great intellectuals (writers, poets, scientists, politicians, inventors, explorers, etc.) of France buried in its necropolis include VoltaireJean-Jacques RousseauVictor HugoÉmile ZolaJean MoulinAlexandre Dumas, Louis BrailleJean Jaurès and Soufflot, its architect.

Tomb of Napoleonic Marshall Jean Lannes

Tomb of Napoleonic Marshall Jean Lannes

Tomb of Emile Zola

Tomb of Emile Zola

In 1907 Marcellin Berthelot was buried with his wife Mme Sophie Berthelot, the first woman to be interred but Marie Curie was the first woman interred based on her own merits. Geneviève de Gaulle-Anthonioz  (symbolic internment) and Germaine Tillion, heroines of the French resistance, were interred here in 2015.

L-R: Jandy, Grace, the author, Cheska and Kyle

L-R: Jandy, Grace, the author, Cheska and Kyle

Pantheon: Place du Panthéon, 75005 Paris, France. Tel: +33 1 44 32 18 00. Website: www.pantheonparis.com.