|The Independent Traveler's Newsletter PAGE THREE|
by Kristin Espinasse
Just A Day in a French Life . . . January 23, 2007
The day before yesterday, I watched and listened as the French mourned the death of their favorite personage: l'Abbé Pierre, voted third greatest Frenchman after Charles de Gaulle and Louis Pasteur.
L'Abbé Pierre was the short priest with the long beard, the white-haired legend in the black beret, the former resistance fighter in a dark cape who now clutched a bleached wood cane.
Like his appearance, Abbé Pierre, who once broke his vow of chastity yielding to the force of desire, was a man of contrast. Humble and soft-spoken, he was driven by a 'holy anger' and known for his passionate outbursts when speaking for the homeless. He once told Jean-Marie Le Pen to "shut up!" after the president of the National Front implied that all of France's ills stemmed from immigration.
His beliefs were sometimes unorthodox, as he felt that priests should be able to marry, gays should be able to adopt, and women to be ordained. Above all, Abbé Pierre believed in the homeless and their unspeakable living conditions; caring for the sans-abri would be his life's mission.
While President Chirac was said to be bouleversé by Abbé Pierre's death, it was the thoughtful words of a homeless man that touched the most as I listened to the mid-day news: "Sa mort, ça me fait plus mal que la morsure du froid,"..."His death, it hurts me more than frostbite."
Frostbite and hunger were on Abbé Pierre's agenda, made famous in 1954 when he stole into a radio station demanding the microphone. It was a murderous winter for the homeless in Paris, and an old woman had just been found frozen to death on the Boulevard de Sebastopol, an eviction notice still in her hand. Reaction to Abbé Pierre's outcry was overwhelming and the French, both rich and poor, responded with blankets, coats, heaters and money as well as rice, pasta, bread, chocolate and canned food. Charlie Chaplin (exiled in Paris at the time and made famous for his character the 'Little Tramp') handed over thousands of francs, explaining, "The money belongs to the vagabond I portrayed".
It was in 1949 that Abbé Pierre founded the Emmaus Society with the idea to "travailler avec des pauvres pour des pauvres" to work with the poor for the poor. The poor that followed him were also known as the 'Ragpickers' for the junk they collected, organized and now sold in open-to-the-public warehouses throughout France. For this, Abbé Pierre was sometimes referred to as the 'ragpicker's saint'.
Activist for the poor for over five decades, at 5:25 am on January 22nd, at the age of 94, Abbé Pierre's light went out when he died in Paris after being admitted to the hospital for a lung infection. The feisty yet humble Frenchman had requested that the following words be written on his tomb: "Il a essayé de aimer." ~ "He tried to love."
Note: A funeral ceremony was conducted at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris
Kristin Espinasse is the American author of Simon & Schuster's
by Bryna C. O'Sullivan
the City of Light it is always rewarding to make a discovery
Opened in 1934 and situated in the handsome seventeenth century Hôtel de Miramion in the Latin Quarter near Notre Dame, the Musée de l’Assistance Publique-Hôpitaux de Paris spans the history of hospitals in Paris from the Middle Ages to the beginning of the twentieth century. The collection numbers nearly 10,000 items: paintings, sculptures, drawings, and medical instruments among others. Some of these works and objects are put on display during regularly occurring special exhibitions focusing on different aspects of the hospital, while a part remains on permanent display.
Located on the ancient grounds of the Cistercian community, the Hôtel de Miramion dates to 1630. It was constructed by Christophe Martin, Counsellor of State, Attendant and Controller-General of the Royal Stable. The Hôtel was purchased by Madame de Miramion in 1675.
A young, fortunate widow, she made her home the center of a lay community consecrated to religious education, the service of the poor and sick, and the instruction of girls. The community was dissolved in the 1790s, with the buildings being transformed into an arms workshop. In 1812, the General Pharmacy of the Parisian hospitals was transferred onto the site. The last laboratories were moved to Nanterre in 1970, permitting the museum to expand to a larger portion of the building than it had previously occupied.
diverse collections of the museum reflect the changing societal conception
of the role of the Hospital in the city.
The specific needs of the abandoned child become an issue in the seventeenth century as reflected through imagery of the “tower,” a device that ensured the protection of an abandoned child and the anonymity of the parents.
same period, the desire to isolate societal problems, such as beggars and
the insane, is shown through the documents and images of the General Hospital
(17th century), which housed thousands of individuals during its existence.
The Musée de l’Assistance Publique – Hôpitaux de Paris is open from 10 am to 6 pm, Tuesday to Sunday. It is closed on Mondays, public holidays, and during the month of August. The normal entry fee is €4; half-price entry is available for students, youth from 13 to 18 and groups of more than 10. Entry is free for children up to age 13 and on the first Sunday of each month. For groups or guided visits, a reservation is necessary, which can be made by calling 01.40.27.50.05. More information is available by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, on the web site www.aphp.fr/musee, or by phoning 01.40.27.50.05. The museum address is: Hôtel de Miramion, 47, quai de la Tournelle, 75005 Paris.
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