Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A Genealogist on the Loose in Paris

My husband travels a lot and because of this travel, he racks up points and miles. I try not to complain too much about the travel, because those points and miles usually translate into a nice vacation. Yahoo for me! So last week we went to Paris as a celebration of our 10 year anniversary back in May. It came at a good time too. My head has been spinning with all the knowledge gained from Samford and all the prep taking place for NIGR. So off to Paris we went.

The funny thing about being a genealogist though, is that you never stop thinking like one. Our first day we wandered around the city and took in a couple of sites. The second day we spent in Versailles. This place was amazing! Me, with my modern day luxuries and conveniences, was agog over the splendor of it all. It's not hard to imagine why the starving peasants were so pissed. I would have been too.

During our trip we also went to the Catacombs and a small quaint museum called The Cluny Museum, both in Paris. The Catacombs house the bones of approximately 6 million people. In 1786 the people of Paris wanted to make space for the living and decided to empty the church cemeteries. The bones were transferred, by priests, to the underground tunnels made from limestone quarries. This process took about a decade, of priests transferring, stacking, and blessing the bones. After the bodies were transferred from each church a plaque was placed in front of the wall of bones, indicating the church, the date, and the district said church was located. As a genealogist, this would be a bit challenging. How could you locate gggg granny or gramps? I had some answers swirling around in my head, but voiced this question to my husband. He replied they could look in the church registers to find out if their people were buried at that church---hence they would now be in the Catacombs. This answer shocked me into silence. I can't believe he's actually been listening to my ramblings over the years about how to look for evidence! Hunh. Color me surprised.

The Cluny Museum is an out of the way gem that I insisted we had to go to. Why? They have the distinct privilege of housing The Lady and the Unicorn Tapestries. I've read about them over the years and was busting to see them for myself. They didn't disappoint. My mom went through a weaving phase when I was a kid, so I understand the process. The Lady and the Unicorn tapestries are truly a work of art that are just incredible to behold. The Cluny Museum also houses an interesting collection of carvings from the Middle Ages, a Roman Bath (the museum is located on the site of a Roman bathhouse), and stone heads from Notre-Dame.

The stone heads were a surprise. There were 21 heads sculpted (circa 1220-1230) to represent the Biblical kings of Judah. Well an angry mob of Revolutionaries in 1793, thought these heads represented the kings of France. So like any angry mob they attacked the statues and decapitated them! What is truly surprising is that some rational, forward thinking person gathered up these heads and buried them in his backyard. They stayed buried until 1977 when diggers discovered them. I can't begin to tell you all of the questions swirling around in my head over this scenario. However, I did turn to my husband and say,"I wonder if anybody has researched the land records to discover who this person was that buried them?"

It's hard to stop thinking like a genealogist, even when you are on vacation. 

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