June 4 2014 Rodin Museum: It’s a Small Small World

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Musee Rodin June 4 2014 — It’s a Small Small World

We had heard that the Rodin Museum was a favorite Parisian hangout for many folks, and when a Meet Up was planned there for dinner on Wednesday, we figured it would be a good reason also to visit the museum.  It was another bus adventure — we found the 82 at Luxembourg where it apparently originates, and were astonished when it went around the Luxembourg Garden and took a short cut to get to Montparnasse within a few minutes.  Since we were planning to go to Chartres the next day, it was encouraging to realize that the train station from which we were leaving was that close to our familiar haunts.  

 Then the bus took us into what was for us new territory, and let us out in front of the Invalides, which hadn’t previously been on our radar.  It was a huge church building with an enormous gilded dome inlaid with beautiful mosaics.  Surrounding the supersized domed church building was an enormous hospital complex set in an even more impressive and perfectly tailored formal garden.  Apparently it was built as a veteran’s hospital in the time of Louis XIV, the “Sun King” of the 1600s.  It is so grand that it served as inspiration for many later domed buildings, including the United States Capitol Building in Washington DC.  Nowadays the complex is mostly a military museum, as well as a pantheon of French military heroes, including Napoleon himself.

 The garden is a wonderful formal French layout of perfectly sculpted evergreens surrounded by swirling paths, with the Eiffel Tower looming over the whole.  It was all so  beautiful and majestic.  We were surprised to get off the bus and find ourselves in such a breathtakingly beautiful place.  Paris has so many magnificent monuments and parks.  

 

The Rodin Museum was somewhere in the neighborhood, and after walking around parts of the Invalides, we consulted our maps and set off in search of it.  The famed sculptor Rodin mostly lived and worked in a suburban village called Meudon, where he had a house.  But late in his life, he had decided to leave his house, and rent a house in Paris, to work there for a while.  His personal assistant, who came with him, was the famous poet Rainier Maria Rilke.

  This Paris “house” turned out to be an elegant “hotel particulier” — an enormous mansion surrounded by a parklike property.  The house itself was closed for renovations and repairs.  However, we discovered that the museum was showing in another building an exhibit comparing the work and the esthetics of Rodin with twentieth century American photographer Robert Mapplethorpe.  The basic premise of the exhibit was that both Rodin and Mapplethorpe, in their respective eras and artistic media, were extraordinary explorers and artists of the human form.  This theme made a lot of visual sense, and the show, indeed, was both beautiful and interesting.  

Then, In walking through the museum garden, I was surprised to see that several of Rodin’s major works were here.  It was exciting to be able to walk around the Burgers of Calais (the bronze sculpture depicting 6 leaders of the city of Calais on the English Channel who had volunteered to be executed by the English King Edward in 1834, in exchange for Edward’s sparing the city from destruction by his army.).  Apparently the original cast is shown in front of the Calais city hall, in Normandy, the space for which it was commissioned in the 1800s.  But another cast that had been made was donated to the Rodin Museum so that we could enjoy it there.  There is also a Rodin Museum in Philadelphia that has yet another cast of the original sculpture.

Rodin did a beautiful job catching and portraying the sense of doom under which the six chosen leaders approached their execution. It is a beautiful, complex three dimensional composition, fascinating from every angle.  It is also monumental in scale — larger than life.  It was hard to imagine any foundry being able to cast such a heroic group of human figures attached to a base — a truly larger-than-life job.  

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The Burghers of Calais

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The Gates of Hell

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The Thinker

The get-together at the cafeteria of the Rodin Museum was very enjoyable.  We met a dozen or so gay people of different nationalities who are living in Paris.  It was interesting to talk with them and learn a bit more about living in Paris as an expatriate, and to hear their experiences in Paris and share ours. One of the people with whom we had an interesting conversation is an elementary school teacher teaching in an international private school in Paris — one where becoming a citizen of the world is a major curriculum objective.  He’s from Ireland, but has taught in several places around the world — including Georgia and North Carolina — enjoying very much his life of serious travel and exploration of the world.  It turned out that he had taught for several years in the public middle school in Atlanta that Nancy had attended many years earlier while growing up.  It was a notable example of the “small world” phenomenon!  

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View of the Invalides dome from the garden of the Rodin Museum

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Street view from the garden of Rodin’s Paris house

When we’d arrived at the Invalides, we hadn’t been able to see the bus stop for the return trip, and several of our new friends walked with us to the bus stop, to make sure we got back safely to our part of Paris.  One of them even got on the bus with us to make sure we transferred successfully at the Gare de Montparnasse, since the bus line we’d come on had stopped running (Some Paris bus lines do that at 8 or 8:30, which is very early in Paris) — so we had to take a different bus and transfer to our home line.  As we were riding on the bus together, he asked us where the apartment is that we had rented, and we told him the street.  He thought for a minute and said — Bob and Rick’s apartment?  Well, yes, in fact it is. Turns out he’s been to the apartment, as a friend of Bob and Rick.  The world is ever smaller than anyone can imagine!  How does this sort of thing happen?  

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Rev. Rosemary Hyde, Ph.D.

I am a grandmother, a classical homeopath, a mystical poet, and an interfaith minister. I also have a large, enduring place in my heart for Paris. I first spent time in Paris in 1961, as a Fulbright scholar. I remained in France for three years, living also in Toulouse and in Nancy. I have revisited France and Paris multiple times since then, and have come to know central Paris reasonably well. I grew up in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, where there were many Franco-Americans, and their language fascinated me. I was fortunate in 6th grade, when my family moved, to find myself in a Catholic French speaking girls' school, where I had the wonderful fortune of becoming bilingual. It still feeds my soul deeply, to visit Paris, speak French, and reconnect with the little French girl in me. I am serving presently as co-minister at Unity Center of Peace in Chapel Hill, NC. I give talks one or two Sundays a month -- please go to the website, www.unitychapelhill.org, and sign up for the weekly e-news to learn what's going on -- special events, seasonal interfaith ceremonies, and Sunday themes and talks. My vision for the Unity Chapel Hill ministry and for myself is to become a loving, uniting presence in the lives of all those who cross paths with us. That's all there is, really -- loving presence. And so it is. Amen. My goal as a minister is to add richness to life for those who resonate to more than one religious tradition or to none -- those with mixed religions as well as the unchurched, untempled, and unmosqued. All of us, whatever our cultural allegiances, hunger for and need support in finding the transcendent joy that's ours to find in this earthly life. All of us need and want to celebrate beautifully the great and small milemarker moments. All of us crave the beauty of prayer as an expression of our participation in universal love. All of us wish to learn a greater vision, to see our lives opening to the Divine. All of us desire deeply to find serenity and peace that lasts no matter what happens today and tomorrow. This is the meaning of Transcendessence. We find the essence of spirit and transcend the narrow constraints of our bodies and egos. Join us today by subscribing, so you won't miss a single poem, message, prayer, or meditation.
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