What happened here, in this courtyard on the Left Bank in Paris? What happened in this place, so simply marked?
It happened on September 2, 1792.
Essentially, these religious who had refused to sign the Constitution of the Clergy had been imprisoned in this former Carmelite monastery and elsewhere around Paris. On September 2, the dam broke and they were slaughtered.
I knew about this, and had found the church – St. Joseph des Carmes – a couple of weeks ago. We stood at the gate and looked at the church, but couldn’t figure out how to get in.
As we were standing there, and older man stopped, peered through the gate, and asked me (in French), “Is that a church in there?”
I told him yes.
He looked through the bars again and shook his head ruefully. “I’ve lived here all my life, and I never knew there was a church,” he said as he walked away.
Today, we had the opportunity to see it up close – Jim Brown, head of institutional relations for the Institut Catholique, within the grounds of which the church sits, invited us and the Drehers to take a tour.
The parish wasn’t blocked off or inaccessible to the public – it’s just that it’s within the grounds of the Institute, and I just didn’t take the time to figure out where the main entrance was that day.
This plaque at the head of this post isn’t in the church – it’s around the back, in the seminary garden. It’s simple, stark and direct.
This stood in another part of the garden:
….marking the first to be struck down.
Here they fell.