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A Little Piece of Russia in Paris

I went to a wedding yesterday. I wasn’t invited and I didn’t know the people getting married but I went anyway. Actually, I didn’t set out to go to the wedding, I just sort of stumbled across it.

I was sound hunting as I so often do on a Saturday and I went back to the rue Mouffetard in the Véme Arrondissement where I went to last week (see my blog piece “rue Mouffetard”). At the bottom of the street, I stopped to have a look at the market which was as busy and colourful as ever.

Next to the market is the fifteenth-century church of Saint-Médard.

There has been a church on this site since Merovingian times. Along with the churches of Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre and Saint-Marcel, this church, dedicated to Saint-Médard, was built close to the rue Mouffetard, the major Roman road leading south to Lyon and Italy. The building of the present church was begun in the mid fifteenth-century and continued until its completion in 1655. In 1784, Louis-François Petit-Radel was commissioned to rejuvenate the church’s chancel which he did in Classical style whilst at the same time replacing the nave’s sixteenth-century windows with contemporary stained glass.

In the second half of the sixteenth-century, the church was associated with the Huguenots. Public preaching by the Huguenots, as the Calvinists were called from around 1560, was banned but it still went on largely in secret on the Left Bank and particularly around the rue Mouffetard and Saint-Médard. As so often in French history, things turned bloody. In late 1561 atrocities by both Protestants and Catholics occurred in the parish of Saint-Médard. This, together with the “massacre of Wassy”, when Catholics attacked a Protestant assembly at Wassy in Champagne and dozens were killed, proved to be the trigger for a religious war which culminated in the infamous Saint Bartholomew’s Day massacre in 1572.

I’ve digressed, so back to the beginning and the wedding.

I went into the Eglise Saint-Médard and much to my surprise the wedding ceremony was taking place so I sat down and watched and listened. Having not been invited I took a place towards the back of the church and tried to remain as inconspicuous as possible. From a discarded Order of Service I discovered that this was the wedding of Anastasia and Mickael, the bride being Russian and the groom French, and it was being conducted in both the Russian and French languages.

I found it all fascinating and I simply couldn’t resist recording at least some of it.

Here is the Benediction sung by Father Yagello from the Russian Orthodox Church together with a Russian choir. Père Yagello begins to chant, the congregation stand and a little French boy is desperate to join in!

The organ of Saint-Médard dates from 1645 although it has subsequently been rebuilt twice. Parts of the organ casing though are thought to be original. The first rebuild of the organ occurred in 1767 when the organ builder François-Henri Clicquot completely rebuilt the old instrument.  Then in 1778, Adrien L’Espine, Clicquot’s brother-in-law, carried out more major renovations, particularly to the wind system.  The instrument was completely rebuilt again in 1880 by the organ builders Edouard and Eugène Stolz.

I have digressed again!

So, another Saturday afternoon in the rue Mouffetard and in the Eglise Saint-Médard Anastasia and Mickael, now safely married, leave the church in style to be greeted outside by their families and friends. I wish them well and I shall remember this little piece of Russia in Paris for some time to come.

Both the Benediction and the organ are binaural recordings. To get the best effect it’s best to listen using headphones.

And, finally:

As you listen to the organ of the Eglise Saint-Médard, you might out of curiosity if nothing else want to read these – The Lord’s Prayer in both French and Russian.