French Huguenot Church

In a city noted for extraordinary churches, the French Huguenot Church stands out among Charleston’s houses of worship.

Completed in 1845, the Huguenot Church was the first Gothic Revival building constructed in the South Carolina port city. Nearly 170 years later, it is the only independent Huguenot church in the United States.

Also known as the French Protestant Church, it is a stuccoed-brick structure with three bays in the front and back and six bays along the sides. Each bay is divided by narrow buttresses topped by elaborate pinnacles, and the three front windows are topped with cast-iron crockets with a battlement parapet surrounding the top of the church.

The interior consists of walls with plaster ribbed-grained vaulting, with marble tablets etched with names of Huguenot families such as Ravenel, Porcher, de Saussure, Huger and Mazyck.

The French Huguenot Church was founded around 1681 by Protestant refugees escaping persecution in France.

“From 1680 through 1760, hundreds of Huguenots arrived in the Lowcountry, seeking religious freedom and safety from persecution. Many abandoned considerable wealth and social prominence simply for the opportunity to practice their Protestant faith,” according to John E. Cuttino, president of the Huguenot Society of South Carolina.

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notre dame bells

After nearly 225 years, the bells of Notre Dame de Paris will soon ring again with pitch-perfect tones.

Nine enormous, new bronze bells, including one weighing six and half tons, have arrived in Paris to give the famed medieval cathedral a more harmonious sound.

They are joining the cathedral’s oldest surviving bell, a great bell named Emmanuel, to restore rich tones originally conceived for the great church, according to The Daily Mail.

The new bells, each named for a saint or prominent Catholic figure, were nearly all cast in a foundry in the Normandy town of Villedieu. They will be blessed Saturday in the cathedral’s nave by Archbishop Andre Armand Vingt-Trois, according to The Associated Press.

“The nine casts were ordered for the cathedral’s 850th birthday – to replace the discordant “ding dang” of the previous four 19th century chimes,” according to the wire serve.

The original bells, except for Emmanuel, were destroyed in the French Revolution, and the replacements were said to be France’s “most out-of-tune church bells.” Emmanuel has long enjoyed a special place in the hearts of Parisians; it was rung in 1944 to announce the liberation of Paris from Nazi occupation.

Perhaps the most famous bell-ringer in literary history, Quasimodo, toiled at Notre Dame in Victor Hugo’s 1831 classic “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” It should be noted that he was also deaf.

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notre dame de paris

Despite not looking a day over 700, the famed French cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris Wednesday began a year of celebrations to mark the 850th anniversary of its founding.

Dignitaries, tourists and Parisians gathered in the thousands Wednesday for a ceremony and Mass to celebrate the history of the Gothic landmark, which was begun in 1163 during the reign of Louis VII. Construction did not finish until the middle of the 14th century.

To mark the jubilee year, the cathedral features new, improved lighting, a viewing platform and a renovated organ. Officials expect an additional five million individuals to visit the church in the coming year, according to Agence France-Presse.

Over the centuries Notre Dame has been witness to much history:


Mainstream media takes its fair share of abuse, not all unwarranted, but one need only pick up a newspaper from the 19th century to see how much different – and better – journalism is today.

While it’s no secret that it was accepted practice for newspapers in the 1800s to exist to blatantly promote a single candidate or party – something that would be unheard of today (despite the bleating of conspiracy theorists) – it seems old-time scribes had no issue with laying their biases out in other areas, as well.

Consider the following “article” taken from a South Carolina newspaper in 1864:

Thaddeus W. Saunders was executed for Burglary in Col’a So. Ca. June 24, 1864. He had been convicted of breaking into the residence of a female, who kept a house for Prostitution, on Bridge Street in Cola. She was known as “Dutch Rosa,” so the writer understands.

In the commission of this offence, there was also an appalling and additional monstrous crime. In order to carry out the theft, which was intended by the House Breaking, the committal of a murder was necessary. This man, therefore with the assistance of a brutal companion, destroyed the life of the woman, by using Cloroform (sic) copiously. This effected, and her room and trunks were then robbed of money, jewels, and other valuables, to a large amount.

The two robbers and murderers then left the city, but were ultimately arrested in Montgomery, Alabama, and brought to Col’a So. Ca. for trial.

First off, one gathers from the article that Saunders was executed for burglary, rather than being an accomplice to murder. However, one might have thought the reporter would have wanted to include the bit about the killing in the lead paragraph.

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Lost amid the hubbub surrounding the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic is the remarkable achievement the ship’s building represented.

A product of the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast, Ireland, the Titanic’s creation represented a remarkable transformation for a country just a couple of generations removed from the Great Potato Famine that claimed more than 1 million lives and induced another 1 million-plus to emigrate.

But, as the Irish Times explains, Protestant Belfast was much different from the Ireland of the southern, Catholic portion of the island realm.

“It had grown at a phenomenal rate, surging past Dublin in 1891 to become Ireland’s largest city, and then growing by another 35 per cent in the last decade of the 19th century alone,” according to the publication.

Belfast had the world’s “largest rope works, tobacco factory, linen spinning mill, tea machinery works, dry dock and aerated water factory.”

There was no chance that southern Ireland, lacking the above globally significant industry, could have produced the Titanic.

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The Church of St. Vincent de Paul in Manhattan has a storied history.

Dedicated in 1869, it was the first integrated church in New York, it has long served as the spiritual home for the area’s French-speaking Catholics and today it is Manhattan’s last francophone parish.

Famed French cultural icon Edith Piaf was even married in the church in 1952.

Today, it serves a diverse body of Catholics from France, Belgium, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Haiti, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Switzerland, Togo and elsewhere. But the end appears near for the venerable building.

“Stained-glass windows depicting the story of France are chipped, and plastic bins lay across the floor to collect rain from the leaky roof while yellow cautionary tape marks areas damaged by the water,” according to Agence France-Presse.

Worse yet, the number of parishioners on the church’s rolls continues to dwindle; five years ago, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York made the decision to close St. Vincent de Paul for good.

However, churchgoers can get attached to their place of worship. Despite the fact refurbishing St. Vincent de Paul would cost an estimated $5-10 million, some aren’t giving up just yet.

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A thief in Dublin stole the preserved heart of a 12th century Irish saint this past weekend and it’s difficult to determine what’s more intriguing – the actual event or the lead paragraph detailing the crime, as written by The Associated Press:

“Somewhere in Ireland, a burglar has the heart of a saint.”

Officials at Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin said Sunday the church’s most precious relic, the preserved heart of St. Laurence O’Toole, patron saint of Dublin, was taken from a heart-shaped wooden box secured in a small, square iron cage on the wall of a chapel dedicated to St. Laurence’s memory.

On Saturday someone cut through two bars, pried the cage loose and made off with the relic. O’Toole’s heart had been displayed in the cathedral since the 13th century.

“I am devastated that one of the treasured artifacts of the cathedral is stolen,” said the Most Rev. Dermot Dunne, the cathedral’s dean. “It has no economic value but it is a priceless treasure that links our present foundation with its founding father.”

Detectives were studying closed-circuit TV footage to try to identify the approximately 40 people who walked out the cathedral’s front doors Saturday morning, Ireland’s national police force said.

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Pope Benedict XVI last week named 22 new cardinals, elevating churchmen from 14 different countries – including two from the US and one from Canada – to help serve as his top advisors.

Cardinals under the age of 80 can vote in papal elections, and Benedict’s action brings to 125 the number of cardinals eligible to vote in the next papal conclave. Cardinals aged 80 and over are not allowed to vote in papal elections, although they can be elected pope.

Of the nearly two dozen men raised by the Holy Father, one stuck out – or at least his new title did. Manuel Monteiro de Castro of Portugal will serve as Major Penitentiary of the Apostolic Penitentiary.

My first thought was, quite simply, that I didn’t realize the Vatican had a penitentiary.

I knew that when the Papal States, the Vatican’s predecessor, was in existence, it did indeed have prisons and even executed prisoners, like nearly all countries during the time when the Catholic Church held reign as a true temporal power (more than 1,000 years, up until 1870).

In fact, one of the places used as prison by the Papal States was Castel Sant’Angelo, now a much-visited museum, but once a papal castle. Executions were even carried out there.

But, of course, the Church isn’t exactly big on capital punishment anymore, has barely enough land or citizens today to warrant the operation of a prison and would probably be happy to let the Italian authorities deal with anything worthy of criminal prosecution, anyway.

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Cardinal Kazimierz Swiatek, a revered figure to Belarusian Catholics due to his heroic resistance of communism, died last week at age 96.

Swiatek bore witness to the entire brutal 70-plus-year rule of communism in the former Soviet Union, being deported with his family to Siberia at age 3, being arrested and sentenced to death by the Soviet secret police in 1941, escaping two months later but being recaptured three years later and sentenced to a decade in the gulag.

After his release in 1954, Swiatek spent the next 30 years ministering in semi-secrecy to a Catholic community in the Belarusian community of Pinsk.

He not only outlasted the Soviet Union, but was made a cardinal by Pope John Paul II in 1994, the first from Belarus in some 200 years.

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Organized religion has plenty of detractors, many of whom never miss a chance to air their grievances, Festivus-style.

But for every lapsed Catholic or non-practicing Pentecostal, there is a devout believer who finds solace in their faith, even if their fervency isn’t always made known to all who surround them.

The blog Nothingness begins a post called The Church of My Childhood thus:

It was a small church, whose memory has become a part of me. 

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