Happy Bright Monday! Christ is risen!
Last month, the planning commission for a new Russian Orthodox Center in Paris announced the winning design by the Arch Moscow Group. You may read about the project in Le Parisien, “Centre orthodoxe russe à Paris : voici le projet retenu” or on Muuuze, “Centre orthodoxe par SADE – Arch Group.” The Moscow based model workshop ABTB also has several models of the complex.
When Fr. Hans posted the story on the A.O.I. Observer, my interest in matters French and Russian compelled me to write: “Highly Visible Russian Church to be Built in Paris.” Here is an edited version of my comments, which allowed me to indulge the white person pleasure of mentioning one’s time abroad:
When I read about this yesterday, I had mixed emotions. It somewhat reminds me of Wright’s Greek Orthodox Church. For a contemporary structure, it is not terrible, but why do architects feel the need to dare something unprecedented? It’s a symptom of modern artistic narcissism. The temple itself actually looks normal, though covered with a lace structure. I suppose that it is a compromise, which allows the builders to justify traditional architecture. The lace structure might have solar panels; if so, it is the least ugly and obtrusive way of having such panels that I have seen. Moreover, the cover might be useful for processions on rainy days. The gardens look nice. Modern design can look less sterile and offensive when it incorporates gardens, and Paris excels at this combination, as you can see in the new parks from the last few decades.
I lived in Paris, and I know that it would have been nice to have a Russian parish on the Left Bank. Alexander Nevsky and Saint Sergius are charming but not terribly convenient for folks south of the Seine. As rue Daru continues to be under the Ecumenical Patriarch, I wonder if this new center is Moscow’s way of reasserting authority over the Russo-French community. Speaking of which, are there any plans to “reabsorb” the Russian Orthodox in Western Europe? Or is the Exarchate happy to stay under the E.P.?
[In the post, Fr. Hans shared his aversion to the Centre Pompidou.] By the way, Father, I think that most Parisians like the Centre Pompidou. It usually has a lot going on that’s free, and the fountains are interesting. It always reminded me of a hamster habitrail for people. I did have a prof that frequently complained about it, as she liked the old Beaubourg houses. What the older Parisians really hate is the destruction of Les Halles–the market that they miss much.
As I was reading various articles on the web about the new Russian Center, I was shocked at how many Frenchies were complaining in the comment sections about the “double standard” that they see where mosques are socially condemned and discouraged but this Russian Center is being celebrated. I never would have thought of that. Of course, there is no demographic threat from Russian immigrants; Eastern European hordes are not radically changing French cities. Moreover, France and Russia have had a special relationship for centuries, and aside from a few spats here and there (Shorty’s invasion of the Motherland, for example), their history has been amicable. Consider the temples that the Romanovs financed as well as the splendid Pont Alexandre III. Orthodox Russia is closer to Roman Catholic France than the alien people, religion, and ways of the Maghreb. Moreover, Russkies have not repeatedly bombed Parisian metro stations and set fire to the suburbs, and that might make people besides the Front National a bit apprehensive. Regardless, the French Left does not like to discriminate, and so they issue charges of hypocrisy.
I encountered the wonderful consequences of France’s vibrant diversity when Algerians bombed the Port Royal RER station just as I was dining with some friends at a student restaurant that overlooked the station. I also witnessed the benefits of such diversity when thugs des banlieues would occasionally assault my French copains, who would return home bruised and bloodied, though the police were not that interested once they discovered what the perpetrators were. I personally never had trouble with the Algerians in Paris as I frequently visited Arab neighborhoods to eat the best couscous dishes that I have ever tasted for drastically less money than standard Parisian restaurants. I spent dozens of evenings in the tea room of the Grande Mosquée de Paris while chatting with friends and enjoying cheap delicious pastries. I also occasionally visited l’Institut du monde arabe. Overall, I had a rather positive experience of the Franco-Arab scene. My negative incident with the Mohammedans occurred in the slums of Brussels, but that is another story.
On a lighter note, for more S.W.P.L. laughs regarding white people’s overseas adventures, read “Travelling”and “Japan.” As always, Christian Lander delivers perspicacious humor.