Friday, May 25, 2012

May 25, 2012

Lyon’s “Temple of Paradise” and Why We Remember

No one is entirely certain why French Protestant churches were often known as “temples.” The general consensus seems to be that (1) the description separated them from Catholic churches, and (2) the term “temple” is Biblical. At any rate, one must mourn the loss of the many beautiful temples that once existed throughout France. The “Temple of Paradise” in Lyon caught my eye one day while I was researching. I have little information concerning it, and I have no knowledge of when it might have been built. All I know is that it existed in 1564 / 1565, when it became the focal point for a painter’s artistic eye.

One must admire the men and women in the portrait. They sit nonchalantly upon a variety of benches, some standard picnic-style, some a kind of bleachers cut out at intervals for feet to go through. These Huguenot parishioners were risking their lives simply by worshiping there. One looks at the faces and wonders how they found the strength hold the Protestant banner high in a time when doing so was a dangerous affair . . . in a time when they were most especially a church of martyrs --- and when they must have had family members who had suffered such a fate. Who was the woman in the pink dress? She was probably unmarried. Was she frowned upon by the rest of the women in the portrait, who wore black? Was this portrait true to form with how the people actually looked or did the artist use artistic license for colors?

"The Temple of Paradise" in Lyon, seen in 1564 or 1565

The church itself was quite beautiful. Seemingly round, with an impressive wooden lectern in the front center, it had a wooded spindled balcony wrapping around the room. This balcony was held up by simple yet elegant supports. There were oval windows that each bore some kind of shield or chest, and upper-story windows were cut directly out of the roof and were decorated with crests as well. The exposed-beam ceiling was simple yet somehow pleasing to the eye.

The floor, it seems, was plain wood. The doorways and edging around the windows appear to be of stone, but it could be some other material. Though only part of the temple can be seen, it is likely the rest looked much the same, void of ornamentation except of that on the windows, for Huguenots did not believe in placing statues or other religious objects in their temples due to the restrictions of the Ten Commandments.

What happened to those people in the portrait? The men, one notices, were more likely to wear brighter colors, yet they still sported the plain black Puritan-style hats and somber white neck-ruffs. Considering that the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre occurred less than a decade later, and considering many of these Huguenot worshipers likely remained in the town of their birth, it is safe to say that many of the people in this portrait were likely massacred for their faith. 

We are the messengers. The world may have forgotten this lovely Huguenot church known as the “Temple de Paradis,” but we, the Protestants of this generation, the spiritual descendants of the Reformation faiths, can always remember. We have little information to go by. We could not know the circumstances surrounding its construction or all the trials it bore. But we know it is existed, and we have one portrait, one window in time, to prove its appearance. This way it can live in our hearts forever.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

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