. . . I walked on in the rain. I walked down past the Lycée Henri Quatre and the ancient church of St.-Étienne-du-Mont and the windswept Place du Panthéon and cut in for shelter to the right and finally came out on the lee side of the Boulevard St.-Michel and worked on down it past the Cluny and the Boulevard St.-Germain until I came to a good café that I knew on the Place St.-Michel. —Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast: The Restored Edition.
I have been going to church lately. I have not chosen to go on a Sunday. It has been in the morning during the week, before lunch, or sometimes after lunch and I am walking after having eaten well.
When I enter a cathedral, I look specifically for particular features: the stained glass windows, the chaire, the confessional booths, the nave, the organ, and the chapels. I admire the architectural features as well, but the afore-mentioned features—several of them—are often more accessible; they can be appreciated up close.
Notice that I wrote “cathedral” instead of “church.” Notre-Dame de Paris and Sacré-Coeur are examples of Roman Catholic cathedrals.
Churches with the function of “cathedral” are usually specific to those Christian denominations with an episcopal hierarchy, such as the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox, and some Lutheran and Methodist churches.
I discovered the cathedral Saint-Etienne-du-Mont some years ago. I had often seen it while walking by the Panthéon on my way to rue Mouffetard or to a favorite bistro à vin, Les Pipos. I learned that the cathedral had a cemetery with some notable persons buried there, among them Jean-Paul Marat, the French Revolution rabble rouser and pamphleteer. (Today, he would be celebrated for his savage tweets.)
I went to the cathedral in order to walk the cemetery. However, I learned that it has not existed for a long time, and many who had been buried there were long gone, including Marat. During the search for Marat, I noticed the cathedral.
While I think of a cathedral, Saint-Etienne-du-Mont, for example, as a tourist destination, it is a place of worship. It is the seat of a bishop, who leads a diocese. It is therefore a crucial place of worship for Catholics, who gather there to attend daily Masses or to participate in the main liturgical celebrations of the Christian calendar. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)
Often the center of the cathedral will have three aisles, one through the center, or nave, the primary area of public observance of the Mass, and aisles to the left and right which allow access to the small chapels. The outside aisles are separated from the nave by pillars. One can have a sense of walking through an arcade.