Sunday, September 15, 1889

Sunday, Sept. 15th.

This morning we went to the Church of the Madeline. It is in imitation of the Grecian Temples, built between 1763 and 1843 to the glory of the French Armies. It is surrounded by noble Corinthian Columns. In the front is an immense “Alto relievo”, piece of sculpture representing the last Judgment, sculptured bronze Doors illustrating the Decalogue. We went in. The same Temple idea is carried out; three small Temples on each side, each containing a massive piece of statuary. Behind the altar is an immense painting of Mary Magdeline at the feet of Christ, surrounded by characters famous in history, Joan of Arc, Raphael, Dante, Napoleon etc. In each aisle a Drum Major stood in full military array, with an immense brass baton in his hand. It looked so funny in a church. We met four people and two Chinese that came over with us on the Gascoygne. We never step out that we do not meet some one we know.

[Properly spelled “Madeleine” in English (Église Sainte-Marie-Madeleine in French), the Madeleine Church has a long and somewhat disputed history. It is still an active church; its website is here (in French only). A tidbit that likely would have interested Addie – and which perhaps she knew but didn’t say in her diary – is this (quoted from this English-language page of history and innuendo about the Madeleine Church): “One of the most memorable funerals was Chopin’s in 1849 when Mozart’s Requiem was sung. Special permission had to be granted to include the female singers who remained hidden behind black velvet curtains. In fact, the funeral was delayed approximately two weeks while permission was obtained to allow women to participate in a manner that was deemed acceptable by the clergy.”]

[“Alto relievo” is an art term meaning “high relief,” used for sculpture attached to a tablet/wall that extends out farther than other types of relief sculpture, as is likely clear from the term; I tried to find a good online article on types of relief sculptures to link here, but after 15 minutes I gave up trying. You can see a large photo of the front of the Madeleine Church, including the columns and the alto relievo sculpture of the Last Judgment, here. “Decalogue” is another term for the Ten Commandments.]

[While I think it is easy to assume that Addie is here expressing the racism against Chinese that was rampant in American society in the mid- to late 19th century (sometimes accompanied by anti-Chinese violence), the frequent omitting of punctuation in the diary as well as the phrasing leave me unclear as to whether she is distinguishing “people” from “Chinese” or whether she means something more akin to, “…four people[,] and [we also saw] two Chinese that came over with us…” As to anti-Chinese racism in Victorian America, there’s a ton of information both online and offline. For one example, see these 1898 flyers calling for a boycott of Chinese and Japanese shops in an area of Montana, United States. One of my relatives (not related to Addie) testified in a court case about this boycott.]


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