Americans certainly aren’t the only ones with a bit of a thing for Paris. Benjamin Franklin was born there, and from their gift of the Statue of Liberty, to our gifts of the Lost Generation and Jerry Lewis, to their love of American pop art, and countless moments of literature, art, music and cinema — we seem to love it there as much as anyone (except maybe actual Parisians).
Here are just two examples of Americans working hard to keep Paris beautiful for everyone to fall in love with. The American Friends of Saint-Germaine-des-Près supports preservation efforts at one of the world’s most beautiful and historic churches. And Los Angeles–based art impresario Carolyn Campbell has collected an archive of photographs and source images, plus three decades of sketches, maps and research, to create City of Immortals, a map and legend of the whole of the Père Lachaise Cemetery, with a special focus on the artists, writers and musicians interred throughout its 107-acre grounds.
City of Immortals is a detailed, full-color map of Père Lachaise, in print now and soon to be a GPS-enabled app. This is not only beautiful but helpful. Père Lachaise is the final resting place of Sarah Bernhardt, toFrédéric Chopin, Eugène Delacroix, Edith Piaf, Marcel Proust, Gertrude Stein, Isadora Duncan, Oscar Wilde and, somehow most famously, Jim Morrison. It’s a great place to visit — but a tough place to find your way around. Though, as Campbell is quick to point out, “Sometimes getting lost can be as rewarding as arriving at your intended destination.”
Saint-Germain-des-Près is the oldest church in Paris, which is really saying something. At its peak of activity, it was not only a busy place of worship but also a rather vibrant cultural hub. Hand-produced illuminated manuscripts, centuries-old murals, paintings, sculptures and celestially elaborate architectural detail make it a historic site of incalculable value to both religious and secular appreciators.
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Many styles of architecture can seen at Saint-Germain-des-Près, from Romanesque arches to Gothic, and it features designs and elements meant to communicate the church’s message to a largely non-reading population. Its bell tower was built in 1104, making it the oldest in Paris. But just because the church is a treasure doesn’t mean it has enough resources to ensure preservation. That’s where the American Friends come in, carrying on with the centuries-long mutual appreciation that has already given so much to both nations.