ent king, Baudouin, to whom all paynrespectful tribute. Respect for the monarchynwas awaiting me in Nice also,nwhere the symposium was devoted tonthe “art patronage of the Capetiannkings.” You may remember that whennLouis XVI was beheaded in 1793, henwas first stripped of his royal titles andnsentenced as the simple citizen “LouisnCapet.” In 1987 France was celebratingnthe coronation of the first king bynthat name, Hugh Capet (987), and thenwhole calendar was studded with commemorativenevents. The matter is thenmore piquant as this year (1989) thenbicentennial of the French Revolutionnwill be the focus of national attention.nIt is hard to imagine in America thatna substantial segment of the French —nyoung and old, poor and rich. Communistnand reactionary — have remainedndevoted to the monarchy andnits historic role of arbitration. Theynhave had enough of the party system,nand their attachment to democracy isnWe locate those rare,nunusual, hard-to-findn(but beautiful)nout-of-print books…nthe ones you can’tnfind at book storesnany more.nSend us your wishnlist. We can find justnabout any book evernprinted.nREED BOOKSnBox 55893, B’ham.AL 35255n205/871-9239n52/CHRONICLESnless to the institutions than to the desirento run their own affairs locally. It is,nthen, no surprise that the provincesnthroughout France organized theirnown festivities in honor of the “40nkings who made France,” and that thenFrench Academy devoted a specialnsession of commemoration. Not onlynthe Academic Francaise (founded bynRichelieu under Louis XIV) but alsonthe French National Assembly celebratednthe crowning of Hugh Capet —nsocialists and Communists present andnrespectful of the event.nThe symposium in Nice was one ofnthe year’s last celebrations. Professors,nart historians, curators and directors ofnmuseums, and academicians (MichaelnDeon, the novelist) were invited tonspeak in the amphitheater of the MediterraneannUniversity. Princess Bourbon-Lobkowitznpresided, linking innone name east and west Europe, andnthe Benedictine Dom Guillou spokenadmirably of Versailles. I thought thatnwith the bad weather and Christmasnapproaching, only a few curious wouldnshow up. Yet there were at least 300 ofnus, greeted by the mayor of Nice,nJacques Medicin, an outspoken enfantnterrible of French politics.nI sat through the lectures with fascination.nThey were all precise, professionalnessays and studies on what thenkings created and inspired in architecture,npainting, music, dance, sculpture,nlandscaping (parks), even in porcelainnand the miniature arts. From the exquisitenSainte-Chapelle in Paris (St. Louis)nto the ballet performances at thencourt of Versailles, the kings were thenpatrons, hosts to artists, protectors ofnscience and literature, and above allnmen of taste who discussed matters ofnconcept and design with artists, artisans,nbuilders, and composers, exactlynlike the Renaissance princes and popesnof Italy. One lecturer introduced us tonLouis XIV’s dances and music, and tonpsalms composed by his father, LouisnXIII. With contemporary rock as ancontrast, the royal music from the 17thncentury flowed over us, soothingly reassuringnus that 20th-century “culture”nis but a nightmarish interlude.nThe music and the architecture togethernexpressed the harmony of an age,nsuggesting that what was once achievednmay be again repeated.nFittingly, the crowning achievementncame at the end. The Benedictinennnmonk presented an hour-long documentarynon Versailles, prepared by M.nBarba-Negra, a Romanian refugee directingnfilms about France’s architecturalnand urbanistic treasures. Barba-nNegra’s Versailles is one of the mostnstupendous spectacles I ever saw onnthe screen; it hauntingly goes over thenrooms, the halls, the statues, the parks,nthe fountains and lakes, insisting,nceaselessly, on the ever-present symbolsnwilled by the king and his fellownplanners. The film’s musical pieces arenfrom the same period, creating togethernthe impression of a dance, a symphonicnpiece, a choreography of stonenand water, light and shadow, perspectivenand majesty. For an hour we werenoverwhelmed by beauty, by meaning,nso tragically lacking in our symbollessnage.nThe following morning was Sunday,nand I went to Mass at one of the town’sndelightful baroque churches. (It was ofncourse the traditional Latin Mass, thenTridentine.) It was a beautiful morning,nthe sun evoking the previous evening’sndocumentary about the sunking.nThe church was fully packed, andnthe Mass lasted for an hour and a halfnI suddenly realized that I was witnessingnthe continuation of the film onnVersailles. Looking at both, the wordn”ballet” came irresistibly to mind. Inunderstood then and there a connectionnso obvious that it had never occurrednto me before; the majesty of thenceremonial occasion, the perfect choreographynof the Mass and of thenPalace, the quality of a sacred dance.nThe archbishop was assisted by ninenpriests (no concelebration!), all engagednin precise movements, reenactingnthe supreme sacrifice — the waynVersailles reenacted the course throughnwhich a man, Louis Capet, becomesnking. What better way of penetratingnthe essence of culture? We all belongnto the same mankind—but throughnacts of culture distinctions are made,nbeauty elevating some, creating a magicnfield within which the others — thenfaithful, the admirers, the participants,neven the spectators — are transformed:nmore, transported to another realm.nThus they become actors on a stage.nThey become, even for a short hour,ndifferent men and women.nThomas Molnar is the author of ThenPagan Temptation.n