Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Tale of Two Tombs

Napoleon's Sarcophagus
Napoleon Bonaparte is buried inside the coffin pictured to the left. The massive brown marble contains an oak coffin. Inside that oak coffin are two lead coffins, one inside the other. Inside the lead coffins sits a tin-plate coffin that contains the body of Napoleon. The sarcophagus is located in Paris, France inside a building constructed specifically to house the body of the Emperor of France who was born August 15, 1769 and died May 5, 1821.

Napoleon's Tomb
The building constructed by Parisians to house their emperor's sarcophagus is easily seen as one looks at the skyline of Paris. The ostentatious setting for Napoleon's final resting place is consistent with the Emperor's lifetime desire to shake his roots of poverty and live the life of exalted ruler. Born on the island of Corsica to poor peasants, Napoleon rose through the ranks of the French military during the French Revolution and eventually became First Counsel of the French Republic in 1799. Napoleon would soon believe, however, that absolute power was needed to fulfill his desire to conquer the world. On December 2, 1804, Napoleon Bonaparte crowned himself "Emperor of France." Europe's royalty gathered in the Notre Dame Cathedral in the heart of Paris, France as Napoleon fulfilled his life-long dream of power, authority and riches. During the Napoleonic Wars of the early 1800's, over 13 million people died.

Mother Eva's Tomb
Rachelle and I visited Napoleon's Tomb this week on our way back to the states from a week of ministry in Poland. We couldn't help but draw a comparison between Napoleon's life and his tomb and the life and tomb of a German woman that we learned about during a week of ministry in Poland this past week.

Eva von Tiele-Winckler (1866-1930) was born in southeastern Germany (modern day Poland) into a family of nobility and wealth. Eva had a conversion experience at the age of 17 after reading John 10. She established a home called Friedenshort, meaning "an abode of peace," for women who desired to follow and serve the Lord. Forsaking her life of privilege and riches, Eva opened homes for orphans, widows, the poor and the infirm. By the end of her lifetime, over 40 homes had been established in Germany through her labor. Eva also preached the gospel in women's prisons and set up homes where these women could live when discharged from prison. She eventually sent a number of the women whom she discipled to China to serve with the China Inland Mission. Other women under Eva's influence went to serve in Guatemala, Africa, and India. Eva herself was greatly influenced by George Mueller and was personally encouraged by contact with Mrs. Jessie Penn-Lewis, Hudson Taylor, the Welsh Revival, and the Keswick Convention.

The orphans that Eva helped in her lifetime numbered in the thousands. It was these orphans who gave to Eva the name "Mother Eva" for the care she gave to them as if she was their own mother. Mother Eva is buried on the grounds of the old German orphanage she founded. She insisted before her death that  name should not be placed on the tombstone and only two Latin words should be etched in the stone: "Ancilla Domini" which means "servant of the Lord."

Very few people know about Mother Eva. Most everyone knows about Napoleon. Mother Eva's life brought eternal life to thousands. Napoleon's life brought death and destruction to millions. Mother Eva sought to expand the kingdom of Christ. Napoleon sought to expand his kingdom on earth. Mother Eva gave up riches for the poor. Napoleon sought riches after being born poor. Mother Eva has a small, unmarked grave. Napoleon is buried in a massive sarcophagus and building that bears his name.

Would to God that we bear the spirit of Eva and not that of Napoleon.


Johnny D. said...

What an inspiring story, Wade. Reading about people like Mother Eva has a way of making me rethink everything I am doing.

You did a fantastic job of comparing and contrasting. Thank you.

Johnny D. said...

And I'll tell you something else, too. I'm going to go read John 10 and really pay attention! :-)

Christiane said...


I had to bring out my German again as I explored the sites on Mother Eva's work and heritage.

I found this site, which tells of settings for those who are challenged with handicaps and are cared-for in a most Christian setting:

My own son is a resident at a facility in New Jersey which is under the auspices of the Dutch Reformed Church (Eastern Christian Children's Retreat in Wyckoff), and I am always happy to learn of settings where the Church has extended the mercy of Our Lord to those who are vulnerable.

Thanks for sharing about Mother Eva.
She is an 'evangelical' saint of the Church for certain.

Kristen said...

A beautiful comparison.

Just thought I'd note that the building was not actually constructed just to hold Napoleon's remains. Napoleon is buried at the Chapel at Les Invalides, which was originally part of a military hospital. Many other war heroes of France are also buried there. The larger complex of buildings now holds mostly museums.

However, I've been there too and can certainly attest that it looks as if the building is all about him! His coffin occupies the center of the chapel, just under the dome, and is surrounded by statues of angels, all apparently mourning for him.

Anonymous said...

why is it most ministers travel alot, especially to foreign lands on mission trips, or so called mission trips, seeing things and so forth while the persons sitting in the pews got to work very hard, have few vacations, or the like, and could never afford such trips that allow reflection and production of reflective articles such as this. Wade, why don't you get a regular day job, when you have to work years before you get even a two week scheduled vacation, and then have no money to travel?
Ministers and your lavish travels are one reason I detest the organized church and all your benefits, some tax free such as housing allowance. You have no relationship or kinship with people that really have to work. Yours is not a protected occupation and what we need are more nurses that self righteous, self appointed spokespersons for God.

Robert White said...


Your comment exposes a flaw in your character. A person who uses a veil to hide identity while professing an offense against another publicly is not truly concerned for the welfare, career, or ministry of the one of whom he slams, He is either deceptive, immoral, or a genuine busybody who would do better to look within at his own flaws before he speaks of others.

Bob White

John Wylie said...

It amazes me how that something as uplifting as this article can still elicit criticism. Sure Wade was blessed with getting to make this trip, but then he shares with us who read this blog and gets criticized for it.

I think it's very telling that someone would say that they
"detest" the organized church. The fact is that the vast majority of us who comment on these blogs were no doubt saved as a result of the ministry of an organized church. God has used this institution to bless us.

Thanks Wade for the article.

Bob Cleveland said...

Anonymous: I had a regular day job and I'm now retired. I'm not a pastor or minister and never was.

We've taken many trips. Been to about 23 countries. We have, indeed, been blessed by God.

If you haven't done the same, the problem is not Wade's, nor anyone else's. It's a result of your choices.

Perhaps the spirit you revealed here is one of the reasons. said...

Thanks, John and Bob,

Other than a few meals and incidental expenses, our air fare, hotels and transportation (including the mission trip portion) were paid for by our generous friends who travelled with us. Frankly, with four college tuition payments this trip would have been impossible without them and their invitation to us to go to Poland with them to assist in the mission work they and our church support.