Enfin, Paris!: In the face of the Divine

I am not sure exactly what she said, but this wonderful teacher had her students in the palm of her hand

For me, the Catholicism of Italy, is different than Spain, and even more different to me in France. Rome, for example, is filled with tight-fitted parishes, churches almost butting next to one another in places. It is a way of life, without swallowing the whole life. In France, they are more sophisticated in manner, but I have always thought more dominated by it. In France, the Surrealists went nuts with Catholicism. I have always believed the French are more devout, but also more imprisoned by their Catholicism, as if it were subtly at the heart of their real beliefs. Some things remain eternal, even when modernity presides.

The English, for example, ran saints out of the churches, even before Cromwell. They destroyed insides of Cathedrals, things disappeared forever. The architecture existed, was even mimicked in later churches, but niches where saints once occupied, stayed empty and became part of architectural babel. Stained glass windows vanished.

Amsterdam: Oude Kerk, interior

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In Amsterdam, when I was there two years ago, it was fascinating to be in churches, which were once Roman Catholic. In two churches I saw, the original stained glass had been replaced with clear, giving way to that diffused light of Amsterdam, like a view out of a Vermeer. One pictured above, Oude Kerk, is where Rembrandt’s lovely Saskia is interred. Remnants of stained glass windows remain, reminding us this was once Catholic country. This is something more curious than even a mosque taking over the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. So it is fascinating to visit churches where some things almost never change. And there is a difference between the Roman Catholic churches and those lovely ornate Orthodox churches, one finds in Greece for example.

I have been to Notre-Dame, and it seems to have gotten lighter and brighter. Perhaps, it is me who has gotten a little brighter. It was wonderful to be at again, but the crowds were unbelievable. La Sainte-Chapelle (outside, left), I never knew existed, so for me this was a new adventure. Now remember, you will be inside a police prefecture! Coming after lunchtime, and waiting a bit to get in, you find yourself being ushered through a “security” area, outside a bit, and finally moving into the direction of the entrance. Hey, another old church. You walk in to a combination visitors/gifty shop on the ground level and some small areas (four photos directly below).

Now if you carefully look down in the left hand area (photo directly above) to the little flower shape, you will see a similar interior window (photo directly below).

Then you go up a very tight stone spiral staircase, as there is only one way to go. Et, voilà! You are astounded. Sainte-Chapelle is everything you have read about, and more. Like the Dutch churches, it is no longer a cathedral, Religion moved to other places. It also is not exactly what it was, it did not sit there for nearly a thousand years unscathed. But for the past 150+ it has been restored, with the kind of love only the French seem to have the energy to give!

But back to the upstairs!

And from the floor to the ceiling, the astounding beauty, especially the richness of the stained glass windows, which cover three quarters of the walls are astounding, with beautiful coloration beyond the Fauvres! This is what we think of as medieval, and the richness of the Gothic structure, to tricks of design, including the gilded vaulting supports play against the beauty of the coloration used. The use of scale is subtle and beautiful. These patterns, these designs, each a story, are as voluminous that they are beyond words in a bible. The light reflected by all of this had a rosiness in the afternoon, as light filtered in on the southeast (?) side.

The tourists had a ball with this one, including this one! For more on Sainte-Chapelle see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/

Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris is within walking distance. They both are on the little island where Paris actually began called Île de la Cité. It is pretty much center of the city. So if you see one, it is well to see the other. Sainte-Chapelle is actually a small church,  Notre-Dame (Our Lady) is a cathedral, which means much bigger. The former is no longer a functional church and is state run with an admission, the later is functioning and free (except the tower). There are little nooks and crannies all around the outside area. Small chapels, which have their own distinct flavor. This is not unusual. In Seville, Catedral de Santa María de la Sede had several beautiful chapels, as did any of the churches mentioned in the Roma blog.

I was sorry we did not get up to see the tower, but that was the day we did the Orangerie, Saint-Chapelle and this. The first thing that strikes you is the beautiful stone carvings on the outside. They are too numerous to appreciate, and of course goofy tourists. Although the sight of machine guns and militia shook me, far from the days of the gendarme in their capes and holstered guns.

I like to call this one, Tourists and Bullets

The Pierre Cardinal de Gondi chapel is quite beautiful (directly below) as was the beautiful side rose window (below) and a detail (below).

The vaulted ceilings, in combination with the stained glass, and the long passage to the altar reminds us of how stable Gothic design was. Unlike the heaviness of the Romanesque, nor the swirliness of the Baroque, Gothic preceded modernity into exposing the beauty of the structure. Check out the two photos below.


The statues of Saints  Theresa and Jeanne add to the grace (below). As does other carving telling the tale of Christ (below).

The beauty of the statues and the imagery throughout and outside as well, makes Notre-Dame a perfect counterpoint to Sainte-Chapelle.

For more on Notre-Dame:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Notre_Dame_de_Paris

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