Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Medieval Life

Yesterday, we took a break from les musées de Paris, and hopped on a train to Chartres. The Cathedral there is spectacular, and famous for its glass...the largest collection of 12th Century stained glass in the world. There's even a guy there with the fabulous self-created role of in-town-expat-expert on the Cathedral, Malcolm Miller. (I'm not a big fan of tours, so I didn't look him up. I have, though, read his book, which I bought last time I was here!)

Notre Dame de Chartres is a dusky, dark and dramatic mountain of stone that instills a sense of wonder in the mere mortals wandering the aisles. Awe-inspiring does not begin to express it.

Then this morning, Metro and I visited La Sainte Chapelle -- literally a gem of a church...smaller than the larger cathedrals, it consists mainly of traceries of stone to envelop the brilliant glass. Visitors begin in the lower level, which is pretty, and then climb the tightly winding staircase to come out into the middle of the breathtaking upper chapel. You limit yourself to awed whispers here.

So, there we were, shivering in the cold of these lofty stone edifices, and I tried to imagine what it would have been like for us 800 years ago...

Wrapped in all of your winter clothes, you stand in the great nave of the church, between the enormous stone pillars, under the vaulted ceiling, in the light of the coloured glass and a few torches. Your life is your work and your religion, but you can't read. The statuary and the glass are your visual Book of God, interpreted for you by the holy few who can read....

I can't imagine it. In Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre Dame, he goes off on a lovely rant about how literacy will destroy architecture -- essentially that if the need does not exist to instill the stones with the whole of a belief system, then architecture is reduced to merely providing shelter.

Well, it happened. It is here that my literacy ends.



Lori said...

Was just over at Nag's blog...and I wanted to say that yes, we've been aware of the demonstrations -- hell, we're staying in the Latin Quarter!

Enormous police presence. Streets baracaded on some days.

Obviously, we're not getting involved.

Metro said...

Perhaps in the internet age, one could build vast churches of silicon wafers, loaded with the information to project vast videos of the life of Christ on huge LCD panels. If only for art's sake.

Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

Hope you feel better Lori.


Sonia said...

What are you doing up Blogging at such early morning hours?
Yes we'll see you in Penticton! But quit checking my Blog girl...your on your honeymoon shouldn't you be "romping" or something? Hope there is some romance in all of those cathedrals and museums?

Sonia said...

Hey I want to see a wedding pic!

a h m a d said...

I hope you are having a pleasant time in France. :)

Anonymous said...

Yes, a wedding picture please!