Friday, March 31, 2006

Paris...the third installment

My...obsession is with Gothic cathedrals. Earlier, I ranted on about the Medieval era, and how it appealed to me. Obviously, the peasants worked hard, lived short, probably rather dull lives, but their spiritual lives were clear -- the Church existed. The utter simplicity of their belief system is a little staggering -- too tired, too illiterate, too poor to investigate options, question authority, make choices. Communities would work for their whole lifetimes on a cathedral, and not be bothered that they, or their grandchildren, might never see it completed. (Read Ken Follett's The Pillars of the Earth for a great story of the community around the building of a cathedral.)

So, today I'm going to blog about cathedrals.

We were down the street from Notre Dame de it appears in many photos. ("Oh, another picture of Notre Dame?" Metro would ask)

Here I am (yes, me!), in a classic tourist shot from the bridge leading to l'Ile Saint-Louis. Isn't it pretty? (This is not the only shot Metro took of me with Notre Dame -- a man should always understand where his competition lies.)

And how can one resist flying buttresses?!? A closer shot around the apse of Notre Dame de Paris, with her lovely flying buttresses.

If you didn't know, flying buttresses (I just love the sound of that phrase: Flying buttresses! Flying buttresses! Flying buttresses!) were an architectural invention that rose out of the invention that created the architectural era that has been termed 'Gothic' -- the pointed arch. A pointed arch could hold up more weight than a barrel, or rounded arch. Architects of the time exploited this by building higher and higher...until they realized that while the peak of the arch would hold the weight, the walls tended to buckle out -- so they had to buttress them up. Now, tourists don't really care about the peaked arches, just the flying buttresses.

Or they don't know what they're looking at when the walk inside of Notre Dame and think: "Wow."

Oh, and a casual photography tip. Don't use a flash on on cathedral interiors, especially stained glass. If you are a total point'n'shoot kind of person with a camera, learn how to turn the flash off, keep the camera still (brace your elbows against something), and see what happens.

As an added bonus, it's respectful in a church, and does not damage art in an art gallery.

Do not get me started on stupid tourists and flashes in churches, or flashes on thousand-year-old pieces of art. ARGH!!

But, anyway. I've climbed the towers at Notre Dame twice now. Well-worth it. A classic shot of a chimera looking over the city.

Eugene Viollet-le-Duc undertook restorations of Notre Dame in the mid-1800s, and added the chimera gallery, to look over and protect the city.

I also like the view the other way.

We also went out to Chartres, an hours train trip from Gare Montparnasse. Notre Dame de Chartres, as I mentioned in an earlier post, has the most complete collection of medieval stained glass.

The beauty of Chartres is that it is a small town, and you can see how the cathedral would have looked, rising above the land, reminding everyone of their place in the greater scheme of things, in the 1200s. (Goofy pic of me, but a great one of the cathedral on its hill.)

We were in Chartres on a rather dismal day, so my outdoor pictures are rather dark. I'm not going to go into how influential this cathedral was in its design -- but most people notice the two very different spires. The simpler one on the right is the older one. [You can, of course climb up the tower -- the left one actually. I did it 4 years ago, and with my cold, didn't feel up to it this time around. Took some great pictures then, that are in black & white on my wall.]

Inside of the cathedral is dark and cold, mostly because the city doesn't have the massive funding it needs for all of Notre Dame de Chartre's upkeep. She is in need of some major restoration.

This picture is of small side altar at the transept (or crossing), near the beginning of the ambulatory (the curved hallway that goes around the outside of the apse). [I think I was leaning against a pillar to steady myself for this shot.]

I sat in the chairs and steadied my camera on the back of the chair in front to get this picture of the nave.

You can feel weight of time and the stone in this quiet, cold, dark place. This should be a pilgrimage site for everyone whose culture is based on the Western European medieval Christianity. I'm personally agnostic, but this place still hits me in a deep part of my psyche...must be the weight of history, untainted by the trappings of tourism.

One final picture for today...a section of the labyrinth on the floor of Notre Dame de Chartres. The bulk of it is covered by chairs, but adherents used to walk this pattern in reflective prayer, sometimes on their knees.

Thanks for listening. Your comments, by the way, are greatly appreciated.



a h m a d said...

Finally, we saw you. :)

Very nice shots, I enjoyed everyone of them. And thanks for the explanation.

I have never seen "Gothic cathedrals" before, but I do love them. I watched these in Gargoyles (animated series), but I never realized that such decoration existed! By the way, we don't have any such cathedrals in Lebanon. I will go to check more info about them.

Lori said...

Ah, but your part of the world has its own beautiful architecture!

I've got 2 more Paris entries planned (I think)...stay tuned.

raincoaster said...

The so-called Gothic arch was actually introduced to Europe by the Moors, via Spain. Gargoyles were, of course, introduced to the world by the Elder Gods in the Second Age of the Earth.

Cthulhu ftagn, baby!

Anonymous said...

I hope you took the opportunity to walk the labyrinth. Beautiful pictures, esp the interiors, which I never understood how to do properly with the lack of light.


Lori said...

raincoaster -- do you mean Eldar (as in Elves)? Hmm. Didn't know that, but sure makes sense.

Norlinda -- unfortunately, they have chairs over the bulk of the labyrinth. The picture I shot was of a bit in the aisle. There is a full labyrinth in Vancouver, at St Paul's Anglican Church. One of those things I've wanted to try. The address and schedule is here.

raincoaster said...

Nope, elder as in Elder gods, die you unbelievers etc etc

I wish I still had the link to the blog of my friend who had walked the BC Labyrith, but it's out there. And right next to the hospital, which anyone has to admit is practical.