Weekly musings on the arts and current events.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Notre Dame

Watching the Tour De France these day brings back my own just concluded bicycle trip in France, past similar beige colored stone buildings in immaculate little wine villages in Burgundy. It was a wonderful vacation, although I almost wish I hadn't extended it for three days in Paris. This is the high season which means a large share of the twenty six million tourists who visit Paris each year were ahead of me in line at every museum and historic site I wanted to see. Next time I go to the Louvre or the Musee d'Orsay, it better be raining.

I did manage to brave the crowds at Notre Dame Cathedral. After the wait, I'd hoped at least one chapel would be set aside for meditation, but the church actually isn't big enough to afford that.

Notre Dame is not only a great example of Gothic architecture, but the site of many historic events, including the crowning of Napoleon. One of my favorite stories, however, is the elimination of vicious wolves that plagued Parisians in 1450. The pack was lured to the square in front of the church and then attacked with rocks and spears.

Inside, the rich color saturation of the stained glass windows is the highlight and I have some pictures of them. But I can't resist posting this snap of Saint Denis from the Western facade. I first thought it was John the Baptist, but the shepherd's staff prompted me to dig a little deeper: Saint Denis' mission, when he was martyred in the third century, was to expand the Church's flock. Legend has it that he walked about after being decapitated, preaching a sermon. Saint Denis is one of Paris' patron saints, a fact that is sadly ironic considering its notoriety for beheading people during the French Revolution in, another irony, the Place de la Concorde.

In art, the word for depicting headless saints and the like is cephalaphore. Notice that the sculptor put Saint Denis' halo where his head used to be, not where it is now. One final note, Saint Denis is invoked to cure headaches.

Click on the picture for a closer look.


Sharon Moore said...

When I travel, I'm not as interested in museums and such as I am in just wandering around and seeing how people live (and eat, of course!). I remember Vienna--you can take just so many castles. But then I guess you could say the same for the pastries!

Paula Slade said...

Welcome back! Had no idea you were biking your way through France - that's a wonderful way to see the sites.

Sorry you had to deal with the crowds in Paris. It is such a beautiful city. I hope you get to return and take advantage of all that Paris has to offer.

Jane Powers said...

Oh, I love that St Denis fellow! ("If you want to get ahead, get a halo")

Crosby Kenyon said...

I like the logic of the headache cure.

DUTA said...

Welcome back from Paris, "the city of lights", and from your cycling tour of Burgundy, the 'country' of wine and gastronomy!
May you have many wonderful vacations such as this one!