Tuesday, August 19, 2008

In Which I Visit Multiple Cathedrals in One Day

As the title may suggest, I visited multiple cathedrals today in Paris.

Saint Eustache: I just came across this massive cathedral while I was rambling around the city and decided to visit.  Cathedrals don't really pop out as surprises, at least in Europe.  It's pretty easy to figure out if one is nearby.

Saint Eustache is currently in the beginning stages of a massive and much needed restoration/conservation campaign.  This church even had a flyer with an article titled something like, 'Why are Saint Eustache's Side-Chapels in Such Bad Shape: an Explanation of Funding'.  Turns out that cathedral building is the property of the City of Paris, the actual Parish takes care of daily cleaning and heat/etc costs.  So it seems that the City of Paris has been lazy and cheap and let the structure fall into disrepair.  

Huge swaths of the wall paintings were faced with Japanese tissue (Japanese papers are awesome and used throughout conservation, facing means that the tissue is adhered to the front of something in order to keep pieces from falling off, this is more of a triage technique).  The same church bulletin had an article about the conservation/restoration campaign, so it was good to read that the cathedral was at last receiving some much needed care from the City.

Notre Dame: last time I was in Paris I merely viewed the outside of the cathedral.  Today I thought it would be nice to see the inside too.

I both accidentally and purposefully jumped the huge queue to get inside.  Accidentally, in that I did not realize there was a queue until I was more than halfway past it.  I entered the grounds in front of the cathedral from a different direction, which is why I did not notice.  Purposefully, in that once I did realize there was a queue I knew I didn't want to stand in it and kept pretending that I had not noticed it.

Watchful saints.  They did not mind the queue-jumping.


Yes, those are flat-screen tvs positioned along the length of the nave.  I can only assume that they are either 1). needed for the large crowds that gather for Mass or 2). in preparation for the Pope's visit in September.

Today's Cathedral Candle went to Saint Joesph.  I especially like this statue of him, a regular Dad with an axe on his belt, no doubt pulling a ball pein hammer out of Toddler Jesus' hands.  I can just imagine what they're saying, 'But Dad!  I was using it to fix the donkey cart!' 

Take away canddles [sic] are rather expensive.  It must be that extra consonant.  

Sainte-Chapelle: this is definitely my favorite in Paris, and therefore probably in the whole of France.  Not really a cathedral, as is it rather small, but I'm still counting it as one for today.  It is part of the current Palace of Justice... the Parisian headquarters of the international superhero association.  Originally the area was the seat of the earliest French kings, and Sainte-Chapelle is one of the only remaining original elements.  My bag was x-rayed before I could enter, and thanks to my handy little ICOM card, my ticket cost zero euros!  Fantastic!

Views from various angles.

Sainte-Chapelle, if you've ever had an art history course addressing the Gothic era, should ring some bells.  It was built between 1242 and 1248 by King Louis IX (1226-1270) and served as a royal chapel and a home for the relics of the Passion.  The gem of this collection of relics was the Crown of Thorns.  The pamphlet from the chapel informs me that the Crown of Thorns were acquired in 1239 and cost more than the entire chapel building.

Like several very old churches I have visited, Sainte-Chapelle has two sanctuaries.  The Lower Chapel was intended for the palace workers.  It is not very lofty and decorated with polychrome sculpture and blind trefoil arcatures and medallions of the apostles.  The Upper Chapel is amazing, and if you get the chance to visit, you'd best hope that it is a sunny day.  I lucked out: the day was beautiful.

Interior.  It is mostly stained glass, there are 1,113 scenes from the Bible here, basically telling the entire story in one massive go.

Love love love.

1 comment:

Ynn said...

I join you in your appreciation and enjoyment of the St. Joseph statue. It makes him seem so loving and human. I've always had trouble with Joseph as he is usually pictured. He always seems self-righteous and stand-offish. Yet he must have been an extremely kind, generous and loving man. This statue seems to represent the Joseph I have always hoped to see.