Monday, July 1, 2013

Stained Glass Glory

Today we went to St. Chapelle and Notre Dame and I took hundreds of pictures of magnificent stained glass windows.  The craftsmanship is amazing.  There's something about the windows' luminescence that got to me; I could stare at these stained glass windows for hours.

I've tried to winnow down my photos to just a few that convey the essence of each place. St. Chapelle and Notre Dame are so different, but each very beautiful in their own way.

The lower level of St. Chapelle is striking with its blue and gold ceilings and small stained glass windows.

The navy ceilings continue in the chapel on the second floor (accessed by a narrow, winding staircase) but the solid walls give way to stained glass panels.  According to our bike tour guide, the walls of St. Chapelle are 80% glass.  One side of the chapel is currently being restored; as you look at my picture, it would be the left side.  It's enclosed and you can't see the work being done.  (There's a brief video showing the painstaking process of reclaiming and restoring the windows.)  Still, the grandeur of the chapel isn't diminished even though we could only see one side backlit by the sun.  Isn't it glorious?

As I stood at the base of the window, I looked up and saw this view.

The back of the chapel has a huge rose window.

There's something unique at play in St. Chapelle that I'm struggling to share.  It's opulent and the windows are huge, but it's very special.  I think it's that these enormous windows are placed in an intimate space that make this an incredible place.  It seems reverent, as opposed to self-aggrandizing.

Notre Dame is pretty cool, too, but it doesn't have that small space feel at all. This is coronation-worthy and, at the same time, a pretty humbling place to walk through.  You can certainly appreciate your insignificance in the grand scheme of things here .... which was probably part of the architectural design.

Still, there are lovely private areas along the sides of the church.

Sometimes you have to look pretty high up not to miss some of the beautiful elements.  Of course, it helps that there are strategically placed spotlights (a.k.a. mood lighting) to make all the pictures look good.

There are twin rose windows opposite one another in the cross section of the sanctuary (the transept arms).  They're pretty spectacular, too.

After lunch and macaroons (I believe macaroons will figure prominently in my travels in France),  the girls stayed in the hotel (my youngest hadn't felt well since last night) while I went off to the Cluny Museum.  I couldn't have planned it better.  The Cluny is devoted to medieval and a bit of renaissance art.  It was fascinating to go here after visiting St. Chapelle and Notre Dame because the Cluny has items from each of the churches on display that you can get really close to and study.  For example, this was a bit of stained glass that was originally part of a St. Chapelle window.

The Cluny has small dark rooms with backlighting that are dedicated to various periods of stained glass artistry.  The remnants come from all over, not just from St. Chapelle and Notre Dame.  I just had to take a picture of these two pieces from St. Vivien de Rouen.

This window from the 1500s, a remnant from a larger scene, showcases a master at work.  He used a variety of techniques within this piece including inlaid blue within another field and details painted with a single hair brush.

The Cluny has lots more to offer, including the Lady and the Unicorn tapestry and some statues originally on the western facade of Notre Dame.  Sadly, the tapestry is on loan to two museums in Japan while the display room is evaluated and reconstructed, but I'll leave you with an image of one of the Notre Dame statues.

1 comment:

Natalya Aikens said...

OMG! I'm back from the woods and you're blogging from Paris!!!! Thank you thank you thank you!!!!