Our first point of call today was Sainte-Chapelle – a smaller cathedral behind Notre Dame which is renowned for its impressive stained glass windows wrapping around all four walls. The cathedral was built between 1242 and 1248 under instruction from Louis IX. The Conciergerie and Sainte-Chapelle were part of the Palais de la Cite and were the residence and seat of royal power from the 10th to the 14th centuries. One “interesting” relic, which used to be housed in Sainte-Chapelle is the Crown of Thorns, acquired in 1239 for “a sum that greatly exceeded the cost of building the chapel itself”. Hmmm. A large number of these ‘holy relics’ were housed in Paris (largely being purchased by Louis IX) and Paris became a ‘second Jerusalem’ in the 13th Century.
Fittingly, the first stained glass window tells the story of the relics of the passion. The windows need to be read boustrophedonically. Chocolate fish to whoever first provide a definition of this reading technique! At the end of the chapel is the western rose, illustrating the prophetic vision given to John in Revelation, and symbolically represented opposite the Passion of Christ in the choir’s central stained glass window (small blog rendition does nothing for this!).
Again, photos just don’t do it justice – each window towers 15m high! The glass was originally cut with red-hot irons and set into the lead framing. Most of the family ended up sitting down with their sketch pads drawing parts of the amazing windows. Awe-inspiring indeed.
By this time everyone was feeling peckish so it was time to leave Sainte-Chapelle and find a seat in front of the Notre Dame to eat our baguettes and (more) cheese. How circumstances can change how such a simple meal tastes!
Notre Dame is on a totally different scale to Sainte-Chapelle. For a start, a couple of thousand people can ‘disappear’ once inside the cathedral, and the impressive pipe organ manages to completely fill the sanctuary with its rich tones. The organist appeared to have deviated from the “approved” music scores, and had us all cracking up as the Nokia default ringtone sounded out. I am sure it is actually the introduction to some famous classical piece (I could google it I know!), but it still seemed completely out of place!
The nave stretches for what seems a couple of hundred metres, flanked by arches and alcoves housing amazing (and huge) pieces of art. It took over an hour just to meander around the edges of the nave. The famous Notre Dame bell tower is virtually invisible from the front of the cathedral and one has to skirt around the edges to get a proper view. Flying buttresses flank the rear of the cathedral with some amazing stonework. A picture is worth a thousand words . . . .
We decided not to try and queue for access to the viewing tower as the line stretched all down one side of the cathedral. Instead we stopped for an hour in the park behind the cathedral and caught up on some journalling and post-card writing.
Then there was just time for a walk in the Latin quarter where we found a gem of a music-box shop where two of the children decided to spend their 10Euro gift from Gran and Grandpa on a small music box each. There were dozens of tunes available, along with even more small decorated containers…..the real joy was watching the delight of the younger children picking out their tune-making-mechanism and trying to decide which tin container to house it.
PS – we stumbled upon some fantastic metro musicians on our way into town this morning. Check out the snippet on YouTube.
Tags: 2012, postcard: France