Aug 6, 2010


We saw a lot of churches this trip, and performed in a number of them. I used to wonder how tourists would travel to, let's say Italy, and go to an amazing number of churches without tiring of them. Now I understand.


Each church we visited was different. The towers, the organs, the art, the accoustics, the gargoyles and chimeras, the history and often the literature attached to each one.

And the stained glass! We learned how to read stained glass from Malcolm Miller (bottom up, left to right), who discussed the biblical references, symbolism, manufacture and reconstruction of stained glass. I will never see stained glass again in the same way. Sometimes the plain glass spoke the loudest. It spoke of irreplaceable loss--loss of beauty, loss of humanity, the innumerable losses of war.

When we entered Saint Gervais in Paris we were struck by the reverent, contemplative silence. The monastery at Mont Saint Michel was full of unexpected surprises and beautiful vistas. The bell towers in Paris at Notre Dame and Sacre Coeur, and Notre Dame de Chartres were well worth the climb, even for big chickens. The cathedral at Notre Dame de Rouen was one whose plain glass windows spoke so loudly--although there were also lovely stained glass windows there.

From the tower, photo by Antonia
I just re-discovered an excerpt from a book that I read prior to the trip (France in Mind), in which Henry Adams described the old west tower of Chartres as "the most perfect piece of architecture in the world." That same tower where I discarded my Sigg water bottle so as to have both hands free to clutch the wall as I ascended and descended; the same tower we saw from our room at Le Parvis. I'll have to take a look at his book, Mont St. Michel and Chartres (written in 1904)--happily available at VCU Library.
Mont Saint Michel, late evening

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