Notre Dame, France, Spring 2015

nd side viewThe first time I visited Notre Dame, I was put off by the crowds and noise. It didn’t match my image of a cathedral. Things haven’t changed much, but despite that, it still draws me.

This year, the first time we entered there was a service going on. Banks of candles and a black priest swinging the censor.

Notre Dame Service

I wanted to see the series of carvings around the choir that tell the story of Christ. I love their medieval colors and how they spring from the shadow. But with the service, the area was blocked off. So we came back a second day. Actually my hubby went for ice cream while I was inside.

The beginning of the saga – nativity, magi, etc – was very badly lit and I hate to use flash. Luckily, on the other side, there was more light. This first picture is a closeup of Christ, in blue – see his halo on the wall – calling Peter, with a smaller halo.

notre dame 6Below is the full scene. Note the boat on the right. On the left, Doubting Thomas with the rest of the apostles. Something hilarious about them peering from their little houses!

notre dame 4And finally, the women when he has risen. I am always moved by these images of the old stories made in a time of great belief by artisans who undoubtedly offered up their work to God’s glory (remember, we don’t know their names). They seem to me to epitomize the heart of late medieval Christianity. Of course, I’m a romantic.
notre dame 5In the same vein, take a look at the detail on the corner, outside. Gargoyles, of course. But Corinthian capitals, flourishes, furbelows, lace-like detail, all in stone. Marvelous. They cared about every inch.

nd detail

As I was exiting, I noticed the man with his little boy and then when I came out, there were masses of nuns and other clergy on the plaza. Because it was Sunday, I’m guessing. A very happy feeling all around. (The pictures aren’t my best, but are part of my determination to include people in my photos after those in Italy which looked like we were the only ones in the country…)

Sainte Chapelle, Paris

St chapelle altarI have loved this chapel since the first time I saw it, years ago. As I remember, they were working on Notre Dame at the time and I didn’t feel any spirit there. But here, wow. Of course, I have always loved the Medieval period.

The famous part of the Chapel is upstairs. (Ignore the keyboard set up under the altar – there was a concert in the evening). It’s all glass, consecrated in 1248. I once described in a short story:

Its beauty was legendary. The walls, if walls they were, lifted colored glass entire. Burnished red, deep sleepy green, blue the color of the sky behind a rising moon, joyous gold. Brilliant colors set in black, forming pictures of ancient holy stories, of long-dead nobles and their wives, of kneeling animals. She visited daily, pondering the lives of the men who now lived only in glass. She understood the artists’ visions as gifts to the Lord.Ste Chapelle King's entrance

This being a King’s chapel, the upstairs was reserved mostly for him. Peons worshiped downstairs. The King had an entrance from his bedroom so he could pray when his sins seemed overwhelming. It was Louis IX, Saint Louis, so you know he went often. It’s interesting to think that he saw the beauty as an indication of God’s power and the story of faith. I, myself, see it as homage to those who created it, without any modern tools. It is astonishing however you view it.stained glass

The ceiling alone will make you think of heaven…


Downstairs is darker than up (I secretly call it the basement) but no less glorious. Actually, it’s my favorite part. The details, the colors, the statues – all capture my attention.

saint pillarSt chapelle basement











I’ll note that there was a long line to  get in — and it was only the end of April — and we were happy to have the museum pass which made it a little faster. That said, it was totally worth the time.

We’ll close with an angelic detail from the altar.

St chapelle detail