Wednesday, August 24, 2011

France day 20: Stained Glass Windows

Did you know that the beautiful deep blue hue is created by melting the glass at a low temperature and adding plenty of sodium. The lighter blue, known as Chartres blue requires a higher temperature and results in a much stronger glass. I do now, after spending a Saturday seeing the beautiful churches of Vendôme and Chartres.

Every Wednesday and Saturday, our school offers excursions to various chateaux, churches, and other beautiful sights within driving distance. We all board the large tour bus early in the morning while a teacher counts heads. It's an endearing reminder of class field trips back in elementary school.

Our first stop was Vendôme. A cute little town who's abbey is unique because of the still-existent portions of all the additions to the original building since the 11th century. It was really interesting to see the development of architecture on the  Abbeye de la Trinité de Vendôme and how architects experimented with increasing fluidity and lessened obsession with symmetry. The building is it's own biography.

See the increasing complexity and fluidity from right to left?

You can also see how they kept adding on embellishments upon embellishments, even covering a large window with arches.

Behind all those arches is a beautiful window

Blocked window

Next was Notre-Dame de Chartres. We walk in and it's dark. Hauntingly dark while the notes of the organ pound throughout the church. There's beautiful stained windows all around but they let in little light. I walk down the aisle and it gives me the feeling of walking towards something horrible.  To add, the cathedral is enormous and one of the biggest in the world.

Tiny spots of lights that shine through holes in the windows

Our civilations prof finally explains that hundreds of years of candle soot have darkened the walls and dirtied the windows to the point where light does not pass. . There was a lot of contention over whether the church should be restored to its original condition. Writers have been describing this place as mysterious, epic and sober forever, should we take away the chance for future generations witness this? It was finally agreed that the cathedral should be restored to its prior state, a place of light.

Right=restored, left=not yet restored
The choeur is the only portion that's been restored, giving us the illusion that it glows amidst the surrounding shadows.

Chartres exterior
Chartres is most well known for its stained windows, having both older panes with single scene and also newer scenes that span multiple panes.

Noah's ark, bottom to top
Unfortunately much of the cathedral was under restoration, but we got a look what is under the tarp.

Though not a Christian symbol, another claim-to-fame of Chartres is its labyrinth in the centre of the cathedral. There even used to be a minotaur in the centre.

Our last stop was Châteaudun, a medieval château most well known for its staircases. We learned that back-and-forth staircases like the ones we have in Canada are of Italian origin while spiral staircases are French. To this day, most buildings (including my host family's home) have spiral staircases.

First we had to go up stairs to see the stairs

Grand staircase I

Staircase interior

See the fossils in the rock?

Gotta rest up for tomorrow's long bike ride,

A bientot

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