The Reason For The Season
The tragedy of last night’s inferno has pressed me back into action with a new blog. One of the sensuous privileges of being a Parisian is the daily serendipity of walking past innumerable sites/sights that make me stop in wonder and delight to enjoy beauty and history, art and daring aesthetics in a city that always surprises. The City of Light delivers this, by day or by night.
Such a moment overcame me one cold, bright January night, when I was crossing the “Parvis” of Notre Dame on my way home. It was built to stop you in your tracks with a “wow” moment; teach you about the beliefs of the constructors through its imagery and symbolism, then to draw your eyes, your mind and your heart upwards in contemplation of the Divine. My personal response was to stop and try and capture part of my emotions in images.
Until we live long enough to see the dismantling of the Chernobyl style “sarcophagus” that will likely shield Notre Dame from the elements until it is restored to stability and architectural health, we will have to make do with our memories of our visits and our photographs. Here are my thoughts and my images of my special night in 2017.
It starts with the above-shown statement of kingship lining the façade above the doors, an effort to impress on the pilgrim the power, wealth, majesty and anointed legitimacy of France’s secular rulers.
However reigning over this stands the spiritual power of the Virgin and Child, guarded by angels and heralding the revelation of the Reason for the Season and the reason for the building to be revealed in glory inside. The rogue’s gallery of kings gives place for a poetic riot in stone and spaces, carvings and glass, pillars and arches.
Walls and buttresses thrusting upwards like a mighty fortress give a hint of the power of the Lord of Hosts, the Almighty, with gargoyle cannons jutting out to fend off all foes.
What fears inhabited the builders of this gargantuan structure, unprotected by crenellated, protective walls, guardrooms, armouries or artillery? Surrounded by the gallery of dead kings, faith seemed to balk at the promises of divine protection and, rather than turn to a Golden calf, tried its hand instead at stone monsters and ferocious hounds.
Try as they might to take the limelight, the kings are always overseen by angels and archangels, saints and even sinners, who crowd the building, above and below them, as if they owned the place too. Although honoured above the massive doors, each carrying their own major part of the story of salvation, the building itself always soars above them, writing its own story of wonder, power, creative expression and beauty beyond their regal limits.
Deep in the shadow of the portals a riot of humanity struggles to grab your attention to their particular part of the Biblical story: a heaving mass of saints and sinners, prophets and monks, angels and archangels, all constrained in the tramlines of their particular narrative.
Finally, a deep dive into the murky waters of these artful and oh-so-human expressions of the struggle of faith and hope in the promise of eternal life, which brings the agony and anxiety of this ever-present struggle into focus. Hands grasp temples in painful memories of regretted actions, or cover the face in shamed embarrassment at sins committed.
All of this before you cross that portal and enter the hallowed, soaring, incense-filled blow to the senses within…We hope for the opportunity to do that again, before we find out the truth of all these spiritual stories for ourselves…
Keywords: AMDG, Art, church, gothic, night, Nikon D850, Notre Dame, Paris, Paul Grayson, Photeinos, φωτεινος
Happy to see you back.
My favorites are n° 3 and 4 taken under an unusual angle. Nice light for all and perfect technical shots as usual.
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