Saturday, November 05, 2005

Sainte Chapelle

There was simply nothing in my life to prepare me for the astonishment and awesomeness of this small church.

The French, eh? they know how to do things properly. No big fanfares, no big flashing signs outside saying, "Come on in HERE and we will show you SOMEthing!" (well, actually those signs DO exist and in the seedier part of my new neighbourhood which is known as Pig Alley to some and Pigalle to the rest of us. But I am not talking about them.) No, the French do things such as making one stand in line to get checked through security b/c they use the same lines for the Palais de Justice and for Sainte Chapelle. {Why waste perfectly good man (it's all men) power when the two places are side by side??} and, when one is asked to open one's bag to show the corkscrew left one by The First Adventuress, the bag examiner looks at the knife part, looks at Moi and, in French, shows another, more senior I like to think, examiner. The Sr Ex asks "de qui?". I am indicated. He looks at me, grins, and says, in English, "she's o.k." I am not sure whether to be flattered or disappointed but, as I didn't want to have to buy another corkscrew, I laugh and say, in my best French accent, "Merci et au revoir, messieurs." They both laugh and I get the heck out of there.

And then the French make one walk across the back alley to the servants' entrance and it is quite beautiful in itself, all vaulting and blue ceiling with stars of gold. Not quite what I was expecting but hey, stars of gold on a blue ceiling are good. I am looking for a big sign saying "Spiral Staircase to the Real Chapel" or something. It's over there, in the corner with a tiny sign ( I was going to make the font tiny but can't figure out how to do that and not have everything else tiny too and I have just spent about 10Euros of i/n time trying to do so so too bad...). It is a very steep spiral staircase and small heffalump with asthma seems to be ahead of me. I wait patiently b/c after all, this can't be That Big a Thing. It was only 6.10 Euro and everyone knows that in Paris that is for cheap stuff.

Everyone except the people who set the pricing at Ste-Chapelle.

Try to imagine stepping out of a dark, dark staircase. Kind of like the tunnel we are told some people experience at death. And try to imagine stepping into the most glorious light in the world. The light of all the colours alive and dancing brighter and duller with passing clouds and setting sun. Like being inside a kaleidoscope. These are the walls of Ste-Chapelle: 20 metres of stained glass straight up all the way round a nave that is less than 10 metres wide in lancets of four and, behind the altar, lancets in pairs. The effect was dazzling and eye-popping and, most particularly interesting, silencing. This was built in less than five years and consecrated in 1248!!!! Talk about no building committees and no diocesan councils!! And built before almost anyone except the ancestors of those already here had even considered the existence of where we now live.

You all know I don't get gobsmacked easily by "stuff". It has happened at last.


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