Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter Eggstravaganza!

L and Mommy worked hard to dye and decorate this year's Easter eggs. Mommy prepared the dyes and L got straight to work.

Am I doing a good job?

Dyeing three eggs at once!

Our kit came with stickers, which L put to good use.

Carefully applying new decorations

Looks good, let me try another!

More stickers!

On Easter morning, we had an in-home, in-pajamas egg hunt (with plastic eggs). The kids had a fun time searching the living room, though they needed some hints.

Look over there, J!

J hopes to fill a large bag

Checking the contents

A frog that sticks his tongue out!

For breakfast, we ate some of the hard boiled eggs that L had decorated. She didn't mind at all. Then we dressed for church, went to church, and hunted eggs in the church's outdoor Easter egg hunt. It was cold but satisfying.

Easter Sunday clothes (sans shoes)

Running together

Looking for eggs, not the camera

Happy and holy Easter to all!

Inside of Notre-Dame, Paris

The inside of Notre-Dame is just as inspiring as the exterior. It was used for the coronations of kings and even Napoleon as emperor in 1804. The Revolutionaries tried to change it to a temple of reason but wound up using it to store food. It almost fell into ruin but Victor Hugo's Hunchback of Notre-Dame (published in 1831) restored local interest and pride in the church. In 1944, the Mass marking the liberation of Paris from Nazi Germany was celebrated here.

The interior is quite spacious. When we visited, they were displaying some of the bells along the nave.

View from the center up to the main altar

View from the center down to the entrance doors

One of the bells from upstairs

The main altar features a Pieta by Nicolas Coustou. The Pieta was commissioned by Louis XIII as thanksgiving for the birth of his son, who became Louis XIV in due time.

Main altar

The rose windows in the transepts date from the mid-1200s but have been extensively restored, i.e. very little of the glass is medieval. The South Rose Window features Christ surrounded by saints, virgins, and the apostles.

South Rose Window

Many other fine stained glass windows are found throughout the church.

Abstractions near the entrance

Hebrew Kings/Ancestors of Jesus?

Saints (the praying silhouette is a statue)

Many fine statues are also found throughout the church.

St. Joan of Arc

St. Therese


Madonna and Child

The side chapels and walls of the church also have paintings. A famous series of paintings is the "Mays" paintings. Every year from 1630 to 1707, the Parisian goldsmiths' guild donated a new painting on the first of May (being Mary's month, after all). Thirteen are still on display, though I did not photograph any of them.

Icon of the Madonna and child

St. Thomas Aquinas teaching
A small display shows the history of the building of the cathedral. J particularly enjoyed the scale model of the work site.

Evolution of the Gothic style

J admires the construction process

The great chandelier from the crossing of the nave and transept was also down for viewing by the public.

The grand chandelier

The side chapel of St. Denis features another statue of the early French martyr.

Chapel of St. Denis

The sacraments are also available at the church. We saw a nice confessional and the ornate baptismal font.


Baptismal font with John the Baptist on top

We did not explore the treasury, where the Crown of Thorns is kept. It gives us something to look forward to next time (in addition to visiting the roof and seeing the flying buttresses out back).

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Outside of Notre-Dame, Paris

Notre-Dame is probably the second most famous landmark in Paris, behind the Eiffel Tower. The church's construction began in 1163 under Bishop Sully. It took nearly 200 years to finish. Built on the site of an old Roman temple, the cathedral is a Gothic masterpiece. The west front is the main entrance to the building and since we were there on a Saturday morning, the line was rather long to enter. That left us plenty of time to admire the exterior of the cathedral.

Notre-Dame from across the river

Us crossing the river, blissfully unaware of...

The long line!

The line to get in went from one side of the plaza, up some wooden bleachers in the plaza, down again into Notre-Dame by the far door (see if you can spot Mommy and L in the picture above). Over the entrance doors is the Kings' Gallery, featuring 28 statues of the Kings of Judah. During the Revolution, those brilliant intellectuals assumed these kings were French kings and destroyed most of the statues. They have all been replaced with 19th century copies. Some of the heads were saved and not discovered until 1977! They are in the Musee National du Moyen Age.

The Jewish Kings hold up the Medieval Masterpiece!

Tours of the Bell Tower are available but we did not take advantage since the children probably would not be patient enough. Visitors can see gargoyles and Quasimodo's bells up close from there, as well as having good views of the city.

We admired the three doorways leading into the cathedral. The leftmost as you face the front is the Portal of the Virgin, with Mary surrounded by saints and kings (these are the guys the Revolutionaries meant to knock over, whoops!) dating from the 13th century.

Portal of the Virgin

St. Denis featured after his martyrdom

Other saints by the Portal of the Virgin

The middle door is the Portal of the Last Judgment, featuring Christ enthroned in Heaven.

Portal of the Last Judgment

On the right-hand side is the Portal of St. Anne, the mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Portal of St. Anne

Unfortunately, we did not walk around the back of the cathedral where the famous flying buttresses are visible. These architectural structures bear the weight of the ceiling and the walls, allowing for much larger windows in the walls.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Book Review: The Golden Moments of Notre-Dame de Paris

The Golden Moments of Notre-Dame de Paris by Serge Saint-Michel, Claude LaCroix, and Nadine Voillat

This book is probably the most unlikely graphic novel I will ever run across. I saw it in French at the Notre-Dame gift shop. Next to it was an English version! I couldn't resist buying it.

The book chronicles the approximately 200 year construction and the historical highlights of the cathedral in the center of Paris, Notre-Dame. The authors do a good job of telling the history from the perspective of various people involved, like Bishop Sully who initiated the project in the 1000s and various other historical characters and unnamed artisans and Parisians. The blending of comic book storytelling and historical retelling works well, giving the reader a view into the culture surrounding the construction. The original construction (which ended in the late 1200s) takes up about two-thirds of the book.

The continuing history of the building is well presented. Various coronations (of kings and emperors), festivals, fires, restorations, and historic events (there was a sniper shooting at the thanksgiving Mass for the liberation of Paris in 1944!) are shown in memorable ways. The book covers all the way up to 2004, so you get 1000+ years of history in 54 pages of glorious color drawings.

Reading this is a lot more interesting and engaging than the souvenir guide book I also bought at Notre-Dame's gift shop. The book is not available at Amazon, but a simple search turned up this English site that sells it. It is a good read and a great overview of the history of Notre-Dame.

Some samples of the art:

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge (and read about the importance of bacon to French economy!)

Thursday, March 28, 2013

RHS Harlow Carr Gardens in Lent

On a recent Sunday the weather seemed bright enough to go to the gardens after Mass, so we went to our old standby, RHS Harlow Carr. They had some seasonally colored flowers and an orchid show on in one of the buildings.

We are still amazed by all the hearty flowers that can survive in this Yorkshire "springtime" which includes plenty of snowy days. The flowers are perfect for Lent since they are mostly purple, just like the liturgical vestments the priest wore at Mass earlier in the day!

Field of purple

Ericaceae (known as heather or heath!)

Some white flowers anticipating Easter

In the Bramall Learning Centre and Library was an exhibit of orchids. The organizers looked like they were gearing up for a lecture so we only stayed briefly to admire the sights and smells.

Epidendrum stanfordianum and friend

Beallara Tahoma (white on top) and unidentified (below)

Lots of orchids

We managed to see some wildlife while we were at the garden, including some real ducks and some unreal rabbits (or possibly hares).

If a duck crosses your path, does it mean anything?

At first I thought these were deer, but clearly those are ears, not antlers!

No trip would be complete without a visit to the playground and the tree house. I took the obligatory tree house shot.

Would anyone notice if I kept using the same photo?!?

We had a fun visit to the gardens, even if we did have to wear winter jackets and gloves. Come on, Spring, we are waiting for you!