Friday, October 10, 2008

Basilica of St. Denis, Paris (part 2)

In mid May I posted a number of pictures taken at the Basilica of St Denis, Paris (click on St Denis). These additional pictures were taken inside the basilica on a sunny day. One quickly learns there are challenges when attempting to expose correctly for both the darker vaulted ceilings and the brilliant stained glass windows.

The basilica is well known for its architecture and as the burial site for many of France's royalty. For example, the two effigies of Louis XVI and his Austrian wife, Marie Antoinette (sporting a breast well-polished by thousands of curious hands), are nicely silhouetted as one stands facing them. Although I did not want to intrude on the class of students drawing pictures of other effigies throughout the basilica, I was intrigued with reflecting on how some of those once powerful personalities would have reacted to descendants of peasants laughing while drawing their pictures.

Some historians have suggested that the earliest ribbed vaults are those found in the ceiling of the ambulatory which takes us around the apse. The success of these ribbed vaults immediately encouraged other anonymous architects to incorporate them into their expressions of Gothic architecture as it rapidly emerged in France, particularly within a 150km radius of the capital city. As you walk through the basilica, you can see how the vault developed.