Thursday, October 6, 2011

La Cathédrale de Beauvais (revisited)

As I noted in a posting two years ago (La Cathéderale de Beauvais), the Beauvais Cathedral (Cathédrale St-Pierre de Beauvais) is both magnificent and unfinished. After a series of disastrous fires, the wooden structures of earlier versions started to give way to the present stone edifice in 1225. However, a deadly mixture of war and political disputes with central government dried up funding for this ambitious undertaking. Subsequent efforts to finish the cathedral, at least enough of it to be useful, resulted in the present areas known as the choir, the apse and its chapels, and the transept. Since work on the nave never commenced, you now enter the cathedral primarily through doors which take you directly into the transept.

Located in the North of France, the Cathedral of Beauvais could boast of having vaulted ceilings which, at the time, were higher than those of any Gothic structure in the land (42m). The choir was finally completed in 1272, but part of its ceiling collapsed in 1284 and had to be rebuilt. The transept was completed in 1548, but its enormous tower collapsed in 1573. Builders were realizing that these ambitious heights were taking Gothic architectural designs and techniques to their very limits, and beyond. Nevertheless, even today, the choir with its tremendous columns, vaulted ceiling and stained glass windows can only inspire admiration and engender contemplation and meditation.

Our 2011 visit began at the new terminal at the Beauvais airport.  Their tourism office had selected one of my earlier photos of the cathedral's apse for inclusion in a collage highlighting the area's attractions for incoming tourists.  We decided to see the enlarged photo and then spent our 46th in Beauvais and Chantilly.

On this return visit, I noticed that the maintenance and repairs had progressed nicely (but must be unbelievably expensive), and the sturdy wooden buttresses were still successfully holding several of the transept's enormous columns.

The marble floor before the altar continues to intrigue me.  You are not allowed to walk on it, but you can still enjoy the play of light over the highly polished surfaces.

We are standing in the transept facing the southern door.