Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Some stained glass windows at the Basilica of St. Denis

St Denis was an early bishop of Paris.  He was beheaded during one intense period of Roman persecution (c. 250).  Legend says that he then picked up his head and walked some 10 kms to the north, preaching along the way.  His reputed final resting place (the Parisian suburb is now called St Denis) would eventually become the site of the nation's first basilica to be constructed in the Gothic style.  Abbot Suger (d. 1151) was one of the most powerful and influential men under Louis VI and Louis VII.  At one time he served as Regent of France in the king's absence.  He spoke out against the Second Crusade, but late spoke in favour of another crusade.  His primary legacy today, however, is the magnificent basilica dedicated to the patron of Paris and indeed, to the patron of France itself--St Denis.  Having access to royal (federal) funding, he was able to witness the construction of this magnificent basilica during his lifetime.

I begin with the north rose window.  My knowledge of digital photography only enables me to show either architecture or stained glass windows, but not both.  This blog entry is about windows.

Adam reclines in the center of the rose, reclining as if in sleep, which recalls the story in Genesis in which God created woman (and hence all human descendants) from Adam.  Symbolically, everything evolves from Adam--including kings and prophets. 

Other windows closer to eye level reveal interesting details unavailable to the unaided eye when placed high above the worshiper or visitor.  But when I try to see, let alone photograph clerestory windows from ground level, I am too often defeated. I keep thinking that some of these windows meant little to medieval adults needing--but lacking--glasses.

Being a musician (and back at ground level), I enjoy finding musicians at work, even if they are kings with harps.

Or angels with trumpets.

Some windows feature more abstract geometric patterns.  This window's border is built on the symbol of France, the fleur-de-lis, a stylized lily shown over the royal blue. 

Not all medieval-looking stained glass windows are from the middle ages.  This one is dated 1980, but the style imitates some medieval work astonishingly well, in colour, variety of over-painting, and even in aging the glass.

Other modern windows are true to more contemporary styles, this one by the same artist in 1982.

The south rose window was obviously being restored (2013).  Outside, it is covered with scaffolding, inside one sees only plain glass filling the stone filigree which will soon once again support the enormous stained glass panes.

Finally, I enjoyed experimenting with time exposures.  Since I can hardly see the windows anyway, I worked on abstracting their prominent colours.  I suppose this secularizes the windows, which is hardly my intention.