Thursday, October 24, 2013

Strasbourg, Notre-Dame Cathedral's stained glass windows

Most of the stained glass windows in Strasbourg's cathedral date from the 12th through 14th centuries.  Some have been beautifully cleaned and restored.  I am assuming, for instance, that when a figure is entirely white (like Eve in the first photo, left panel), some glass needed to be replaced, but that is only my assumption.  (Adam, by comparison, is coloured to be more three-dimensional.)  As a photographer, I will say that I needed to underexpose by two full stops in order to have the rich colours appear as they did to my eye.

This rose window uses medieval tracery (the seemingly delicate stone structure which holds the various panes of glass) but the glazing itself is modern.  I had to wonder is this is what other stained glass windows looked like to medieval adults requiring, yet lacking, spectacles--brilliant blurred colours.

This offer a closer view of Adam and Eve realizing their lack of clothing (left panel), being expelled from the Garden of Eden (middle panel), and then toiling for the remainder of their lives (right panel).

The geometric designs surrounding the windows can be as fascinating as similar designs which adorn contemporary illuminated manuscripts.  Here, I like the way the toes of the person's right food are slightly curved downward.  The slippers are very royal indeed.

The dove (representing God's spirit) coming into the awareness of the disciples and Mary, the mother of Jesus.  Some of the disciples seem to be tonsured, having the tops of their heads be shaven in imitation of medieval monks, who in turn imitated Roman slaves, thereby announcing that they had given up their freedom when becoming monks.

There are two interesting scenes below.  In the bottom scene, Jesus has his 'triumphant' ride into Jerusalem on a donkey (celebrated on Palm Sunday) and in the top, Jesus is being betrayed by the kiss of Judas while (Saint) Peter is cutting off the servant's ear (apparently Peter was not very skillful with his sword).

Footwashing is the sole activity 'commanded' by Jesus.  From the Latin for 'command', the English came to call Holy Thursday "Maundy Thursday", the Thursday on which we follow this special command of Jesus, that we wash each others feet (i.e., serve each other, putting others first).

Unless I use HDR (high definition resolution) techniques (which greatly alter colours), I do not know how to photograph both brilliant windows and darker interior spaces.  This time, the windows won.

In medieval times, light was provided solely by the dark windows and hundreds of candles, the soot of which darkened interiors over the decades. Electric lights are so much better.  However, it is interesting that nearly all cathedrals find it necessary to use electric lights during the middle of the day so that certain treasures can be appreciated inside the sanctuaries.

Some rose windows celebrate geometry.  Numbers were symbolic to many medieval minds.  One wonders what symbols these designs suggested centuries ago:  5 (the center of the window; the 5 wounds of Christ), the series of 2's (the two natures of Christ--human and divine), 16 (16 prophets in the Old Testament, 16 apostles and evangelists in the New Testament), 32 (in St. Matthew's gospel, "the kingdom of heaven" is used 32 times).  Designs were not merely abstractions, they held significant meaning to the discerning mind.

The Annunciation (March 25th).

Feast of the Nativity of Christ, the Christ Mass (Christmas).

The Presentation at the Temple, when Jesus was circumcised.

"Harod the king, in his raging
charged he hath this night,
in his own sight
all young children to slay."
The killing of the Innocents (related in St. Luke), Feast Day December 26th.

The Flight into Egypt, when Mary and Joseph take the infant Jesus to Egypt (Alexandria?) for safety.

Jesus in the Temple (age 12), discussing Torah with the elders.

This Baroque organ benefits from spotlights, otherwise it was be difficult to see at all.