Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A Simple Twist of Fate . . .

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As a result of a simple twist of fate, I found myself in Paris the other day admiring a fountain, and upon closer inspection, realized there was a small detail sculpted there of one of my favorite characters in literature : Mr Toad himself, of the Wind In the Willows. If any of you numerous Paris-philes out there can identify with accurate precision the whereabouts of this fountain, I will be happy to buy you a beer or glass of wine or other libation of your choosing the next time we meet up in the City of Light . . . Happy hunting !
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The music which could go with this little ramble might be the eponymous "Simple Twist of Fate" from Bob Dylan. I couldn't find any versions of it on YouTube actually done by Mr Dylan himself, so perhaps next best is this version from the soundtrack of the film "I'm Not There", as sung by Jeff Tweedy . . . Although Jerry Garcia also did some pretty fine versions of it also, not to mention Joan Baez on her timeless album Diamonds and Rust.
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There was also a turtle decorating the same fountain, if that may help any of you to figure out where it is . . .
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But what I really meant to do a post about today is well outside of Paris, to the north, in the small city of Beauvais. I also found myself there in Beauvais the other day, again purely due to another simple twist of fate. I'm not sure that Beauvais actually figures very high on many tourists' lists of places to visit on their trips to France, as it apparently is not all that well known. Many travellers prefer to spend their time in Paris, or if venturing out of Paris, destinations such as Versailles or Chartres are far more popular. But Beauvais is well worth a detour, as the cathedral there is one of the wonders of European religious architecture.
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Now, just as this is not a blog about flower photos, it is also definintely not a blog about religion. I try to avoid the subject of religion the same way some people avoid the bubonic plague, but the fact of the matter is, one cannot escape it. And I have to give it to religion, that it served as the vehicle for the creation of some of the finest architectural structures in the world, those cathedrals which sprang up around medieval Europe, reaching up toward the mysterious heavens above.
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My old Art History textbook, Helen Gardner's Art Through the Ages, has this to say about Beauvais Cathedral :
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"The choir of the unfinished cathedral of Beauvais is an example of the Gothic "rush" into the skies. That skyward impulse, seen first in the height of the nave at Paris, became an obsession with Gothic builders. With their new skeletal frames of stone, they attempted goals almost beyond limit, pushing with ever slenderer supports to new heights, aiming always at effects of insubstantial visions floating far beyond the reach of man. The nave vaults at Laon had risen to a height of about 80 feet; at Paris to 107 feet; at Chartres to 118 feet; and at Amiens to 144 feet. In 1272 the builders of the choir of Beauvais planned a height of 157 feet. Only the choir and the transepts were built, the building remains without a nave. In 1284 the vaults collapsed; the cause of the failure is still a matter of scholarly debate."
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But what remains standing today, over 700 years later is well worth the detour, without further ado, here are a few photos from Beauvais Cathedral to whet your appetite.
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Approaching the entrance I felt like I was being watched, and with good reason . . .
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It is a miracle that the ancient sculpted wood doors have survived in such fine condition :
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Will let you decide if you prefer the floor in color or black and white . . .
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Just a glimpse up to the highest reaches . . .
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Stained light from stained glass in a side chapel . . .
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And just outside the cathedral, another remarkable building from hundreds of years ago still stands, today serving as a museum . . .
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36 comments:

...louciao... said...

I really like those unusual colours.

the fly in the web said...

So somebody else loves Beauvais!
I was there years back and fell for the cathedral hook line and sinker...that wonderful feel as though someone has very gently put a shell around living air.

Loulou said...

Stained light in the chapel is gorgeous.... a quick hello my dear friend, hope all is fine in your part of the world. Take care, Loulou

Stickup Artist said...

What a wonderful treat. At first I thought the bas reliefs were carved of stone and you're right, they are in marvelous condition for being wood. They must be well cared for. The light reflection from the stain glass is gorgeous as well. And I love gargoyles. I love seeing other parts of the world and you have given us a fabulous look at something wonderful.

Steve said...

A delicatation of whorls, textures and handsome frogs... Paris is plainly a wonderful, magical place.

...louciao... said...

Wait a minute...you brought your old art history book all the way to France?

K'line Bloom said...

La pierre, la lumière, le respect...

mythopolis said...

Wonderful photos....so much history and art embedded in everything. I can't claim to be a Paris-phile, but I am quite fond of Wind and the Willows. My son as a child along with several neighbor children did their own video version of the story years ago. I faithfully captured it on one of the first home vid/cams back then: the Sony Beta...and yeh, on beta tape! Anyway, Toad's wild ride was a very exciting episode for them!

Mystery of the fountain. I haven't a clue, but for the sake of a free beer, I will make some guesses. My first guess was something by Bartholdi. But it looks older somehow than his time...maybe something to do with the Medicis? Or maybe some part of that ornate fountain in Concorde Square? OK, as you can see, I am trying to finagle a beer out of you. So, I tried. I tried hard. Have mercy on me, I implore you! What else can I do, or say to get a beer? Ok, one last attempt to convince you I am worthy of a beer. I am a HUGE Bob Dylan fan and follower! Oops, I almost forgot to ask. This free beer, it does come with a plane ticket, right?

TechnoBabe said...

I sure wish I knew exactly where that fountain is. I will be watching for when you reveal the location. For me, I prefer the floor in color.

The Sagittarian said...

I studied art history at school too! However, even now I find it incredible at the amount of history still in evidence in modern day. The sheer age of those buildings is astonishing, and I agree that those wooden doors are amazing. Beautiful post. I really must get my Kiwi-ass to Paris!!

willow said...

TechnoBabe knew I would like this post, and she was right! Wind in the Willows + French patina = heaven. (I like the floor in color, by the way.)

The Sagittarian said...

Oh, and I lurve that stained glass 'soup'...

Catherine said...

Ta fontaine, aurait-elle à voir avec La Fontaine, justement par un effet du hasard ? Ai-je déjà en main le verre à pied ou ai-je encore les pieds dans le bassin ?

La Cathédrale de Beauvais, je ne la connais pas. Honte à moi. Maintenant que tu m'en as entre-ouvert la porte, qui sait si mes pieds ne sautilleront pas d'une case blanche sur une noire ?
On retiendra qu'il fallait bien impressionné l'auditoire. Et comme cela porte encore ses fruits encore aujourd'hui !

Dedene said...

I wish I knew which fountain it was, because I'd love to have an excuse to come to Paris to meet you and have free beer!
I've never been to Beauvais but the cathedrale is lovely.

Clytie said...

Something tells me 'fate' is not so 'simple', simply 'twisted' at times! You were meant to find the fountain totem Mr. Toad!

My favorite shots of Beauvais are those amazing and ugly yet wonderful gargoyles!!!

P.S. The floor in color for me.

Owen said...

Hi Lynne,
Unusual colors... the black and white ones or the stained ones ? It never ceases to amaze me how people figured out long ago how to do amazing things like create stained glass... and nobody today makes it like they did 800 years ago for Notre Dame or Chartres, and a few others...

Owen said...

Dear Fly in Web...
So you've been to Beauvais ?! That's fabulous... I wasn't sure if this was going to connect with anyone who had actually taken the trouble go go there. It is just such a shame that it never got finished. But the bit that they could complete is just exquisite. There is major work going on at present both inside and out. I went back there today and took more pictures for another post soon... And you are so right about the "shell around living air", it really does float, as Gardner wrote... I'm so happy if this resurrected some memories for you...
:-)

Beth Niquette said...

The frog and turtle are perfect for fountains! I especially enjoyed looking at those exquisitely carved doors. Amazing it is that they've lasted so long.

Your photos are wonderful--they fill my eyes--which is the greatest compliment I can give.

Have a GREAT weekend there in Paris. Someday I shall visit there.

Owen said...

Hi Loulou !
It is always wonderful to here from you, and yes indeed, all is good here, especially for the kids as summer vacation draws close...
Hope you are surviving the heat, and I can see it hasn't impaired your photography skills...
:-)

Owen said...

Hi Stickup,
Am always happy to provide a little bit of vicarious voyaging, I'm sure you would have all sorts of fun over here were you to get out and start looking around in France a bit... a person could spend few lifetimes doing just that, it is so dense and rich in places to dig in. 18 years later I'm still not tired... Ah, so you're a gargoyle lover? They never fail to amaze me. Stephen King collaborated on a book about gargoyles and grotesques with a photographer quite a while back, title was Nightmares In the Sky... nice photos in there if you can track it down...

Owen said...

Steve,
Paris, and France in general, is so rich in places to by amazed by, I hardly know what to compare it to... perhaps a bit like finding the wardrobe has no back side to it, and going through to end up in somewhere like Narnia...

But then, I'm easily amazed, and each time I've visited England I also felt like I could easily spend a lifetime just exploring and discovering everything there is to discover...

Owen said...

Lynne,
Haven't you guessed by now what a bad case of bookwormitis I was smitten with at an early age ? I'm afraid it is a terminal case... Of course I kept my Art History textbook, and brought it over here with me, it's a classic, and even though I took those classes over 25 years ago, I still remembered that there was a section in the book about Beauvais Cathedral... the professor we had left lasting impressions with me...

Owen said...

Bonjour K'line,
La pierre par milliers de tonnes, la lumière par flottes colorées, et le respect total...

Cet endroit me fait passer dans un état reveur...

Owen said...

Hello Mythopolis,
You have produced such a first class effort at finagling that even if you didn't provide the GPS coordinates of the fountain in question, you can claim a beer the next time you get over here... especially if you are a Dylan fan. The last time I saw him was here in Paris. After several shows in the US, including with the Grateful Dead way back in '89 or thereabouts.

I was sort of thinking you wouldn't need a plane ticket, as swimming the North Atlantic is an excellent way to work up a thirst for that beer... You do know how to swim, right ?
:-)

Owen said...

Hi TechnoB.,
Well, I guess we'll give some of the Paris people a little more time before revealing the fountain's secret location. But it is not as if Paris has anywhere near the number of fountains that can be found in some Italian cities...

Owen said...

Hi Sister Saj,
It is truly unbelievable how much history is out in plain view still today in these parts. I never get tired of going out and looking for traces of the past. And I thoroughly agree, you need to get that kiwi-*** (a gentleman cannot say some words, and I certainly wouldn't want to liken any part of you to that relative of a donkey either) to Paris ASAP... Bringing with you of course you bartenders notebook...
:-)

Owen said...

Dear Willow,
TechnoBabe is very kind indeed if she steered you through the arcane and circuitous lanes of the blogosphere, through the fog, to arrive safely at this obscure little enterprise... and it is a pleasure to receive you. You are welcome to stay for tea and we can reminisce a bit about the Wind In the Willows, and cathedrals.

But seriously, thanks so much for dropping in here... and if it gave even the merest glimpse of heaven, that is high praise for sure...

Owen said...

Dear Saj,
So the stained glass light has turned to soup now ?

Before long it will be turning into something to tipple with I reckon, and then that MadLynne is going to be showing up noisily demanding that she be served too and then we'll be in a right fine pickle...
:-)

Owen said...

Chère Catherine,
Tu ne cesses pas de surprendre, en tout cas je ne serais pas surpris si l'on me confirmait que la Fontaine avait quelque chose à faire avec cette fontaine, il y a sûrement un conte qui s'appelle Le Crapaud et la Tortue... non ? (J'avoue, je ne suis pas expert au sujet de la Fontaine)

Bon, par contre, vu les ressources que tu as à ta disposition, étant à Paris, je suis sûr que tu trouveras si tu cherches un petit peu, l'endroit exact de cette fontaine... l'offre restera valable un an...
Happy Hunting !
:-)

Owen said...

Hi Dedene,
Well, you'll just have to come to Paris and Beauvais even without knowing where the fountain is... Beauvais is really worth a detour...

Owen said...

Hi Clytie,
And even moreso destined to find that toad given that I had just learned that the Chinese held the toad in high esteem, and there was even a three footed toad in the mythology which lived on the moon, and symbolized longevity...

Glad you liked the gargoyles, me too !

Owen said...

Hi Beth,
Thank you so much, if I can continue to contribute to filling your eyes up, then I shall do so happily...

...louciao... said...

ah my beamish, bookish baby brother, you make a big sister proud.

French Fancy said...

Just as toads are your 'thing' turrets are mine - I just adore them. Another great selection of photos, Owen, but the last one is my favourite.

I've got no idea which fountain you spotted the toad at.

Owen said...

Hi FF,
Turrets huh ? Interesting... historical interests ? Imprisoned damsels in distress ? Intrigues from the Middle Ages ? Or just their visual beauty ? Saw another one yesterday also in Beauvais which you may enjoy when I get around to posting it...

Amy said...

I try to avoid religion too, but when it comes to gorgeous buildings like this, why bother? Wow. Yet another place added to my travel list. :D