Thursday, February 9, 2012

Saint Denis Statuary . . .

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A couple of posts back I wrote of an afternoon spent visiting the Basilica in Saint Denis in the good company of a few fellow bloggers. Here are a few more photos from that day, going into a bit more detail on that lovely structure and all it contains. Over the centuries Saint Denis was the principle burying place for French royalty, only a small number were buried elsewhere. During the French Revolution, the royal tombs were sacked, desecrated, and the mortal remains of the monarchs and their kin were unceremoniously dumped in mass graves outside the Basilica. For a fine description of those ghoulish events track down a copy of the novel "Sire" by Jean Raspail. Later the royal bones were returned to the interior, but as it was impossible by then to know which bones belonged to who, they were walled up in the crypt behind plaques bearing all of their names, starting with Dagobert from over a thousand years ago. A lot of very sobering history resides there, a moving place to visit if you are in Paris and have the time. The Paris Metro runs to Saint Denis, the station is just a short walk from the Basilica.
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As I arrived the winter sun was lighting up stained glass from the far side of the nave.
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And this is the interior of that same rose window . . .
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I couldn't help wondering if this fellow had literally been defaced during the depredations of the Revolution ?
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Marie Antoinette . . .
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And Louis XVI . . .
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Many members of the royal family were accompanied into the afterlife by faithful stone compagnons at their feet.
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This is the heart of Louis XVII under glass . . . trimmed of the aorta and superior and inferior vena cava, the pulmonary arteries and veins, removed from its protective covering of the pericardium, though perhaps the remains of the thymus gland are still visible ? A more skilled anatomist than I might be able to offer some insight as to exactly what is visible here, the right auricle and ventricle ? The left ? Some of both ? Ah, the human heart, that vessel of mysteries yet unplumbed.
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These last two are details from down in the crypt, ancient sculpteurs had such vivid visions of humanity.
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21 comments:

JeannetteLS said...

was restoration performed on the Rose window in the mid-seventies? I keep thinking my sister and I went there with my uncle when we were in Paris in 1974, and that the window was being restored. Yet I see it and it looks familiar to me...

Anyway, wonderful pictures... and sometimes a tad disturbing!

DaisyDeadhead said...

These are just incredible! Beautiful!

Very glad I visited here today. :)

Robert Geiss said...

There's certainly something that only light can do, you were able to catch it; as the first image is my favourite.
Thank you for the peacefulness. Please have a good Friday ahead.

louciao said...

Finally, a self-portrait of the photographer. Nice to catch a look at you in the last photo.

louciao said...

PS. I know this is an obvious question but someone has to ask it, did Louis XVII truly have a heart of gold? Someone has to tell Neil Young about this. He's been looking long enough.

David said...

Great series - I love your eye. I always get ideas of what to look for after viewing a post of yours.

Steve said...

That heart looks disturbingly like a ferrero rocher...

James said...

Excellent shots Owen! You really know how to make the most of lighting.

Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden said...

Thanks for taking us back to St Denis for a closer look. All that incredible craft work - stained glass, sculpture, wood carving, marquetry, but like Robert Geiss I was entranced by that first photo showing sun through glass through glass. Rather like Lynne I wondered if the royal heart is really a gold nugget!

Mary Ann said...

Excellent detail shots. I know lighting is always a problem inside old churches. Oh, to be French royalty and get to look so damn fine whilst being pious.

Anonymous said...

Отличная статья, мне нравится, достойно.

Maria O. Russell said...

Does anybody know exactly when M.A.´s statue was put in the Basilica?

Her clothes are more in the Empire style than in the Pre-Revolutionary style...

Fantastic post, M. Owen!

Catherine said...

what wonderful closeups especially the hands, feet and gargoyles - amazing overall sequence

Stickup Artist said...

Such dire and dastardly deeds but shown with so much warmth! Caressed and bathed in such a beautiful light. The stained glass is colorful and impressive, but it is your work with the statuary and other carvings that impresses me the most. The angles and lighting show them off to great effect and expose a different humanity than the backstory. We are strange creatures indeed...

French Girl in Seattle said...

Well, I will be darned. I almost missed this post, Mr Toad. What is going on with my blogroll? Loved these beautiful photos of St Denis. I remember going there as a child with my family. My brother and I were most impressed with "les gisants", lying there in the cold church. We held their hands trying to warm them up... It did not work. They remained as cold as marble. I do not recall seeing the cute little dog, however. Very nice details, expertly captured, as always. Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

Virginia said...

Ahh , I was at your elbow for a lot of these. What a nice series Owen. Truly beautifully captured and always. The feet are much better than mine! :) Thank you for a grand tour. I'm linking to your blog today as I have the windows and you have the rest of the show!
V

Amanda said...

how fortunate to be in proximity of such staggering beauty - the color of that rose window is something to behold.

amazing images, owen.

Gwen Buchanan said...

This is an Art fest.. every one of your photographs are so descriptive.. so many details.. it must have been hard to decide when to stop clicking...

Pat Tillett said...

Amazing photos! Many of them!
Thanks for the tour of a place, I'll probably never see in person...

Lydia said...

Exactly what Amanda before me said!
These are such breathtaking images and I am so, so grateful to you for sharing glories like this with us. The rose window, those precious stone companions, and that heart(♥!) are images that will stay with me.

Owen, I hope that day-by-day you are feeling better. Spring will come!

Harriet said...

So glad that V linked to your post today. Your photos are wonderful.