The Dramatic Presence of the Cathedrals

While we are still feeling the sadness of the Notre Dame fire, let me mention a few things about Cathedrals in general.

A definitional element of every Cathedral is that it is the site of the Bishop’s residence from which he spreads the word of God as revealed by the Pope from his throne. Thus ex cathedra means “from the teacher’s chair” with complete authority. Such decisions are supposed to be infallible and unquestionably true.

The Reims Cathedral

The Rheims cathedral is the very epitome of what a Gothic Cathedral should look like. It was the site for the coronation of many French kings. During the Hundred Years War between France and England, when England occupied much of France’s territory, Joan of Arc presided over the coronation of Charles VII in Rheims.

From history to art. In 1892-1893 Claude Monet rented a flat across from the Rouen Cathedral and created a series of paintings trying to capture its many moods throughout the day. From the crystal clear morning light to the descending darkness, he created over 30 canvases.

 

Rouen Cathedral in 12 different lights.

In Britain young Turner painted some sweeping views of cathedrals including his series on Salisbury cathedral. John Constable was also moved by Salisbury and created a memorable painting of it.

Many other historical figures, artists, painters and sculptors were deeply affected by Cathedrals. In Germany in 1770 a young Goethe was overwhelmed by the beauty of the cathedral of Strasbourg. He climbed its tower many times in order to challenge and ultimately overcome his vertigo.

The 466 foot tower of the Cathedral at Strasbourg.

These great Cathedrals are as rich a repository of art as any museum. They offer us remarkable collections of sculpture, frescoes and stained glass masterpieces. We will continue to cherish these iconic structures as they continue to speak to us.

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe to comments
Notify of
guest
21 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Carole Slucki
Carole Slucki
3 years ago

Very informative as usual.

Libby
Libby
3 years ago

Everything about this series on cathedrals is beautifully done. I especially loved the paintings by Monet of the Rouen Cathedral at different times of the day! He was truly inspired!

Tia Berkey
Tia Berkey
3 years ago

Wonderful as always, what is your favorite cathedral? Mine is probably St.Patricks in NYC

Simone Klugman
Simone Klugman
3 years ago
Reply to  Tia Berkey

My favorite cathedral is Chartres because of the gorgeous stained glass windows.
The great advantage of all French cathedrals is that they are at such a small distance from Paris and easy to visit,

Heo Park
Heo Park
3 years ago
Reply to  Simone Klugman

Mine are Chartres and Salisbury. Chartres for the stained glasses, and I can see it from far far away. Remember Salisbury for its peaceful settings, English cottages and climbing roses nearby. Strasbourg was stunning, but what stands out is the pineapple decoration. Am I right? Perhaps pineapples are purely my imagination

Allen
Allen
3 years ago

I have been, and always will be blown away by gothic era cathedrals. The willpower and dedication it took to build these monuments before modern construction equipment is staggering.

zac
zac
3 years ago

Love this, especially the montage of paintings =)

The thing that I always most admire about these cathedrals built over hundreds of years is that many thousands worked on them who knew they would never see them completed. I can’t imagine such dedication, a lifes work to know you’ll only see a thing 20% of the way…

Rehoond22
Rehoond22
3 years ago

I was able to visit the Notre Dame Cathedral while in Paris in the Fall of 2011. I remember the cool hush of the interior and how it made me feel at peace. Just being there took my breath away as I thought about its history.
Another cathedral I loved was the Lincoln Cathedral in Lincoln, England. I recommend spending the extra time and cost it takes to go on the roof tour. You’ll be able to see parts of the cathedral not seen on the free tour.

Amy T
Amy T
3 years ago

Thank you for this! I’ve shared all the sadness about the Notre Dame cathedral fire even though I have never been. Seeing and learning about some of the other great cathedrals in Europe is a great reprieve. I share Tia’s sentiment that St. Patrick’s in NYC is my favorite cathedral I have ever visited with the National Cathedral in DC as a close second.

Steve
Steve
3 years ago
Reply to  Amy T

I have never been to Europe and these sound amazing but I would add a few more US cathedrals in there as well. The Cathedral Basilica in Saint Louis, the Basilica of St. Josaphat in Milwaukee and Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis are all great spots to visit if you come to the midwest.

Alex
Alex
3 years ago

I didn’t know that about Monet but those 12 different paintings of the Rouen Cathedral are really quit amazing.

Lawrence
Lawrence
3 years ago

So true that the Rheims Cathedral is the site of so much incredible French history. It was also the site of the wedding of Henry I and Anne of Kiev, another very interesting historical event.

Rettle290
Rettle290
3 years ago

Though not a cathedral, this article reminds me of my time in Istanbul Turkey last year that I was able to visit the Blue Mosque. I’d highly recommend anyone interested in architecture to add this to their wish list. It was built in 1609 and is still used as a mosque today. It’s open to the public except during the prayers.

Andrew H.
Andrew H.
3 years ago

It’s been 4 months since the Notre Dame fire and though some progress has been made, the historic building’s ceiling arches are still under the risk of collapsing. They think that the cause of the fire may have been something as simple as a misplaced cigarette ash or an electrical wiring problem, but not arson. I think that President Emmanuel Macron’s call to rebuild it within five years is nearly impossible. We’ll see.

Francisca
Francisca
3 years ago

Truly, these great Cathedrals are as rich a repository of art as any museum. I was deeply affected when I heard about the Notre Dame fire. It held a very deep historical feeling and it took me a while to accept and get over the incident. I know that rebuilding it with materials we have now will never give us those remarkable collections of sculpture, frescoes, and stained glass masterpieces. I’m with you that we will continue to cherish these iconic structures as they continue to speak to us. Hopefully, we understand its importance and cherish it the way we… Read more »

Vanessa
Vanessa
3 years ago

Hahaha. The story of the German young Goethe got me laughing a little. Climbing up the tower many times in order to challenge and ultimately overcome his vertigo is quite intriguing. I think I’ll do same too as I’m also overwhelmed by the beauty of the cathedral of Strasbourg. I’ve seen lots of pictures and it’s a beauty to behold.

Sarah Josh
Sarah Josh
3 years ago

I’ve seen quite a couple of Claude Monet’s paintings including that of the Rouen Cathedral and how he was able to capture its many moods throughout the day. It’s awesome and way better than some other paintings or pictures I’ve seen of it. My son admires it a lot too and is always drawing on walls trying to replicate each painting. Beautiful I must say.