Triad of Cathedrals

Trip Start May 31, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of France  ,
Sunday, November 25, 2007

Northern France is rich in Gothic cathedrals much like eastern France is rich in excellent wines, and southern France in luxurious beaches. So on our way to Calais to take the train back to England, we couldn't possibly have dreamed of passing up the chance to see Amiens. Beauvais, which holds the highest Gothic cathedral, was already checked off the list and there was barely enough time for Amiens, rumoured to have the most beautiful of all Gothic least that's what my Art History professor always professed.

It was evening when we arrived, and much to our delight, this was no sleepy, boring town like Beauvais had been, but an aristocratic, bustling city. We parked the car in the center of the town and marvelled on the beautiful Renaissance and Gothic architecture of the square and its surrounding buildings. A playful Chritmas market was taking place complete with a carrousel and a small ice skating rink surrounded by pine trees decorated in tiny yellow lights. A huge plastic bubble held a miniature castle inside in which fake snow rained from the top, like a life-sized SnowBall. Pink and red Chinese lanterns hung from various stands as people walked by with their families and dogs. The smell of Nutella crepes seduced Ed away from me and we got lost for a few moments until I found him about to take the first bite of his chocolate-and-banana-filled crepe. He let me have the last few bites.

The Cathedral of the Lady of Amiens was not too far from the market, but unfortunately it was closed for the day. From what I remembered from school, this church was one of the most beautiful examples of the Classic Gothic style and also one of the tallest. Together with the cathedral of Chartres and Reims, Amiens completes the illustrious triad of Classical French cathedrals. UNESCO designated Amiens Cathedral a World Heritage site chiefly because of its harmony and unadulterated Gothic style. Joihn Ruskin (1819-1900) had previously agreed by declaring that Amiens was: "Gothic, clear of Roman tradition and of Arabian taint, Gothic pure, authoritative, unsurpassable, and unaccusable... not only the best, but the very first thing done perfectly in its manner by northern Christendom."

The front fašade had clearly been recently restored revealing traces of polychromatic paint that once graced the statues of saints and angels on the main portal. Their faces turned to each other, interacting with elegant and aristocratic smiles, a technique called sacra conversazione, meaning 'sacred conversation'. Each sculpture on the portal represents a scene of the bible, the only means for the illiterate medieval pilgrims to 'read' the holy book. A gallery of 22 life-sized kings stretches across the entire fašade just below the huge rose window, illuminated by ghostly lights.

I was sad we were not able to explore its interior, but was happy that we had discovered this unique little city and its gorgeous cathedral. For now, it was back to London until next time.
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