Monday, February 22, 2010

Our Lady

I'm going to spit some sweet French skill at you... Did you know that "Notre Dame" means "Our Lady"? You did? Ok, so I'm not that impressive yet. But this morning as we were leaving our house to go see one of the most famous churches in the world, Notre Dame, it struck me: "notre is a French word that means our, and dame means lady, how about that!?" When I said it out loud, I suddenly didn't feel so smart. I'd just used my newfound french language ability to figure out something everyone else in the even slightly cultured world already knew. Oh well, baby steps.

So we went to the Notre Dame today! We have a short break from language school and decided to get back into the city and do some touristy stuff as well as wonder the streets and pretend we're locals. Notre Dame is, in a word, impressive. It's huge, it's beautiful, and it's an interesting dichotomy of museum and working church inside. Inside, I couldn't help but imagine being in there late at night before the days of electricity with a storm raging outside. Then we imagined what it must have been like for the thousands who once (or more?) sought refuge while troops beat on the doors and war threatened outside. Then I thought how cool it would be to set up my drums and have a kickin' band together to rock the Notre Dame. The acoustics in there are incredible! Is that sacreligious? Oh well, my bad.

The sculpting outside (and in) really was a thing to marvel about. If it wasn't crazy windy and cold, and if I didn't have an ever-growing and squirming boy on my back, I would have loved to sit outside and walk through the hundreds of stories depicted, imagining what meaning was being artistically rendered in each little nook and cranny. Here's a few stories below that I did check out, and if the details (or entire stories) are wrong, sorry. I didn't fact check (or really check anything at all... just think I heard it, or maybe made it up).

This is a cool one with a story. Across the front of the cathedral stand the kings of the Old Testament. Way back when, some revolutionaries came through and chopped off all their heads, assuming they were French kings (they've since been restored). Clearly they didn't own a Golden Children's Bible, or they would have immediately recognized the figures as Biblical Kings and left them alone.

Didn't know the priests had played in some of the early Super Bowls, did you? No, they hadn't. These were just some of their jewelry from the past. I'm pretty sure that one in the middle is wider than about 3 or 4 of my (rather feminine) fingers combined. So this is what the leaders of the church wore on their fingers, back during times that a lot of regular folks were literally starving to death. I'm starting to understand more of why most of the French have a strong dislike for the church.

Last month I threw up a picture of John the Baptist's head on a silver platter. St Dennis here has a pretty fun story to go with his head. I don't mean that the beheading was fun. Sorry Dennis... that's not what I meant at all. Folklore has it that after being beheaded for not bowing to the Roman gods, Dennis picked up his head, cleaned himself up a bit, and then walked off in the distance, head in tow, to find a good place to go home and meet his maker.

One thing we didn't get to do today was go up the bell tower and stand face-to-face with the gargoyles up top. We did see from a distance the massive and incredibly creepy structures though. And our favorite is the bored gargoyle, who sits head in hands with a "woe is me" countenance.

No comments: