Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Oct 15, Part 11 - The Exterior of St-Denis Basilica

When you've been to Notre Dame, the outside of this basilica doesn't look so impressive. But once you begin to observe the details, and especially once you begin to tour the interior, you can see what a special place St-Denis really is. If you click on the photos, you can see the detail around the doors. Each small pillar has a separate pattern. The details are unique wherever you look. I read that the facade is essentially Norman Romanesque, and without doing research, that sounds about right to me. There is so much to know about the history and architecture of St-Denis that it's worth looking it up online. St-Denis is considered a basilica, not a cathedral. "Basilica" was initially a term applied to some Roman buildings. Wikipedia says, "After the Roman Empire became officially Christian, the term came by extension to refer to a large and important church that has been given special ceremonial rites by the Pope. Above is the right-hand (southern) door of the facade.

Here is the central door of the facade.

This is the right-hand door again.

Now we're walking around the south side of the building.

At the arm of the south transept, they've set up a ticket kiosk. You can enter the church to the left or the museum to the right. The grounds beyond the museum are huge. I didn't realize this until after our visit, and I also don't know how much of it is open to the public. A visit to the church itself takes quite a lot of time, and it's possible to exit with information overload.

Here's looking back toward the front of the basilica from the south side where we'll soon enter. You can see the buttresses, which are attached and vertical, not flying as in Notre Dame. Well, it seems they fly for a short distance at the top, but they are not the huge arched affairs of the latter.

Here (on the south side still) you can see how the buttresses hold up the walls and make it possible for the stunning glass windows to take up the expanse of the walls that they do. This was one of the major objectives of Gothic architecture - the design of a building to allow for as much leaded glass in the walls as possible. Since glass and the thin stone frames that hold the glass can't sustain the weight of the building, a solution had to be found for holding up the walls, and buttressing was that solution.

Here's Lee at the door of the south side of the church where we will enter. Does it appear to be damp and shaded here? Look at all the moss! It must play havoc with upkeep and restoration. I wish I had all day to research and write about some of these things we're seeing, but I have to get back to work! Very soon Daryl will be here to help with the final processes of installing our new shopping cart, and it's very exciting!

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