Friday, April 15, 2011

More windows -- They seem to be a theme around here!

For military or ancient or architectural history buffs, Metz has much to offer. Its strategic location near the French-German border means there are stone testaments to the need for fortification dating straight back to Roman times (and if you studied the Maginot Line in high school, you'll know that some of these were more successful than others). Our first evening there, we walked along the river noting the many varieties these fortifications took and marvelling not only at the changes in construction but also at the similarities through the ages.
Mainly, though, I had windows on my mind. . .

I'm NOT a military history buff, I have to say. While I'm fascinated by what traces the past leaves. I prefer my forays back in time to be guided by art or music or, especially, the sacred spaces in which people have meditated and prayed for centuries past.  As long as the crowds aren't too thick (although even then -- as at Paris's Notre Dame, one can usually find a quiet corner in the vast space), we sometimes like to duck into a centuries-old church and savour the redolent hush that slows one's heartbeat back down to a deep calm.

Generally, these older churches, especially the cathedrals, are dark. Pierced with magically coloured light, yes, but still, their vastness is generally quite sombre. Not so with our new favourite, St. Maximin of Metz. This church's architecture, size, and setting have been brilliantly complemented by the light-to-medium tones of stained glass windows conceieved by Jean Cocteau and executed by Ateliers Brière.
Dating back at least to the 13th century (with some evidence of earlier Roman use of the site), the church is simply, upliftingly, beautiful. The light-coloured stone, the spare furnishings, and above all, the arches and the constantly-changing quality of the light streaming through the glorious windows.

Apparently, the church also has magnificent acoustics and is a highly preferred spot for concerts on that account -- we'll keep an eye out for chamber music festivals here in future. What a holiday that would be!
Imagine those organ pipes filling this exalted space . . .

And finally, here are the Cocteau windows. Is there anything this man didn't try his hand at? His Wikipedia entry adds boxing manager to the careers I already knew of (playwright, poet, and film maker)
Much has been written about these windows, and I'm on holiday, so I'll leave you to do your own research  . . . or simply enjoy the colours, as I did . . .
Beyond the colours, of course, there's a freedom and fluidity of line, a wonderfully dynamic tension between angles and curves. I'm reminded of a quotation from the Mondrian/de Stihl exposition we saw a few weeks ago at the Pompidou Centre (in Paris; there's another Pompidou Centre in Metz, on which more later!):
Le Vitrail par nature sur la cloisonnement de la forme, la combinaison de couleurs élémentaires et l'interaction entre lumière et spatialité, cést pourquoi il constitue un moyen d'expression privilégié d'intégration de l'art à l'architecture.  OR, if you'll forgive a loose translation: by its nature in partitioning form, combining elementary colours and allowing an interaction between light and space, Stained Glass constitutes a privileged form of expression integrating art and architecture.
I was pleased to discover the signatures of the artist and the master verrier . . .
And, of course, to sit and watch the patterns reflected on the stone floor. . .
to watch the sunlight pour through in spurts, the weather's changes outside signal by the changing conditions inside. . .
With the sun being switched on and off outside, I had to wait as patiently as a heron waits for a fish before I could catch this image for you -- interestingly, my eye could perceive the colours well before the camera lens could (does that simply mean I need a better camera?)
Later, eating at a happily-discovered restaurant, Toqué, site of the best quiche of my life, among other pleasures, the young woman who served us turned out to be on her second career, a move inspired, as far as we could gather, from love (so often the case, no?) -- formerly a Professor of Art History, she answered my rhapsodizing about St. Maximin with a recommendation for a future visit. Apparently, there is a church at Conques which may be able to compete compellingly with St. Max for the title of My Favourite Church Ever. . . We'll see, for now, Maximin rules, for both Pater and I.  but reader Pavlova has put the Chagall windows of a small chapel in New York on my wish-I-could-see list. Any other recommendations? Or wishes? Or comments?


  1. That cathedral is just splendid, and those windows...awe-inspiring. I love that horse, and yes, the dynamics of the curved and straight lines, cool and warm colors. It's a masterpiece. It's also wonderful to see it through your eyes.

  2. I could get lost in the Cocteau windows and can imaging them by day, as shown but also at night.

  3. Sorry, imagine. How I wish comments had a spell check feature.

  4. Oh, I hope when I next visit Paris I can make a trip to
    Metz to view these splendid windows. You are so right...the light changes everything.
    When you are is the link to the Chagall
    windows in New York.

  5. Oh they are beautiful. I love the Ste. Chapelle above all else but this might be in the same class.

  6. the windows are breath-taking and like you, I had not known, that Cocteau attempted anything like this.

  7. Pseu: Yes, I thought of you, actually, at the horse -- and could imagine it on a wonderful scarf!
    Duchesse: Í have a harder time imagining them at night, but they are truly magical
    Pavlova: Thanks -- If I ever get back to New York, this would be a brilliant sidetrip, wouldn't it?!
    Lisa: Yes, Ste. Chapelle is unparalleled -- St. Max is startlingly light, which is at least part of its appeal, for me.
    Terri: Such a polymath, he was -- they always intrigue and impress me.


I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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