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Cathedrals and Churches
What is a trip to Europe without visiting a Cathedral or two?! We visited two…
Medieval communities, to express their faith in God, built Cathedrals, which they filled with stained glass windows, paintings, carvings, statues, relics, and religious objects of precious metals and stones. These were meant to teach (by illustrating Bible stories) as well as well as to inspire and awe…
Cathedrale Sainte-Cecile, Albi
You notice that St. Cecilia's is 'different' immediately. Like other cathedrals we have seen, it is big, it is towering and it is very, very ornate. And it is red… BIG and RED make an awesome combination! Like the rest of the town, it was built with red brick made from the clay from the banks of the Tarn River. It was begun in 1282 shortly after the end of the Albigensian Crusade. Because of the troubled times in the area, it was built to do double duty as a place of worship and as a fortress. Its walls were built straight up (for a hundred feet!), the windows are long and narrow and are too high up for an attacker's ladder, the roof is flat and hides a parapet. The massive bell tower (225 ft high) guards the cathedral's southern entrance. The fortress was for the protection of the Roman Catholic church from the hostile congregation!
In the 16th century Bishop Ambroise added an extravagant white 'wedding-cake-decoration-like' entranceway on the south side carved out of stone (when the cathedral was no longer needed as a fortress). The interior of the cathedral is elaborately decorated with an ornate rood screen, stained glass windows, statues and an enormous (and disturbing!) painting of the Last Judgement at the end of the Nave, Italian Renaissance frescos on the ceiling and a very large 18th century organ.
St. Just Cathedrale, Narbonne
The cathedral of St. Just, begun in 1272, was never finished as the city suffered decline at the end of the 14th century due to numerous wars and epidemics (e.g. the black death which struck down a quarter of Europe's population!). However, even though unfinished, there are lots of 'cathedralish' stuff inside. Outside there is a Garden with benches for sitting and musing, a cloister with exotic looking plants, AND gargoyles (hideous statues meant to keep away evil spirits!). In fact, the exterior looks like something out of a fairy-tale. Sleeping Beauty maybe..?
Although not a grand medieval cathedral, the church in St. Chinian, sitting unimposing between the Grand Rue and the Rue de l'Eglise, was strangely compelling. It was near to our house and so whenever we passed its door, we nipped in to take 'another' look around. Beautiful statues, large old paintings, an organ, stained glass windows and lots of serenity. If there were worshippers (usually tiny, elderly women dressed all in black), we would quietly back out. If not, it was quiet and inviting and there was always something 'new' to us to look at. I really liked it.
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