Saturday, May 16, 2009

Strasbourg for Easter Mass and Free Hugs

On the 11th of April, Ames and I took a cab to the airport. We were running just a few minutes behind, but I thought our taxi driver would make up the difference. I don't remember if he did or not, because all I remember is that when we got there, Mom and Dad were waiting for us, all of their luggage gathered, patiently waiting for us. They had been their for an hour because their flight got in really early.

Sheesh. (Although, hooray for Delta. And, frankly, it makes me that much more likely to buy tickets on the direct flight next time I fly to Paris.)

We got our rental car, plugged in the navigation system after figuring out how to power it with no working cigarette lighter, and headed towards Strasbourg. When we arrived we just bummed around the hotel, because it was late enough that we didn't want to bother going into the downtown area to see sights.

In the morning, we went into town. Here's what we were able to enjoy:

Correct me if I'm wrong (please), but I think the style of the architecture is Art Nouveau. Please note that I'm 28 and this year is the first time my brain registered that Art Deco and Art Nouveau are different. Yep, I'm lame.

However, I must admit that I'm a big fan of Art Nouveau design. Not necessarily all of the prints of random women that you see all over the place (at least in Paris), but stained glass, woodwork, architecture, and iron work. I came across several lovely examples (assuming I've correctly recognized Art Nouveau) over Easter vacation. Some in Strasbourg as you can see, as well as an awesome building in Prague, and then a surprising Art Nouveau room in a museum in Paris I went to with Mom and Dad when we arrived back to Paris.

(The jury is still out on Art Deco, mostly because I can't seem to wrap my mind around what it is exactly. It seems like it covers a really broad spectrum.)

I digress. This lovely library isn't all we saw. (Though, before moving on, I want to point out that the script above is a series of names of French authors. I thought that was a nice touch on the exterior of the library. Here we have J[ean] de la Fontaine and [Jean] Mabillon.)
[Edit: I was having a hard time putting these together logistically, because in my head we walked farther past the library to get to the cathedral, but in Strasbourg, we parked right next to it. Turns out I have serious memory issues. Library = Reims. Cathedral = Strasbourg. Thanks, dad!]

Okay. Moving on.
The cathedral is really beautiful.

And even though it's completely irritating to visit these beautiful places and see scaffolding all over them half of the time, the results of the cleaning and restoration work are amazing.

Just look at the difference between the portion that has been cleaned and the portion that hasn't.

The interior of the cathedral was beautiful, as well. I didn't take very many pictures because they were in the middle of a gorgeous Easter Mass.

I'm not exaggerating when I say that I was barely able to contain my emotions after hearing the organ play and then listening to the Hallelujiah Chorus in that beautiful setting. And when I picked up a copy of the program, across the front of the program was this beautiful scripture from Matthew 28 (5-6):

"Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here for he is risen as he said."

I think the cumulative effect of the beautiful atmosphere, the gorgeous music that celebrates the Resurrection, and Matthew's testimony was almost too much for me to take in.

Here's a little taste. (And remember, they are singing in French--so the Hallelujiah's will be nice and clear, but the rest will probably be a little more difficult to decipher.) The acoustics aren't a dream, but obviously the best acoustics were in the part of the cathedral reserved for those actually participating in the mass.

(The video absolutely doesn't do justice to the sound OR the beauty of the light that was shining through all of the stained glass. Hm. I guess you just had to be there. *Smirk*)

The town itself was very charming--especially the area just around the cathedral.

And the locals were very warm and friendly. :)

All in all, I thought it was a very worthwhile stop.


Denise said...

Jealous, jealous - and not for the free hugs.

Jess said...

What beautiful pictures and music. I am apple green with envy.

Billy Bob Bambino Bombabious Baby the Third said...

Art deco is just that - using "modern" art type decoration to adorn buildings that were otherwise just blocky and unorganized. I like art deco stuff sometimes, but it's just decoration. It was very popular in the 20s and 30s and was seen in a lot of civic buildings in the WPA era. The forms were heavily influenced by the work of the cubists and other modernists. There's a lot of recilinear lines, simple curves, and stark color contrasts.

Art Nouveau, on the other hand, was popular around the turn of the century (the last century). It's forms were more organic and sensual. There are some fantastic Metro stations in Paris that hearken back to that period. With art nouveau, the folks set out to recapture some of the elegance and simplicity of the natural world around them. Like modernism, it was an early reaction to the excesses of the high victorian gingerbread styles. Rather than reject it altogether, which modernism wanted to do, art nouveau seems to be more of an evolution, a paring down of complex and over-done things into simpler and more elegant forms.

That said, it's hard to tell from the image what this building is. The script of the letters appear to be more art nouveau, as does the light post out front. The script in the frieze and the tops of the corners bracketing the entrance seem to be later. Were the light and the "bibliotheque" script added later? Were they added at the time of construction to make it feel "art nouveau"-esque? It would be interesting to find out when the building was actually built, because that would give us some clue...

As for the cathedral - very clearly gothic architecture. Very fine examples of ribbed vaults and the rose window is gorgeous! It's not surprising that you felt what you did - they very carefully engineered the experience to ensure that's how you felt. Remember that when this building was designed very few people could read, so when people attended church the only way to ensure that they understood completely the grandeur and beauty of the gospel was to make it reflected in the liturgy and in the very building itself. Thus our souls were lifted to God. It's a tactic they use all over the world - I have seen Buddhist temples with similar feeling decoration. Lovely. Just lovely.

I wonder what it would be like to have sacrament meeting in one of these buildings. Would it be the same? Would we be able to feel the same spirit? Would we be too occupied with all of the visual, olfactory, and auditory interest to listen?

The transcendentalist movement in American religion (of which our Church has bought into, for the most part) said no. Our experience with the Divine "transcends" our mortal comprehension. Thus, it doesn't matter where we are, what our physical surroundings look like. All that matters is if we are in the presence of God. While I see merits of both, I wish that we placed greater emphasis on art and appropriate decoration in our buildings - not to glorify our talents and abilities and buildings, but to inspire and beautify the spaces. There's got to be a happy medium somewhere. For me, it's the Terrestrial Room of the Salt Lake Temple. The Celestial Room tends to be excessive to our post-modernist and transcendentalist-influenced minds. But the Terrestrial Room seems right on - simple, elegant, and beautiful. I don't know if you've ever been there, but it's my favorite.

Sarah said...

Yessss... Bill, I knew you would pull through for me.
I don't know much about the building at all--we just passed it on the way to the cathedral, and I liked the look of it, so I snapped a couple of shots. :)
I have only gone through the SL temple once, and it was probably 7 years ago, so I can't say that I remember what it looks like. But you can't bet that next time I'm there, I'll remember what you said.