Talking Goth

As promised, I did not forget about the beloved Notre Dame! I trust in the last couple weeks you’ve seen more pictures of the world’s most famous cathedral than you can shake an aspergillum at, so I won’t post more pictures here. No doubt, we also know that Notre Dame was touted as the loveliest, most famous example of French Gothic architecture in the world. I’m just going to say something here and risk the backlash. 

French Gothic architecture is… not my favorite. Am I devastated that this incredible, ancient house of God burned? Completely. I’m just saying. Gargoyles? Not pretty. 

Why do they want to scare the parishioners?

In addition to my disdain toward gargoyles, I also don’t love the thin, elongated, often distorted figures characteristic of Gothic art. BUT(tress), I do appreciate its grandeur. Plus, religion is at the core of all French Gothic art, which I always find fascinating. We also have the French Gothic artists to thank for making stain-glass so popular. So, I admit, though it isn’t my favorite art period, it certainly has plenty of merit.

Take Enguerrand Quarton’s Pietà of Villeneuve-lès-Avignon, for instance.

It’s unique as a pieta in that Quarton included other figures besides Jesus and Mother Mary. John is holding Jesus’ head, and Mary Magdalene weeps on the far right. It’s lovely. Jesus’ mom looks peaceful, which is characteristic of most pietas. It implies she has known from the beginning the fate of her first-born, that He isn’t gone for good. 

Zoom in to see the halos around John, Mary, and Mary’s heads.

I wish the other guy wasn’t in it. Apparently, that is Jean de Montagnac, the fellow who commissioned the painting. Is he really contributing to the scene? I would argue not. But it was a different time; if you paid for a painting, you could also be featured in the painting, and that was that.

Another difference between then and now: if a church was built today with the grandiose of Notre Dame, it would face all kinds of scrutiny, and rightly so! We don’t need swanky churches; we need to use our resources more wisely (and humanely) than that. Which is why there will never be another Notre Dame. They’ll repair that one of course, but it will never be the same. Huge chunks of the greatest example of French Gothic architecture are just gone forever. And that is enough to make even the most gargoyle-fearing girl cry.

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