Another stop the riverboat made was at Jumiege. There’s an ancient abbey at this spot with the remains of a pre-Romanesque style church, which I found highly interesting. When we were in Europe in the 90s, I used to love visiting all the magnificent cathedrals most of which were gothic. What wonders the architects, stonemasons, the sculptors, the stained glass artists created! The city of Tournai was located maybe fifty clicks from where we lived in Belgium. The cathedral there had been built, originally, in the Romanesque style. Almost as soon as it was completed, the new gothic style was all the rage, and the bishop had the Romanesque choir knocked down and replaced with a Gothic one. He’d, apparently, intended to redo the nave in gothic as well, but that part of the project never got done. Bishops die, money runs out, stuff like that. Anyway, standing there is this magnificent structure, part Romanesque, part Gothic, joined at the transept, and you see both styles Siamese twinned together. I never tired of visiting the place and seeing the architectural advancements, at least as far as letting light into a church goes, and the sense of structural soaring from vaulted ceilings clear up to the vault of heaven. And seeing the ruins at Jumiege, you get another sense of stepping backward in time and the state of church architecture and another sense of the dark ages. In the church walls at Jumiege, there were basically no windows, but things that might have been slots for shooting arrows through. At the time the abbey was operating, the Vikings (not the football team) were rampaging around the countryside, so maybe God’s people needed their church to be a mighty fortress. At any rate, I very much enjoyed seeing that pre-Romanesque church.
I read somewhere that the French at some point in their history considered architecture to be the highest form of art. Look around Paris, and it won’t be hard to get that impression. I do appreciate architecture, and that kind of art being constructed in a way that lasted so many centuries so it could inspire so many other artists in other art forms as well as architecture. Like Monet at the façade of the cathedral at Rouen.
A cathedral from outside or in, is just a pile of cold stone, no matter how artfully arranged. It takes prayer and music to grace the place with warmth. Music, I don’t know, but it’s hard for me to see architecture, marvelous as it is, as a higher art form than music. Maybe an architect gets his gizzard gripped by the sight of a beautiful structure. For me though nothing can so consistently penetrate the shell around me and stir raw emotion the way music can. At one end of the spectrum, monumental structures in stone which stand for mellenia. At the other end, music whose notes live between a tick and a tock, and if you are not there you can’t hear them or feel them. It was that way not so long ago. For me I can’t see one art form higher than another. I am glad we have them all.
At Jumiege, I bought a “Stabat Mater” CD as a memento. I played it in the pickup as I toddled around town. When it finished, I ejected Stabat and plugged in an Oak Ridge Boys CD. Isn’t music a wonderful art form?