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To orient ourselves, we enter slightly north of west. The plan reveals exactly how the walls have been turned at right angles to the body of the building. Their depth provided support for their height, with each pier acting as a buttress. A pier is more than a column, usually – in the simplest of words – not a circular or square shape, but something more.

The interior is taller than any church thus far described. The nave rises to a height of 42.3 meters (138.78'). I believe this figure is only exceeded by the Cathedral of Saint-Pierre in Beauvais, which reaches a height of 48 meters (158'); see below. Robert de Luzarches is credited with the nave design beginning in 1220, and with the resultant visually dramatic effect based in great part on height. Being taller than earlier churches, and keeping relatively similar nave widths, the ratio of height to width of nave is therefore greater here – a 3:1 proportion, contrasted to that of Chartres at 2.6:1. Another element which adds to the extreme vertical effect is the following: most French cathedrals from Notre Dame onward, kept the height from above the nave arcade to the ceiling vaults relatively constant, varying from 18.3 to 19.8 meters (60' to 65').

What changed, as churches grew taller, was the height of the nave floor arcade – 9.8 meters (32') at Notre Dame, 14 meters (46') at Chartres, 15.9 meters (52') at Reims, and 19.8 meters (65') here at Amiens. What you are looking at are arches rising as high as a six story building.

With the height of the arcade alone equal to about a six story building, and being almost half the entire nave height, the impression is quite intense; ‘awesome’ is a popular but appropriate word.

There are 126 columns in this cathedral, most of them quite thin, very skeletal, minimal in their diameters. All construction is quite slender, and this, of course, adds to the almost surrealistic nature of the design, to the mystical ecstasy evoked. Amiens is often described as the climax of medieval sculptural architecture. Luzarches is credited with a major innovation here in Amiens. His column design evolved in three stages, as follows:

First, the main ribs begin on the nave floor, and can be traced quite clearly by the eye to the ceiling above, going over the vault, and down the other side of the nave.

Second, another set of ribs rises from the arcade capitals, and form the diagonals crisscrossing the nave vaults, giving us quadripartite vaults.

The third set of ribs rises from the triforium level and frame the gothic arches of the clerestory windows.

It is all clarified in this view of the vaulting above the focal point of the apse, the center semi-circle, in line with the nave. This is a microcosm of the vaulting, in which every vertical goes up, over, around, and down. Again, the structure is a visible skeleton of stone members.

The stained glass at this eastern most end of the church is dominated by the color blue, which dominates to some extent the interior of Notre Dame in Paris, and Marc Chagall's windows in St. Stephen's in Mainz. Blue is a most spiritual color, especially when it is lit from behind.

As in many churches, there is a maze (in the fourth bay of the nave in this church), created to serve as an initiation journey for the faithful, who follow the black stripe for 234 feet (71.3 m.).

The central slab contains drawings and names of the builders of the church – something which contemporary building owners might note, because more often than not there is no indication anywhere of who designed a contemporary building. Equally disturbing in much of the United States is that no one working in a building knows the name of the Architect who designed the building in which they earn their living!.

The oak choir stalls date from the early 16th century, 1508-1522 to be exact. There are 110 stalls built for the church canons.

Here, detailed elements contain over 3,650 sculpted figures in 400 scenes relating to biblical as well as secular activities. These latter are of everyday life of Amiens at the time of their design; local genre, in other words. The scene on the right depicts a worker who carved a self portrait hammering away. Craftsmen used to be proud of their product.

History books have long referred to the “Bible of Amiens” as something created in art form in order to convey biblical tales to illiterate townsfolk. Personally, my thoughts were always of words handed down by my Professors: the stained glass windows. Further investigation has some texts referring to these stalls as the bible. Comments have alluded to the choir stalls – though these would have been essentially out of bounds for normal citizenry.

A book review by John Gross, June 5, 1987 printed in the New York Times, had this to say:

Prefaces to La Bible d'Amiens and Sesame et les Lys with Selections from the Notes to the Translated Texts. By Marcel Proust. Translated and Edited by Jean Autret, William Burford and Phillip J. Wolfe, with an introduction by Richard Macksey. Illustrated. 173 pages. Yale University Press.

“In 1885 John Ruskin, already deep in the last tragic phase of his career, published The Bible of Amiens, an account of the French cathedral, and more particularly of its West Porch, with its intricate lacework of biblical figures carved in stone (emphasis my own). He also singled out for praise, among the cathedral's other splendors, the set of sculptures portraying the story of St. Honore, ''little talked of now in the faubourg in Paris that bears his name.”

Ruskin also had this to say about the Gothic Architecture of Amiens:

"Gothic, clear of Roman tradition and of Arabian taint, Gothic pure, authoritative, unsurpassable, and unaccusable... not only the best, but the very first thing done perfectly in its manner by northern Christendom."

Certainly we can add: “or by Western Architecture.” We shall see a modern day transformation of the exterior statuary, which was referred to by Ruskin, resurrected in brilliant color, through the marvel of computerized projections.

A rather graphic depiction of the beheading of John the Baptist, located on the exterior of the north choir screen. Sculpted in 1531, its special significance lies in the fact that the church professes to have the actual head of John, which is produced every year on the 24th of June.

This is the actual head, set on a silver tray. So many medieval churches and their surrounding towns were financed by pilgrims, what today we would call “tourists,” who came to venerate religious relics. Their donations and business brought relative wealth to a community, and the greater the attraction – religious-wise – the more popular a venue became; here using the word “venue” based on its Old French, “a coming,” from the Latin 'venire.'

The “Weeping Angel” by Nicolas Blasset, sculpted in 1628, sits atop the tomb of a church canon. It is very much in the manner of Michelangelo's Medici Chapel tombs' sculptures, completed a century before in 1524, in that it dimensionalizes its composition, projecting into and out of the frontal plane of the arch. The sculptor was sued by the family of the canon, who were pleased with the work, but not the invoice. The case was settled when Blasset added the angel to the composition as a”gift” to the family, and the statue is possibly in tears because of the legal action.

Now to explore the Cathedral a bit further.

The rose window of the western or entrance facade.

A view into the southern side aisle, looking towards the transept. The space is a church unto itself. Often wondering why so many churches used black and white floor tiles in an alternating checkerboard or in some pattern? One explanation of an unrelated floor was found in reading Dan Brown's “The Lost Symbol,” in which he describes a black and white floor as representing “the living and the dead....” This could be applicable in a religious structure.

Looking at the rose window in the South Transept. Every inch of wall surface has been carved, etched, and detailed, or glazed. The intricacies more than define the expression: “integration of art with architecture.”

The Baroque high altar was installed in 1751, and while beyond the scope of Gothic development, it is, never-the-less, an integral part of the church, and needs some small explanation. Designed by the Architect Pierre-Joseph Christophle and sculpted by Jean-Baptist Dupuis, it involves swirling clouds surrounded by a halo of light in shafts of gold. Lots of symbolism, but at the same time, seriously criticized by one author who claims it hides the chapels surrounding the apse from view. Well, the first time I saw through into the apse from the nave was in the cathedral of Granada, and it was , franly, disconcerting. The chapels in the apse, or the chevet, are normally approached by way of an ambulatory, continuing from a side aisle of the main church. Those chapels are small, private, and customized for individual worship. If anything, this particular altar piece provides just such a necessary bit of privacy.

A view of the construction immediately above the altar, so fundamental in its structural honesty. Note the triforium gallery, and the clerestory windows above. The continuity of all the elements is much to be appreciated and admired.

A detail of the triforium gallery, shown here in a bifurcation of a bifurcated pattern (two main arches, each split into two parts).

A view towards the west, through the choir and its wrought iron screen, and the main entrance situated beneath the organ.

The intricately patterned floor, with perfectly inlaid marble.

As we exit, the central portal, and its tympanum above, shown here to illustrate the absolute lack of remaining color, but also to illustrate the total integration of art and story-telling, with architecture.

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