The ‘Mondrian’ windows of Sacre Coeur

The Basilica of Sacre Coeur in Paris is at the highest point in the city, the top of the Montmartre hill – the Mount of Martyrs.  It’s a magnificent location and the church is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city, but it is not an old building.  Not begun until after the Franco-Prussian war in the late 19th century and not completed until the outbreak of World War I in 1914, it is an unusual multi-domed Romanesque-Byzantine revival design.

Sacre Coeur Basilica is at the top of the hill in Montmartre, the highest point in the city.

Sacre Coeur Basilica is at the top of the hill in Montmartre, the highest point in the city.

Sacre Coeur was built by private subscription as a penance for a century of moral decline after the French Revolution of 1789

Sacre Coeur was built by private subscription, supposedly as a penance for a century of moral decline after the French Revolution of 1789

Part of the multi-domed interior of Sacre Coeur

Part of the multi-domed interior of Sacre Coeur

The official website of the basilica states that the stained-glass windows, which were originally installed in 1922, were destroyed by WWII bombing during the liberation of Paris, in August 1944, but “were restaured (sic) in 1946”.  I don’t think this can be correct.  I think some of the windows, at least, were not ‘restored’ to what they were before, but were replaced by new designs.

Here are two of the windows that I think could not have been designed before 1922.  The style of these windows is much more consistent with post-war design style, clearly influenced by the abstract geometric paintings of Piet Mondrian.  Mondrian’s work captured the public imagination in the post-war years, but his signature geometric style was not developed by him until after the original windows at Sacre Coeur were installed, and he did not reach the peak of this style until the late 1930s and early 1940s.

One of several windows seemingly inspired by the abstract paintings of Piet Mondrian

One of several windows seemingly inspired by the abstract paintings of Piet Mondrian

One of several windows seemingly inspired by the abstract paintings of Piet Mondrian

One of several windows seemingly inspired by the abstract paintings of Piet Mondrian

There are other windows in this Basilica that, although still quite modern, are at least more in keeping with traditional ecclesiastical stained glass window conventions.  It’s a shame that a real attempt wasn’t made to restore, or even reproduce, the 1920s designs.  I can’t help thinking they would have been more appropriate than these.

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One of THE Great Cathedrals of the world

Deservedly one of the best-loved and most-visited cathedrals in the world, the queues to get into Notre Dame in Paris start early in the morning, and at the height of the tourist season, stretch around the block.

Built in the 12-13th century here are some of this great French Gothic cathedral’s most distinctive features:

The massive and imposing facade.  Less ornate than some, like Amiens, or Strasbourg, the solid symmetry of its twin towers, and its three great double doors, give this cathedral great power and presence.

The massive twin tower facade of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris

The massive twin tower facade of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris

The three huge double doors seem to have been built in anticipation of  the huge numbers of tourist visitors this church would have to accommodate one day.

The three huge double doors seem to have been built in anticipation of the huge numbers of tourist visitors this church would have to accommodate one day.

At the other end of the building, these dramatically swooping flying buttresses support the back of the choir and the apse.

Great flying buttresses arc out from the rear of the cathedral of Notre Dame to support the choir and the apse

Great flying buttresses arc out from the rear of the cathedral of Notre Dame to support the choir and the apse

Inside, the carefully placed lights emphasise the exceptional height of the vaulting and draw attention to some of the church’s fine architectural details.

The high wide vaulted ceiling inside, make Notre Dame one of the biggest of all French Gothic Cathedrals

The high wide vaulted ceiling inside, make Notre Dame one of the biggest of all French Gothic Cathedrals

Although much attention is lavished on the spectacular rose windows over the entrance and at the end of each transept, there are many other gorgeous stained glass windows in Notre Dame. Some of these are of great antiquity, although this particular one is more recent, from the 19th century.

More famous for its rose windows, Notre Dame nevertheless has many other fine old stained glass windows as well.

More famous for its rose windows, Notre Dame nevertheless has many other fine old stained glass windows as well.

North and South Rose Windows, Notre Dame, Paris

From the outside, the south transept window in the side of this massive cathedral is impressive enough.  But from the inside, oh boy, it’s a spectacular masterpiece, and one of the reasons why this cathedral has so many millions of visitors every year.

The south rose window of Notre Dame Cathedral seen from the outside

The south rose window of Notre Dame Cathedral seen from the outside

This huge window is nearly 13 metres across, and it was made in 1260 AD.  And, unlike so many of the windows in European cathedrals, most of the panes in it still have their original glass.  It has gone through several restorations, and the panes have been jumbled up and not put back into their original positions, yet, it has survived, when so many others were destroyed by war, fire, vandalism, and fashion.

The south rose window of Notre Dame, Paris, seen from the inside.  Built in 1260 AD

The south rose window of Notre Dame, Paris. Built in 1260 AD

Then, when you think it doesn’t get any better than this, you spin around, and there, in the north transept is, if anything, an even more spectacular window.

The north rose window of Notre Dame, Paris, seen from the inside.  Built in 1250 AD

The north rose window of Notre Dame, Paris. Built in 1250 AD

Not even chocolate can give you a rush like seeing these two amazing and gorgeous windows.

Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris

Here is the magnificent Cathedral that dominates the centre of this great city.  Although their spires are often intended to be seen from a long way off, few cathedrals as a whole are as visible as this one, because over the centuries the surrounding towns have grown and encroached on the space they occupy and now obscure your view of them.  Notre Dame was built on an island in the middle of the river Seine in the heart of the city, so you can still see it clearly from almost every angle.

The Cathedral of Notre Dame, Île de la Cité, Paris

The Cathedral of Notre Dame, Île de la Cité, Paris

Isn’t this a gorgeous building?  It has proportions as appealing as any classic car, and a satisfying symmetry that so many of its contemporaries lack.   I love its massive twin-towered facade, balanced by the semi-circle of flying buttresses propping up its ambulatory at the other end, and the massive rose window in between.