Here is one who gets a lot more credit in both categories than he deserves thanks to the infatuation of the Victorians with the Crusades of the 12th and 13th centuries. Richard I of England, better known as Richard the Lion Heart (or Coeur de Lion in his native French!) is the only English king to be honored with a statue in front of the Houses of Parliament, implying some connection with that ancient institution, or at least the country it represents. Richard, although a great soldier (credit where credit is due) spent almost no time in his English kingdom, preferring his lands in France when he wasn’t half way around the world slaying “infidels,” while soaking his poor English tax payers to finance his crusade (not to mention pay his enormous ransom when he was careless enough to get captured). Oh well, the English have always loved a “romantic” figure!
Life in Medieval Europe may have been “nasty, brutish and short” but dull it was not, at least judging by some of these pictures which for obvious reasons did not make the cut for my Pilgrimage Blog. Still you have only to read Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales to know what some of those worthy folk got up to! Just sayin’ . . . So here are some of the more colorful expressions of life in the Middle Ages.
Today in Bayeux we visited one of the least known labyrinths in France, the faded brick labyrinth in the old Chapter House in Bayeux Cathedral. Last week we visited one of the most unusual – the stunning black and white octagonal labyrinth in Amiens Cathedral. And in a few days we will be visiting the “Grandmother” of them all, the sublime 11 circuit labyrinth in Chartres Cathedral. We are holding our collective breath that the labyrinth in Chartres will finally have re-opened after several years during which the surrounding nave has been under restoration – if it is, that would indeed be a miracle! In the meantime a few words about these other marvels of medieval ingenuity.
The Amiens labyrinth is of course well known for its distinctive design and apparently miraculous state of preservation. It is however a 19th century copy of the original which makes in none the less impressive, as is the entire cathedral – another miracle of preservation given the destruction wrought on Amiens particularly by the wars of the last century. There is a particular harmony about Amiens Cathedral, a unity of design which is sometimes lacking in other cathedrals in France (there are 84 of them still – a greater number than in the whole world combined, or so we were told – I haven’t counted!). This is explained by the fact that Amiens Cathedral, like Chartres and Rheims, was built over a relatively short period of time, little more than 50 years, which is quite amazing when you consider the magnitude of these projects and the basic nature of 12th century technology (actually not so basic when one considers the mathematics, engineering, stone masonry and sheer brilliance of the design and execution involved). Another great marvel of Amiens Continue reading Labyrinths . . . of many shapes and sizes→