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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Paris Quick View (Number One)

 I've always been curious about gargoyles.  I've been intrigued that so much effort was put into making such macabre images.  However, while I was visiting the little known 16th Century Saint-Jacques Tower just a block away from the Hotel de Ville in central Paris, I had a bit of a revelation.  It had just rained, which forced me to stick an umbrella over me and tuck my camera into my bag.  When the very brief rain finished, I approached the tower and used my zoom lens to appreciate and document the upper reaches of this 171 foot bell tower.  Only later, as I began to look at the lower levels, did I see this marvelous image.  The gargoyles were drooling.  Now, standing under them, looking up, I have to say this was an awesome sight.  Pure spectacle.  Like a great special effect in a movie.  From what I can find, not everyone in the early days appreciated these sculptures.  Here, from Wikipedia, is what might be seen as a more natural reaction from a 12th century church leader named St. Bernard of Clairvaux, famous for speaking out against gargoyles:

What are these fantastic monsters doing in the cloisters before the eyes of the brothers as they read? What is the meaning of these unclean monkeys, these strange savage lions, and monsters? To what purpose are here placed these creatures, half beast, half man, or these spotted tigers? I see several bodies with one head and several heads with one body. Here is a quadruped with a serpent's head, there a fish with a quadruped's head, then again an animal half horse, half goat... Surely if we do not blush for such absurdities, we should at least regret what we have spent on them.

   While I might agree with him theologically, I have to admit I love the crazy view of this strange creature drooling from above.

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