Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas 2014

At this time of year, we remember that God put aside His power and His glory to dwell among us, to live and die as one of us.  He came into the world not in some all powerful theophany, but as the bastard son of an unwed teenaged girl born in a stable in back of an inn in some minor town in a backwater province of the dominant empire of that day.  His parents came to this minor town to fulfill some distant imperial order that the population of that rebellious province be counted and taxed in order to be better controlled.   The local client warlord heard some wild prophecy from three foreigners that another rival king was born in this small town, and so he sent his army to massacre every child in the town under age 2.  The little family barely escaped and fled to Egypt where they lived as refugees.

Almighty God came into the world a homeless child with a price on his head.

The world then, just like the world now and always, was broken with grief and anger.

And in our time filled with people eager for revenge of one kind or another, a world filled with apocalyptic visionaries, religious and political, who want to purify the world by destroying it except for their small remnant, we should remember the angelic proclamation to some shepherds in the surrounding countryside when that child was born.  They did not announce the fiery end of the wicked world, that God is avenged, or anything like that.  They said clearly and unequivocally what exactly was God's will for His creation, peace on earth and good will to all people.  This proclamation came with no asterisks and no conditions; no prerequisite that we believe in such and such, or belong to such and such, or pass such and such test.  Peace and good will were ours to have and ours to share.  This proclamation came not to the Emperor or his ministers, generals, clients, etc. to champions of one kind or another, or to geniuses, but to a small band of underpaid overworked shepherds trying to stay warm on a cold night.

William Blake, The Angels Appear to the Shepherds, 1809


Speaking of peace on earth, good will to all people, something that is unimaginable today actually happened a century ago this Christmas.  Rank and file British and German soldiers laid down their arms on the battlefields and celebrated Christmas together.  And here they are together in this photo from 1914.

German and British soldiers shared a common European culture and a common religion (for the most part) which probably made something like this possible in a way that it is not today.  Our conflicts are more deeply tribal and sectarian.  When we look at our enemies (and when they look at us) we see a wholly alien Other.  It is a lovely thought that we could each take a break from our hatreds for just a day, but I don't think it is likely now.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014


I think that our most extreme Christianists do not fear the Islamic State so much as they envy them (to paraphrase George Orwell).

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Police

NYPD patrolman in 1943 photographed by Gordon Parks

If we have urban warfare now it's because that's what we want.  After decades of demonizing each other, why should we expect anything different?

Remembering Officers Liu Wenjin and Raphael Ramos murdered in cold blood yesterday as they sat in their patrol car.  They were killed by a madman seeking revenge for the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown.


People out there really seem to want war; cops versus minorities where no one is safe, certainly not cops. The demagogues are out in force. It seems to me that respect for the badge and keeping every offense from rapidly escalating into a fatal encounter are not mutually exclusive. A cop's job is hard, but is it really any extra burden to have the agents of the law accountable to the same law that they are supposed to enforce? We count on our police to hold the line between us and chaos. We all want police protection. We want to support them and help them do their job. We're already on their side. We only want to be reassured that they are on our side.
 It would also be helpful if our corrupt (but legally corrupt) legislators could do something constructive to restore confidence in a broken criminal justice system that privileges the wealthy and criminalizes the poor, a system that everyone tries to game and no one seems to have faith in anymore. Or perhaps Equal Justice Under Law is but another fond and pretty sentiment like Liberty and Justice for All?

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


Pieter Bruegel the Elder, The Massacre of Innocents, circa 1565 - 1567

Another Christmas season begins with another massacre of children.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Leon Golub

Mercenaries V, acrylic on canvas, 1984

Saturday, December 13, 2014


Oh what joy, in the open air
Freely to breathe again!
Up here alone is life!
The dungeon is a grave.

We shall with all our faith
Trust in the help of God!
Hope whispers softly in my ears!
We shall be free, we shall find peace.

Oh Heaven! Salvation!
Happiness! Oh Freedom!
Will you be given us?


Ihr wandelt droben im Licht 
Auf weichem Boden selige Genieen! 
Glӓnzende Gӧtterlüfte 
Rühren Euch leicht, 
Wie die Finger der Künstlerin 
Heilige Saiten. 
Schicksallos, wie der Schlafende 
Sӓugling, atmen die Himmlischen; 
Keusch bewahrt, 
In bescheidener Knospe 
Blühet ewig 
Ihnen der Geist, 
Und die seligen Augen 
Blicken in stiller 
Ewiger Klarheit 
Doch uns ist gegeben 
Auf keiner Stӓtte zu ruh’n; 
Es schwinden, es fallen 
Die leidenden Menschen 
Blindlings von einer 
Stunde zur andern, 
Wie Wasser von Klippe 
Zu Klippe geworfen 
Jahrlang in's Ungewisse hinab.
--Friedrich Hölderin, "Schicksalied" (Song of Fate)

Above us you walk in Light,
on soft soil, you blessed!
Luminous godly airs
touch you lightly
like a harp player's fingers
on holy strings.
As timeless as a sleeping
infant the Heavenly breathe;
preserved chastely
in a flowerbud, to them
their minds blossom eternally
and their blessed eyes
view in quiet
eternal clarity.
But we are given
no place to rest;
suffering humans
fall tolling
blindly from one hour
into the other,
like water thrown
from cliff down to cliff,
down our years, into the unknown.
--translation by Gerrit Tijink

Caspar David Friedrich, Evening, circa 1820 - 1821

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Torture, Murder, and Revenge

I'm not very glad to be a Yank these days.  Cops have been killing unarmed black guys as long as I can remember.  And yet it still happens, and the punishments for jay-walking continue to be worse than for killing a black kid.  Everyone on the planet knows that the CIA tortured people (and killed some of them) in the years following the September 11th attacks even if they didn't know all the details.  What I find so new and shocking is the eagerness of so many people these days to defend the indefensible.

The problem with policies driven by revenge is that eventually you find that when you look into the face of your enemy, you look into a mirror.  And let's face it, what really drove these CIA policies was fury and hatred, not any real desire to extract useful information.  Dark passions like revenge have always driven government policies, especially when dealing with hostile foreigners. There are a lot of people defending our huge sell-out of our own founding principles as a "necessary evil." Somehow by doing evil we prevented evil from happening to us, which in the end makes us evil and twin to the very evil we are trying to stop. If this is what we want, some primordial chaos of perpetual warfare of all against all, then why bother to even pretend to have anything like the rule of law? Why not just have a state ruled by over-awing power? The jackals with sharp teeth won't bite us anymore because the state is our tiger. 
We would no longer be bound together as free citizens, but as subjects in fear and partners in crime. In such a world, it hardly matters who wins and who loses since everyone, including us, would be a predator. Is that what we really want? Benjamin Franklin famously said that those who would sacrifice liberty for safety deserve neither. Those who would throw out the rule of law for revenge must take their chances with the sword and become the crime that was done to them.

I've always defended this country in the face of its many detractors (certainly on this blog), and now, I quit.  What I thought was really the "last best hope" of humankind in the end is nothing more than another empire destined to go the way of all other empires.  In my heart of hearts I really believe, and continue to believe, in all those founding principles outlined in the Declaration of Independence and so eloquently restated in the Gettysburg Address.  But we don't believe in our own founding ideas any more than the Chinese really believe in their ideological crap. There are times when I think that the Decline and Fall can't come fast enough.  Maybe out of the ruins of the Empire we can recover and rebuild something like the American Republic.  But, I'm not so sure anymore.  Great crimes were committed and no one will be held to account for any of it.  So who gives a rat's ass anymore?  We've crossed a line and have no interest in backing away.  Bring on the imperial corruption and decadence.  That's what everyone seems to want anyway.
At this point, I'm not voting for anyone in 2016, and I'm feeling sorry I wasted my time for the last 38 years.

Goya, Saturn Devouring His Children, circa 1821 - 1823

Monday, December 1, 2014


Did I mention that I finally got to Paris on this trip in July?  There's not much to add about Paris that greater minds and talents than mine have already written about it.  So, I'll just share pictures.

I'll start with the most famous of all Parisian landmarks, the Eiffel Tower.  I loved the big piece of iron, an opinion not universally shared.  The author Guy de Maupassant famously hated the tower.  And yet, he had lunch in a restaurant at its base daily.  When asked why, he said that it was the only spot in Paris where he didn't have to look at the tower.  A lot of people I know think the Tower is really ugly.  I don't.  I agree with generations of engineers who've long praised the design for its grace and its sound structure.
It may seem odd coming from someone from New York, but the Tower really impressed me with its height and size.   In New York, a huge tall building is but another tree in the forest, even the new World Trade Center.  The Eiffel Tower stands alone over the otherwise ground-hugging city of Paris, and looks comparatively immense.

All of these pictures are mine except where noted otherwise.  As always, my own pictures are freely available especially to educators.

The Eiffel Tower from the Champ de Mars.

The base of the tower with the expected tourist crowds and some kind of construction going on.  You can see in the distance on the right the Ecole Militaire and the Montparnasse Tower.

From Wikipedia, a photo from 1889 of the base of the Eiffel Tower shortly after it was finished.  The Tower was originally built as a temporary structure, as an entrance to the 1889 Exposition Universelle.  It was supposed to be torn down at the end of the Exposition, but it was such a hit with the general public (as opposed to certain authors) that it was decided to keep the Tower permanent.

A detail of the Eiffel Tower

A detail I had never noticed before on the Eiffel Tower, an entablature with the names of famous French scientists and engineers.
The optimism that shaped and built the Tower is still palpable after more than a century.  I always begin my modern art survey classes with the Tower and use it to discuss what makes modernity distinct from earlier ages.  I compare it with the Great Pyramid of Khufu in Egypt.  Both the Tower and the Pyramid were each the tallest buildings in the world at some point in their histories.  The Pyramid was built of stone as a tomb for the Pharaoh and embodies certain truths that people at the time (and for millennia afterwards) assumed would never change and last forever; that bread would be won only by toil and sweat, and that kings and queens shall be our nursing parents.  Armies of workers labored to build the Pyramid.  The entire Egyptian economy had to be adjusted to construct so immense a monument.
The Eiffel Tower went up in less than 2 years, required only a small group of specialized workers to build, and was made from prefabricated parts made of an industrially produced material, tempered cast iron (steel construction would be invented in Chicago only a couple of years after the Tower was finished).  Whereas the Pyramid is made from tons of stone, most of the Eiffel Tower is air.  Its footprint on the ground is very light (even compared to most modern skyscrapers).  The Tower was built to demonstrate what new industrial technology could do before an amazed public.  The Tower gave the Parisian public the unprecedented experience of looking down on the city and seeing it turn into a map of itself; a view formerly available to only a handful of courageous balloon pilots.  The optimistic message of the Tower is that the ancient human condition of toil and servitude is not permanent, that it can be changed, that living conditions for masses of people can be improved and that, given the opportunity, human beings can govern themselves.

Looking up into the Tower from the base.  I didn't go up into the Tower at all.  It was a hot day and I had just returned from the trip to Chartres Cathedral.  But this view is really impressive, and if I go back, I will go to the top of the Tower less for the view of Paris than for a closer inspection of the Tower.

The very top of the Tower from down on the ground on the Champ de Mars

A photo from Wikipedia of the Eiffel Tower in 1889 in its original context as the entrance to the Exposition Universelle.

Another photo from Wikipedia from about 1888 of the Tower under construction

Writers may not have cared for the Eiffel Tower, but a lot of artists loved it.

George Seurat painted the still unfinished Eiffel Tower in 1889 toward the end of his short life; a reproduction scanned from George Seurat, The Master of Pointillism by Hajo Düchting

Robert Delaunay especially loved the Eiffel Tower and featured it in many of his paintings.

This reproduction was scanned from The Shock of the New by Robert Hughes.

Robert Delaunay incorporated the Eiffel Tower into this joyous celebration of the first international flight, Bleriot's flight across the English Channel in 1912; a reproduction scanned from The Shock of the New by Robert Hughes.

Another painting by Delaunay from 1912, part of a series of almost abstract works called Windows featuring the Eiffel Tower in the center.  This reproduction is scanned from a book that I'm still trying to recall.

The Eiffel Tower appears to the left in the background of Marc Chagall's Self Portrait with Seven Fingers, 1913.  Reproduction from here.

A building that survives from the 1900 Exposition Universelle, the Petit Palais.  We saw an excellent exhibition in this building about Paris in 1900, how it emerged as the fashion capital and as a tourist mecca in that year.

I visited that other most famous landmark of Paris, Notre Dame.

Notre Dame de Paris is very old for a Gothic Cathedral, and has been through a lot of history.  It was the first Gothic cathedral to feature flying buttresses.  It was mostly built in the last half of the 12th century, and then extensively rebuilt in the 13th century under King Louis IX.  The cathedral suffered extensive destruction during the French Revolution and was heavily restored in the 19th century by Violet le Duc.  The crossing spire is entirely his work, and critics claim is entirely his invention.  Now, I think it is impossible to imagine Notre Dame without it.

The lines of tourists waiting to get into Notre Dame.

The Royal Portal, usually only open for special occasions and high holy days, was open that day; I assume because the day was so hot.

The interior of Notre Dame

The apse and high altar of Notre Dame

The stone vaults of Notre Dame

More of the interior of Notre Dame

The interior of the north transept of Notre Dame with the magnificent rose window which still has most of its original medieval glass.  On the wall to the right above the triforium is Violet le Duc's hypothetical reconstruction of what the original 12th century clerestory might have looked like; small rose windows topped by lancet windows.

The splendid north rose window

The organ of Notre Dame where Louis Vierne composed so many works still popular and performed in churches and concerts around the world.
Works like this:

The apsidal chapels of Notre Dame

The very theatrical tomb of Henri Claude d'Harcourt by the sculptor Jean Baptiste Pigalle from 1774

A detail of d'Harcourt's tomb

Another detail of d'Harcourt's tomb

The hand of the Virgin Mary from the early 19th century Pieta behind the high altar.

Sepulchral shadows in the apsidal chapels of Notre Dame.  Notre Dame, even on a bright day, fits the description "big gloomy old church."

I've already posted about the Sainte Chapelle separately, but here's an encore.

The Pont Alexandre III looking toward Les Invalides.

My favorite prodigy of French gloire, and a real masterpiece of French Baroque, the Eglise du Dome attached to the Invalides, better known in the USA as Napoleon's tomb; the inspiration and model for many state capitols and city halls in the USA.  It was built by King Louis XIV late in his reign.  The outside of the building shows the four-square clarity of design that the king always preferred over the volumetric drama of Italian Baroque.

Tourists going in and out of the Dome des Invalides; a suggestion of how big the building is.

A detail of the Dome des Invalides looking up toward the dome.

Inside the Dome des Invalides church

Paul Lane and Bill Paulsen beside Napoleon's tomb.
I've said this before, but I'll say it again.  Paul Lane was a most valuable travel guide to Paris.  He speaks French like a native, and lived in the city for 5 years and knows how to get around Paris and the public transportation very well; something necessary for transporting the disabled Bill Paulsen around the city.  I'm not sure this trip to Paris would have been nearly as successful as it was without Paul.

What most of the tourists come to see, Napoleon's tomb in an open crypt in the floor of the church, a massive porphyry sarcophagus and mausoleum built for the Emperor in the 1840s.

Sadly, many of those gazing at dead Napoleon miss the best show of all in the ceiling, Jules Hardouin-Mansart's dome with paintings by Charles de la Fosse.

A close-up of Charles de la Fosse's work in the dome; The Risen Christ blesses the French fleur de lis in the heavens.  Various apostles look on in wonder in the coffers below.  I see Paul and Peter in this photo.  I think it is possible that King Louis XIV originally planned to be buried where Napoleon now rests.  Instead, the king joined all his predecessors in Saint Denis after his death.  This building was one of the last and most prodigious works of Louis' long reign, built as a royal chapel joined to the Invalides Church so that the king could pray with the veterans of his wars without having to share a pew with them.
The reason I suspect that Louis originally intended this building to be his tomb is because in de la Fosse's painting in the oculus of the dome, a figure of the king with his sword kneels before the Risen Christ, not before the Trinity.  In very Baroque fashion, the whole church, architecture, sculpture, and painting together presents the king's reception into Heaven as a massive operatic spectacle.

The altar of the Dome church; the large window behind opens out on to the interior of the older Saint Louis des Invalides Church also built by King Louis XIV earlier in his reign.  I'm not sure that the glass was always there.  I think it's possible that the Dome and the Invalides originally shared a common interior and altar.  I don't know, but I strongly suspect that the present altar here is a 19th century rebuild from when Napoleon's tomb was built.

This great church, officially a temple of the Prince of Peace, contains the tombs of many servants of Mars the god of war besides Napoleon, and many of them not very attractive characters.  General Hubert Lyautey was an ardent imperialist with Fascist sympathies who died in the 1930s.  He was originally buried in Morocco and was moved to this splendid bronze sarcophagus in the Dome church in 1961.

A view from the altar of the interior of the Dome des Invalides.  This church was almost certainly built by the elderly King Louis under the influence of his last and very pious mistress Madame de Maintenon.  It is the masterpiece of Jules Hardouin-Mansart and a major monument of French Baroque.  In all of his royal churches (especially in the Royal Chapel of Versailles) Hardouin-Mansart tried to incorporate the legacy of the Gothic style into his designs.  The Gothic style was long known as the French style and was identified with French nationalism and the monarchy, associations Hardouin-Mansart wished to retain for royal chapels.  This building is perhaps his most subtle and sophisticated incorporation of the very Roman looking early French Baroque of architects like his uncle Francois Mansart with the linear verticality of French Gothic architecture.
I'm kinda proud of this photo, especially the way the lighting turned out.
Visible on the entablature on the upper left (and throughout the church) is the monogram of King Louis XIV.

One of two grim figures behind the altar of the Dome that flank the entrance to the staircase to the crypt; another reason to suspect that the altar is a 19th century rebuild.

Interesting contrast between the chilly late Neo-Classicism of Napoleon's tomb with the Baroque exuberance of the church.

The great porphyry sarcophagus of Napoleon from the crypt.

One of many depictions of Napoleon celebrating the achievements of his reign in the mausoleum.  I must admit that I'm not much of a fan of Napoleon.  I know Italians who admire Napoleon for driving out the Austrians from Italy (if only temporarily), and for bringing a measure of modernity and liberalism to their country.  I see Napoleon as an opportunist whose primary cause was always Napoleon.  I see him as the first in a long line of charismatic military despots that have long plagued the modern world.
For me, the man most honored in this huge glorious monument is the architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart.

Since this is the centennial of the outbreak of the First World War, here is the tomb of General Ferdinand Foch, the supreme commander of the Allied forces toward the end of the War.

The Baroque painting in the small cupola above Foch's tomb.

I love cut-away models like this that show how these tall domes were built.

The Dome des Invalides is attached to the vast complex of the Invalides, originally built by King Louis XIV to house the veterans of his wars.  It is still a residence for French military veterans, and we saw some on our visit.  It is also officially still a French military installation, and there were French soldiers everywhere.  The Invalides also houses the Musee de l'Armee, the French military museum.   We saw part of a large exhibition devoted to the First World War with plenty of weaponry on display.  The one part of it that caught my attention was this little exhibit of what those weapons could do to human flesh, a couple of plaster casts taken from injured veterans of the War.

I've already posted separately about my visit to the Louvre, but here is a little bit of an encore.

Tourists in front of JL David's Oath of the Horatii.

A very bad photo of a favorite picture of mine (among many in the Louvre), Nicholas Poussin's Inspiration of the Poet.

A summer sunset from the Louvre with the Arc du Carousel, the Luxor obelisk in the Place de la Concorde, and the distant Arc de Triomphe.

I visited the Musee d'Orsay and thought it was wonderful, but only got this picture to show for it of Van Gogh's last self portrait.  I was told by the guard that photography is forbidden in the d'Orsay.

The view from the top of Montmarte in front of Sacre Couer.

The church of Sacre Couer, not quite my favorite in the city.  It was built by the Third Republic in the late 19th century as a vast marble "We're so sorry for everything that happened since 1789" to the Catholic Church.  It was officially intended to commemorate the defeat of the Paris Commune uprising of 1871.  The church was deliberately sited in the middle of a part of the city that was strongly sympathetic to the Commune.  The church is full of nationalist and not-so-cryptically monarchist imagery.  For all of its religious ultranationalism, the church looks remarkably un-French.  It looks to me like a Byzantine church designed by a wedding cake maker.  The design has its appeal, but it looks better from far away than up close, and it's definitely not the Sainte Chapelle.

Photography inside Sacre Couer is forbidden, so this photo comes from Wikipedia.  It shows the huge mosaic that dominates the apse.  In the center is a gigantic Jesus of the Sacred Heart.  On the left is the Virgin Mary and in front of her is Pope Leo XIII presenting the world to the Sacred Heart.  Pope Pius IX also makes an appearance in this mosaic.  On the right is Saint Michael with Joan of Arc and Saint Genevieve, the patron saint of Paris.

This photo of a detail of the mosaic is from the Lessing Archive.  Bishops of Paris present the church on the left.  Leaders of the Third Republic thank the Sacred Heart for their victory.  On the far right, King Louis XVI and his family fall on their knees in worship while a swarthy revolutionary leans on a column and sulks.

I had a great lunch of escargot on Montmarte, and I passed the Lapin Agile, a favorite hang-out of the young Picasso and still in business.

We took a ride on the Metro and visited Saint Denis, the royal Abbey, the burial place of French kings and queens, and the first Gothic church.  The very early Gothic west facade, the first of its kind and the prototype for cathedral facades all over Europe, was in scaffolding.

Engraving from Wikipedia showing how Saint Denis looked before 1837, the year lightning destroyed the north tower on the left.  I heard rumor while there that they are going to rebuild the north tower.

The interior of Saint Denis from the West entrance.  The bulk of what we see is a mid 13th century rebuilding of the church under King Louis IX, a masterpiece of architecture from that time, but not the earliest Gothic.  For that, you have to go back behind the altar.

A reproduction from Wikipedia of a painting in the Louvre from the early 15th century by Henri Bellechose of the Trinity with the last communion and martyrdom of Saint Denis.

The Saint Denis honored by the Abbey church of the same name was the first bishop of Paris and the Apostle to the French.  The Middle Ages conflated three different people into the single figure of Saint Denis.  The first Bishop of Paris was thought to be identical with Dionysus the Areopagite who was a Greek protege of Saint Paul, who in turn was thought to be the same Dionysus (the "Pseudo-Dionysus") who wrote an early work of Christian mysticism, The Heavenly Hierarchies.  The "Pseudo-Dionysus" is now thought to be a 5th century Syrian monk.  The Heavenly Hierarchies may have played a role in the creation of the Gothic style at Saint Denis under the leadership of the Abbott Suger in the mid 12th century.  From the beginning of the book, light plays a central role as a metaphor for the nature and workings of the Spirit:

Invoking then Jesus, the Paternal Light, the Real, the True, "which lighteth every man coming into | the world," "through  Whom we have access to the Father," Source of Light, let us aspire, as far as is attainable, to the illuminations handed down by our fathers in the most sacred Oracles, and let us gaze, as we may, upon the Hierarchies of the Heavenly Minds manifested by them symbolically for our instruction. And when we have received, with immaterial and unflinching mental  eyes, the gift of Light, primal and super-primal, of the supremely Divine Father, which manifests to us the most blessed Hierarchies of the Angels in types and symbols, let us then, from it, be elevated to its simple splendour . For it never loses its own unique inwardness, but multiplied and going forth, as becomes its goodness, for an elevating and unifying blending of the objects of its care, remains firmly and solitarily centred within itself in its unmoved sameness; and raises, according to their capacity, those who lawfully aspire to it, and makes them one, after the example of its own unifying Oneness. For it is not possible that the supremely Divine Ray should otherwise illuminate us, except so far as it is enveloped, for the purpose of instruction, in variegated sacred veils, and arranged naturally and appropriately, for such as we are, by paternal forethought.

Abbott Suger took aesthetic experience very seriously as a path to religious contemplation.  He had the Abbey church of Saint Denis rebuilt to be more than just a bigger church to hold more pilgrim traffic.  He wanted the church to be beautiful.  He writes, "I see myself dwelling as it were in some strange region of the universe which neither exists in entirely in the slime of the earth no entirely in the purity of Heaven; and that by the Grace of God I can be transported from this inferior to to that higher world in an analogical manner."  The interior of the church was to be that "strange region of the universe" where heaven and earth would meet.  Suger wanted the church interior filled with light and minimized the structural use of walls and employed ribs and buttresses to expand the size of windows.  Out of these ideas and ambitions, Gothic art was created at the Abbey of Saint Denis.

Here is Paul Lane walking through history's first truly Gothic structure, the ambulatory of Saint Denis.  This and the west front are the only parts of the church that survive from Suger's original church.  It is an open light filled structure compared to earlier Romanesque ambulatories.  To my mind, it resembles the interior of a mosque, and that may not be entirely coincidental.  The pointed arches and ribbed vaults used here have their origins in Islamic architecture and adapted to Christian uses.

Most of the glass in this part of Saint Denis is 19th century restoration, but embedded in it is some original 12th and 13th century glass now covered over with plexiglass that dulls the colors, as you can see here.

In one of those original panels is a portrait of Abbott Suger, probably posthumous, prostrate before the Virgin Annunciate.

A shrine containing the surviving relics of Saint Denis behind the high altar.

Paul Lane in the ambulatory looking at a relic of Saint Louis.

The ribbed vaults of the ambulatory from Suger's time.

A relic of Saint Louis, his "fist."

Saint Denis is the burial place of French royalty and a lot of nobility.  Most of these tombs are now empty.  Almost all of the royal tombs were looted and some were destroyed in the French Revolution.  All the bones were buried in a pit outside the west front of the church.  They were recovered in the mid 19th century and buried together in an ossuary in the crypt under the altar.

The apse and high altar of Saint Denis

The same apse and high altar in this 15th century painting of the Mass of Saint Gilles.  Most scholars consider this painting to be an accurate view of the church and its furniture before the French Revolution.  The gold altarpiece and the cross were once famous and are now long gone.  The 13th century tomb of Dagobert visible in this painting on the right is also visible in the photo above.
Reproduction from here.

The tomb of the conqueror of much of Italy, King Louis XII and Queen Ann of Brittany in an appropriately Italianate tomb.

King Louis XII on his tomb.

The gisants or sculpted corpses of the King Louis XII and Ann of Brittany.

The hands of the dead King Louis XII.

A pair of nobles from the 15th century.

The large elaborate tomb of King Francis I, the king who sent Giovanni da Verrazano to visit the spot that would eventually become New York City.

The feet of the dead Francois Prime and of his consort Claude, Duchess of Brittany.  His battles are commemorated on the carved reliefs below.
Francois was the king who cared for Leonardo da Vinci in his old age and was there at the artist's bedside when he died.

The head of Francois Prime and his queen.

The very beautiful tomb monument designed and built by the sculptor Germain Pilon for King Henry II and his notorious wife, Catherine de Medici who ordered the Saint Bartholomew's Day Massacre.

Gisants of Henry II and Catherine de Medici by Germain Pilon.

Details from the tomb art in Saint Denis:  puppies.

More details from the tombs in Saint Denis; students cramming for exams.

More puppies.

The monument to the ill fated King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette

The ossuary in the crypt containing all the bones of kings, queens, and nobles looted from the royal tombs during the French Revolution.

King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette supposedly rest here among these tombs in the crypt.

The original tomb of Saint Denis in the crypt.

The busy neighborhood of Saint Denis around the famous church.  Saint Denis has a reputation as a rough immigrant suburb of Paris.  I'm not sure I'd want to visit there after dark, but during the day, the place seemed fine to me.

A street on the Left Bank.  I wish I had made more photos of the streets and boulevards of Paris.  What a wonderful city!  It was everything it was cranked up to be.  The rudeness of Parisians is very over-stated.  Contrary to the stereotype, almost all of our encounters with the residents of Paris were easy and frequently pleasant.  Even the clerk at the railway office where we made reservations for a trip to Lyons could not have been more friendly; doubly amazing since neither Bill Paulsen nor myself are French speakers.
I took most of these pictures with art history classes in mind.  Instead of wasting so much digital memory trying to photograph paintings in the Louvre or the Musee d'Orsay, in retrospect I should have taken more pictures of the city itself from its numerous ancient back streets to Baron Haussmann's boulevards.  Paul Lane and I took a very pleasant summer twilight walk through the very beautiful 16th century Place de Vosges and through the old Marais district where Paris' gay nightlife spills out into the streets as it once did on Manhattan almost 20 years ago.  Alas!  I have no pictures of any of that.

The Church of Saint Julien-le-Pauvre south of the Seine from Notre Dame, one of he oldest churches in Paris and now an Eastern Rite church.

The splendid 13th century Saint Severin Church on the Left Bank.

All the photos of the streets of Paris below are by Paul Lane on a return trip to Paris in October.  I wish I had take more photos like these

The Eiffel Tower from the boulevards by Paul Lane

The Tour Saint Jacques from down a narrow street by Paul Lane

A cafe on the Rue de Rivoli by Paul Lane

What balconies in Paris are for, to share in the life of the street below; by Paul Lane

By Paul Lane

A train on the Paris Metro, uncharacteristically empty at a terminus by Paul Lane.  There are no dividing walls between cars.  The inside is a continuous space, I'm told for security reasons.  The platforms are much wider and much more brightly lit than the subway system in New York.  On the other hand, the New York system is much larger and carries vastly more people than the Paris Metro.

Bill Paulsen and I at a Paris Cafe photographed by Paul Lane.

And here I am shortly after arriving in Paris standing in front of the Assemblee Nationale still lit up for Bastille Day the day before.

I look forward to my return trip to Paris.

It's a little late, about 5 months later, but I still have material from my trip.  I've yet to get to Amsterdam and Oslo in these posts.  More slide shows to come. probably into next year.