Wherever It Takes: Seeing the light in the City of Lights
Read the column at: Wherever It Takes: Seeing the light in the City of Lights - Danvers, MA - Danvers Herald http://www.wickedlocal.com/danvers/newsnow/x795285641/Wherever-It-Takes-Seeing-the-light-in-the-City-of-Lights#ixzz2CQsurlvN
Like most other landmarks in Paris, France, the chapel of Sainte-Chappelle has become a tourist destination. Despite that, like most other landmarks in Paris, the chapel is still historic, awe-inspiring, and indelibly memorable. But no other landmark along the Seine — not the views from the Eiffel Tower or the halls in the Louvre — makes an impression like the chapel at Sainte-Chappelle.
Tucked away along a side road running perpendicular to Notre Dame Cathedral, hides the chapel at Sainte-Chappelle. Notre Dame, itself mythical in atmosphere and stature, dominates the immediate skyline and tourist attention. Saint Chappelle is a little less known and a little less mobbed. It has an almost underdog flare, being in the shadow of Notre Dame’s hulking spires and gurgling gargoyles.
But shadows only exist where there is also light. In the City of Light, the chapel of Sainte-Chappelle is overflowing.
There really is only one reason to visit Sainte-Chappelle, and kick yourself if you don't do so on a sunny day: stained glass. Specifically, 6,458 square feet of stained glass nestled into exquisite French high gothic architecture. The high pointed arch windows and the massive rose window will leave your jaw sore from hitting the floor, your neck permanently craned and your eyes spoiled forever. Spoiled because your eyes will never again see colors like they did in Sainte-Chappelle.
Having just come from Notre Dame, I entered Sainte-Chappelle’s main room expecting a miniature, dusty replica of the religious leviathan I just left. The chapel’s room was larger than I expected, about 80 yards long, and the roof seemed just as high.
It took a moment for my eyes to adjust to the sudden change in light. I noticed first the decorated floor and worked my gaze up the walls. Before I understood why, bright colors were scattered across my line of sight. In the slightly dusty air, beams of color speared to the floor, fractured at odd angles like refracted lasers.
Covering every inch of the walls, stained glass windows soared up to the vaulted ceiling. The sun moseyed on in from the outside and burst into purples, blues, greens, yellows and reds that were sent skipping around mid-air.
Forget this was a church; this room would have been a religious experience even without all the ornately carved Christian relics and symbolism.
The void between walls was simply a carousel of light, with fractured colors from across the spectrum doing pirouettes and pinwheels. Each glass scene was comprised of glass chips of all sizes, painted and situated to create an ongoing tableau flowing from one end of the chapel to the other. A static scenario it was not; the dancing light gave the stained glass a theatrical component. I had never seen anything like it and as I mentioned, my eyes have yet to consume a fest such as this since.
I actually had to think to blink because I did not want to stop watching. In doing so, I caught a glimpse of my wife who, for the moment, I had forgotten was there. At that point, I actually smiled wider because of the wide smile I saw on her face.
My wife, you see, was the impetus for our visit to Sainte-Chappelle. She had been waiting for about 12 years to return to this vaunted spot, ever since she visited Paris on a high school trip. The chapel quickly became her favorite spot, and it was obvious as to why.
She had mentioned Sainte-Chappelle back during our dating days and she described it in detail when we were planning our Paris trip. I could tell it meant something to her and learned that France was her first trip away from home. Paris was her first grand adventure and the City of Light sparked in her a lifelong independent streak, as well as an undying love of fashionable shoes. I am thankful to Paris for instilling one of those traits in her (I am still trying to forgive Paris for the latter).
I heard the little gasp of delight as we stepped around the actual room and her face lit up brighter than anything in the City of Light.
As sappy as it may sound, that was my highlight of Paris. Of course, the Arc de Triomphe was impressive and the view from atop it astounding; the Orsay and the Louvre hid a different masterpiece in every little nook; Sacre Coeur was a beautiful ivory sentinel and Moulin Rouge was a seedy temptation; the walk down the Champs-Elysees had my head spinning and my wallet crying.
But none gave me a moment quite like Sainte-Chappelle; a moment you don’t get from your travel guidebook; an organic, never-forget moment quite literally seared in your memory, more timeless than anything on a Nikon memory card.
You have to be willing to let these moments happen, walk the beaten and unbeaten paths with an open heart and wide-open eyes. A place like Sainte-Chappelle will fill both quickly. That was how I saw the light in the City of Light.
Mike Hartigan of Saugus, an alumnus of St. John’s Prep, is a writer and traveler looking for good story, wherever it takes. Follow along at www.whereverittakes.com or on Twitter @WhereverItTakes
Read the column at: Wherever It Takes: Seeing the light in the City of Lights - Danvers, MA - Danvers Herald http://www.wickedlocal.com/danvers/newsnow/x795285641/Wherever-It-Takes-Seeing-the-light-in-the-City-of-Lights#ixzz2CQtKHaHO