A while ago my wife and I visited Notre Dame. Evensong began after we entered, and I remembered that for all its standing as the medieval cathedral, it is also a working church.
We sat in the area roped off for us, in the golden light, while the voices of the singers soared into the vaulted ceiling. It was a solemn moment. An inspiring moment.
Afterwards, I foolishly thought I might take a photo. Bad move. The metering system failed, then and there. It was a manual camera with sprung shutter, so it still took photos, and I could guess the likely settings. I figured I could push the film by up to four stops, and the pictures would still be OK. They were. I’ve published one of the photos here. Exposure time of about half a second, I think, at f.8. Note the blur of the audience moving in the middle.
I posted the other week on the way that cathedrals can inspire writers to think – to imagine, to wonder how others feel, looking at these great vaulting traceries of stone that soar skywards on wings of stained glass. And of all Europe’s cathedrals, Notre Dame has been the inspiration for one of the most iconic stories of nineteenth century France – Victor Hugo’s story of medieval tragedy, The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Published in 1831, it is almost as iconic to us now as Notre Dame itself. It has been made into a movie many times – the first as early as 1905.
My wife and I were thinking of Victor Hugo when we left, because we wandered the grounds looking up at the gargoyles and calling ‘Esmerelda’. And were promptly caught in a rainstorm.
Have you ever been to Notre Dame? Or read Hugo’s story? Or been inspired yourself to write, from experiences in a cathedral? Do share!
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2012