Writing inspirations – inside the cathedral of light, Sainte Chappelle

I’m opening a new series of writing inspiration posts with a photo I took of a lesser known cathedral in the heart of Paris – Sainte Chappelle. It’s on the Isle de Cite, about a block from Notre Dame. Have any of you been there?

St Chappelle, Paris - a photo I took using Fujicolour 200 asa film at 1/125th with an exposure time of around 1 second. It worked.
St Chappelle, Paris – a photo I took using Fujicolour 200 asa film at f.8 with an exposure time of around 1 second. It worked.

This cathedral is truly awesome, because of the slender tracery that holds up the roof. You wouldn’t think stone has such tensile strength. Being an inveterate geek – sorry, ‘intellectual badass’ – I spent a good deal of time working out how the twelfth-century engineers had done it. And the effect is amazing. As, indeed, it was intended to be. A cathedral of light. I find it inspiring. Do you?

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2014

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8 thoughts on “Writing inspirations – inside the cathedral of light, Sainte Chappelle

    1. It certainly is. I gather a lot of the detail is nineteenth century restoration but the concept of a structure that does that in stone is breathtaking. I’d gone in having been through several other cathedrals including Notre Dame. Was imagining more of the same…but it wasn’t.

    1. Thanks. It’s one of my favourite photos, especially given the way I took it – my camera’s light meter had broken in Notre Dame a couple of days before, and I was going entirely by guesswork and a faith in the quality of the film stock I was using – the last-gen Fujicolor – which I was sure would let me push the exposures one way or the other, and still come out OK. It didn’t let me down.

  1. I visited this exquisite chapel last year with my wife and young daughter. It was a rather grey day, and one side of the chapel interior was undergoing restoration. But even so, it was filled with light and colour, soaring so effortlessly to the far-off vaulted ceiling.

    I can easily imagine how utterly amazed the people of the time must have been to see such acres of vividly back-lit coloured glass, unused as they were to the modern everyday brightness of neon signs or movie screens,

    I managed to take what I thought was a rather atmospheric shot with our iPad:

    1. That is a great photo! And it is, indeed, an awesome place – and, as you say, an awesome spectacle in its day. Thirteenth century peasants leave their cob huts and crofts for their devotions and enter..this…

    1. Me too. The ‘why’ is what fascinates me particularly. These cathedrals represented such a colossal investment against the medieval economy and took anything up to a century to build. The purpose is obvious – but why this expression and not another?

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