A Tale of Two Cathedrals

June 16, 2013

The Gothic cathedrals of France are renowned for their innovative architecture and beautiful stained glass.  Historian Lynda Harper Kelly and her husband, architect Frank S. Kelly, have immersed themselves in the history, architecture, and culture of France.  This fall, journey back to France with Lynda and Frank to explore t
wo similar, yet different, majestic Gothic cathedrals – one in the city of Amiens, and the other in the city of Bourges. Frank Kelly’s detailed photographs, taken during the Kellys’ extensive travels in France, provide vivid illustrations to this fascinating November Sunday lecture.  We recently spoke with Lynda to find out more.

WIH Reporter: Why did you decide to focus on these two particular cathedrals?

Kelly: A lot of people think that the French cathedrals are all alike, but they’re not.  While they are both in the Northern Go
thic style, these are two very different cathedrals.  Amiens has the more traditional cruciform plan, a nave crossed by a transcept.  Bourges, however, doesn’t have a transept.  It is a really unique design consisting of a nave and then two side aisles with progressive heights creating an amazing space.  Bourges is in the Loire Valley in central France and the city of Amiens is north of Paris.

WIH Reporter: What are some of the important features of these structures?

Kelly: We’ll focus on the stained glass and the sculpture.  Most of the stained glass in Amiens, has unfortunately been destroyed over the years, but Bourges has some of the finest stained glass in France.  Many of the stained glass artists who worked in Bourges, also worked in Chartres, which as many people know is renowned worldwide for its stained glass.

Both churches have outstanding sculpture, as well.  The West facade of Bourges has recently been restored.  At Amiens, we’ll discuss the West facade and also the two transept doors, which are also significant.

An interesting thing about Amiens is that when they were laser cleaning the West facade a few years ago, they discovered traces of the original paint colors.  Most people don’t realize that these cathedrals were brightly-colored, both inside and out.  Very strong, bold colors that have faded over the centuries.

I encourage visitors to France to go to Amiens on summer evenings to view a spectacular light projection show in which they shine these original colors directly onto the facade to try and re-create the cathedral’s 13th century appearance.  We enjoyed this amazing experience last year and took photos and we’ll certainly cover this during the lecture.

This Sunday lecture will take place on November 13th from 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm.