The Holy Fire of Easter

holy fire easter

One of rituals that stands out at Easter time, especially for the Christian worshipers, is the lighting of the Holy Fire in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

It goes like this…

They prayed that Saturday morning, all the high priests and the small ones, believers and worshipers, then they killed all the candles from the Church ’till the light was so dim that only the rays of the holy sun that shone through the stained glass windows showed them the way around. And with two white strips of cloth that crossed one over another they sealed the entrance to the Holy Tomb and they put a wax seal too, for all to see that nothing and nobody will go inside – till the time was right.

Police guarded the sealed door too, for none to doubt.

The Church of the Holy Sepulcher, The Holy Fire of Easter
The Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Jerusalem

Later, the time had come. It is now.

But only one can step inside the chapel where the Holy Tomb is, the Patriarch. He is dressed like any other man, like the Man that once was and now is in Heavens, after He paid for our sins. He is dressed in a plain white sticharion, symbolizing the simplest of shrouds.

The simplest of shrouds for the purest of Men.

That through our belief in Jesus as the Son of God, and in his death and resurrection, God’s forgiveness was made once and for all through the death of Jesus Christ. Amen.

The Patriarch disappears inside, and outside the door awaits a deacon, holding a gold chalice made of the purest gold. Yet nothing is pure enough for this purpose.

The Tomb of Christ, within the Cathedral of the Holy Sepulchre, from which the Patriarch of Jerusalem emerges with the Holy Fire. The Holy Fire of Easter
The Tomb of Christ, within the Cathedral of the Holy Sepulchre, from which the Patriarch of Jerusalem emerges with the Holy Fire.

Inside the Holy Tomb the Patriarch kneels and prays from all his heart and through him believers from inside the church and from all over the world pray. The prayers that were whispered in the morning, the day before and the week before, pour now through the Patriarch’s heart, towards the Holy Tomb. The marble slab atop the tomb is the same as it was two thousand years back, when He was laid to rest there and their hearts were heavy with grief. For they though they lost Him.

And the Patriarch prays further, his head on the Holy slab, his lips moving in silent prayer, a confidential prayer, for God only.

And outside the Holy Tomb everyone holds their breath in waiting.

In waiting of the Holy Fire.

Almost everyone. The Arab Christians run throughout the church clapping their hands, and with loud voices show their faith. They too, pray, they ask God to send the Light.

The Holy Fire.

It is said, by those who witnessed, pilgrims from the four corners of the world speaking as many languages as there are stars in heaven, or almost, it is said that while you wait quietly for the Patriarch to step outside with the Holy Fire… While you wait on your knees, or standing, or even seated… While you wait quietly, or praying, or crying… you feel, and everyone does, a breeze.

For a breath of air has flown over the Holy Tomb.

It is quick. Look for it one second too long and it is gone. By the time you ask yourself if you really felt it, it is gone.

And after it is gone, drops of light, sparks of blue-light fire dance on the holy marble slab of the Tomb. The Patriarch’s heart swells with joy, the same joy worshipers must have felt when He has Risen, and he gathers the dancing flames with his hands in a loving gesture. The same one you and I use when cradling the light of a candle. And he steps outside, holding the Holy Fire in his hands, and then setting it with care, with love and worship, in the purest gold chalice.

It does not burn his skin.

It does not burn anyone for 33 minutes.

Then, taking two bunches of 33 candles each, he lights them both from the Holy Fire and calls for all the worshipers in the Church, for the entire Christendom:

The Holy Fire at the Rotunda of the Cathedral of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem on Holy Saturday.
The Holy Fire at the Rotunda of the Cathedral of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem on Holy Saturday.

Come Receive the Light!

And everybody cheers and rejoices and the bells sing and the Patriarch, holding the Holy Fire, is carried on the worshipers hands around the Church for everybody to light their own candles from the Holy Light, and then to pass it on.

From candle to candle. From man to man. From believer to believer. They are Christian Orthodox, Roman-Catholic, Armenian Apostolic, Coptic Orthodox, Ethiopian Orthodox…

The Holy Fire of Easter

The Holy Fire is taken, by special flight, to other orthodox countries: Greece, Romania, Georgia, Bulgaria, Serbia, Ukraine and Russia, being received by churches and millions of believers. And spreads from candle to candle, from hope to hope, from heart to heart.

From year to year, over the centuries.

The Holy Fire of Easter, a Memory

Each Easter Saturday, Sâmbăta Mare, the Saturday of Light or Holy Saturday, for as long as I remember of my life in Romania, my parents and I would walk to the church nearby, shortly before midnight, to receive the Light.

The vast church yard would be filled with people, young and old, neighbors and friends, my school friends and my parents’ friends, their relatives too, people standing in groups or alone, different in their dreams and ideals, yet all carrying a candle. Waiting, with hope in their heart, for the Holy Light. To see it. To share it, from one to the next. To take home.

The Holy Light is Hope. Hope for forgiveness. Hope for a blessed life. But it is also a common denominator. An equalizer. A reminder that we are all His children, we are not alone.

And so the Holy Light burns in our hearts for one more year. And forever.

Below is a 3 minutes video recording from the Metropolitan Cathedral, Iași, north-east of Romania.

Happy Easter!

PS Did you know?

Many Orthodox churches base their Easter date on the Julian calendar, which often differs from the Gregorian calendar that is used by many western countries. Therefore the Orthodox Easter period often occurs later than the Easter period that falls around the time of the March equinox. This year the Orthodox Easter will be celebrated on the 19th of April.

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Festive Dessert for Christmas and Easter, Romanian Cozonac, a Sweet Bread Recipe, Reteta Cozonac
Orthodox Easter Eggs, folktales, symbolism, traditions

Plants in Christianity and Romanian Folklore

Plants are deeply rooted in Christianity and Romanian Folklore, this positive blend of cultural creations and ancient spirituality. Plants have been used as cures, in ritualistic traditions and for magic spells for centuries, all over the world. Let’s discover how a few of these herbs and flowers got their names in Romanian folklore, the legends behind it and their connection with Christianity.

Flower Sunday, Floriile or Palm Sunday

A special Christian celebration is on Palm Sunday: the day of Flowers, Floriile, Goddesses of Spring. Flora, in Roman religion, was the goddess of flowering plants and was the patron on month April. In Romanian folklore April is called Prier (from Latin aperio, to open, correlated with the opening of the buds’ leaves), and May is called Frunzar (leafy) and Florar (flowery).

So if you know someone whose first name is that of a flower, send them your best wishes on Palm Sunday, on Florii Day.

Palm Sunday - flowers of Easter Plants in Christianity and Romanian Folklore
Flower Sunday, Floriile, Palm Sunday

Sfintele Paști, Easter celebrations and Flowers: Wood Anemones and Violets

The wood anemones are Easter flowers and legend says that they sprouted from the earth wet by Jesus’ tears and that Saint Mary shared them to the four corners of the earth, at His request. Wood anemones have various nicknames in the folk tradition that symbolizes their strong correlation with Easter: the White Flower of Easter, the Flower of Blessed Friday, Easter’s Bread.

Folklore tradition calls for picking the White Flower of Easter this time of the year and decorating the Easter table with it as well as taking it to church as an offering on Good Friday. It is seen as a blessed flower.

Violets, too, are Easter flowers with a somehow mellow connotations. They represents young girls, children, metamorphosed into flowers. Is it pain, premature death that causes this? Certain is that violets are made into little crowns placed on the graves of young maidens or lads.

Plants and Christianity in Romanian Folklore

In Romanian folklore there are numerous plants named after Christian holidays, saints, Virgin Mary, and so on, depicting popular belief in the plant’s incredible powers in aiding the body and the soul.

  • Plain hogweed is called earth’ cross;
  • blue anemone hepatica is warrior’s cross;
  • orpine or livelong is Heaven’s Table;
  • bugleweed is God’s Mercy;
  • Mock Orange is Heaven’s Tree;
  • Sweet William is Priest’s Seat;
  • Rose Champion or Rabbit’s Ears is Saint Mary’s Belt;
  • begonia is Angel (îngeraș, probably due to the resemblance that popular imagination created between the angels’ wings and the plant’s leaves);
  • sage or Sage of the diviners is Virgin Mary’s Hand;
  • maidenhair fern is Virgin Mary’s Hair.

The common vervain, its Romanian meaning translating to God’s Arrow, is considered a holy herb, bringing wealth in the house and predicting the future too. It is believed to have grown first on the Mountain of Transfiguration and the plant can only be picked by fairies, Sânziene, who bring offerings before collecting it: bread, salt and a silver coin. It is believed that this specific plant helped heal Jesus’ wounds.

On the other hand Lunaria annua, honesty plant, is called the Plant of Thirty Silver Coins, Judas’ Plant and many banish it from their gardens.

Lunaria annua, honesty plant, is called the Plant of Thirty Silver Coins, Judas' Plant - Plants in Christianity and Romanian Folklore
Lunaria annua, honesty plant, is called the Plant of Thirty Silver Coins

The White Lily and its Symbology in Iconography

The white lily, Lilium Candidum, is believed to be Virgin Mary’s flower who is depicted holding baby Jesus with one arm and a white lily in her other hand. White lily is believed to be the first flower to ever be cultivated by humans and is associated with purity. Archangel Gabriel is also depicted offering Virgin Mary white lily after the birth of Baby Jesus. Saint Joseph is also depicted as holding Baby Jesus and a white lily as a symbol of purity and of Saint Mary.

We can clearly see that Virgin Mary is highly revered not only in the Christian Orthodox Church, but also in Romanian folklore. Yet by eighteenth century Carol Linnaeus), the founding father of modern scientific biological nomenclature, discouraged the practice of attributing names of saints to plants, a sign that scientific terminology was on its way towards gaining autonomy from the ancient naming practices.

Poppy flowers is believed to have been initially white. They turned red when a few drops from Jesus’ blood fell on them, underneath the cross. Since then poppy flowers are red, in remembrance of His sacrifice.

Basil in Christian Tradition and a Spell too

Basil is also a herb with deep christian connotations. It is associated with Jesus, Saint Mary and God. Romanian folklore says that basil first sprouted when Jesus was born, but also that it grew when Saint Mary wept by the Cross.

If maidens place under their pillow a strand of dry basil received from a priest, on the night of Boboteaza, Epiphany night,6 January, also considered the coldest night of the year, they can dream of their future husband. If they don’t dream that night they can try again on Sânziene Day, on 24 June.

On the same night maidens can take a handful of basil and go to a river, a running water. They dip the basil in water and then they wash their faces with it so they will be liked and loved by lads.

Basil and its role in Christianity and Romanian Folklore, Saint George’s Day, 23 April

To keep its holy powers basil must be planted on Saint George, on 23 April, and harvested on 14 September, on the day of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. It is then hanged by icons till it dries.

Basil is considered holy because it has the power to turn water in holy water, agheasma, used in Christian churches.

On Easter, Christian believers wash their faces with the water in which they kept a basil, a red painted egg, and a silver coin – to be liked and loved.

On Saint George and Saint Andres old women hang basil tied with a red ribbon on the stable’s door so that the cow’s milk will flow on and on.

basil - busuioc - Plants in Christianity and Romanian Folklore
Basil, Plants in Christianity and Romanian Folklore

Siting under the shade of a tree

Myrrh, smirna, with its waxy branches and thorns, give us a resin that changes color from yellow to reddish, scented when burned and bitter to taste. Its scent a smoke are said to induce meditation and prayer and warn off any evil spirits.

Fascinating is how the effect of this resin spilled into the Romanian language. We say a sta smirna, meaning sitting quietly, or tacut smirna, meaning really quiet, as one would sit in meditation, which is exactly the effect of burning myrrh, smirna.

A branch from the bladdernut tree, clocotișul or clocoticiul, tied around your waist is said to warn off any evil spirits and no hail will bother you in your travels either.If you take these twigs to church on Easter Sunday their good powers will increase tenfold. Very long ago, before a woman would embark on a long journey she would fashion for herself a necklace made of young twigs of the bladdernut tree and wear it around her neck to warn off evil and not get lost Her courage will also increase, that she would be amazed by herself.

Also warding off evil spirits is the mugwort, a plant said to protect against pandemics too, so wear some around your neck.

Without any doubt, we can observe now everyday plants and flowers in a different light. From a sacred meaning to the scientific one, and through their legends, plants are so much more than they reveal to us. Don’t you think?

I hope you enjoyed reading about Plants in Christianity and Romanian Folklore. Do return for more herbal folk tales.

Patrici Furstenberg on Amazon
As always, discover my books on Amazon.

Convents: the Religious Life of Medieval Women 1/3

Convents - religious life of Medieval women

I am researching again, a task both exhilarating and overwhelming as I have to sieve such fascinating information and only retain the story bits that I need. I want to learn about Medieval women, especially, in the belief that women can write about war as well as take part in it. Mark Twain said: “The very ink with which history is written is merely fluid prejudice.” Hmm. So, here’s a bit of my research: Convents, the religious life of Medieval Women.

While most of us live in an era where women have freedom of speech, the right to education, to own a property, to a fair and equal wage and a life free from slavery and discrimination, let us remember that this wasn’t always the case.

After centuries-old prejudice against education for women the beliefs that women were not capable of learning or likely to use an education, medieval women had few choices and little support with regards to their own lives. When the average life expectancy was only 31 years, girls as young as 14 years were considered ripe for marriage, having no say no matter their intellectual or religious aspirations. Still, a few women resisted.

Convent of Christ in Tomar convents religious life medieval women
Convent of Christ in Tomar

Why Convents?

Convents were the first institutions to rise in the Early Middle Ages, mimicking closely the rise of monasticism in the West of Europe, from a desire to enhance celebrations of God and to expand Christianity. They came at the right time to meet the women’s need for education or for furthering their religious aspirations.

Saint Scholastica, the sister of Saint Benedict, dedicated herself to God from an early age. She spent her life in the company of other religious women and is considered the founder of the first convent during the 5th century, the women’s branch of Benedictine Monasticism. Scholastica came from a wealthy family, having the means to support herself while pursuing her religious dreams without the shadow of a forced marriage looming over her youth.

Benedict and Scholastica, Klosterkirche Elchingen. Wikipedia.  convents religious life medieval women
Benedict and Scholastica, Klosterkirche Elchingen. Wikipedia

Two centuries later the Canon laws, a set of ordinances made by the Church leadership, supported furthering the education for girls and women, directing the abbesses and the abbots to cultivate a love of reading in their communities and all members of its religious societies, male and female, to be literate in Latin.

Why join a convent?

During the Middle Ages, girls of seven years of age were sent by their families to a nunnery to gain an education until the age of 14 when they were expected to get married. Few girls dedicated their life to God to pursue a calling, like Christina of Markyate, a 12th century religious Englishwoman with visionary powers who, having made a vow of virginity in her youth and determined to resist marriage, fled to the protection of local hermits. A community of virgins grew around her, while through her spiritual and managing abilities she became the prioress of a flourishing Benedictine convent.

Some women saw in convent life the only way of pursuing their learning interests. There were also those who joined a convent to escape the dreary prospect of death through childbirth backed by marriage, often denigrated in favour of virginity. A virgin was respected more like a man than a married woman was.

And convents didn’t disappoint.

Scholarly nuns who rose to the rank of an abbess were treated as equals by men and their social class. Their voice, once silenced in their whisper, was suddenly heard through writings of treaties on logic or rhetoric, through music, even as advisors to popes, kings, and emperors, such as Hildegard of Bingen.

Yvonne Seale compiled a list of books for those who’d like to know more about the lives of medieval nuns.

Behind this door we will discover more about convents and the religious life of medieval women, like a convent’s curriculum. Soon. Stay tuned by subscribing to my blog posts.

Notre-Dame de Paris, a Visit before the April 2019 fire via @patfurstenberg #NotreDame #tourism #culture #poetry

Over 12 millions tourists visit Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris every year. It may seem like a vast number, but compare it to the billions who haven’t even heard of this breathtaking, this époustouflante church nestled on a tiny island in the City of Lights and you can consider yourself lucky to be one of those few millions. We were. We are, went through my mind as we dumbfounded witnessed her (for the French consider their monuments of art to be of feminine genre) burn on in the evening of Monday 15 April 2019 during a LIVE TV broadcast . We’ve visited the Notre Dame Cathedral of Paris in August 2018. I want to share with you a tiny fraction of the marvels we saw.

Getting there…

To visit “Our Lady of Paris” or The Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris on Ile de la Cité (one of the two Parisian islands on Seine) you can take the Line 4 metro (M4 purple) or use one of the five bridges that connect the island to the rest of Paris. Do use the metro (Métropolitain, Métro de Paris) when in Paris, it is super fast, reliable, easy to use and super fun.

The Ile de la Cité metro station (stop for the Notre Dame Cathedral) was opened on 10 December 1910 .

Metropolitan - Cite Metro station near Notre-Dame de Paris - photo by Lysandra Furstenberg.jpg
Metropolitan – Ile de la Cite Metro station near Notre-Dame de Paris

Here is the first sight of the Paris Notre Dame Cathedral, the precious 300 foot (91.44 meters) spire lost in the fire that engulfed most of this magnificent church in April 2019.

The Notre Dame’s spire was a key component of the Paris skyline and it one of the first things you see as you search for this medieval cathedral. Perhaps not many know that this spire, first erected in 13th century, was damaged before, at the end of 18th century and replaced in 19th century using a design by architect Eugène Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc.

Notre Dame Cathedral of Paris and spire – as seen from Ile de la Cite Metro station, August 2018

Slender arm outstretched

She reaches for her Father.

Notre Dame’s spire.

(Spire, a haiku by Patricia Furstenberg)

From the metro station, as you hurried footsteps take you along Rue de Lutèce then Rue de la Cité and you round the corner towards left, you are suddenly rewarded, faced with a beautiful square bordered by shady trees and behind it, closer than it might appear and so modest in its centuries-old fame, awaits, always awaits, the Notre Dame Cathedral of Paris.

Notre Dame Cathedral facade -  photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
Notre Dame Cathedral facade

Icon, Gothic bride,

Graced with long lines, rose windows.

Awaits your prayers.

(Notre Dame of Paris, a haiku by Patricia Furstenberg)

The Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris is a place of worship before being a historical landmark.

Front facade (west facade):

As in any Christian church, the altar faces east, away from us. The main entrance will therefore be through west. As you stand in front of the cathedral, left hand side is north, right hand side is south.

Notice the two 69-meter (228-feet) tall towers and the spire (at the back) raising between them. The famous bell sounded by Victor Hugo’s Quasimodo is the North Tower (left side and slightly bigger). The South Tower (right) houses the cathedral’s famous and oldest bell, “Emmanuel” (recast in 1631). This bell was the only one that was not melted down to become a cannon during the French Revolution.

Also worth noticing are: the “Galerie des Chimères” or Grand Gallery – it connects the two towers. Here is where the cathedral’s legendary gargoyles (chimères) are found and the King’s Gallery (a line of 28 statues of Kings of Judah and Israel – placed right above the three arches or portals).

Notre Dame Cathedral -West entrance and facade- photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
Notre Dame Cathedral -West entrance and facade: North (left) and South (right) towers, the spire showing between them, the Grand Gallery and the King’s Gallery underneath.

Of hope and promise

Her white rose blooms set in stone.

A new beginning.

(Rose Window, a haiku by Patricia Furstenberg)

Right in the middle of the west facade is the beautiful West Rose Window dating from about 1220. It is 9.6meters in diameter and its glass was recreated in the 19th century.

A rose window is any circular widow, especially used in Gothic style constructions and depicting a detailed design like a multi-petaled rose. Why a rose? Perhaps because the rose flower is a symbol of balance, of hope and new beginnings.

Notre Dame Cathedral rose window exterior - photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
Notre Dame Cathedral – the West Rose window exterior also known as The Virgin’s Balcony

All along the front of the west rose window is the balcony of the Virgin with the statue of the Virgin with Child guarded by two angels Do you notice how the rose window forms a halo behind the statues of Mary and those of the angels?

Notre Dame Cathedral rose window exterior statues - photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
Notre Dame Cathedral rose window exterior statues

Pure eternal bliss,

Angel kiss on baby’s cheek.

Our Mother’s love.

(Mother Love, a haiku by Patricia Furstenberg)

On the main, west facade of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris one cannot miss the three (west) portals (not identical), magnificent examples of early Gothic art. They were sculpted in the 13th century with the purpose of teaching bible lessons to the peasants that could not read, but came all the way to this church to pray to God.

Notre Dame Cathedral under sunlight - photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
Notre Dame Cathedral under sunlight

She always awaits.

Sun, mist, snow… blazing fire.

Our blessed Lady.

(Notre Dame, a haiku by Patricia Furstenberg)

The Center Portal – The Last Judgment Portal

This is the largest of the three portals. The space between two portals is called a buttresses. Each buttress has a niche that houses a statue.

Notre Dame Cathedral - west entrance detail above main portal - photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
Notre Dame Cathedral – west entrance detail above central portal – the tympanum

The sculpture above depicts the Last Judgement. Above the sculpture thee are archivolts with lots pf saint sculptures.

The Right Portal – Portal of St. Anne (the Virgin Mary’s mother)

The Left Portal – Portal of the Virgin

Notice the three parts of the tympanum. On the top part there is a scene depicting the Coronation of the Virgin, with an angel crowning Mary.

Underneath, the top lintel depicts the Death of the Virgin – Mary lies on her death bed surrounded by Jesus and the 12 Apostles. Underneath is the bottom lintel with three Old Testament prophets (left) and three Old Testament kings (right) holding scrolls with Christ ‘s prophecies.

Notre Dame Cathedral - left portal photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
Notre Dame Cathedral – left portal

Solid, tactile pray

Centuries encased in stone.

Hopeful new whispers.

(Statue, a haiku by Patricia Furstenberg)

Notre Dame Cathedral - West entrance left portal - photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
Notre Dame Cathedral – West entrance left portal, Virgin Mary’s

On the left side of Saint Mary’s portal there are the door-jamb statues: Emperor Constantine, an angel, Saint Denis holding his head, another angel.

Notre Dame Cathedral - Saint Denis holding his head and two angel- photo Lysandra Furstenberg
Notre Dame Cathedral – Saint Denis holding his head and two angel – left side of Virgin Mary’s Portal

On the right side of Saint Mary’s portal there are more door-jamb statues: Saint John the Baptist, Saint Stephen, Saint Genevieve and Pope Saint Sylvester.

Notre Dame Cathedral - Statues of Saint John the Baptist, Saint Stephen, Saint Genevieve, Pope Saint Sylvester on Portail de la Vierge - photo by Lysandra Furstenberg.jpg
Notre Dame Cathedral – Statues of Saint John the Baptist, Saint Stephen, Saint Genevieve, Pope Saint Sylvester on right side of Portal de la Vierge

Between the two doors of Virgin Mary’s portal there is a statue of Mary and Child. When we visited Notre Dame of Paris there was a bird’s nest in Mary’s crown… Always hope.

Madonna with Child, Portal of the Virgin -Notre Dame Cathedral - photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
Madonna with Child, Portal of the Virgin -Notre Dame Cathedral

Shelter in winter,

Cover from rain, blazing sun.

Love’s many faces.

(Mary’s Love, a haiku by Patricia Furstenberg)

At the very left of Virgin Mary’s portal (the left portal) is the Statue of Saint Stephen.

Saint Stephen -Notre Dame Cathedral - photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
Saint Stephen -Notre Dame Cathedral

Here is a view at the King’s Gallery (a line of 28 statues of Kings of Judah and Israel) – above the three west portals. The original statues were placed there in the 13th century. Sadly, during the French Revolution they were mistaken for kinds, pulled down and decapitated. New statues were later sculpted by Geoffroi-Dechaume. In 1977, 143 remains of the decapitated statues were discovered and can now be seen at the Middle-Ages Museum (Hôtel de Cluny).

To be so small…

Notre Dame Cathedral - looking up 2. photo by Lysandra Furstenberg.jpg
Notre Dame Cathedral – looking up

I am child again,

Safety, acceptance, peace, love.

In God’s Home, my church.

(Home, a haiku by Patricia Furstenberg)

Notre Dame Cathedral - looking up. photo by Lysandra Furstenberg.jpg

Inside the Notre Dame Cathedral of Paris before the April 2019 fire

A view along the enormously tall and long nave (130 meters long, with double isles left and right), towards the altar, while standing in the (west) entrance. The nave can accommodate 6500 worshipers.

All the columns that support the vault are identical, although they reach different parts of the six part vault. Because of this our eye is led all the way to the altar.

Notre Dame Cathedral ceiling main nave view 1 - photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
Notre Dame Cathedral – the ceiling above main nave view 1

Right above the altar rose the Cathedral’s flèche or spire that sadly collapsed in a mass of led and charred wood in the April 2019 fire.

The Altar

solemn interior of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris with stained glass windows and altar with cross and crucifix - photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
solemn interior of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris with stained glass windows and altar with cross and crucifix

Left and right of the high altar are the kneeling statues of Louis XIII and Louis XIV. At the back we have a glimpse of theouble ambulatory.

Notre Dame Cathedral view of High Altar and Pieta - photo by Lysandra Frustenberg
Notre Dame Cathedral view of High Altar and Pieta

In front of the cross found on the altar is the Pietà statue by Nicolas Coustou. They both escaped unharmed from the April 2019 fire. How unbelievably amazing is that, considering that the spire that collapsed rose right above them? Did you know that pietà means “pity”, “compassion’? A pietà is Christian art sculpture depicting
the Virgin Mary cradling the dead body of Jesus.

Notre Dame Cathedral view of High Altar and Pieta 2 - photo by Lysandra Frustenberg
Notre Dame Cathedral view of High Altar and Pietà – close up

The Rose Windows

The North rose window, 12,9 meters in diameter, has almost all the original stained glass dating back to the 13th century. Its central medallion is dedicated to Virgin Mary.

A beautiful N rose window of Notre Dame Cathedral-photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
A North beautiful rose window of Notre Dame Cathedral including lower 18 vertical windows
Notre Dame Cathedral - N rose window (about 1260, rebuilt in 1861) photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
The north rose window of Notre Dame, Paris. Built in 1250 AD rebuilt in 1861

Sun’s prayer on glass,

Life giving rainbow indoors.

Bright, solid liquid.

(Stained Glass, a haiku by Patricia Furstenberg)

The South rose window, 12.9 m in diameter, 84 panes ( donated by King St. Louis and installed around 1260) was affected by the French Revolution and both World Wars. Its stained glass window dates from 1845. The south window is dedicated to Christ as south receives the most sunlight, more illumination (in the northers hemisphere) – associated with the coming again of Christ thus being the most alight between the two rose windows of the transept.

Looking up towards a beautiful S rose window of Notre Dame Cathedral-photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
Looking up towards a beautiful South rose window of Notre Dame Cathedral

After multiple repairs throughout the centuries its panes are now out of order. The architect Viollet-le-Duc rotated the entire rose with 15° to create horizontal and vertical axes for stability in the masonry.

Notre Dame Cathedral South rose stained window and ceiling - photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
Notre Dame Cathedral south rose stained window and ceiling

The Stained Glass Windows

Beautiful lighting through the stained windows. The lighting inside the Notre Dame Cathedral is never the same as the outside daylight plays different shades on its stained glass windows.

Notre Dame Cathedral - stained glass windows detail -photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
Notre Dame Cathedral – stained glass windows detail

The elegant stained windows of Notre Dame Cathedral depict religious stories. Although some of them were destroyed during the World Wars, some are even originals from the Middle Ages.

Above the isle there is a (with windows as well) and above are the clerestory windows. Notice there is one arch on the bottom level, then three arches above, then the windows.

Notre Dame Cathedral stained glass windows along the North and South aisles
Notre Dame Cathedral stained glass windows along the North and South aisles

Shimmers in the air,

Red, green, yellow, blue – festoon.

My prayers upbeat.

(Church Mood, a haiku by Patricia Furstenberg)

The original clerestory windows were just a rose window and up above was just wall. The cathedral was much darker. So below, the left bottom image shows an original clerestory window (except that above the round window it would have been wall).

Notre Dame Cathedral stained glass windows  - photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
Notre Dame Cathedral stained glass windows

Lighting with color through the stained glass windows of the Notre Dame Cathedral of Paris.

The clerestory windows are the little windows right at the top. They have no crosspiece dividing the light.

Notre Dame Cathedral - clerestory windows, photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
Notre Dame Cathedral – clerestory windows

The light pouring through a stained glass window always differ – with your distance from the window, the angle you see the window at, the time of day or season. It is always a good idea to revisit a church, if time permits. It will be a whole new experience. Spiritually too.

Notre Dame Cathedral - Saint Mary Statue and stained glass window in one of the side altars of the ambulatory - photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
Notre Dame Cathedral – Saint Mary Statue and stained glass window in one of the side altars of the ambulatory

Each stained glass window has a biblical story to tell.

Notre Dame Cathedral - stained glass windows details - photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
Notre Dame Cathedral – stained glass windows details

Is this statue looking away from us or is he absorbed by something small, at his feet?

Notre Dame Cathedral - statue in the aisle - notice the high vaults and the inner row of columns- photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
Notre Dame Cathedral – statue in the aisle – notice the high vaults and the inner row of columns

The Chandeliers

There are 27 chapels inside Notre Dame of Paris, their entrances marked by chandeliers. These chandeliers are a symbol of the light of God and were know as “Crowns of Light” during the Middle Ages.

Notre Dame Cathedral - columns and chandeliers - photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
Notre Dame Cathedral – columns and chandeliers

Lighting up a candle is such a personal, spiritual experience.

Notre Dame Cathedral - prayer candles - photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
Notre Dame Cathedral – prayer candles

Heart wrenched secrets, hopes.

Embodied in a flicker.

Candles speak to God.

(Candles, a haiku by Patricia Furstenberg)

The Transept

The transept, perpendicular on the nave, forms the big body cross of a church. Notre Dame of Paris has a rather narrow transept as it has been built after its nave. At each end of the transept we find a big, rose window, the North and the South.

Notre Dame Cathedral ceiling main nave view 2 - photo by Lysandra Furstenberg.jpg
Notre Dame Cathedral ceiling main nave view above the transept.

If memory serves me right, this medallion mural of Mary and Jesus surrounded by gold stars on blue sky was in the middle of transept, above the altar. The great spire would have rose above it.

Notre Dame Cathedral ceiling mural - Mary and Jesus gold stars on blue sky photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
Notre Dame Cathedral ceiling mural – Mary and Jesus gold stars on blue sky

Brighter than the moon

In its magical glory.

Prayer for my home.

(Star, a haiku by Patricia Furstenberg)

The area where the choir members sit is located behind the transept and shielded by this Gothic wood screen.

Notre Dame Cathedral interior detail, stone column and wooden panel depicting the life of Jesus- photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
Notre Dame Cathedral interior detail, stone column and wooden panel depicting the life of Jesus

Medieval wood sculpture on the chancel screen in Notre Dame de Paris depicting biblical scenes – below.

Medieval wood sculpture on the chancel screen in Notre Dame de Paris depicting biblical scenes - photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
Medieval wood sculpture on the chancel screen in Notre Dame de Paris depicting biblical scenes

Great image standing in the ambulatory, looking up through one of the arches, looking up into the vault. Have you ever tried to steal an unconventional peek inside a cathedral or museum? See things from a different perspective, literally.

Notre Dame Cathedral - interior 1- photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
Notre Dame Cathedral – interior

This would be a view from the North ambulatory. You can see the North Rose Window and the stained glass windows of the north aisle.

Notre Dame Cathedral - interior 1- photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
Notre Dame Cathedral – interior

The Vaulted Ceiling

Notice the six part of the 12th century vault. The clerestory windows are 13th century.

Notre Dame Cathedral - vaulted ceiling - photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
Notre Dame Cathedral – vaulted ceiling

One lesson I learned from our visit to France: always look up. The ceilings, the vaults are often overlooked and are simply magnificent. A work of art in their own right. Just think of all the forces that keep them together. Right above your head.

Notre Dame Cathedral - vaulted ceiling 2- photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
Notre Dame Cathedral – vaulted ceiling

On each side of the vault notice the isle, above it the galley (with windows as well) and above the clerestory windows. What a beautiful elevation.

The Pipe Organ

Notre Dame Cathedral - view along the nave towards the main entrance and vaulted ceiling - photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
Notre Dame Cathedral – view along the nave towards the main entrance and vaulted ceiling

I love the space above my head when I sit in a church.

Notre Dame Cathedral - view of organ, West rose window and Angel statue standing above the main entrance - photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
Notre Dame Cathedral – view of organ, West rose window and Angel statue standing above the main entrance

Did you know that your entry in the Cathedral of Notre Dame, Paris, is blessed by this Angel placed atop the entry doors?

Notre Dame Cathedral - Angel statue standing above the main entrance - photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
Notre Dame Cathedral – Angel statue standing above the main entrance

Bless  those near by,

Hear their prayers, see their hearts.

Sings the Angel still.

(Notre Dame Angel, a haiku by Patricia Furstenberg)

The Notre Dame Cathedral Great Organ was one of the world’s most famous musical instruments consisting of almost 8 000 pipes, playing five keyboards, parts of it dating back to medieval times. It has been often renovated over the years but it still contained pipes from the Middle Ages before the April 2019 fire.

Notre Dame Cathedral Pipe Organs and West Rose window - photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
Notre Dame Cathedral Pipe Organs and West Rose window – photo by Lysandra Furstenberg

Sculptures

Christ on cross-great bronze crucifix was a gift from Napoleon III. Napoleon III (Louis-Napoleon) married here Empress Eugénie de Montijo in 1853. He was 45 years old, she was 23 and would not succumb to his charms without a marriage. Later Napoleon III
restored the flèche, or spire, of this Cathedral, a work carried by architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc.

It was Napoleon I, Napoleon Bonaparte, to be crowned King in Notre Dame Cathedral on 2 December 1804.

Notre Dame Cathedral -Christ on cross-great bronze crucifix was a gift from Napoleon III. photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
Notre Dame Cathedral -Christ on cross-great bronze crucifix was a gift from Napoleon III.

A painted wood sculpture in scenes from the life of Christ, the risen Christ appears to the holy women, Wood painted panel inside Notre Dame Cathedral

Scenes from the life of Christ, the risen Christ appears to the holy women, Wood painted panel inside Notre Dame Cathedral. Image by Lysandra Furstenberg
Scenes from the life of Christ, the risen Christ appears to the holy women, Wood painted panel inside Notre Dame Cathedral
Notre Dame Cathedral - Virgin Mary icon and painted statue - photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
Notre Dame Cathedral – Virgin Mary icon and painted statue

So much dedication and work goes in a sculpture. Dare I compare it to the work that it is poured inside a novel?

Notre Dame Cathedral - interior: stone carving and column detail - photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
Notre Dame Cathedral – interior: stone carving and column detail

Cloister detail in Notre Dame Cathedral, interior -Statue and stained glass window

Notre Dame Cathedral interior = Statue and stained glass window - photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
Notre Dame Cathedral interior -Statue and stained glass window

Hopeful stretching towards the sky.

North facade of Notre Dame showing the exterior of the north rose window - photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
North facade of Notre Dame showing the exterior of the north rose window

A different view of the Notre Dame Cathedral: from atop the Eiffel Tower.

Notre Dame Cathedral seen from top Eiffel Tower - photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
Notre Dame Cathedral seen from top Eiffel Tower

“But noble as it has remained while growing old, one cannot but regret, cannot but feel indignant at the innumerable degradations and mutilations inflicted on the venerable pile, both by the action of time and the hand of man, regardless alike of Charlemagne, who laid the first stone, and Philip Augustus, who laid the last. On the face of this ancient queen of our cathedrals, beside each wrinkle one invariably finds a scar. ‘Tempus edax, homo edacior,’ which I would be inclined to translate: ‘Time is blind, but man is senseless.’” (Victor Hugo – The Hunchback of Notre Dame)

Embedded in the stone and concrete outside the Notre Dame Cathedral of Paris is this geographic marker. It is used to measure all distances away from Paris. It is Paris Point Zero.

All roads lead to Notre Dame Cathedral
All roads lead to Notre Dame Cathedral – Paris Point Zero.

A useful detailed floor plan of Notre Dame Cathedral, source Wikipedia. When visiting a monument or a museum having a detailed floor plan is an excellent idea.

The Notre Dame Cathedral of Paris - floor plan. Source wikipedia
The Notre Dame Cathedral of Paris – floor plan.

You might also enjoy:
A Journey through the Medieval City of Sighisoara.
Living At The Cultural And Technological Crossroad

Star #Christmas #Haiku via @PatFurstenberg

Star, a Christmas Haiku

Brighter than the moon

In its magical glory.

Prayer for my home.

~

Welcome to Christmas Haiku! This December you can enjoy a winter themed haiku each day until Christmas Day. From the 25th of December I will post a super-special series of haiku on a humorous theme. My Christmas prezzie for YOU! Subscribe to my blog (newsletter sign up on the right column or beneath this post) and never miss a haiku with your morning coffee or favorite cuppa! Merry Christmas!

You can enjoy more haiku on this page of my website or in my new book of Christmas Haiku:

An inspirational collection of winter and Christmas themed haiku to help you relax.Enjoy a daily haiku paired with gorgeous seasonal images as well as haiku for “The 12 Days of Christmas”

Find it on Amazon worldwide in paperback and for Kindle / e-reader: Amazon US, Amazon UK.

 

 

You can find all my book on Amazon. Enjoy!

Text and Haiku-San © Patricia Furstenberg.

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