Written by Mary Alice Russell ’18 and Naomi Mitchell ’18 to recount Friday, March 10, 2017:
(Mary Alice Russell:) Saint Chapelle and Conciergerie are two of the most beautiful places we have seen on this wonderful adventure so far. The moment you see Saint Chapelle you know that you are in for a treat because even the outside is lovely! You can see all of the outlines of the rose window and small gargoyles protecting the intricate chapel. Our tour guide told us that the most important thing to keep in mind with this masterpiece is that it is a royal chapel commissioned by Louis IX and not just another church payed for by wealthy donors. In this church there are also two distinct levels: one for the common man and another for the royals. The common floor is covered with fleur-de-lis done intricately in gold leafing. For those of you that do not know, fleur-de-lis was the symbol of the French monarchy. Also in the commoners part of the chapel there are small little castles that are supposed to represent the castles from Spain that Louis IX’s mother lived in because she was a Spanish Princess. The gold leafing on that floor is so intricate and amazing that if you had not already seen the outlines of the stained glass from the outside you would have no idea that it could be any more beautiful. Then you reach the royal floor and immediately you are surrounded by the beautiful colors of the stained glass. All of the large panels tell the books of the Bible except for the final section which tells the story of the rediscovery of Jesus’ cross and then the cross’ journey to France. These panels are so large that there is not really a wall to support the ceiling. The architect of this building decided for these reasons to create an intricate ceiling structure that would allow for these beautiful panels to be protected. Anther beautiful piece of the second floor is the rose window which explains one of the most horrifying ideas of the time: the Apocalypse. All of these elements make for the most amazing place we have seen so far!
(Naomi Mitchell:) After our visit to Le Sainte-Chapelle, we went to the Conciergerie. The Conciergerie, formerly a prison, used to be a part of the Palais de La Cité, along with Le Sainte-Chapelle and Le Palais de Justice. Our tour guide explained the significance of the Reign of Terror created by Robespierre and how it caused an influx of prisoners to be held in the Conciergerie. Most notably Marie Antoinette was held within its walls until her execution at the guillotine in October 1793. Once the Reign of Terror ended and a king was back on the throne, Royalists converted Marie Antoinette’s cell into a shrine dedicated to her memory. When the building was restored in the mid 19th century, they created a replica of her cell and placed it in a different part of the Conciergerie. Although the building was restored, there are still many Gothic elements present found in places like the Hall of the Guards, one of the largest surviving pieces from the Middle Ages. The experience at both Le Sainte-Chapelle and the Conciergerie was one of the most exciting things for me because the French History was my favorite topic from MEH. The connection that I was able to make between the knowledge I had prior to the visit and what I saw in person was truly amazing.
(Mary Alice Russell:) After visiting Saint Chapelle and the Conciergerie we had the opportunity to go to some classes at St. Do. We all really love learning about their teaching style which in some ways is very different than ours and then in others very similar. Similarly to Norfolk Academy students talk about pieces they have read in class and at home. However, the formatting is entirely different. The students all stay with the same group all day and their teachers come to their room to teach. In my opinion, I like the freedom of being able to walk to all of my classes more than just staying in the same place. Similarly they share their books with the person sitting next to them which is something we do only if someone does not have something in the United States. They also have these magical erasing pens which are different than our traditional white-out.