Greetings from Reims Cathedral. While supposedly not an allusion to the disorienting and processional nature of ruling, this site of French coronations was once home to a labyrinth.
In this dispatch, follow me through the winding streets of the city and try not to get lured off-course by the art deco architecture. Lose all sense of scale as you gaze at the 15-foot statues of previous monarchs that line the cathedral’s towers. And discover why a labyrinth that held four masons and an archbishop has become a symbol of France’s historical monuments.
The French town of Saint Denis is named for the bishop who, in 250AD, supposedly walked there from Montmartre – a distance of about seven kilometres – holding his own decapitated head.
Now, when you’re going through something even ever-so-slightly unpleasant, it almost never helps to consider the ways things could be worse. So, say that a thunderstorm has forced you to take refuge in an abandoned violin store. You would no doubt be cold and miserable. And while things could be worse – the violin store could be in business and flooding the world with the sharp and screeching sound of strings – the thought won’t dry your soaked clothes.
So, despite the head still attached to my body, it was with reservations that I took the metro to Saint Denis to see the oldest gothic building for myself.
If you’ve ever possessed a fortune large enough to spend a lot of it, you’ll know the sinking feeling that comes when you realise you probably won’t get your money’s worth.
For example, I once spent a month’s salary on a figurehead salvaged from the prow of a very famous pirate ship. I made this purchase because I believed it would bring my companion and I good luck on a perilous voyage of our own. Needless to say, it was one of the first things cut loose when our boat started taking on water – a decision which did nothing to ease my own sinking feeling.
A sinking feeling no doubt familiar to the French royal family. Because little more than 100 years after its completion in 1248, Sainte-Chapelle and the surrounding palace were abandoned. I went to see this gothic gem for myself.