I remember my first visit to Saint Chapelle in college. Here is truly one of the great wonders of Western Europe. The cathedral is one large, open oval with enormous stained glass windows circling you, telling the story of the life of Christ. The windows were created for the illiterate to learn the Bible. When the sun is rising or setting the room glows and you feel your insides glowing, too.
The people of France went to great lengths to protect this national treasure during World War II, and probably other conflicts before. One of my favorite stories of miracles preserving landmarks during that war was of the last few days of the German occupation of France. The entire city was wired to be blown up, including the Eiffel Tower. If Hitler couldn't have it, no one would. In his desperate mania, he ordered the city destroyed as his soldiers fled. His head officer in charge of the city disobeyed orders. And because of him, today we still have Musee d'Orsay, the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, and Saint Chapelle, to enjoy and be taught and inspired.
My husband's grandfather was in Paris in those first few days. He drove his Jeep right up under the Eiffel Tower and said he and his GI friends were the only souls in sight. He was so happy to be there; his war journey had begun on D-Day. After a few minutes some young children came out of hiding and he gave them the proverbial American chocolate bar. This always makes me laugh, because have you ever tasted French chocolate? You would have to be one hungry French child to be happy with a waxy American substitution.
Stained glass in general is a bit of a white whale for me. I've always wanted to take a community class to learn how to make it for myself. In college I didn't let myself indulge either. There is never enough time or money. I have a difficult time translating what art I see in my head into tangible objects, and as a result I don't like what I draw or paint. Since fabric is fun for me, I think maybe stained glass would work, too. But until then, it's the "fancy china dishes" I don't use enough, and that necklace my daily life is never upscale enough to wear. Do you have those too?
My mother designed a stained glass window to go next to her bathtub in the house they built when I was twelve. It was similar to the mermaid piece in the movie Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. The scene where he uses the older boys' bathroom to soak in the tub and reveal the next clue in the golden egg he had won. Anyway, Mom didn't set her own glass, someone else did it. She took me to the artist's studio to check on its progress and my young eyes must have seemed a bit wild. Here was a different medium of art I had never considered. I remember realizing then that art was more than painting. And I've been on the lookout for any version of anyone's art ever since.
Our stained glass door was inspired by this picture, even though there is no pieced glass in its framework. If I had built this physical door, it would have had lovely tiffanyesque designs.