Monday, March 11, 2013

St. Etienne...goofy & holy

 As you might know by now, I have a thing for church architecture, especially the beautiful symmetry of Romanesque churches (pre-11th cent). So this weekend we went to Toulouse to see the magnificent St. Sernin church. It is case study in Romanesque style, though built out of bricks and not stones due to the poverty and resources of this area.
After visiting St. Sernin, our hosts, Steeve and StephanieWaeteraere (whom I married over 2 years ago) suggested we visit a unique church, St. Etienne (pictured below) Just from the front, you see a hodge-podge of styles and building materials. The western door under the arch is not in the center, but offset to the right.
The nave into which you enter, does not go all the way to the front (apse), but takes a dog-leg left half-way up (pictured below). In the visual center is this huge column of stone supporting the whole thing. The church was constructed in parts, stages, bursts and delays, by (I'm sure) different architects and different committees (if indeed building committees existed then!) It's really two sanctuaries, off-set and tied together awkwardly and, I think, humorously! There are round Romanesque arches over here and pointed Gothic arches over there. Some windows have stained glass while others are bricked in. And midway, on the wall facing the large column is a pipe organ perched 17 meters (about 43 feet!) above the floor on a precarious piece of stone...yikes!

As I left the church with a smile on my face, I thought that this is a church that could be a patron saint church for struggling building committees and confused designs. It's not such a new and modern problem after all!


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