Arches & Spires, Amber & Indigo

Canada 036

I must confess when I first entered this cathedral in Quebec City, I was a bit overwhelmed by what I saw (what you are now viewing). I encourage you to enlarge the photograph and study it for it is remarkable in many aspects. Please note that this image has not been enhanced so if you visited the Notre Dame Cathedral, this is exactly what you would observe. Religion aside, let’s tour this grand stage.

The magnificence of the alter area is almost indescribable. The architecture alone is unusually brilliant in its symmetry and detail. Ornate is not too strong a word. The arches and spires draw your eyes ever upward, yet prompting you to look into the center where the hero awaits…the Savior. Surrounding his image are a multitude of figures in various costumes and poses. Gilded gold is found everywhere, and carved wood adorns the entire fascia. The platform area can seat a vast number of clergy.

I cannot begin to explain all of the symbolism represented here, but it is astonishing to view. There appear to be various biblical scenes being represented amongst the framed shrine openings. Experts must be consulted to learn the finer points of the symbolism represented here, as I can only conjecture. This basilica celebrated its 350th year anniversary in 2014, although what now stands has been rebuilt several times due to fires which occurred at different times over the centuries. Originally built in the Rococo style of the mid-seventeenth century, the interior and much of the exterior were rebuilt in the same architectural style in 1922.

The lighting is what captured me the most, in addition to the images being illuminated. To be sure, these were no amateurs who engineered this lighting extravaganza. Every spot light, every angle, every color and each shadow were carefully thought-out before the final design became reality. What I question in my mind is what the architect’s and engineer’s had in mind as they created this experience…for that is what this is. It is not simply a shrine to look at. No, it was created for a purpose-to worship and to partake of the sacraments. I wonder, though, are we to be inspired, to be in awe, to be brought to a point of reverence? Perhaps, all of the above?

Some may find this sanctuary gaudy and others may find it inspiring. Some see waste while others see beauty. Many will understand the deeper meaning of each statue and ornament and many will not. Samuel de Champlain, the French explorer who founded Quebec City and also discovered Mount Desert Island (refer to one of my last posts about Acadia National Park) is said to be buried in the tombs of this building, along with nobles and bishops. Regardless of one’s feelings about this church, you will never forget it. In fact, the original fortified Quebec City is quite unforgettable. Going there is like visiting France without leaving the North American continent !

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