From my friend who lives in Paris, I’d learned of a winged Joan of Art statue in Poitiers. This afternoon I arrived in Poitiers around three o’clock in the afternoon. As usual when I arrive in a town or village I check into my hotel and take my camera out for a walk. After about a half hour, with some help from an overly friendly man, I found the winged Joan of Arc statue in a garden behind a municipal building. Looked like “Winged Victory“, with a head and arms. Very unusual. Naturally I introduced my camera to her and they spent about an hour getting to know each other before I continued my stroll. Poitiers is famous for a number of other reasons, not the least is the famous middle age battle of September 19, 1356 between English and French. More on this battle in a later post. This post is about a pretty little (petite) church.
Okay, well the church isn’t so little unless you compare it to French cathedrals. It’s actually quite large. Think, Houston-First Baptist-Church-size and twelfth century construction. Okay, so I’m noodling down this narrow medieval street surrounded by buildings that were built some three to four hundred years ago. All is quiet, no one on the street but me. It’s August in France, the natives are on their annual month vacation in Provence. I am aware of the sound of my footsteps. Suddenly in the distance I hear a beautiful female voice singing an aria. I stopped for a moment to listen. I couldn’t tell where it was coming from. However, as I approached the church the singing became louder. Then I saw the woman who was singing. Shoeless, on her toes, outstretched arms, Christ on the cross-like, with the palms of her hands and back flat against the church wall. Mesmerized, I froze because I didn’t want to disturb her, afraid she would stop. I felt like an interloper. Suddenly she did and I thought “Dang! I broke the spell”. Her down cast eyes rose at my approach, not at me but straight through me as though she was seeing someone or something behind me. Ether. As I floated into the church she began to sing again. Ethereal.
All medieval cathedrals and churches were at one time painted inside and out. I’m sure there are others but the only one I’ve seen still painted inside is Sainte Chappelle in Paris. This one, Notre Dame La Grande, (Our Great Lady) in Poitiers is a marvel. Built in 1200 it was “restauré” (restored) in 1992. These two words must be faux-amis because it seemed not to have been restored. or if so restored to something like 1373. Finding it was pure serendipity. Most churches the paint wore off long ago and were subsequently “cleaned” at some point along their 800 plus year lives. Presumably Notre Dame La Grande was before “restoration”. High maintenance. Painters and plasterers no longer paint for the glory of God.