Monday, May 20, 2013
If you know me even a tiny bit, you know I LOVE medieval art and architecture. That’s what I focused on in my majors, with a second focus on architectural history. I wrote senior papers on the relationship of text and image in the Book of Kells, the historiography (the history of the history) of the Arch of Constantine (seen as the turn from classical to early medieval/Byzantine/Christian art), and the mappa mundi in Hereford, England.
So yeah, I’m a major medieval nerd.
West end of the upper chapel.
While Hagia Sophia may be my favorite building in the world, I have a medieval favorite church: Sainte-Chapelle.
Why? It’s a combination of royal architectural connections, reflections of medieval artistic practices, and my favorite style of Gothic architecture, Rayonnant.
Kid in a candy store.
Sainte-Chapelle was built in less than 10 years in the mid-13th century. Most medieval churches took much longer which is why you find multiple styles of medieval architecture in them. Like Chartres Cathedral with its one Romanesque and one Gothic tower on the western end, or the progression of Gothic architecture in Notre Dame with a small rose window on the western end and bigger, taller windows as the mechanics of flying buttresses were honed. Sainte-Chapelle was built quickly enough that it’s nearly all Rayonnant. The giant rose window on the western end is Flamboyant, but it blends with the overall Rayonnant style.
What’s Rayonnant? Essentially, a focus on light. The style uses bar tracery so giant rose windows are held together by lead strips rather than each section being punched through the stone wall. The tracery theme extends to the exterior where the stone lacy patterns hide the weight bearing buttresses. The style also added another section of windows. If you stand in the nave in Notre Dame, there are three distinct levels looking up. The arcade (the archway) where you can see the side aisle through it, the triforia (the tiny passageway on the second level), and the stained glass windows. Rayonnant churches added windows in that second part which lets in even more light.
Sainte-Chapelle is able to focus on windows even more because it’s two levels. King Louis IX looked to Charlemagne’s palatial chapel which is also two levels. Which architecturally links him to the “first” king of France.
Restored polychromy in the lower chapel.
The lower chapel does a lot of the weight bearing. The buttresses get thicker on the exterior on this level so the windows are smaller. The ceiling also has extra vaulting and ribbing to add support. This is were the non-royal inhabitants of the palace went to church. Not too shabby.
360 view of the windows in the upper chapel.
Complete elevation of the upper chapel with my fisheye lens.
Because the church is just a single aisle without transepts or a large facade with towers, you don’t need thick buttresses or even flying buttresses to support the walls. It looks like a medieval reliquary in the shape of a church. Which IS EXACTLY THE POINT. This chapel was built to house the relics owned by the king. Medieval churches competed to have the best relics to gain primacy in pilgrimage routes and to legitimize their power. The king of France, thanks to the Crusades, acquired the Crown of Thorns, part of the True Cross, and the Holy Lance. He basically through the political gauntlet down with these relics because there’s really nothing else more important except the Holy Grail. (Side note: if you put together every relic from the Crown of Thorns, you’d have a REALLY BIG crown if you get my drift.)
Southern and western windows. Do yourself a favor and go in the afternoon to get the full effect.
The eastern end of the upper chapel.
Wall of windows.
So Sainte-Chapelle is essentially a life size reliquary that was a political power statement. It trumped the other churches in France relic-wise, it linked him to the original king of France, and it also was a visual statement of political lineage. The stained glass windows have 2 themes. 2/3 of the windows you see today are original. The lovely French Revolution destroyed the other third. The windows over the apse (altar end) tell the Passion of Christ since the relics are related to the Passion. The other windows depict the kings and queens of the Old Testament, thematically linked the throne of France to the Old Testament.
Upper chapel polychromy and staircase.
Signs explaining the restoration process in French, English, and Spanish.
Notice something funny about the English descriptions on these two signs?
The sculpture and polychromy you see is mostly from the 19th century restoration. The colors were actually brighter in the 13th century, but the Viollet-le-Duc (the restorer) toned it down a bit. The stained glass is currently being restored, which is why you see that giant white box in some of my photos. They are taking the whole window out and inspecting every single pane and piece of lead tracery. If the tracery is damaged or blocking the scene from being seen clearly, they’re replacing the tracery in addition to cleaning and conserving the glass.
See why this is my FAVORITE church? It just keeps unfolding with more and more cool things.
Saturday, May 18, 2013
We had about 40 minutes between flights in and out of Iceland coming back from Paris. Icelandair only has snacks for purchase, no meal service, so we perused the sandwich offerings in the airport. I always like seeing interesting local flavors, but pepperoni taco? No.
Also note the “crushed weed” in the ingredient listing. I think that may have contributed to that combination choice.
Friday, May 17, 2013
FriFotos is highlighting steps this week. What’s FriFotos? It’s a weekly Twitter event, with a different theme each week, founded by @EpsteinTravels where people from all over the world share their favorite pics. Search #FriFotos on Twitter to see everyone’s submissions.
Got it? Good.
When I heard steps, my first thought was Rome. With those seven hills, you find A LOT of steps everywhere. But I didn’t want to focus on the obvious ones (the Spanish Steps). I mean, the view isn’t even that cool. So here are three sets of stairs that are much cooler.
How can you not appreciate the ancient steps in the Colosseum? Just think of all the important people that walked around and watched the events that took place here. Or if you slept through history or Latin class, think of Gladiator.
I busted my ass on these steps.
The dome at St. Peter’s is way too tall. So I opted to take the elevator before tackling these 320 MORE steps to get to the top. Those treads? Not very helpful. But hey, you’re climbing up something that 5 architects worked on including Bramante, Michelangelo, and Maderno.
These pretty steps are rather new in the scheme of Roman/Vatican architecture. This staircase in the Vatican Museum dates from the early 1930s.
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Gin. And Tonic. And cupcakes.
Yes, I went there.
While trolling, I mean scrolling, through Pinterest images looking for new recipes, I found the only cake I ever want for my birthday from now on. Move over Funfetti. There’s a cake that is full of my favorite cocktail: the gin and tonic.
Jessica of How Sweet It Is is a genius. There needs to be a Nobel Prize for baking because this boozy cake deserves it.
I adapted her frosted poke cake into cupcakes and left off the frosting as I am the freak of nature who generally hates icing of any sort. I agree with her flavor assessment. If you drink gin, you can’t really taste it all that much compared to the lime. If you don’t drink gin, it’s the only thing you taste. So adjust accordingly. The next time I make these, I’m going to up the gin content and add juniper instead of lime zest.
My only photos are the cupcakes in the pan since we ate them pretty quickly.
Of course, you can tweak these to make other cocktail cupcakes. Sub out the lime and gin for mint and rum or ginger and bourbon or whatever floats your boat. I don’t judge. Unless you make a Bud Light Lime cupcake. Ew.
I just made your day a little brighter.
Gin and Tonic Cupcakes
Yield: 12 cupcakes
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
A cocktail in cupcake form. Do you need more of a description than that? Adapted from How Sweet It Is's Gin and Tonic Cake.
1.5 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1/2 cup room temperature unsalted butter
heaping 3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
zest of 1 small lime
3 Tbsp gin (I used Greylock Gin, a gin distilled in the Berkshires. Yay local!)
1 Tbsp tonic
juice of 1 small lime
2 Tbsp gin
1/4 cup tonic
Preheat your oven to 350F.
Line a cupcake pan with cupcake liners.
Mix the first three ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
Using an electric standing mixer, beat the butter on medium for 2 minutes. Add the sugar and beat on medium high for 5 minutes. Scrape down the sides, and beat at low while adding each egg at a time. Add in the vanilla and zest.
Add in gin, tonic, and juice and beat on low. Slowly add the flour mixture until combined. Pour the batter into the cupcake liners and bake for about 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of a cupcake comes out clean.
Use a fork, toothpick, or in my case, a meat thermometer to poke holes in all of the cupcakes. Spoon the G&T over each cupcake. Have leftovers? Have yourself a mini G&T while the cupcakes cool.
If you DO like frosting, take a look at Jessica's recipe for her frosting.
I recommend eating these within 3 days, but let's be real. Why would it take you longer than that to eat these?
Monday, May 13, 2013
While in Paris, we stayed in a less popular arrondissement: the 10th. Many people are only in the neighborhood to get to Gare du Nord or Gare de l’Est. It’s an interesting mix of immigrants (Little India is close to Gare du Nord), hipsters, and a lot of people who look like they fell straight out of an Anthropologie catalog.
Head for rue la Fayette or take the metro to Poissonière to find the home of the best dessert I’ve ever had in my entire life. On rue du Faubourg, a smallish street poking off of rue la Fayette, is Albion. It’s a wine bar that reminded me of Flyte in Nashville a bit. The menu is a bit limited (4 mains to choose from), but I had non-seafood options (YAY!).
Service was friendly, and though my “menu French” is pretty good, I was happy that our server explained what one mystery word was (a fish). Wine, the charcuterie plate, and our mains were all very good, but the stars of the show were the desserts.
Now, let me preface that I’m generally not a fan of chocolate-y desserts or super sweet ones. I will never order a cookie dough brownie pie or triple chocolate whatever. So I was beyond excited for a savory yet sweet dessert.
Basil panna cotta with Kalamata olive caramel and mango purée.
Yeah, you read that right: OLIVE CARAMEL. It tasted just like you made a caramel with olive juice and salt. It really was such an interesting flavor combination. Salty and sweet but in a new way. The basil panna cotta was strong enough that you knew it was basil and not some generic herbal flavor, but it wasn’t like eating a Caprese salad. It was heaven. Sweet, salty, fresh, and LIGHT. I love French pastries, but I can only eat so many heavy cream-centric ones.
The other dessert you say?
NUTELLA RICE PUDDING
Yeah, you read the right, too. For the other end of the dessert spectrum, they have you covered. Creamy rice pudding with Nutella mixed in and crunchy sugar bits on top. This is one recipe that I need to recreate at home. The hubs thought the panna cotta was an abomination (he hates caramel AND olives), but put Nutella on it, and he will eat it. Once I figure out the ideal recipe, I’ll share it.
80 rue du Faubourg Poissonière
01 42 46 02 44