Martin and Sarah in France, Day 4

Today we hopped a train out to Versailles and visited a little shack thrown together by someone called Louis XIV. Sort of the Graceland of France. It was kind of overdone and gaudy, in a tacky 17th-century sort of motif, but at least there weren't any leopard-skin lampshades or green shag carpets.
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A king's-eye view of the pipe organ in the Versailles chapel. Louis XIV attended mass here every morning—in his private gallery on the second floor. A ceiling in Versailles isn't just a ceiling. Each corner of each dome has a painting like this one. The main surface of the dome in Louis' gallery features this painting, which is called God in His Glory if I'm not mistaken. Detail from God in His Glory. Guess who?
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Ceiling painting from the next room, The Apotheosis of Hercules.  Baseball bat in tow, Herc enters the pantheon. Detail from The Apotheosis of Hercules,  complete with baseball bat. Word has it Alex Rodriguez is having this painting reproduced on the ceiling of his home in Texas, but guess whose face will be on Hercules' body?  Christ at Supper with Simon. The room in which this appears was built specifically to show off this painting. The Apotheosis of Hercules was added as an afterthought. Just your basic furnished room in Versailles.
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Probably the best-known portrait of Louis XIV.  A lesser-known portrait of Louis XIV, from the War Room. Versailles' famous Hall of Mirrors. Impressive, but not as fun as the one at the state fair.  Wall decoration from the Peace Room. Wouldn't mind having this in my house.
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Chandelier and canopy in Marie Antoinette's bedroom. Darker in here than the inside of a water buffalo. During the Revolution, a mob killed her guards and broke into this room, but she gave them the slip and rode back to Paris. The room is pretty much as she left it, except someone has stolen the issue of Vogue she was reading at the time.
     Antoinette was from the Austrian royal family, wasn't very popular with the French, and didn't care all that much for France herself. There's a painting in Versailles of her with her children that was commissioned in an attempt to get citizens to think of her as a wife and mother. Sort of an early example of public relations, but it didn't work. Apparently, Antoinette preferred kicking back at a bucolic country cottage surrounded by sheep.
There's a room in Versailles dedicated to Napoleon—even though he never lived here. Here's a detail from David's famous painting of Napoleon's coronation, where he's about to crown Josephine. The actual painting is about 20 feet long. The ceremony took place inside Notre Dame du Paris, which was being used as a stable until Napoleon had it cleaned out. At last we come to the Battle Room, in which every battle ever won by a Frenchman is immortalized on canvas. Most of the paintings were done in the 1830s—and there's been no need to update the room since then. Here's Clovis, King of the Franks and the patron saint of New Mexico. Here's our pal Bonaparte in his favorite saddle, complete with custom-length stirrups.
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Many of the paintings in the Battle Room are rather stiff and formal, but I liked this one, of Charlemagne.   What French home is complete without a Maid? I've already forgotten which composer this is. Unless it's Jean-Philippe Rameau. On Friday, Sept. 14, at noon in front of the town hall in Versailles, the town gathered—as did people all across France—to observe three minutes of silence in honor of the victims of the terrorist attack on the United States. I took this photo just as the meeting was breaking up.
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The mayor of Versailles is the woman in the tan coat standing to the right of the flagpole. A newspaper reporter told her we were Americans; she came over, introduced herself, and offered condolences. The reporter took photos; for all I know we may have been in the local paper the next day. From Versailles it was on to Chartres, home of one of the biggest and best-preserved Gothic cathedrals in France. This building is so tall I couldn't get the whole thing in one shot. Detail from the screen inside the Chartres cathedral, illustrating scenes from the life of Christ. Here's Simeon with the Holy Family. Simeon's the only original figure; Mary and Joseph were damaged and replaced. Detail from the Slaughter of the Innocents. The corresponding scene from the screen at Notre Dame du Paris is even more gruesome.
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The Slaughter of the Innocents. That'd be King Herod on the left. This one needs a bit of restoration; I don't think the soldier and the mother on the right are supposed to be missing their heads. The Baptism of Christ. There wasn't a lot of light inside Chartres, and you're not supposed to use a flash. My favorite scene from the screen was Jesus forgiving the woman caught in adultery, but it was too dark to get a photo of it. Chartres has the best-preserved stained glass windows of any French Gothic cathedral. I discovered that it's very tricky to take photos of stained glass with a digital camera. The cobalt blue in many of the windows is a signature color of Chartres' 12th-century glassmakers. Detail from one of the windows: Jesus calms the storm.

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Chartres' famous relic: the Virgin Mary's veil. This piece of cloth, as far as anyone can tell, is old enough to have belonged to Mary, and a lot of folks believe it's the real thing. It used to be 5 meters long, but it was cut up and pieced out for indulgences during the Middle Ages. Only 2 meters are left. It's silk, which was impossible to get in 1st-century Palestine, so the theory goes that it was a gift to Mary from one of the Magi. For an extra 20 francs or so, you can climb the bell tower at Chartres (in case you missed your Stairmaster workout that day). If you're afraid of heights, skip the rest of these bellringer's-eye-view photos. I guess the window washers are on strike. Flying buttresses don't really fly, and the higher you go, the more thankful you will be for that fact.
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Whoa Nelly! Let's see if we can go up there and talk to those guys... Sarah takes refuge in the relative safety of the bell tower. So if she was inside the tower, where was I when I took this photo?
     Do you really want to know?
I asked the gargoyle if he ever got tired of the view, but he just ignored me and kept on grimacing. And this one did the same.
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Mark Heard's song "Long Way Down" kept going through my head while I was up here. I don't know why... One of the things that impressed me about Chartres: They didn't skimp on the architectural details, even at 350 feet up, or however high this is. We're jotting down some ideas for off-the-wall guidebooks. Gargoyles of Europe  sounds like a winner to me. Ooh! Lookit all the little ants!
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Is this an optical illusion, or is Jesus really holding a motorcycle?