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Monthly Archives: December 2013

Sainte-Chapelle is being reconstructed in my meadow. I stepped up on the platform surrounded as it is now by a front and back wall and a single roof rafter and the likeness was inescapable. My space is tall, much taller than I envisioned from the plans, now that the back wall rises nearly two stories above the platform. It’s small; the front and back walls have circumscribed the platform’s brief stint as an infinity pool when it seemed to flow into the surrounding grasses without end. The White oak ribs, they would be called colonettes or ribs in a Gothic cathedral, will remain visible when the structure is finished. And open, I can see how the folly will frame views but otherwise not restrict them.

It may take an active imagination and schooling in medieval architecture to see the similarities between Sainte-Chapelle and my folly. (Try to look beyond all the construction gear.) After all, the folly sits in an old field not Paris. It is as rustic and unornamented as a barn. Sainte-Chapelle is stone decorated with gold leaf, stained glass and that heavenly blue paint that was a feature new to Gothic cathedrals when it was used there. Check Wikipedia’s entry for Sainte-Chapelle for a color photo. But stand in the folly and you will feel the verticality and lightness of High Gothic rayonnant style.

The wonder of it all is that the Sainte-Chapelle is such a gem and among my favorites cathedrals. King Louis IX, remembered often as St. Louis, built his shrine as part of his palace on the Île de la Cité to house the no doubt over-priced-for-what-it-really-was relic of the crown of thorns he bought in Constantinople. He undertook this project in the middle of the 13th century, just as the word folly appears in French according to the Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. His is a folly cathedral just as mine is a mini-cathedral folly.

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