Chastity at Lyon's Cathedral - Focillon Chastity at Lyon's Cathedral  | Focillon Humane ClubMade in Humane Club

Chastity at Lyon's Cathedral 

Published May 20, 2022
Updated Oct 27, 2022

📍 🇫🇷 Chastity at Lyon's Cathedral

Look at the Cathedral from afar first.

On the right, the Manécanterie, a former parish choir school. Next to it, the Cathedral obviously. French historian Henri Focillon (1881-1943) praised this duo as representing the unity of religious and civil architecture in the 12th century, this century of economic and cultural rebirth in Europe. "In the design of the bays, he wrote on the Manécanterie, in the decoration of the archivolts or in the capitals, we see the same principles as in the art of the churches..."

Approaching the Cathedral now, one finds two series that were (fortunately) not too damaged by feuds between Catholics and Calvinists (Protestants) in the 16th century: [1] grotesque sculpted within quatrefoils and [2] niches (or bas-reliefs). The quatrefoils display "exquisite Northern energy" according to English historian Ruskin (1819-1900) - scenes of hunt or war mixed with biblical classics. All passion and movement.

But the "Lovely Lady" niche is what really called Ruskin's attention. Her face is beautifully carved indeed, her hands indicating a determination to remain chaste. Is the suitor on the right (a bishop?) failing in his endeavor to tempt her? Her hands are firm but her head seems to bend towards him at the same time...

Compare this to other niches and you will find fewer subtlety, fewer mystery but also less craft - the foliage feels real in the "Lovely Lady" but caricatural elsewhere.

____ Sources ____

>> John Ruskin, "Stones of Venice", 1851
>> Henri Focillon, "The Art of the West in the Middle Ages", 1938

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12th CE