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Sens Cathedral - from nightmares to light

Published May 20, 2022
Updated Oct 26, 2022

📍 🇫🇷 Sens Cathedral - from nightmares to light

At the beginning of the 13th century, craftsmen made the remarkable Good Samaritan stained window in the ambulatory, at the back of the cathedral. Here, sit on the bench opposite the Adam and Eve stained glass, and contemplate this beautiful work.

It was erected at a time when the vast majority of the faithful could not read, and its purpose is to simplify the Christian message. In the circles, look at the angel at the top right with his sword: he drives Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden, as the Old Testament tells us. Then look at the bottom left: the same angel appears at the time of Christ's Crucifixion, a sinister episode that appears in the New Testament.

"A new Adam [Christ] has paid for the old one [Adam himself] - the divine wrath is now satisfied", wrote French historian Emile Male. One clear purpose here: showing the proof that the new [Christian] gospel’s truth was already contained in the old Jewish revelation.

Old and New Testaments are tied up again in three diamond-shaped squares portraying the Good Samaritan tale but instead of monotheistic unity, Christians want to show their differences here. First, Jerusalem is depicted at the top, as a fortress. Then, the journey begins awfully as the man is attacked and stripped naked by thieves. In the next diamond, the middle one, we see the ancient Jewish priesthood refusing to help the victim, standing by, watching without care. Then, and only then, in the bottom diamond, our poor Samaritan is put on a horse and received by Jesus Christ himself to bind up his wounds (Mâle).

Decidedly confident this 13th century church, reassuring even. From a nightmare-religion, we lean towards a faith that states its moral superiority and its beauty. The Gothic age begins.

____ Sources ____

>> Emile Mâle, “Religious arts in the XIIIe century”, 1923
>> Henri Focillon, "The Art of the West in the Middle Ages", 1938

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13th CE