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La Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris


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North Rose Window


Dating from 1270 and retaining much more original glass and design  than the others









South Rose Window


Two drastic restorations have caused a fairly random dispersal of the original imagery and design cohesion.  For example the second restoration masterminded by Viollet-le-Duc in the mid 1880s  involved "rotating" (= rebuilding) the whole wheel by 10 - 20 degrees so that a load bearing spoke was at right angles to the base.  One of the 1880s restorers had a large collection of salvaged medieval stained glass windows, and seems to have incorporated this randomly into the gaps caused by breakage and decay.  So just enjoy and don't look too closely for meaning!


16 prophets are shown in the lancet windows under the rose.  The four "senior prophets" in the centre each has an evangelist sitting on his shoulder, bringing to mind the words of Sir Isaac Newton (1642 - 1727 (85)) in a letter to another great English scientist, Robert Hooks: "If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants".







West Rose Window


 The oldest of the three roses - 1220 - but much restored including releading and glassing so that now there is very little original stuff left.


The view of the West Rose window suffers from the disadvantage of the cathedral's ugly organ pipes being in the way (even more than shown in this photo if you are standing at the nave floor level).  This is a particular shame because the bottom half of the window contains a full set of Zodiac signs and labours of the month.  The top half has juxtapositioned vices and virtues.


Link to Paradoxplace page on representations of labours of the months and Zodiac signs


The year starts just before 9 o'clock with Aquarius the water carrier, followed anticlockwise by the easily identifiable Pisces the fishes and Aries the ram.  Taurus the bull hides behind the organ pipe, then you can see the Gemini twins, Cancer the crab, Leo the lion and the virgin Virgo.  Libra and her scales are hidden, and the months conclude with Scorpio the scorpion, Sagittarius the archer and Capricorn the sea goat.


The corresponding monthly activities in the outer ring are less visible.  The two faced Janus sits at a table outside Aquarius. Outside Pisces a man warms his feet in front of a fire.  Flowers in late spring may be sitting below the Gemini twins, whilst wheat threshing accompanies Virgo.  A pig is about to depart the earthly life next to Sagittarius, and finally there is a bit of hand and foot play at a feast around Christmastime.  


The "wedge" below below shows the Capricorn / December panels and the first (or last?) of the vices and virtues - cowardice v fortitude.









The next two photos are from the little cathedral guide to its stained glass.






Clockwise from centre: a prophet, cowardice, fortitude, footsie at a December dinner for two, Capricorn the sea goat







There is also a collection of monthly labours and Zodiac signs on the door jams of the Coronation (north) Portal (above - aka the Portal of the Virgin) in the west front of the cathedral.  The photos below come from the excellent coffee table book shown below right.




Wood collecting and foot warming





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One of the surviving original west rose window scenes - Pisces







Restoration ghoul humour from the later 1800s from the book by Erlande-Brandenburg (above)


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