Monday, October 15, 2012

Toulouse

Today is quiet and cold. It rained a hard, sideways rain all day and I snuggled in my bed doing homework and napping. Sundays are like empty space, a break in time that forces itself on you, it cannot be resisted.
Yesterday I traveled on the train to Toulouse for my History of Art class. It was a nice fall day. Warm in the sun and cold in the shade. The leaves were turning yellow and beginning to collect into piles on the sidewalks and street corners. A city was made for the fall. The smell of warm, familiar autumn air, people moving under the heaviness of an ending season. An invisible force.
We visited two cathedrals, the first of which was Gothic. The space inside was unquantifiable. Light cast itself in patches on the walls across from each massive window, intricately covered in patterns and color, the same mirrored in murky reflections. Pointed arches in every contour of the ceiling moved the air around soundlessly, high above my head. I stood looking up at the stained glass windows. The corners were covered in intricate spider webs, starting in the smooth, stone corners and cascading across the glass. Each one made a separate tunnel of light and color.
Whose work is more intricate: the spider or the man?
Next we visited a Roman cathedral. The weight of the building could be felt from outside. The tan, stone walls seemed a mile thick. Thick enough to contain a separate, secret universe. After entering, the outside world no longer exists, only the silence and weight of the place. The design seemed simple at first, nothing too decorated, arched ceilings, hallways, balconies. But the building reveals its beauty suddenly. At the end of a long smooth corridor the alter rests, so decorated, so embellished, it is hard to look at. Gold-covered sculptures illuminated by a mysterious light. The walls covered in paintings and the floors, in red rugs. At one end is this, and at the other is the organ elevated above, flaunting its dark pipes and twisting sculptures.
Who can deny the wonder of these places, these buildings made of a desire for worthiness, made of awe and obedience? They rest in total silence now, hidden around the busy streets of Toulouse, mere stone and brick on a street of apartments and cafes in the same color and material.
Who makes gestures like this anymore?

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