Monthly Archives: April 2019

On the Trail of Monet’s Cathedrals and Haystacks: Devotional

interior, Gothic cathedral, author photo

Stone—heavy, durable, hard to carve into blocks or statues. Part of a Gothic cathedral, though, it can soar to great heights, as well as form thin, decorative tracery around rose windows.

Chartres, one of three rose windows, author photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Notre Dame de Paris, flying buttresses, author photo before the fire

Built all over Europe in the Middles Ages, these vast churches have defied wars, storms, and fires, as we’ve so recently seen with Notre Dame in Paris! Inside, its stone columns still run up and fan out to someday support a new vaulted ceiling. Outside, Notre Dame’s flying buttresses still arch back against the cathedral and will again, we hope, counter the outward thrust of a new roof.

Sainte-Chapelle, Paris, author photo

 

Thinner stone walls could hold huge windows of stained glass, opening up these cathedrals to a beautiful light that some have called heavenly.

The stained glass and statues helped generations of mostly illiterate people learn the story of redemption.

 

When Monet painted the Rouen cathedral series,

Rouen Cathedral, Facade and the Tour d’Albane, Gray Weather, Claude Monet, Rouen Museum

the cathedral had stood solidly in that same spot for over 700 years! So he was able to return after a year to finish the series.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hay—light, perishable, blown to and fro by the wind. It grows for a season and is then easily cut and formed into a plump haystack to dry. Although necessary for feeding livestock, hay stacks don’t soar toward God or let in heavenly light to tell God’s story.

detail of haystack painting by Monet, author photo

They aren’t permanent either. Monet began his haystack series in the fall, but continued so long into the winter that the farmer needed the hay to feed his cattle! Monet had to pay the farmer to wait while he finished his paintings. 

Imagine that farmer walking away fingering the francs in his hand, but shaking his head over the strange ways of artists!

So if asked which has more spiritual worth, a cathedral or a haystack, most would choose the cathedral.

Yet in the summer of 1806 the prayers of five Williams College students did soar up out of a haystack to God and helped begin the American mission’s movement that sent 1000s of men and women to spread the gospel throughout the world. There had been recent Christian revivals in America under George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, and others, but up to this time, no one had considered taking the gospel to other parts of the world.

But Samuel Mills, a student at Williams College, had begun to pray about it. And on a Saturday afternoon in August he and four other students gathered in a field off campus to discuss and pray about missions to foreign lands. Williams College is in the postcard-pretty Berkshire Mountains of western Massachusetts. Vibrant autumn foliage soon gives way to winter snows, so by August haystacks begin to dot those fields around the town and college.

That August Saturday in 1806 a thunderstorm rolled down out of the mountains and lightning crackled over the fields, sending the five students under a haystack for shelter. They continued praying, and the Haystack Prayer Meeting, as it came to be called, continued weekly after that.

Within just a few years, Mills, along with other students, had helped encourage the founding of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions which sent the first American missionaries to India in 1812. One of those, Adoniram Judson, was a friend of Mills from when they both attended Andover Theological Seminary. Mills also help found the American Bible Society and The United Foreign Missionary Society.

Monet made beautiful paintings of the fleeting, superficial changes that light brings to haystacks and cathedrals, but the objects aren’t really changed, and even stone cathedrals don’t last forever.

But when God’s light comes, it can even transform a haystack into a cathedral in which His heavenly light illumines and leads regular people, like college students and us, to take the gospel light to our neighbors, and around the world.

Then these people of God become temples of the Holy Spirit, and they will live forever!

Are there people in your neighborhood or others you keep in touch with who need to receive the light of the gospel?

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Molly is taking a much deserved break from photo shoots, but if you sign up for  Kathythepicturelady posts, you’ll soon see some of the funnier photos from her Molly-in-France series!

The next post will be an Impressionist-inspired kid’s art project for Mother’s Day. Don’t miss it!

 

 

Good Friday and Easter Paintings of the Isenheim Altarpiece

Like Notre Dame the Isenheim Altarpiece has been through many dangerous times since its creation in the 1500s, but it has survived to remind us of Christ’s death and resurrection!

On Good Friday and Easter we remember and celebrate that, “ . . .the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:28.

 

In Grunewald’s crucifixion panel, darkness is the backdrop for one of the most moving crucifixions in all of Western Art. “When he had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’” John 19:30.  He then committed His spirit to His Father and died.

On the left Mary, who in the Christmas Picture,  looked with such love on her baby, now looks with anguish at her dead son. John and Mary Magdalen show the intense grief and shock that all the disciples must have felt. Is there any hope?

Yet, even in this darkest hour, Grunewald gives his viewers hope. On the right the artist has shown John the Baptist with a lamb at his feet and holding an open Bible as he points to Jesus.

Long before, when the Israelites were slaves in Egypt, God had them choose a lamb to bring into their homes for 4 days.

Look at these parallels

  • John heralded Jesus’ coming when he said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!” John, John 1:29. Jesus then preached and ministered among the Israelites for 3 or 4 years.
  • He entered Jerusalem on the day the Passover lambs were chosen, (Palm Sunday) and was crucified 4 days later.

On that original Passover the Israelites killed the lambs after the 4 days and put their blood on the doorposts and lintel of their homes so that when the angel of death passed through the land that night, he would Pass Over any home with the blood of a lamb over its doorway.

Each year Jewish people were to look back and reenact that event that freed them from earthly slavery, but God also meant for Passover to look ahead to Christ’s coming, when He, as the perfect Lamb of God, would give Himself for us, shedding His blood on the cross, so we can be freed from an even worse slavery–slavery to sin, and fear of death.

So John holds a Bible and points to Jesus to show that Jesus came to die according to God’s wise and loving plan. To further emphasize this truth, the lamb at his feet holds a cross.  Jesus gave Himself as the perfect and once and for all sacrifice for our sins, so we can be forgiven and reconciled to God.

“O Sacred Head, Now Wounded”

  1. O sacred Head, now wounded, with grief and shame weighed down,
    Now scornfully surrounded with thorns, Thine only crown;
    O sacred Head, what glory, what bliss till now was Thine!
    Yet, though despised and gory, I joy to call Thee mine.
  2. What Thou, my Lord, hast suffered, was all for sinners’ gain;
    Mine, mine was the transgression, but Thine the deadly pain.
    Lo, here I fall, my Savior! ’Tis I deserve Thy place;
    Look on me with Thy favor, vouchsafe to me Thy grace.
  3. What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest friend,
    For this Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end?
    O make me Thine forever, and should I fainting be,
    Lord, let me never, never outlive my love to Thee

lyrics in public domain

Next we look under the crucifixion to a small scene showing the disciples preparing Jesus’ body for burial in a white shroud. There is no life in Him, and at the end of the day on Friday, His disciples buried Him. Again there seems to be no hope.

Then comes Sunday, Easter, and

In Grunewald’s final panel, we see a most beautiful and amazing resurrection scene. Jesus has risen in power and glory from the grave; the guards have fallen in fear and awe. They and the stone could not hold Him, and neither could death. His body, once so pale and marred by death, is now alive with warmth though His wounds still show.

The cold, white shroud of death has turned to warm reds, oranges, and yellows as Jesus rises from the grave. He has defeated Satan and death so that we can be saved to live forever with God.

Put down your burdens of sins, of regrets, of striving to be good enough, and accept the free gift of forgiveness and salvation that God longs to give you when you humble yourself to accept Christ. Hallelujah, He is risen! 

 

 

The two photos of paintings from the Isenheim Altarpiece were taken by the author.

The next kathythepicturelady post will be devotional to go along with my series on Monet’s cathedrals and haystacks.

Notre Dame de Paris After the Flames

If you’ve been following the news, you know that more of Notre Dame has survived than anyone could have hoped!  

The bell towers still stand, as does much of the outer shell, thanks to those flying buttresses built long ago by Medieval stonemasons and the heroic efforts of Paris’ firemen. What wonderful news!

Pray for the fireman who was injured.

One incredible video shows firemen looking into the nave and the undamaged cross on the altar shines brightly, while the stone walls still soar upward. Amazing!

Many Gothic churches have suffered as much or more damage in the past from fires, wars, and storms and have been rebuilt. In my recent  post about Rouen cathedral, I mentioned the devastation it received from bombing in WWII, and Chartre rose again from the flames way back in the late 1100s. President Macron has promised Notre Dame de Paris will be rebuilt! And hopefully millions of visitors and worshipers will again be able to enjoy this beautiful Gothic cathedral ads stand where we did in this photo from last fall.

It was a beautiful sight to see and hear so many French people singing and praying in the streets last night. It’s been inspiring to hear the media saying things like the true church isn’t the building (as beautiful as Notre Dame was) but the people who gather there to worship God.

Perhaps best of all have been all those who have talked about seeing this destruction and the coming rebuilding as a picture of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead that we will celebrate this coming Sunday.

Please revisit kathythepicturelady blog this Thursday to see a post about another French masterpiece that was endangered during the French Revolution, but now helps all who see it stand in awe of what Christ did for us on the cross and the wonder and miracle of His resurrection.

Notre Dame de Paris Before the Flames

I have been watching flames engulf Notre Dame today and as a Christian, an artist, and a teacher of Christian history, I am devastated!

The destruction of this beautiful, Gothic cathedral is an unbelievable loss to art and Christian and French history, and to Paris, France, and the world.

I saw Notre Dame de Paris in person for the first time last fall and loved every part of it from its steeple and  flying buttresses to its statues and stained glass windows. We explored the cathedral inside and out and went to a mass to hear the organ and see the church as it was meant to be–a house of worship.

We were in Paris a number of days and stayed so near Notre Dame that we passed it almost every day as we came and went to other churches and museums. I now recognize the places from which all the photos of the fire are being taken and I just can’t believe such destruction is happening to this 800 year-old, world-renowned Christian cathedral!

The steeple and the roof are gone. While we wait to know how much will survive, here are some photos we took that bring tears to my eyes but I still want to try to remember Notre Dame de Paris as this beautiful church.

Please pray with me that there will be no loss of life from this terrible fire and it will not spread to surrounding buildings!