At the level of the choir, the visitor notices the carved wall that separates the circulation area (where the name of ambulatory) and the Interior of the choir where stood the canons for prayer. The function of this wall is obvious: get a minimum of calm to the canons. The faithful of the past were less numerous than visitors today, but it seems more noisy. That's why, from 1300 to 1350, three artists realized this set of sculptures: Pierre de Chelle, Jean Ravy and Jean Le Bouteiller.
In the old Christian basilicas, a beam stood in the way of the triumphal arch at the entrance of the choir; in the Middle, she wore the crucifix between the Virgin and St John, and hunts with the relics. We asked torches, it suspended lamps.
Added, in the second half of the 12th century, a jube, monumental fence separating the choir from the nave, made of a portico surmounted of a gallery or a forum. From this rostrum where access by two staircases in screws, we read the Epistle and the Gospel; She also served as the sermons and preaching, as shown in a valuable stained glass of the ambulatory of the Cathedral of sense. At the time of reading the Epistle and the Gospel, the deacon application permission to the officiating priest with this formula: Jube, dominates benedicerewhere "jube" name generally given to the tribune and its portico. beneath it were willing altars for the faithful who could not see what was going on in the chorus where the canons celebrate the offices and sang the hours, protected from the crowd by the jube and a fence that relied the stalls which turned at the foot of the jube, hence the name of "back-end" which is sometimes given.
These balconies have been removed in the 17th and 18th centuries, when the Council of Trent decided to associate the faithful with the choir offices. We found fragments of the middle of the 13th century still covered their old paintings, and a particularly delicate style, in Chartres, Paris, Bourges, Reims; others of the 14th century in Amiens and Strasbourg; others in flamboyant style, of the 15th century. There are even a few saved from the massacre because they were sufficiently openwork in Sion, Valais, and Vezzolano in the Italy of the North, to the file and to our Lady of the Bourget-du-Lac, in Brou, in Albi, to Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges and Florentin (Yonne). Saint-Aceous-du-Mont in Paris is well known. These balconies were stone, adorned with statues, reliefs, often of great wealth. Others were wooden, and there are many in Britain.
Fences extended the jube and surrounded the choir. They were not hindering the view, and many have reached us. Some are famous, those of the Cathedral of Albi in the charming statuettes of Amiens Cathedral covered with bas-reliefs of Chartres, designed by the architect Jean TEXIER, said of Beauce, the author of the arrow of the Cathedral; It was decorated with sculptures telling the story of the Virgin. Still include those of Toledo and Burgos, the 14th and 16th centuries.
The most important of all is that of Notre Dame de Paris. We were able to determine the date of his execution, the names of sculptors and donors, and we are happy to make them known here.
While ended, at the beginning of the 14th century, under the direction of the architect Pierre de Chelles, who had succeeded the great master Pierre de MONTREUIL and Jean de CHELLES - we know the names of the architects who worked at Notre Dame since the middle of the 13th century - the work of reconstruction of the chevet of Notre-Dame-de-Paris, sculptors, painters, painters glassmakers, huchiers were busy at the Interior of the choir. There is little more than the fence, at least part of the fence, enriched with sculptures in high relief still covered in their old colors.
To the North are carved scenes of childhood and the public life of Christ and the first scenes of the Passion: the Visitation, the announcement to the shepherds, the Nativityimitated from that was carved in the middle of the 13th century in the tympanum of the door of the cloister, but treated here ace an incomparable greatness: the Virgin, pensive, spread on his bed near the cradle where rests her child; at the foot of the bed, Joseph, old man with long beard, meditates on the greatness of the mystery that comes to fulfil and which it is the witness; as the Virgin, he seems to "listen to his soul. This scene so simple and so full of thoughts is, in his deep and moving, mysterious recollection almost, one of the most beautiful of this fence. The Adoration of the Magi has more size again: wrapped in their thick coats to the beautiful folds, broad and noble gesture, the three kings, representing the three ages of humanity, prostrate themselves at the feet of the child presented with his mother, smiling, happy and proud. In the two following scenes. the Massacre of the Innocents and the flight into Egyptthe artist disposes of this grandiose serenity and indulges in accents of passion and sensitivity still very rare in the art of the beginning of the 14th century in the Paris region. Herod sitting on his throne seems ready to rush to hasten the execution of his cruel order; the soldiers hit with all the strength of their arms; women, overturned on the ground, drive the fingers in the eyes of the perpetrators; children cling to their mothers in desperate gestures. Next, the Virgin, assiduous on a small horse, Kiss the child that surrounds it the neck of his small arms; Joseph forward and turns at the same time, full of tenderness, while idols crumble to the passage of the Holy troupe; a tree in the middle of the desert, appears ready to bend its branches responsible for fruit to travellers August. The following are carved the Presentation at the Temple, Jesus among the doctors, the baptism of Christ by St. John in the waters of the Jordan, the marriage at Cana, the entry into Jerusalem, the last supper and the washing of the feet, Christ in the garden of olives.
The history of Christ formerly continued on the balcony where you could see the Crucifixion who crowned the entry door, between the Passion and the Resurrection. Christ in limbo who was at the South end of the Loft is now preserved in the Louvre Museum. The jube was hard to suffer wars of religion: in 1548 and 1550, the reliefs were broken. In 1628, Queen Anne of Austria brought a new jube wooden home altars to the Virgin South and San Sebastian in the North. This jube was himself replaced at the beginning of the 18th century during the transformation of the decoration of the choir of Notre-Dame, in the execution of the vow of Louis XIII, by large grids of Caffiéri which will disappear in the Revolution.
On the south wall are represented the Apparitions of Christrarely as complete in the iconography of middle age. These appearances, visible evidence of the Resurrection, are celebrated in offices the week of Easter, and the Gospels from Easter Sunday to the Quasimodo Sunday in anchor episodes. It's these Gospels, completed by the Apocrypha, and particularly the Gospel of Nicodemus, that inspired the picture book. The first scene depicts the appearance of Christ to Mary Magdalene in the garden close to the sepulchre; the Christ who, in the 12th and 13th centuries, was the triumphal cross, is based here for the first time on a spade. This apparition of Christ as a gardener, who will remain until the end of the middle age, has its origin in the mysteries where this realism was the tradition. Christ appears still Holy women and St. Peter, the disciples of Emmaus, saint Thomas, and at various times to the Apostles together.
Both sides of the fence are a different style. The sculptures of the North, the most beautiful, are the oldest: clearer composition and quieter attitudes, gestures and more clothing to the wider folds continue the tradition of monumental art of the 13th century. In the South, except maybe in the first two scenes, the composition is less harmonious, attitudes are steeper, despite the search for curious details or quaint, the folds of clothing more brittle, the thinner stuff, the less pleasant overall effect.
The same technique is different: to the North, the reliefs are still applied on the back wall to which are attached the accessories and sustains the canopy and the corniche. To the South, the sculptures are in full relief, canopy supported by groups of balusters spare; the background wall may not exist. The style of architecture of the base, marquees, with columns, cornices that frame the scenes also marks a difference of time of execution between the North wall and the south wall. in the Spandrels of the blind Arcade to the North are carved foliage and monstrous animals that by their decorative value and the beauty of their execution, remind the Spandrels of the door of the Virgin to the western façade. To the South the decorative motifs are replaced by openwork clovers.
The closing of the North is earlier than that of the South. It is prior to that which surrounded the House of the choir, and there are only a few fragments preserved in the Museum of the Œuvre of Notre Dame in Paris and the Louvre Museum. A drawing of GAIGNIERES, Cabinet of prints, and an engraving of MAROT representing the Te Deum on 26 August 1660 show us that it consisted of a blind arcade trefilee and openwork surmounted by carved in full relief scenes sheltered by a canopy carried by groups of columns down to the ground. "" Guillebert de METZ who admired this fence in 1407 reports that these sculptures represent the "history of Joseph the Patriarch ', prefigures Christ.
An inscription preserved by ancient historians of our Lady and a drawing of GAIGNIERES give us the names of two of the masters of the work of our lady who worked at this end, Jean RAVY who was kneeling on the edge of the fence and his nephew Jean le BOUTEILLER, as well as the date of its completion (1351).
On the other hand, we know that Pierre de CHELLES was architect of Notre-Dame in 1316, where he was chosen as expert to stop serious movements which have occurred in the transept of the Cathedral of Chartres. Soon after, Jean RAVY succeeded him, to 1318. He held the post for 26 years, until 1344, when he was replaced by his nephew, son of his sister says an old obit, Jean le BOUTEILLER.
We can therefore say that the northern part of the fence devoted to childhood and the life of Christ was carried out of 1300 to 1318, under the leadership of Pierre de CHELLES, who also built the jube. The southern part, the apparitions and the beginning of the rotating part, the story of Joseph are the work of Jean RAVY, 1318 c 1344, then Jean le BOUTEILLER, of 1344 to 1351. We know that the superstructure was carried out at the expense of the Canon Pierre of FAYEL, an old family of Beauvaisis, nephew of the Bishop of Paris Simon Matiffas de BUCY who had built the chevet chapels. The monument that represented him kneeling on the support of the blind Arcade, next to Jean RAVY, is now at the Louvre Museum.
This is the closing of the choir of Notre Dame de Paris, whose colors have been found by CAUDRON in 1840 and revived by MAILLOL. These small scenes represent the history of Christ allow us to follow the evolution of sculpture in the Paris region, from the beginning of the 14th century, to the North, broad, noble, calm, even in the finest tradition of the art of the great cathedrals, until the middle of this century, to the South, more elegant, more picturesque, less monumental, a little sometimes, sought a pardon almost profane.
This life of Christ carved around the choir of Notre Dame de Paris was very popular and his influence was felt on the performances of the mysteries according to this reported assertion by Beauchamp, the old theater historian: "there had shown in Paris in 1420, street of the home, on a scaffold of 100 no long". a moult pious mystery of the Passion of our - Lord to the quick depending on whether she is depicted around the choir of our Lady of Paris".
Recall that from 1400 as stated by Ms. VERNET, the Archbishop of Reims, Guy of ROYE, had bequeathed thousand pounds to around its Cathedral, a choir closing stone stone similar to that of Notre Dame de Paris, this meant only amount to pay for the work of the sculptors and painters to be brought at the expense of the chapter of Reims , but he refused and the issue die.
Excerpts from the communication of Marcel Aubert, The closing of the choir of Notre Dame de Parispublished in the supplement of The French magazine n ° 124, December 1960.