Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Notre Dame and the Sociopathic Virtues

There are three main entrances on the front of Notre Dame de Strasbourg (can I just call it NDS? Please? Thank you). The main, central door is only opened for Easter and Christmas services – the ones to the left and right are used by parishioners and tourists.

These statues flank the door on the left (north) side of the façade. They depict the Virtues Triumphing over the Vices. The tall ladies with the spears are the Virtues; the diminutive, squashed gentlemen under their feet are the Vices.

I think the artist here may have inadvertently subverted his intended message: the Virtues look frightening, devoid of sympathy, cold, murderous and tyrannical. The Vices under their feet, by contrast, are pitiable. In the end, you just want to cuddle them, and take them home, and feed them.

I don’t have a good photo of this, but the door itself is topped by a tympanum that illustrates the Nativity story: the trek to Bethlehem, the Magi, the massacre of the innocents, the flight to Egypt. On its peak, given pride of place, is the circumcision of the Christ Child, complete with a priest holding bits of the Holy Putz.

No comments: