As I mentioned in the previous post, we visited Dijon on a Tuesday, the one day of the week when the museums are closed. We wandered through the medieval center of town and came upon the western façade of Notre-Dame de Dijon. As you can see from the picture above, the streets near the church are narrow and there is really no plaza. Before the second half of the 12th century, the site of today's Notre-Dame was occupied by a simple chapel, the chapelle Sainte-Marie, which was outside the city walls. Around 1150, this chapel was rebuilt in the Romanesque style. Then beginning around 1220, the people of Dijon built the Gothic church we see today on this site. It was located in the middle of a popular quarter, so there was a lack of space for the building. All the weight of the framing and the roof rests on pillars rather than flying buttresses, thereby allowing the maximum floor area for the interior. The earliest archaeological finds within the city limits of Dijon date to the Neolithic period. Dijon later became a Roman settlement named Divio, located on the road from Lyon to Paris. The province was home to the Dukes of Burgundy from the early 11th until the late 15th centuries and Dijon was a place of tremendous wealth and power, one of the great European centres of art, learning and science.
If you stand in the rue Musette and look up slightly, you will see the Jacquemart family statue. It stood on the top of the belfry in Courtrai (Belgium) before Philip the Bold, in punishment for a rebellion by the Flemish population, had it dismounted, crated up, and brought to Dijon in 1382. He gifted it to his good town which, not having a belfry, placed it on the top of Notre-Dame. In the seventeenth century, the people of Dijon decided to bring him some cheer in his solitude by adding a wife (Jacqueline). A son (Jacquelinet) followed in 1716 and a daughter (Jacquelinette) in 1881.
The building dates from the second quarter of the 13th century. A rather unusual anecdote related by the Dominican Etienne de Bourbon gives the date of 1240 for near completion. A certain money lender (usurer) of Dijon, walking beneath the west façade, was killed by the fall of one of the gargoyles. The other usurers of the city went together and obtained the removal of all these dangerous objects, of which the Dominican was an eye-witness. The present gargoyles were placed in the façade only in 1881. The present line of sculptures are not gargoyles in the proper sense of the word, as they play no part in the water drainage system. They form the most striking and original feature of the church, for the west front takes the unusual form of a vast screen of masonry more like an Italian church then a French version.
This tapestry, the original of which is at the Museum of Fine Arts in Dijon, was woven after retreat of the the Swiss in 1513 to decorate Notre Dame de Dijon. The retreat was associated with the belief that the Virgin Mary protected the city; this belief was also attributed to the decision of the Germans to retreat from Dijon during WWII. After the Second World War, a new tapestry was commissioned to commemorate both retreats of 1513 and 1944. The Dijon subscribers paid for the cartoon, designed by the Benedictine monk Dom Robert (1907-1997), born Guy de Chaunac-Lanzac. The state assumed the cost of manufacture, conducted from 1946 to 1950 in the Gobelins. The tapestry was inaugurated in the church in 1950. In 1997, a thief cut out the lower right corner, which was signed by the artist. Between 1998 and 2000, the manufacturers of Beauvais wove an identical fragment to replace the stolen piece. In 2003 the restored tapestry was hung on the façade of the organ loft. Entitled Terribilis, the work depicts the Virgin Mary protecting the inhabitants of Dijon. The city, referred to symbolically, is besieged by threatening animals and insects, symbolizing the forces of evil. On either side of the city, two trees have dates on their trunk, one the dated 1513, the other that of 1944.
Although I rarely do this, due to a limitation of space on the server, I have included a full resolution picture of the stained glass of the North Transept. Download it, enlarge, print and peruse, my gift to my loyal readers.
In the Rue de la Chouette, a small stone owl nestles above one of the piers. Everybody “touches” the wise old owl and makes a wish. Whenever things are going wrong, people will say to you : “Have you tried stroking the owl ?”. Over time the owl became very worn, losing all detail, because of a superstition: people stroked it with their left hand while making a wish. On January 5, 2001, a vandal damaged it with several blows of a hammer, thereby upsetting the population. Rather than leaving the sculpture in this damaged state or replacing it with a newly sculpted block of stone, it was decided to repair the damage. A mold of the owl had been made in 1988 by an expert from the Louvre, and it served as a model for the repair, which was completed in February 2001. The office of tourism chose it in 2001 as the symbol for the Parcours de la Chouette (Owl Walk), a tourist trail around the historic center marked out by 22 square plaques each bearing the image of an owl.
Dijon Parish: http://notre-dame-dijon.blogspot.com
Dijon Free: http://dijoon.free.fr/bestof/notre-dame.htm