Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Science of Paris

The two museums we went to on our third day were the Science and Industry Institute and the Orsay Museum, an art museum with works from about 1848 to 1914. I also managed to get to the Notre Dame cathedral. The rest of the family was too tired to join me.

We went to the Cite des Sciences et de l'Industrie partly because any time we visit a city we like to see the science institute. I guess that's just the sort of people we are. The French aren't necessarily known as scientists as much as artists. But they of course also have many great scientific achievements.

One of the attractions to the science institute was a special exhibit called "Sex: What's the big deal?" It is an exhibit especially for children to learn about sexuality at an age-appropriate level. Some parents are jealous about sex education, wanting to make sure they are the only ones who teach their children about sex. I, on the other hand, am happy to get all the help I can get. It is hard to teach about sexuality. Jacob, Noah, and I went to the sexuality exhibit while Jill and Isaiah saw other interesesting things. The exhibit was well done, I thought.

In the afternoon while the others rested I enjoyed going to Notre Dame, the famous cathedral. For all its astounding beauty, I noticed all the gargoyles on the upper outer walls. I guess these ugly creatures are there to scare away evil spirits. If so, the architects of Notre Dame were especially worried about evil spirits. The gargoyles almost dominate the sculpture in places.

What impressed me again about this cathedral was that, like the Worms Cathedral, it had a chapel dedicated to Joseph which included a sculpture of Joseph with the child Jesus. And again like the Worms Cathedral, it had an emphasis on the resurrection of Jesus. There is a large wall around the choir in the front of the cathedral. And all the sculptures on the south side act out scenes from Easter, including the resurrection itself and then various resurrection appearances. On the north side is the birth and Palm Sunday. This is an emphasis on the resurrection that I have never encountered in architecture or art. Of course there is in the center of the choir, really the focal point of the cathedral, the Pieta sculpture, Mary holding the dead body of Jesus. So that the cross and suffering is still the focus, which I think is good as well. The cross and resurrection need to be held together.

The family went to the Musee d'Orsay together in the evening, since it is opened late on Thursday evening. It is filled with beautiful paintings and a few sculptures. If you like Impressionism then this is the place for you. It is filled with paintings by Monet and Van Gogh. It also has a lot of Manet and Degas. My favorite was the Van Gogh room. It included "Starry Night," but I was especially happy to see "Van Gogh's Bedroom in Arles," which the Electric Brew has used as the basis of its bathroom in Goshen.

Orsay was a place of great beauty. It was once a train station like only the French would design, with such grandeur and beauty. But it eventually became too small for modern trains and so became an art museum. Compared to the Louvre, the themes were much less religious. And so the turn towards the modern age, and away from Christianity. But there were also a number of religious paintings as well.
After Orsay we crossed the Seine River and went to the Tuileries Garden and found some great playground equipment and also some cotton candy like we haven't seen before.

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