J'ai fait paraître cet article en français le 15 août 2008.
Saint-Gervais-Saint-Protais Church was built during the 17th century.
The first stone of the current facade was laid in 1616. The architect Clément Métézeau designed a work inspired by classical Art. The work was finished in 1657. The facade was praised unanimously and Voltaire said "This is a masterpiece and the only thing missing is a large square in front of it to hold its admirers".
This facade is artistically interesting because it respects the rules of classicism :
- at ground level, there are Doric capitals which were common in classical Greece (for instance in the Parthenon in Athens). As the style demands, there are triglyphs above the columns. The sobriety represented during Antiquity the masculin gender.
- at the next level, the columns are Ionic. Each one has two scrolling volutes. There are 24 hollow flutes in the shaft. This style was conceived in Ionia (in the western coast of modern Turkey). This kind of columns are found in the Erechteum near the famous Caryatids. Another monument in the Acropolis of Athens. This style represented during the Antiquity the feminin.
- at the top level, there are Corinthian capitals. Even if they are very distant, they can be recognized because there are two levels of acanthus leaves. It is the symbol of the "neutral" gender and was widespread in the Roman Empire (for instance in the Pantheon in Rome or in the Maison Carrée in Nimes).
Without falling in a hidden (and often false) mysticism, -Dan Brown's way- it is often said that these three styles represent, according to the Catholic Counter-Reform, the stressing of the dogma of the Holy Trinity : the Doric order on the ground level represents the Father, at the first level, the Ionic order represents the Son and the Corinthian order is the symbol of Holy Spirit which points towards God.
This facade is decorated by statues of the 19th century about which I will write posts... later.
This post was first published in French on August 15th, 2008.