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Durtal #3

The Cathedral

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It is the third of Huysmans' books to feature the character Durtal, a thinly disguised portrait of the author. He had already featured the character of Durtal in Là-bas and En route, which recounted his conversion to Catholicism. La Cathédrale continues the story. After his retreat at a Trappist monastery, Durtal moves to the city of Chartres, renowned for its cathedral. Huysmans describes the building in great detail.

—Summary by Wikipedia

248 pages, Paperback

First published June 1, 1898

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About the author

Joris-Karl Huysmans

252 books591 followers
Charles Marie Georges Huysmans was a French novelist who published his works as Joris-Karl Huysmans. AKA: J.-K. Huysmans.

He is most famous for the novel À rebours (Against Nature). His style is remarkable for its idiosyncratic use of the French language, wide-ranging vocabulary, wealth of detailed and sensuous description, and biting, satirical wit.

The novels are also noteworthy for their encyclopedic documentation, ranging from the catalogue of decadent Latin authors in À rebours to the discussion of the symbiology of Christian architecture in La cathédrale. Huysmans' work expresses a disgust with modern life and a deep pessimism, which led the author first to the philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer then to the teachings of the Catholic Church.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 18 of 18 reviews
Profile Image for P.E..
779 reviews558 followers
April 28, 2020

- Detail in a portal from Chartres Cathedral, photographer : P.E. / L'un des portails de la cathédrale de Chartres (détail), photographie : P.E.

I close the doors of The Cathedral.

Well. The scale of the groundwork in spiritual symbolism cannot be understated.

From architecture to perfumery, via statuary, symbolism of colors, minerals, plants, animals, The Cathedral is a well furnished cabinet of curiosities gathered by Huysmans in a reduced volume. A stupendous cluster of information on the most obscure, bizarre and side-splitting features of symbolism. But to put it bluntly, it smells like a variant of Des Esseintes's catalogue in Against The Grain / À Rebours.

The story is shrunk, close to stunted :
Durtal is a scholar in search for purpose. He toys with a thousand plans for the future. Irresolute, he goes all in into the systematic study of Chartres cathedral, the only extant thing to provide a landmark to his thoughts.

The book is a faithful account of this fixation and the volume devoted to his studies speaks... volumes. To me, the reading becomes quickly tedious, off-puting, so much is the entire layout of the book dominated by the methodical analysis of Christian symbolism, the items of which are barely woven together by a pretense of a threadbare and forced storyline.

Simply put, this is a fair bundle of spiritual hermeneutics, a thorough psychological study on apathy and neurasthenia. But in the end, this is some stiff, dry, dull novel.

Associated soundtrack :
Die Kunst der Fuge - Johann Sebastian Bach


Je referme La Cathédrale.

Bon. L'envergure des recherches de J.-K. Huysmans en symbolique mystique n'est pas en doute.

De l'architecture à la parfumerie via la statuaire, la symbolique des couleurs, des pierres, des végétaux et des animaux, c'est un complet cabinet de curiosités que rassemble son auteur en un volume serré. Un amas prodigieux d'informations sur ses aspects les plus obscurs, les plus bizarres, les plus cocasses quelquefois. Mais enfin, autant le dire, par places, ça sent sa variation sur le catalogue Des Esseintes.

L'histoire est ramassée :
Durtal, un intellectuel en mal de sens, caresse mille projets pour l'avenir. Irrésolu, il s'absorbe dans l'étude de la cathédrale de Chartres, seule à fournir un motif d'unité à ses pensées.

Le livre traduit fidèlement cette monomanie et le volume consacré à ses recherches y est fatalement écrasant ! À mon avis, la lecture du roman devient rapidement poussive, fastidieuse, rebutante, tant l'entière structure est assujettie à l'étude systématique de la symbolique chrétienne, dont les pans sont raccordés par le prétexte d'un récit dépouillé et contraint.

En bref, une somme d'herméneutique religieuse, une étude psychologique avisée sur l'incertitude et l'Ennui, mais un roman bien sévère.

Musique associée :
die Kunst der Fuge - Johann Sebastian Bach
Profile Image for Seán.
206 reviews
August 31, 2010
Whew-ee! OK, let's map this out. The Dedalus edition of The Cathedral is 339 pages of small, dense type. Realistically the "novel" portion of the book, that is the part that concerns the fictional character Durtal and his story (such as it is), takes up a slim 65 to 75 pages. Go ahead and count 'em.

The rest of this beast can be divided like so: (1) 150 or so pages constitute a well researched and opinionated guidebook on Chartres Cathedral, its history, architecture but mostly the art therein; (2) 95 to 100 pages comprise histories of aspects of Early Christian and medieval religious symbolism, specific categories including saints, priestly vestments, flora, fauna, gemstones, colors...well, it's endless shit really; and (3) an article of approximately 20-odd pages discussing a work by Early Renaissance Italian painter Fra Angelico, which, it might be noted, hangs in the Louvre and has nothing at all to do with Chartres.
Section Ratings:
I. Novel = B-
II. Guidebook = A-
III. Symbolism Shite = D (monstrously bad)
IV. Fra Angelico Sideshow = C-

Now, I've dissected The Cathedral in this way only to disprove a dubious representation knowingly made by Dedalus, Ltd. To wit, the blurb touts The Cathedral, published in 1898, as "a major step forward in the development of the novel." My good citizens of GR, this is demonstrably and damnably false! Has anyone over there ever picked up 1835's Pere Goriot? One could credibly argue that their lie satisfies the common law definition of fraud, the only element in question being whether I've suffered any proximate injury caused by my totally reasonable reliance on Dedalus' lying-ass representation. 'Tis a pity but the steadfast honor of Lady Justice, that cool and imperious mistress of Guy Liberty, oftentimes produces ghastly and inequitable results. Though I was actually reading a series of art lectures delivered by quickly sketched "characters" and connected only by a thin skein of a story, they will show I suffered no injury because my inquiring mind can root out interesting nuggets from a book like a brood sow's snout finds grub-bits in the mire.
Profile Image for Czarny Pies.
2,532 reviews1 follower
July 6, 2017
The "Cathedral" is a novel about a building. I loathed the concept when I read it during the summer holidays of 1986. I felt rather dogmatically that novels should be about people not structures. Moreover, I disapproved. The book seemed to be promoting the Lourdes pilgrimages and I was afraid that Huysmans might have been an anti-dreyfusard. All in all, I was I was highly disappointed at the time especially since I had greatly enjoyed "La Bas" and "A rebours" which I had read the previous summer.

I only remembered having read the "Cathedral" yesterday when I started reading yesterday the"Le carilloneur/ the Bells of Bruges" written by Huysman's great friend Georges Rodenbach and published a year before the "Cathedral".

Now after 30 years, I understand that Huysman's was not the only writer of his age to attach spiritual qualities to a pile of bricks. I still will not give it more than three stars.
Profile Image for Lee Foust.
Author 8 books160 followers
November 30, 2018
The Cathedral, volume three of the four-part novel of the religious conversion of Durtal the writer (and Huysman's fictional spiritual alter-ego), is a step up in inventiveness and interest from volume two (En Route), but it's still a far cry from the exquisite beauty of the tetralogy's opening volume, the brilliant and transcendent La Bas.

Points here for disguising the continued, rather bourgeois, spiritual struggles of poor, alienated, opinionated, and decadent Durtal in the folds of the medieval sculpture of Chartres cathedral and the mystical writings of various Medieval madpersons. The technique of the novel pretty much works, keeping us largely distracted from the writer's self-induced spiritual problems and yearning to live the life of a Medieval monk and mystic in his mid-nineteenth-century decadent French world. I particularly noticed how cleverly Huysman manages to work didactic passages and descriptions into the dialogues, almost completely disguising the non-fiction elements of the text regarding theology, the cathedral's sculpture, or the Christian religious symbolism of plants, colors, animals, or what have you.

Despite these clever improvements from En Route's more straightforward recitation of Durtal's attempts to get closer to his nostalgia for Medieval ideals through religious conversion, many passages here still dragged. Obviously the fruit of Huysmans/Durtal's studies through the writings of the mystics, a lot of the information we're given regarding how different visionaries read animals, colors, or plants through the new testament as the key to all knowledge is, well, pretty silly and not always all that illuminating. Some of this information is interesting, not so much as information, but in the way that it shows the decadent writer's attempt to apply his own century's aesthetic interest in the natural world with the writings of the mystics and Catholicism as the key to understanding human existence. Perhaps if I believed in such nonsense (Catholicism or the the natural world) I would have completely enjoyed it. As is, I 60-70% enjoyed it. Not bad. 3.5 stars I guess.

Oh, I also feel obliged to call out the racism regarding the hairy, dark races. Heinous. But it's only one comment in a 300+ page narrative and it fits well with durtal's generally gruff, opinionated decadent character. He's a bit of a jerk, but still rather interesting. No identification here--smirk.
Profile Image for Licinius.
27 reviews25 followers
June 17, 2015
Les aventures de Durtal sur le chemin pour devenir un catholique esthétiquement et intellectuellement irréprochable continuent! Après avoir découvert l'existence du mal dans Paris (Là-bas), l'heureuse solitude mouvementée d'un cloître (En Route), Durtal s'arrête à Chartres, près de la Cathédrale qui est le véritable centre et sujet de ce livre.

Si l'on constate que la plume de Huysmans est toujours bien là, l'intrigue et le romanesque de Là-Bas sont bien loin! Le Malin lui même ne daigne plus vraiment persécuter Durtal. En a t'il vraiment besoin? La foi de Durtal est toujours vacillante. Il est en admiration devant les merveilles de la cathédrale de Chartres, de certaines anecdotes sur des saints ainsi que des discussions très érudites avec certains clercs. Cette admiration cache surtout le vide de sa foi. Du christianisme, Durtal en retient l'esthétique, mais pas vraiment une foi sincère dans le Christ ou la Vierge. En somme, le personnage n'a pas beaucoup évolué depuis là-bas. Cette hésitation, il la laisse cependant de côté vers la fin de l’ouvrage en se décidant à aller visiter un cloitre bénédictin dans l’espoir d’être un oblat.

Mais est-ce réellement un roman finalement? On est parfois tenté d'y trouver un ouvrage sur l'architecture gothique à travers l'utilisation d'un vocabulaire de spécialiste (transept, nef, arc tiers-point, style ogival...), et parfois d'hagiographie (Sainte Marie-Marguerite des Anges) à sans oublier certaines descriptions qui peuvent faire rappeler des brochures de tourisme. En somme, Durtal n'est qu'un fil rouge bien commode pour faire rentrer de nombreux textes autour de Chartres. Certains de ces récits sont même des nouvelles qui peuvent servir toute seule. Un procédé habituel de la part de l'auteur (L’histoire de Gilles de Ray dans Là-bas fut aussi une nouvelle indépendante). Pour autant, cette exégèse religieuse sur la cathédrale et son symbolisme n'est pas étouffante, au contraire, elle donne envie d'aller voir soi même ce monument religieux à Chartres pour y retrouver visuellement les descriptions qu’en fait l'auteur.

Mauriac disait que ce livre avait réinstallé la cathédrale de Chartres dans la vie spirituelle des Français. Force est de constater que l'ouvrage n'aura pas tenu longtemps dans les mémoires. Aujourd'hui difficilement trouvable (alors qu'en Route et Là-bas le sont sans difficulté), la Cathédrale reste un roman hybride que je recommande surtout à ceux qui ont aimé En Route.
Profile Image for Alan.
117 reviews7 followers
June 19, 2014
The second volume in Huysman's quasi-autobiographical trilogy featuring the character Durtal, this book is fascinating reading for anyone interested in cathedral architecture, religious symbolism, or church traditions of the middle ages. The book has been used for years as a guidebook for Chartes Cathedral. I give it two stars simply because it strains credibility to call it a novel. It is a short story wrapped around a travel guide. Let the reader beware...
6 reviews
August 18, 2021
Erudita e profunda caminhada pelo misticismo e superlativa importancia do simbolismo na arquitectura da Baixa Idade Média.
Profile Image for Wendelin St Clair.
354 reviews64 followers
August 11, 2022
Or: How To Get Art History Essays Published in the Guise of a Novel

So, anyone in or around the writing scene will probably be familiar with the advice that no matter how much time one has spent doing research for one's latest project (which, funnily enough, is the whole reason why I've been reading this series) and no how much effort one has sweated out over the glowing monitor, one should resist inserting it into one's work of fiction, except where it is absolutely necessary and warranted by the plot. This book is like Durtal Huysmans took that advice and decided to do the exact opposite.

For instance, one chapter of the book is literally just an article the narrator-author wrote on Flemish church art for a magazine. There is a whole chapter which consists of analysing the symbolism of church architecture and the sacred objects used in Catholic ritual, and another about the symbolism of colours and gemstones in Mediaeval art. The thinnest of all pretexts is given for these long digressive disquisitions, for instance a 'joke' played by the narrator and a priest on another priest's housekeeper, is actually an excuse to discourse on the religious symbolism of plants.

Basically this whole book is nothing but Durtal showing us his research into all things Catholic and Mediaeval, with the thinnest of all coats of Plot painted over the top. As long as you go in with that understanding--and assuming of course you are interested in the aforementioned subjects--you should get on tolerably well with it. But if you are expecting La Cathédrale to be anything resembling an actual Novel, you will be sorely disappointed. And also very bored. I was bored, I have to confess. But I also learnt…stuff. Not sure if it was any of it was remotely useful. But stuff.

Incredibly, according to (((Viquipedia))), which of course never lies, this novel was a huge commercial hit, and enabled Huysman to retire on the back of the proceeds. My incredulity and envy are infinite.

Misc. tho'ts:

He could never get over his amazement at the incredible ignorance, the instinctive aversion for art, the type of ideas, the terror of words, peculiar to Catholics. Why was this? For after all there was no reason why believers should be more ignorant and stupid than any other folks. Indeed, the contrary ought to be the truth.

Whence did this inferiority proceed? And Durtal could answer himself. It was due to the system of education, to the training in intellectual timidity, to the lessons in fear, given in a cellar, far from a vital atmosphere and the light of day. It really seemed as if there were some intention of emasculating souls by nourishing them on dried-up fragments, literary white-meat; some set purpose of destroying all independence and initiative in the disciples by levelling them, crushing them all under the same roller, and restricting the sphere of thought by maintaining a deliberate ignorance of art and literature.

And all merely to avert the temptation of forbidden fruit, of which the idea was suggested under the pretext of inspiring dread of it. By this method curiosity with regard to the veiled unknown tormented their young brains and excited their senses, for it was always in the background, and in a form all the more dangerous because it had the effect of a more or less transparent gauze. The imagination could not fail to exasperate itself by cogitating its desire to know and its fear of knowing, and it was ready to fly off at the least word.

Under these circumstances the most anodyne book was a source of danger from the simple fact that love was alluded to, and woman depicted as an attractive creature; and this was enough to account for all—for the inherent ignorance of Catholics, since it was proclaimed as the preventive cure for temptations—for the instinctive horror of art, since to these craven souls every written and studied work was in its nature a vehicle of sin and an incitement to fall.

Would it not really be far more sensible and judicious to open the windows, to air the rooms, to treat these souls as manly beings, to teach them not to be so much afraid of their own flesh, to inculcate the firmness and courage needed for resistance? For really it is rather like a dog which barks at your heels and snaps at your legs if you are afraid of him, but who beats a retreat if you turn on him boldly and drive him off.

The fact remains that these schemes of education have resulted, on the one hand, in the triumph of the flesh in the greater number of men who have been thus brought up and then thrown into a worldly life, and on the other, in a wide diffusion of folly and fear, an abandonment of the possessions of the intellect and the capitulation of the Catholic army surrendering without a blow to the inroads of profane literature, which takes possession of territory that it has not even had the trouble of conquering.

This really was madness! The Church had created art, had cherished it for centuries; and now by the effeteness of her sons she was cast into a corner. All the great movements of our day, one after the other—romanticism, naturalism—had been effected independently of her, or even against her will.

If a book were not restricted to the simplest tales, or pleasing fiction ending in virtue rewarded and vice punished, that was enough; the propriety of beadledom was at once ready to bray.

As soon as the most modern form of art, the most malleable and the broadest—the Novel—touched on scenes of real life, depicted passion, became a psychological study, an effort of analysis, the army of bigots fell back all along the line. The Catholic force, which might have been thought better prepared than any others to contest the ground which theology had long since explored, retired in good order, satisfied to cover its retreat by firing from a safe distance, with its old-fashioned match-lock blunderbusses, on works it had neither inspired nor written.

The Church party, centuries behind the time, and having made no attempt to follow the evolution of style in the course of ages, now turned to the rustic who can scarcely read; it did not understand more than half of the words used by modern writers, and had become, it must be said, a camp of the illiterate. Incapable of distinguishing the good from the bad, it included in one condemnation the filth of pornography and real works of art; in short, it ended by emitting such folly and talking such preposterous nonsense, that it fell into utter discredit and ceased to count at all.

And it would have been so easy for it to work on a little way, to try to keep up with the times, and to understand, to convince itself whether in any given work the author was writing up the Flesh, glorifying it, praising it, and nothing more, or whether, on the contrary, he depicted it merely to buffet it—hating it. And, again, it would have done well to convince itself that there is a chaste as well as a prurient nude, and that it should not cry shame on every picture in which the nude is shown. Above all, it ought to have recognized that vices may well be depicted and studied with a view to exciting disgust of them and showing their horrors.

As in so many places, Durtal seems to have discovered, or at least expounded, in his Catholic middle-age, thoughts I had in my Protestant youth. Only everything he says here is even more applicable to Protestants, Evangelicals in particular. Except the situation is infinitely worse today.

When I think of the generation of Christian youth I grew up alongside, brought up more or less strictly than myself, and consider how many of them have remained in the faith, and how many, like me, have gone more or less the way of the world, it is a depressing calculus, if you attach any value to decency, modesty, morality (in principle, even if one cannot practice them oneself).

The fact is that sheltering one's children only works in a society which is itself sheltered, to some extent, from the vilest aspects of human nature. That society has not existed since the 1960s. Otherwise you're raising them in Eden only to cast them, whenever they fly the parental nest, face-first into Sodom, without any support, any counterweight to the simultaneously shocking and enticing pageantry of immorality that is now, for any child raised in a house with Internet, only a click or two away. The fact is, profane literature is more exciting than Christian literature, because the wide World of the Flesh is more exciting than the narrow world of Faith. Sin is exciting. That is why we are warned to flee from it. The narrow way is 'strait' and the broad way is bonny--that's why most people take it.

Christian fiction, like Christian Contemporary Music, is a thriving, if niche, genre with many subgenres, but the fact is, because of the limits it describes for itself, it simply cannot compete with the art of the world, as depraved and degraded as it has become. It has its audience, but little to no 'crossover appeal', as they call watering down any religious content to the point it won't frighten off the unfaithful.

It was not always thus. Even in the 20th century we had Tolkien and Lewis and TS Eliot and Chesterton and Flannery O'Connor and more. But in hindsight this looks like a brief post-Mediaeval pre-Modern Renaissance, a last hurrah ere the Apocalypse, a false summer, a late flowering of faith that belied the impending eternal winter. That winter has not thawed yet. Where are the Christian creatives of their stature today? They simply have not been produced. The men and women who would have become their heirs have either been raised irreligious or become so once they grew up. Or they have stayed in the Church but stayed out of the now entirely Godless and antitheistic field of cultural production. Or at least have been denied entry by its institutional-heretical Judaic gatekeepers. Chaste Amish kindle romances simply can't cut it. The entire field of Art and Culture has been given over wholesale to the Enemy. Contrary to the musings of online reactionaries, there is no prospect of it being recovered. Not before there is no longer anything worth recovering, or anyone to recover it for.

What one would need is Literary Crusaders, men (and women) of faith who don't shy away from sin, sheltering in the ever-shrinking walled garden of a decaying Church, who don't shrink back from the stinking cesspit of the secular world, but rather plunge boldly into it, exposing it for what it is, shaking those who are wallowing in it out of their torpor, without giving into it or being tainted by its filth. To be truly in the world but not of it. To fight an enemy, after all, one must know him, and ignorance never saved anyone. Not even when it took the name of innocence. That would be a truly muscular, manly faith, but is is, alas, probably an impossible dream. Where are even the men writing books any more? Looking around (on this site and in the mirror), all I see are women and faggots. I certainly can't do what I've described, even if I once wanted to.

Oh well, it's a shame, that's all I can say. For all the very real flaws of Catholicism in particular and (((Abrahamic))) Universalism in general, it was certainly better than what's followed. And it did produce some marvellous books.

What am I to do? Renounce all freedom, be nothing but a machine, a chattel, in the hands of a man I do not know—God knows I am willing! But there are other and more pressing questions from my point of view; in the first place, this matter of literature—to write no more, to give up what has been the occupation and aim of my life; that would be painful

This would be my biggest obstacle to embracing the cloistered life also. Material comfort is one thing, but to give up intellectual and artistic freedom - I could never do it. It's the one thing, without exaggeration, that makes my life worth living.

I was intrigued to see that the Mariological view put forward by this book seemed to imply variously the divinity (the pronouns being used to refer to Her being capitalised in the same way as those referring to the Deity), the pre-existence and eternality (speaking of her as existing from all eternity in the bosom of the Godhead and so on) of the Virgin Mary:
He shows us the Virgin existing from all eternity in God, conceiving without ceasing to be immaculate, like the crystal which receives and reflects the rays of the sun, yet loses nothing of its lustre, and indeed shines with greater brightness, bringing forth without pain, but suffering at the death of her Son the pangs she would have borne at His birth.

Which, if my Calvinist younger self were reading this, would be rank Mariolatry, and I do not believe is even approved Catholic doctrine. It always seemed to be the mystics who produced these excesses.
Profile Image for Oleksandr Fediienko.
514 reviews33 followers
December 10, 2017
«Собор» є завершальною книгою трилогії про Дюрталя – парижанина кінця 19-ого століття, який наситився світським життям, залишив у минулому свої загравання із сатанізмом і присвятив себе духовному пошуку. Після відвідин монастиря Нотр-Дам де л’Атр головний герой не знаходить собі місця в Парижі, де йому нудно. Життя у місті йому остогидло, і коли чи не єдиний його друг абат Жеврезен пропонує йому разом поїхати в Шартр, де в місцевому соборі панотцю запропонували роботу, Дюрталь їде з ним. Втім, йому довелося подолати великі сумніви щодо правильності цього вибору. Дюрталь прагне зближення з Богородицею, якій присвячений Шартрський собор, але досі (починаючи з попередньої книги) пручається, коли доводиться робити вибір на користь життя в духовній гармонії.
Ця книга є продовженням і доповненням попередньої – «На шляху». Динамічність сюжету відсутня взагалі, оскільки не сюжет грає головну роль у цьому романі. Весь твір є, по-перше, епічною одою Шартрському собору. Споруда не просто розглядається зовні і зсередини, наводиться ��етальна історична довідка про неї – дивовижно, але окремий розділ присвячений аналізу собору як книзі, виконаній з каменю, з відповідними метафорами для кожного її елемента. Також наводиться значення і символізм нефів, склепінь і скульптур – буквально кожного куточка цієї визначної споруди. Звідси витікає моє «по-друге»: книга присвячена різноманітним аспектам католицького символізму. Які думки мали європейські містики і навіть перші Отці церкви про рослини, тварин, кольори і запахи – все це можна дізнатися зі сторінок даної книги.
Загалом, Гюїсманс мене розчарував. Енциклопедичність, якою виділяється його magnum opus, мігрувала у трилогію про Дюрталя, але не здобула розвитку. Було незвично (у гарному сенсі) читати про словесну інтерпретацію запахів, але каталогізація врешті-решт набридла через відсутність чого-небудь якісно нового. Гюїсманс досконало володів одним прийомом, якого в��стачило на одну книгу. «Собор» з його прямолінійністю можна було б просто переписати у вигляді підручника, хай як цікавого.
503 reviews17 followers
March 18, 2009
"Her sufferings constantly increased. Feeling that this time she was dying, she grieved over the pitiless macerations she had used, and with touching artlessness begged forgiveness of her poor body for having exhausted its strength, and so having perhaps hindered it from living to suffer longer.

And she then put up the most strangely fragrant, the most wildly extravagant prayer that ever a Saint can have addressed to God.

She had so loved the Holy Eucharist, she had so longed to kneel at His feet and atone for the outrages inflicted on Him by the sins of mankind, that she waxed faint at the thought that after her death what would remain of her could no longer worship Him.

The idea that her body would rot in uselessness, that the last handfuls of her miserable flesh would decay without having served to honour the Saviour, broke her heart; and then it was that she besought Him to suffer her to melt away, to liquefy into an oil which might be burnt before the tabernacle in the lamp of the sanctuary.

And Jesus vouchsafed to her this excessive privilege, such as the like is unknown in the history of the Saints; and at the moment when she died she enjoined her daughters to leave her body exposed in the chapel, and unburied for some weeks.

On this point there is abundant authentic evidence. More or less minute inquiries were made, and the reports of medical experts are so precise that we can follow from day to day the state of the corpse until it had turned to oil and could be preserved in phials, from which, by her desire, a spoonful was poured every morning to feed the wick of a lamp hanging near the altar."

I'm actually not done this book. I had to stop what I was doing and copy this because it is the greatest passage of all time.
156 reviews2 followers
August 13, 2022
Detesto deixar livros a meio, mas este "A Catedral" é simplesmente demasiado aborrecido. O título não engana, é mesmo sobre, e quase só sobre, a catedral de Chartres. A pouquíssima ação acontece entre as lentas e monótonas divagações teológicas sobre a catedral, os significados das formas, cores, pinturas etc.

Durtal é um beato parisiense que se muda para Chartres para fugir à vida decadente da capital e se apaixona pela sua catedral. A sua nova vida é resumida a estudar a catedral e a dialogar com o clero local. Momento alto do primeiro terço do livro - o que li - a referência à catedral de Notre Dame descrita, já então no séc. 19, como um lugar sem fé e invadido por rudes turistas britânicos - calhou ler isto aquando do incêndio do seu telhado o que serviu de água na fervura de comoção histérica desses dias (essa passagem valeu a 1,5* que lhe dou).

Antes de desistir de vez da leitura avancei umas páginas a ver se haveria alguma possibilidade de continuar, mas eis que Durtal cai numa crise de tédio, em que eu já estava com o livro, e bom, a vida é demasiado curta para estas penitências literárias.
Profile Image for Donal Anthony Foley.
Author 20 books14 followers
June 18, 2017
A building Alive

Good follow up to En Route - but excessive descriptive passages - for enthusiasts for Chartres. Cathedral essentially and of religious symbolism
Profile Image for Michael A..
22 reviews1 follower
Currently reading
February 18, 2012
I often return to the description of La Salette (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Our_Lady...), which comes early the book, when I feel the need to encounter the horrific sublime. His description is a good introduction to this wonderfully 19th-century preoccupation.
Profile Image for Nancy.
218 reviews
December 30, 2015
As much the author's guidebook to Chartres as it is a novel, this is a dense --but in a good sense--meditation on the architecture and symbolism of this great cathedral. Not for those wanting a quick overview, but surely an interesting work.
Profile Image for Mack .
1,498 reviews52 followers
March 11, 2016
a very strange book
fascinating for the extraordinary development of its style
Displaying 1 - 18 of 18 reviews

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