• Elfrid

You beautiful church

How incredibly sad the news from Paris last night. I couldn't believe it. The images of Notre-Dame in flames were absolutely devastating, and brought me back to the years I studied art history in Paris. I was actually studying French in Oslo, and was only going for a six-months long exchange to Paris. Due to a student strike at my university however, I was offered to stay for another semester. By that time, I had filled up my quota of French classes, and was asked to pick another subject of my choice. Since I had always loved drawing and painting, I was curious about art history, and picked that. The middle ages were on the agenda at Sorbonne that fall, so I signed up for lessons in that, and showed up in the auditorium. I cannot say it was easy exactly. The professors were talking fast, and a lot, and the French students were taking notes in a speed I hadn't seen before. Romanesque and Gothic architecture. In French. I hardly understood a thing, and don't think I have ever felt as stupid as I did those months. But I didn't give up. I was determined to make it. So I sat down with my books and a dictionary, and read through it all. Slowly, sentence by sentence. Some of the terms I can still remember; nef, voûte, ogive, contrefort, chevet... Even today, I know Gothic architecture better in French than Norwegian. It took time, but after a while it got easier, and once it did, it was like a new world opened up for me. I hadn't been that interested in history in high school, but now I fell completely in love. Through visual arts, history just got so much more alive, and I loved it. When I needed a break from my books, I went to see the artwork I had studied in a church or a museum. Paris is pretty nice in that way, and Notre-Dame was for me the most beautiful cathedral of them all. The light in there was just so special. I used to say that if you didn't feel like a religious person going in, you would feel like it after having entered the church. And so a new passion was born. Back in Norway, I completed my bachelor in French at the same time as I started a new degree in art history. When I finally did my master in French art, I went back to Paris to do my research and write the thesis there. Afterwards, I worked in an art gallery in Le Marais for a few months. In total, I spent three years in Paris, and both the city and Notre-Dame have had a special place in my heart ever since. Gosh, this was simply heartbreaking. xx Elfrid

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