May 19, 2014 – Bourges – The Final Judgment

I am calling this last day of our sightseeing The Final Judgment. I think it’s been building up to this – a devil here, a leviathan there, a pot of boiling souls, thumbs up, thumbs down, you’re saved, you’re damned. Today at the Cathedral of St. Stephen, judgment is everywhere.

Imagine yourself in 13th century Europe. Most of the things that even everyday citizens knew was lost with the fall of the Roman Empire. Knowledge was for the few and the privileged. Religion gives you hope for a better life in the hereafter. You walk into this amazing cathedral full of light with beautiful windows and carvings telling you how to achieve eternal bliss and how to avoid eternal damnation.

St. Stephen’s Cathedral was built in the late 12th century as a replacement for a mid-10th century structure. That 10th structure was probably a replacement for a Gallo-Roman church and before that a Roman temple. Architecturally it is surprising. There is no transept, the cross part of a church. It is light an airy. Buttresses have been built to support a bell tower and the fragile glass walls.

St. Stephen's Cathedral i Bourges
St. Stephen’s Cathedral i Bourges

Heavy early Gothic style buttress to keep the tower up
Heavy early Gothic style buttress to keep the tower up

Flying buttresses to support the glass and stone walls
Flying buttresses to support the glass and stone walls

Interior of St. Stephen's Cathedral in Bourges
Interior of St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Bourges

My 13th century self wants to know how to behave and what is the penalty for breaking God’s rule. It is all over this church. And it is scary.
Souls damned to hell in a pot of boiling oil tended by demons (part of the original rood screen)
Souls damned to hell in a pot of boiling oil tended by demons (part of the original rood screen)

The Leviathan having a munch on sinners (part of the original rood screen)
The Leviathan having a munch on sinners (part of the original rood screen)
All men have to struggle with devils (13th century stained glass)
All men have to struggle with devils (13th century stained glass)
St. John in Revelations tells of the Last Days with Jesus and his double edged sword
St. John in Revelations tells of the Last Days with Jesus and his double edged sword

If you sin, it's into the pot with you ( 13th century stained glass)
If you sin, it’s into the pot with you ( 13th century stained glass)

Here's the Leviathan again with more damned souls (13th century stained glass)
Here’s the Leviathan again with more damned souls (13th century stained glass)

Out on the tympanum of one of the portals, the Archangel Michael weighs souls and the devil gathers up those not going to heaven (12th century)
Out on the tympanum of one of the portals, the Archangel Michaels weighs souls and the devil gathers up those not going to heaven (12th century)
It's into the cauldron for sinners (12th century)
It’s into the cauldron for sinners (12th century)

Another interesting aspect of the 13th century stained glass windows is that many of them are sponsored by local trades. The tradesmen want to make sure that everyone knows who paid for the window and how they have obviously bettered their chances of getting into heaven. Most windows are read from the bottom up so the advertisement for butchers or masons is the first thing you see.
This window brought to you by carpenters (l.), coopers and wheelwrights (r.)
This window brought to you by carpenters (r.), coopers and wheelwrights (l.)

This window brought to you by butchers
This window brought to you by butchers

This window brought to you by tanners
This window brought to you by tanners

Needless to say we do a pretty complete inspection of the cathedral. We decide to skip lunch and have a little relaxing time in the hotel while we wait for the afternoon’s sites to reopen at 2 PM.

After non-lunch we visit the palace of Jacques Coeur, Steward and Director of the Mint for Charles VII. During the 15th century he amassed an enormous amount of wealth, enough to build a fleet of armed vessels to trade all over the Mediterranean and India. He used his wealth to build a splendid palace. Unfortunately he fell out with the king, was sent on a crusade and died. His wife got to live in the palace but not Jacques Coeur.

Jacques Coeur palace
Jacques Coeur palace

Statue of Jacques Coeur (with Clark and Lewis)
Statue of Jacques Coeur (with Clark and Lewis)

We are pretty tired out from all the walking about today. We decide to partake in the quintessential French relaxation, sitting in a cafe. Since we’ve skipped lunch we share a croques-monsieur and watch Bourges pass by.
John has a Floreffe Belgian white beer
John has a Floreffe Belgian white beer

In the picture before, over John's right shoulder is a half-timbered house
In the picture before, over John’s right shoulder is a half-timbered house

I did not realize that a croques-monsieur had cheese on the outside!
I did not realize that a croques-monsieur had cheese on the outside!

Tomorrow we won’t be doing anything other than getting back to Paris to catch the plane on Wednesday so we treat ourselves to one final French dinner at La Bourbonnoux.

Great day, great trip! Looking forward to being home.

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