One of you readers asked in the ugly architecture thread yesterday if the crowd was willing to share with the rest of us the name of their favorite church, architecturally speaking. What a great suggestion. I love picking on ugly churches, but I don’t write enough, or even at all, about exceptionally beautiful churches.
You would expect me to say that my favorite church, aesthetically, is Our Lady’s cathedral at Chartres, and you would be right, more or less. But that’s too easy. Same with the Hagia Sophia, and the Salisbury Cathedral. I’ll choose a more intimate example. I am so very fond of Saint-Séverin, a medieval Catholic parish in the heart of the Latin Quarter in Paris. I’m not quite sure why. I love Gothic church architecture above all others; S-S is a Late Gothic building, distinguished by the twisted interior columns and the flame-like exterior stonework. I can’t think of another church like it. Despite the ugly modern stained glass windows in part of the church, S-S remains in my heart, not only because of its Gothic beauty, but because of its darkness and intimacy. That, and the fact that it is embedded in a beautiful quarter, with narrow streets, in my favorite city in the world. I can’t separate in my imagination the church itself from its setting. I discovered Saint-Severin on one of my last days in Paris last autumn; somehow, in all the years I’ve been going to Paris, I had never been by. Now, when I think about my favorite church in the world, it is Saint-Severin.
So, tell me what’s your favorite church, and why? I’m speaking mostly aesthetically.