Last Day in Paris (March)

March 19, 2005





After that very interesting underground tour (described in the previous two pages in this series of four pages -- see links below), I very much enjoyed a live performance of 13th century “profane” (=non-sacred, =fun!) music. The "Ultrea" ensemble played authentic instruments from the time, sang authentic songs of the time, and were having so much fun doing it, contagious fun, that the hour of music was over very quickly.



My nearest neighbors were a teacher of French as a second language who teaches in a business school in Paris, and a retired librarian from the National Library of Ireland. They were very good neighbors for an English speaker like me.


The librarian told us that the music being performed, songs from the “Carmina burana” had been set to music in the 1920's by a ‘modern’ composer who studied the music and instruments of the time period. The “Carmina burana” song collection had been found long ago, but not the accompanying music. But now the original music scores have been found. We heard those original scores today. The really amazing thing is that the ‘modern’ versions of two of the more important pieces in the collection are remarkably similar to the 700-year old ones! It is so nice to be with people who actually know things.



Here is the Ultrea ensemble in action:



At this point, this had already been an interesting and fun day.  But there was more!  After this superb entertainment I went into the museum to again see some of my favorite items like the Lady and the Unicorn tapestry and many of the small statues of the Madonna, and several saints that I previously illustrated (over a decade ago!) on my page on the Divine Feminine (click here to go there). With my newer camera I was able to get closer to several items, and I was pleased with the outcomes.


Several wood carvings and other statuettes of Mary Magdalene are here (the top one is my favorite, although the second and third ones below are close to first, not quite second):





Saint Martha (?) and the penitents is also one of my favorites:



Next I went into the room with the Lady and unicorn tapestries.


I have described elsewhere what I believe these tapestries do not symbolize.  But I fell short of interpreting them.  Now I am no longer so shy.  In short, to me, they illustrate the five senses, and each sense-panel has a lion and unicorn obviously approving the use of each of the senses. The unicorn seems to like to have his horn held by the lady.  I don't think this is suggestive, as some seem to think it is since the animal also has its head in her lap, but I believe this intimacy is a direct and natural outcome of the lion and unicorn both being symbols of the divine within the lady, hence they are aspects of (her own) life, hence they are intimately a part of who she is.  


To me the message here is that life is divine, the senses are divine.  AS additional insight into this exterior/interior symbolism, notice that the serving girl attending the noble lady is the noble lady herself, in each picture. I believe she represents her own volition.



                                                 Smell                                                               Hearing



                                                     Sight                                                               Touch





So, then, after seeing that all senses are exercised by the lady of her own will, and are approved by the divine forces in her (and that reside in us all), she moves onto the scene where the lion and unicorn approvingly see her shedding her decorations prior to entering the tent labeled “My sole desire.” I am of the opinion that it is just as correct to read it “My soul desire.”  That is not a scholarly statement.  However, this is a work of art, not a historical manuscript; it should be read by intuition, not logic; it should be translated using the heart, not a dictionary.


Her serving girl is receiving her jewelry as she takes it off, and looks like her once more, suggesting again she symbolizes her own volition. Even her lap dog, guardian of her virtue, is set aside. Symbolically, she is setting aside all her worldly trappings, adornments, all her masks of rank and pretense. She is becoming emotionally and spiritually naked (I have written about this 'naked in the garden' business before on this web site too; click here to go there). She is to enter the garden of the sixth sense, to experience the soul’s sole desire, which is love, the one force that unites and creates. She is preparing to enter the garden, naked as Eve, without guile, without pretense, totally her self, totally vulnerably, totally powerful.


And, hopefully, her Adam will be awaiting her there in an equally pure, vulnerable, and powerful state. After all, this is a tapestry to celebrate a wedding!



After all of that wondrous experience at the Cluny, I still had some energy.  So I chose to walk home along the Seine river.  But that will have to wait until the next, and final, page in this series.


Go to fourth (next and last) 'Last Day in Paris' Page.

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Go back to first 'Last Day in Paris' Page.

Go to first "Jet-Lag Day in Paris" Page.

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