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Travelogue D3

April 8, 2015

My inability to assign a meaningful label to the structure owed precisely to its architectural roots falling outside the schools with which I was familiar. For the Neo-Byzantine style took on for me at that moment another use of “byzantine”, that of “complicated”, a fitting term, what with how the Ancient World and the Near East seem to have been folded together in the snaking lines of its towers and contours. I took some time to contemplate the horizon for a moment and curse my fellow onlookers. I then elbowed my way to a side door and entered the basilica through an adjoining chapel, though not before first lighting an altar candle in offering without particularly knowing what for.

Within the nave, I was taken aback by the wash of color and needed a moment to catch my mental breath as it were. So, I settled into one of the simple wooden pews devoid of kneelers. For no few minutes did I crane my neck about, admiring with wide sweeps of my head the various mosaics dividing the wall space between columns. Thinking back on it, it is more the array of green, gold and pastels which has remained with me, to the detriment of the scenes and stories contained therein, with one exception. At the back right of the sanctuary, I found a depiction of Lyon’s first Christians and martyrs giving themselves and Lyon to the Lord. In the scene, the city is writ both large and small as it both makes up the background and is symbolically condensed in a miniature found in the hands of one martyr.

Of note is also the Archangel Michael’s flaming sword, relieved of its duty before the gates of Eden. It struck me as curious that the blade, though white in color and wreathed in gilded flames, neither loomed over the scene nor relegated the other figures portrayed to secondary status. Strangely, though I distinctly recall having seen it, I have to date been unable to find it in images of the mosaics available online. Perhaps this accounts for the figures not having been burnt away by its brilliance.

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