Notre Dame: The Soul of Medieval Paris

Built on the site of a Roman basilica and restored over a dozen centuries, Notre Dame long reigned in splendor as the cultural, intellectual, religious, and economic center of Paris, the most powerful city in northern Europe during the Middle Ages. The cathedral’s powerful towers, grand gargoyles, flying buttresses and soaring interior represent amazing achievements in medieval Gothic architecture. Its magnificent stained glass, sumptuous art, and glorious music have inspired awe and creative expression throughout the ages.

Friday, November 4, 2011, 7:30 to 10:00 pm

Notre-Dame of Paris and Manifest Destiny.
Stephen Murray (Medieval Art, Columbia University).
The great cathedral dominates the urban skyline, overawing us with its boat-like silhouette, powerful towers, menacing gargoyles and velvety-dark interior spaces pierced by shafts of brilliantly colored light from high windows. For us, Notre-Dame of Paris appears to represent the certainty of France becoming France, with Paris as its capital. However, when this great church was begun the Capetian kings of France were struggling for control over a city that was not yet capital of a France that was not yet France, while their rivals, the Plantagenets, controlled a mighty empire extending from Scotland to the Pyrenees. Can we return to the uncertainties of the mid-twelfth century and the start of work on a great church that was quite different from anything ever seen before and quite different from the Notre-Dame we know? Are there surprises to be found in this, the best-loved and most visited of all the great cathedrals? And how is it that Gothic, born in such precarious circumstances, can create such a powerful illusion of manifest destiny?

The Cathedral and the Lady.
Clerestory: Jesse Antin, Kevin Baum, John Bischoff, Dan Cromeenes, Chris Fritzsche, Tom Hart, David Kurtenbach, Clifton Massey, Jim Monios, and Justin Montigne. Introduced by Clifford (Kip) Cranna (Director of Music Administration, SF Opera).

Beata VisceraPérotin (fl. c. 1200)
Agnus Dei from Messe de Nostre DameGuillaume de Machaut (c. 1300 – 1377)
Ave Regina CoelorumGuillaume Dufay (1397 – 1474)
Riches d’AmourGuillaume de Machaut
D’un Autre AmerJohannes Ockeghem (c. 1410 – 1497)
Virgo RosaGilles Binchois (c. 1400 – 1460)
Rose, Liz, Printemps, VerdureGuillaume de Machaut
Viderunt OmnesPérotin
Ave Maria, Virgo SerenaJean Mouton (1459 – 1522)
Agnus Dei from Missa de Beata VirgineJosquin Des Prez (c. 1450 – 1521)
Salut, Dame Sainte from Quatre Petit Prières de Saint François d’AssiseFrancis Poulenc (1899 – 1963)
Tota Pulchra EsMaurice Duruflé (1902 – 1986)
Hymne à la ViergePierre Villette (1926 – 1998)

Saturday, November 5, 2011, 10:00 am to noon and 1:30 to 4:00 pm

The Gothic Enterprise: Cathedral Building in Europe, 1137-1550.
Robert A. Scott (Emeritus, Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford).
Notre Dame de Paris is one of Europe’s greatest cathedrals, and we are awestruck and humbled by its magnificence. But it is equally astonishing to realize that hundreds of other cathedrals and great churches were being built during the same period all over Europe, together comprising one of the architectural and social achievements of Western culture. Gothic Cathedrals invite us to think about what inspired the audacity to build them. Why would a society that was so impoverished want to invest so much capital and effort in buildings that were physically stupendous, yet produced nothing tangible? What conception of the divine lay behind their creation? What were they for? And how did religious and secular leaders use cathedrals for their own social status and political advancement? In this lecture Scott explores the social, cultural, religious, ideological and political contexts in which Notre Dame and other cathedrals of Europe were conceived and built.

Notre Dame and the Emergence of the Medieval Retributive Cosmos.
Hester Gelber (Religious Studies, Stanford).
During the twelfth and early thirteenth centuries, just when the Bishops of Paris were planning and erecting the Cathedral of Notre Dame, the concept of retributive justice, rewarding the virtuous and punishing the wicked, began to dominate the western European imagination. Christ and Mary as the dispensers of justice and mercy ruled over a spatialized terrain in which their mythologized interaction in the salvation and punishment of souls set the model for the mythologized interactions of kings and queens in the earthly retributive sphere. In this retributive cosmology, justice and mercy, mediated through obedience, were the dominant virtues, virtues prominently in evidence in Gothic cathedral façades. Both bishops and kings had a vested interest in the imagery of justice and mercy, and the sculpture of Notre Dame is a nearly perfect evocation of the emergent retributive system.

Lunch Break

Performance and Lecture.
Apocalypse and Debauchery: Anti-clericalism in Medieval French Music and Literature.Multi-instrumentalist and Singer Tim Rayborn (Berkeley) explores the rise of secular culture in mid-thirteenth-century Paris and the conflicts with religious organizations that followed from it. He focuses on the arguments between the secular masters and the mendicant orders at the University of Paris, and how this debate found its way into the secular music and poetry of the time. He will present examples of this poetry and music, performed with medieval instruments, and show how anti-clericalism became an important part of medieval French artistic culture, despite the inherent dangers of angering Church authorities.

Victor Hugo and Notre-Dame de Paris.
Suzanne Guerlac (French, UC Berkeley). In French the title of Hugo’s celebrated and very popular novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame, is simply Notre Dame de Paris, the name of the Cathedral that still sits in the heart of Paris. What happens in this act of translation? How is it that in passing from one language to another we seem to slide from the sublime, the sacred monument, to the grotesque character of Quasimodo, whose body is hideously deformed and whose spirit is quickly broken. Which one lies at the heart of the novel? In fact, they both do, one inside the other. What is the meaning of this identification between the two?

Panel Discussion with all Presenters and written questions from the Audience.


Clerestory features Jesse Antin, Kevin Baum, John Bischoff, Dan Cromeenes, Chris Fritzsche, Tom Hart, Clifton Massey, Jim Monios,and Justin Montigne. Clerestory is the Bay Area’s acclaimed nine-man classical a cappella ensemble. Veterans of SF’s finest professional vocal groups, Clerestory’s singers, from countertenor to bass, remain members of the Bay Area choral community and pride themselves on providing unparalleled performances to local audiences. Clerestory is named for cathedral architecture whereby upper windows let in daylight. The ensemble tells the “clear story” of the music it performs through sophisticated performances grounded in decades of experience singing together. Clerestory has been described as “distinctive voices blending in a gorgeous sound” by San Francisco Classical Voice, and “a model of what a great choral concert should be” by BBC Magazine columnist Chloe Veltman. Clerestory’s website,, features free archived concert recordings and a private e-mail list sign-up. Clerestory is a tax-exempt non-profit that relies on the generosity of its community to sustain its progressive mission.

Clifford (Kip) Cranna (PhD, Musicology, Stanford) is Direc­tor of Musical Administration at SF Opera. He has served as vocal adjudicator for numerous groups including the Metropolitan Opera National Council. For many years he was Program Editor and Lecturer for the Carmel Bach Festival. He lectures and writes frequently on music and teaches at the SF Conservatory of Music. He hosts the Opera Guild’s “Insight” panels and intermission features for the SF Opera radio broadcasts, and has been a Music Study Leader for Smithsonian Tours. In 2008 he was awarded the SF Opera Medal, the com­pany’s highest honor.

Hester G. Gelber, Professor of Religious Studies, Stanford (PhD, Wisconsin),specializes in late medieval religious thought. She teaches courses on philosophy of religion as well as medieval Christianity. She has written extensively on medieval Dominicans, including: Exploring the Boundaries of Reason: Three Questions on the Nature of God by Robert Holcot OP and most recently It Could Have Been Otherwise: Contingency and Necessity in Dominican Theology at Oxford 1300-1350. Her current book project is a study of the development of the medieval religious cosmos as a mythologized system of retributive justice.

Suzanne Guerlac received her BA in philosophy from Barnard College and her PhD in French from Johns Hopkins University. She is professor of modern French studies at UC Berkeley, having taught previously at Emory University, the University of Virginia, Yale and Johns Hopkins. She is the author of three books. The first, The Impersonal Sublime: Hugo, Baudelaire, Lautréamont and the Esthetics of the Sublime concerns the esthetics of French romanticism and modernism. The second, Literary Polemics, Bataille, Sartre, Valéry and Breton, concerns competing theories of literary art in the first half of the twentieth Century. Her third book, Thinking in Time, is an introduction to the philosophy of Henri Bergson. Most recently she has co-edited a book of essays on the philosopher Jacques Derrida, Derrida and the Time of the Political. She has published a number of articles on Victor Hugo here and in France.

Stephen Murray is Lisa and Bernard Selz Professor of Medieval Art at Columbia University. He was educated at Oxford and the Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London. He joined the Columbia faculty in 1986 and currently serves as Director of the Media Center for Art History, Archaeology & Historic Preservation. His publications include books on the cathedrals of Amiens, Beauvais and Troyes; his current work is on medieval sermons, story-telling in Gothic, and the Romanesque architecture of the Bourbonnais. His field of teaching includes Romanesque and Gothic art, particularly involving the integrated understanding of art and architecture within a broader framework of economic and cultural history. He is currently engaged in projecting his cathedral studies through the electronic media using a combination of three-dimensional simulation; digital imaging and video, through the Mapping Gothic France Project

Tim Rayborn, an acclaimed multi-instrumentalist, plays dozens of musical instruments from medieval Europe, the Middle East, and the Balkans, including lutes, plucked strings, flutes, and percussion. He has recorded on more than 30 CDs for a number of labels, including Gaudeamus, Wild Boar, Harmonia Mundi, EMP, and Magnatune. Tim lived in the UK for seven years, taking his MA and PhD in medieval studies at the University of Leeds, and working as a musician. He has toured the US and Europe extensively from Ireland to Turkey, including concerts at the York and Beverley Early Music Festivals, Alden Biesen Castle in Belgium, Bunyloa in Majorca, and Spitalfields Festival in London. He has performed for BBC in the UK and Channel Islands, toured in Canada and Australia, and worked with folk musicians in Marrakech and Istanbul. He has taught at the SFEMS Medieval/Renaissance summer workshop and Pinewoods Early Music week in MA, and has appeared with many early music performers, including Ensemble Alcatraz, Anne Azema, Margriet Tindemans, Susan Rode Morris, Tom Zajac, and Sinfonye. In addition to solo work, he currently performs with Patrick Ball and collaborates regularly with Shira

Robert A. Scott is Associate Director Emeritus, Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University. He was previously Professor of Sociology at Princeton University. He is the coauthor of Why Sociology Does Not Apply (1979); author of Making of Blind Men (1969); editor of several collections of essays about stigma, deviancy, and social control; and author of numerous articles, book chapters, and essays on related topics. His most recent publications include Miracle Cures: Saints, Pilgrimage, and the Healing Powers of Belief (2010) and The Gothic Enterprise: A Guide to Understanding the Medieval Cathedral (2003, 2006). He continues to do research and write books about medieval gothic cathedrals of Europe.