The choir stalls at Saint Denis Cathedral were made in the early 16th century for the high chapel of the Chateau de Gaillon, the summer palace of Georges d'Amboise, the Cardinal Archbishop of Rouen, who spent many years in Italy. He was familiar with Renaissance art and was a patron of a number of Italian artists. Consequently, these masterpieces of woodworking played a role in the introduction of the Italian Renaissance into France.
Nicholas and Colin Castille from Rouen were the chief artisans who carved the stalls, c. 1506-09, while working at the Chateau de Gaillon with the first team of Italian artists imported into France. The quality of the carvings and the marquetry panels covering almost every surface are exceptional by any standard. These are probably the most significant works of art salvaged from the ruins of the chateau after the French Revolution. The stalls were brought to Saint Denis in 1913 after suffering many indignities at the hands of clerics, museum curators and art dealers who cut them in pieces and sold them to collectors. Fortunately, they were reassembled and restored. Sadly, they are given very little attention at the cathedral.
Photos by Charles Reeza, October 2021
For you are mad, my dear, in following this vocation. Even your goodness is a craziness. But then, all the very good are mad, just as the very wicked are mad. In fact, there is hardly any difference between the holy and the profane, save in their ideals and their deeds. Both are fanatics. Both are ruthless.
Tanith Lee, from Delusion’s Master
one of the things I love about the x files is how they jump between terrifying alien/government conspiracy/supernatural horror etc on the one hand and then ludicrous slapstick like vampires in a Texas rv park or twofaced guy who loves Cher or whatever
🖤All Things Sacred and Profane- Chapter 4 Preview 🖤
From the outside the little book looks so like the leather bound bibles lining the church pews, that you initially mistake it for just that. With all due reverence you pick it up in gentle hands, turning it over just to feel the binding glide beneath your palms. It’s only then that you notice there’s no cross, no Holy Bible emblazoned on the cover. In the bottom right hand corner, burned into the umber leather and stamped with gold foil are the initials R.P.B
You glance to the door, then down at your hands. You’ve time enough to peek.
You can’t figure out how an R could turn into “Bo”, but flicking it open to the first page, you immediately recognize the handwriting as his. You turn to where a red ribbon marks the page with the latest entry. It’s dated three days ago. The morning he jilted you after the storm.
I am bound by faith and decency to guide this girl along the path of salvation, but everything inside me longs with unspeakable ferocity to do the contrary. When I look at her, my whole body aches with the desire to undo her—twist her into something perfectly and utterly depraved. These thoughts are enough to damn me, but what’s worse is that I have neither the strength nor intention to separate myself from this temptation. If the devil is after my immortal soul, it’s his. Just let me have her at least once in this life.
“He keeps a diary?” you whisper to yourself.
Why the fuck is that your first thought when the contents are so shocking?
Father Burnham keeps a diary and it is filled with all the thoughts that he cannot utter aloud, not even to the good lord in his infinite mercy. Those dark writhing thoughts without form ignite with clarity in his mind. With each stroke of his pen he puts a shape and a name to the destructive feelings.
It’s you; scrawled all over each page. By the way he writes, it couldn’t be clearer: your presence on the paper is insufficient, you’re even etched inside his skin.
The sharp sound of porcelain breaking expels your heart from your chest and snaps your eyes to the doorway.
Bo stands statue-still, the mug of cocoa he made for you lay shattered at his feet.
He swallows so hard you can hear it. Expressionless he stares you down and says, “Bo is short for Robert, if you were wondering what the R is for.”
It’s not the explanation you were expecting, or the one you need. He doesn’t ask you how much you’ve read. He doesn’t address the problem of biblical proportions, swirling vortex-like around you.
“You should go home.” He says thickly. “I need you to g—”
“Father Burnham,—” you interrupt, “I have so much on my mind, and I can’t deal with it by myself anymore. I want to go to confession. Please, I can’t go on with my conscience this heavy.”
Hearing your petition, Father Burnham grinds his jaw, his features, previously steeled against the legion of conflicting emotions roiling inside him, shift that much closer to hunger.
“I can’t refuse the administration of a holy sacrament. Take your coat, it'll be freezing in the church.”
You wonder if your presence within their quarters at this time of night would really raise any alarms. Would you be able to save face should the senior priest stir? For a moment you can convince yourself that yes, you’re simply a layperson seeking guidance in an hour of need. But as you trail a hair's breadth behind father Burnham, you can’t deny the true nature of your spiritual crisis.
The rectory walls carry sound like all old houses do, jarringly and bone-hollow, making each forward step one closer to discovery.
ATSAP Chapter 4, Coming soon
Beauty can be consoling, disturbing, sacred, profane; it can be exhilarating, appealing, inspiring, chilling. It can affect us in an unlimited variety of ways. Yet it is never viewed with indifference: beauty demands to be noticed; it speaks to us directly like the voice of an intimate friend. If there are people who are indifferent to beauty, then it is surely because they do not perceive it.
- Sir Roger Scruton
𝐓𝐇𝐄 𝐅𝐈𝐕𝐄 𝐒𝐄𝐍𝐒𝐄𝐒 || Accepting
@yellowfingcr inquired: [SCAR]― sender traces a scar on receiver’s body... though to name it a scar wouldn't be all that right, and to call it tracing too swollen a description. All Heysel does is extending a lone gloved finger towards the witch's jugular, slowly, and tap an exposed spot of dark-marked skin there.
"Was it painful? To receive it?"
It is a simple gesture, a curiosity. In that instant she froze if only in a fleeting instant of consideration.
“Ah, that... I’ll indulge you with a story, or at least loose recollections-- I was a child when I received it.”
Where the finger graced upon the arch of her throat, the action prompted her to silently lift her head and tip back, exposing underside of jaw and present a clear display of her slender throat. Perhaps there was an amusing sort of irony in there; bearing her throat to that lady of astronomical force; she who walks between worlds.
The assassin-- her friend.
Even should she fancy the notion of splitting it wide, of watching skin tear at the seam, where flesh would part like a fine fabric, split in twine-- she still bared it. A trust offered.
She knew she wouldn't.
That mercurial, blade-sharp gaze gently settled upon Heysel. She did not move from her place.
The ornate marking – sign of passage-- etched in ashen black. The intricate weave work of spherical markings, interlaced with the jagged edged shape of wing-like formations that spread wide upon the width of her throat, in representation of a beckoning, or a means to conduct. Trailing down between the clavicles and toward the sternum-- it was a sight when on full display. A distinct yet abstract marking in form.
The conductor; the conduit-- that binds and protects. A waiting embrace... or wings spread wide and encapsulated in the circle. A cycle. A snare.
"A rite, if you will, and an act of purification and protection-- a must. My role was as one attributes to the buzzards or other birds of prey. However, it is not only your bones that I pick raw and clean. Upon your confession, or your final breath... I cleanse and carry you with me. You've seen it... You know the way in which it manifests."
One that preserves, magnifies, and brings to naught by spoken spell and beckoned by song. That curses, damns, purges, elevates, eliminates... and devours. Extinguishing life by spoken word and breath. While not the heart of her power, it is simple in its depiction and direct in role. An executioner's ax in the form of an embrace-- a moment of stolen peace while hearkening one to the call and to usher them to the grave. A harvest, a scavenging of the soul and vigor from fleshly coil... if one wanted to be so brutally blunt. Regardless, such a depiction was entirely without a shred of mercy-- and despite it all, that is what she granted. Mercy.
Of course, she didn't need to revisit every last detail, not when Heysel had witnessed in act. Not when she had seen it herself. Most certainly, not when that wasn't what she inquired about.
Her hand lifted and graced the hollow of her own throat.
The needle is an agonizingly precise tool-- every pin-point prick, and the way in which her blood mingled with the earthen ink. Memories called back by the dozens-- days spent in shade, obscured away from the eyes of the others. Day into night, night into day.
In that moment she appeared thoughtful, silent in her reminiscence-- heavy lids lowered at half mast, so relaxed that one might think she were bordering between wakefulness and the calling of slumber. An ease granted to very few when asked of such things, a sight seen by far fewer.
“Hmm yes,” She started, a roiling hum upon her lips and tongue, “... this marking laid upon me here, the memory is lucid... fresh as the first blooms of the season, fresh as blood... worldly agony as testament and act of protection.”
The curl of a smile hinged in every word, a hushed laughter. Her fingers followed the shape of her gullet in careful paths.
The lengthy arched nail of her thumb brushed over it with a singular stroke in silent recollection of past sensations. Once settled the starkness of the marks of her hands-- to the blackened fingertips, shades of that same ashen black encapsulated the entirety of her fingers. In contrast, nail beds were split by thin threads of silver from knuckle to knuckle kissed by cold and ink. Every last piece connected in a grander ornamentation, with pure intent. It was made all the more striking when displayed so closely to the extravagant noose weaved around her throat. One inherited by blood, and made only for her.
"... A trial of resilience if there ever was one for a child. Not a moment of peace was salvaged unless I truly could not go on. Hours... days that extended into ceaseless nights, it was neigh impossible to achieve in a single night unless we forsook sleep. All of it, preformed by the careful hands of my dutiful mother-- it is our stigma... one worn with pride."
One she had been taught to hide.
“Not a single soul beyond my mother, my father and those that who served closest were permitted to lay their eyes upon me.. not until the task was completed.” She remembered being hidden away, a ceremonial arrangement done in complete obscurity. How many tears were shed between her mothers gentle coaxing and firm determination; the soothing sound of distant song in the air. The unnerving moments between. The bite of the needle in maddening repetition. The smell of blood and incense.
Her fingers twitched, and curled. The hold of recollection had broken, and her hand fell to her side right as she adjusted and leaned back, her posture now wholly lax.
With another shift of her shoulders her shirt fell unceremoniously-- the cloth bunched loosely around her hips where she sat. Exposing the swell of her breast, shell pink aureoles, the curve of a tightened core... the markings, more markings, more markings. The entirety of her previously unexposed torso laid out in likeness of a marred canvas where every scar and mark could be seen, unobstructed by anything else.
“And what a memory it is...”
Where it trailed, other sinuous markings encircled her form. The labyrinthine trails curved inward along her center, and then toward her back. Embellishing ribs and drawing down her tender middle in careful formation. From the sight alone, untold hours had surely been poured into the painstaking placement that spanned the expanse of much of much her body. Perhaps one may perceive it as something straddling the percipience of the sacred and the profane, if one could even consider it as such.
Every inch, a spectacle when laid bare before the naked eye. She hid nothing from Heysel. Every mark beneath was now bared.
Although, if she could call it anything at all... that word in particular would never leave her mouth. It would be consumed like the rest. It was incomparable, and to refer to it as such would be to idolize what she is.
“I've no intention of deceiving you, so to you... I pledge my every inch. My flesh without need of further rambling."