To enter the Scrovegni Chapel, you have to spend 15 minutes in a “environmental equilibration” chamber and video introduction before passing through two air locks into the chapel. Shockingly, visitors only get another 15 minutes to look around before being rushed out by security. However, if you are a clever art pilgrim (like yours truly) and book multiple back-to-back tickets, the museum escort chases everyone else out but leaves you alone for a few glorious minutes within the chapel.
Standing at the altar looking down the rows of painted vignettes, the rich pastel colors glowing warmly from the morning sunlight, has got to be one of the most profoundly beautiful art experience I have ever had. To say I loved the Scrovegni Chapel would be an understatement.
Photo of Giotto’s masterpiece, the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua (Photo: Art Bouillon)
A list of the greatest Gothic Cathedrals in the World is going to be dominated by the French greats: Notre Dame, Sainte-Chapelle, Chartres, Amiens, Riems and Rouen. Since cathedrals, with their cavernous interior space and organic ribbing, are places to be explored and experienced, I always make time for a long visit! Rouen Cathedral in Normandy is a spectacular example of the High Gothic (mostly) style and well worth gazing at and wandering through.
Main aisle of the Rouen Cathedral.
Sometimes on the quest for art, you end up learning a lot more about the history of a place. I didn’t expect to find Norman castles and churches in Sicily but it is hard to deny the thick bulky structures when you find them. I also didn’t expect to find detailed decorative elements reminiscent of the Middle East but there they were. What became Sicilian Norman art is a blend of cultures and adds an exotic flavor to an already interesting mix of Greco-Roman and Baroque architecture on the island. Once you factor in 19th century restorations with a mind of their own, you find can find some complex and beautiful churches. I found one such example of blended art in the little town of Erice and the Chiesa Matrice Church.
Beautiful ceiling details
While I love Gothic art, there is something especially appealing about the Irish Gothic style. The heavy infusion of Celtic design and the stylized figures energize this art and gives it a playful feel. Many of the medieval ruins I found in Ireland where not particularly ornate which made the appearance of Gothic figures and motifs that much more enjoyable.
Doorway decoration from the Monastery at Dysert O’Dea (County Clare):