The morning we left Amiens, Dan wanted to walk over and see the cathedral there, the largest Gothic cathedral in France, begun in 1220. I was not terribly excited to go as I have seen lots of cathedrals. Ho hum.
As soon as I walked in, I was almost moved to tears. I am always overwhelmed by the size and majesty of these cathedrals. I imagine some peasant living in his hovel who would come in this building and surely feel he had a glimpse of heaven.
Amiens doesn’t have very much of its original stained glass left, as does Chartres and Notre Dame in Paris, but we were delighted to discover that it does have an original labyrinth in the floor! I wrote about the purpose of labyrinths in cathedrals in my post of July 21st. The current parish of this cathedral has carefully cleared the floor where the labyrinth is so that people can use it as intended.
So we did. It wasn’t the most quiet experience I have had walking a labyrinth — apparently there are renovations going on on the south side of the cathedral so there was hammering, drilling and loud thuds! But this was certainly the most scenic labyrinth I have walked. Every turn gave a slightly new perspective on the arches, buttresses, side chapels and altar.
When I finished walking, I looked at the contemporary hand made banners that now grace several of the pillars. This cathedral still houses a congregation that worships and tries to follow Jesus. The banner had been created by many feet, dipped in paint and then pressed into the fabric. The impression was of many footsteps leading up the pillar. At the bottom was a Bible verse, in French of course, but because the citation was there I could find it in my Bible: “While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them” (Luke 24.15).
What a wonderful serendipity! The story of the road to Emmaus and the two disciples encountering Jesus, is one of my very favorite in all Scripture! The congregation had a theme. They picked up on the medieval theme of pilgrimage, centered in the labyrinth, that has been with their church since its beginning. Now they have connected that theme in a lovely way with their own footprints and the Bible verse reminding us all that Jesus can draw near to us when we least expect it — like during a visit to “one more dusty cathedral” and along the road as we travel through France.