(Version of a blog originally posted on eHarlequin).
On our recent trip to France, my long-suffering driver needed a break just as we were heading past Laon on our way south. Medieval Laon is built on the top of a hill, and since there is a funicular that will take you to the top, we thought we would stop and try it out.
The medieval stonemasons who built Laon's Cathedral of Notre Dame were superb craftsmen. Here is a hippo gargoyle, after several centuries it is still realistic.
There has been a Bishop of Laon since the fifth century (Bishop Geneband), although the Cathedral wasn't built until much later, in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. I have already mentioned the hill. The cathedral is at the top and legend has it that during the construction, a yoke of oxen were having difficulties getting a load of stone up the steep slope. A mysterious ox appeared to help. However, as soon as the wagon reached the top, this ox vanished. The carved oxen at the top of this tower commemorate this miracle. If you look closely you can see their horns are slightly whiter than the rest of the sculpture, which make me wonder if they might have been renovated recently. The Cathedral at Laon lost a couple of towers in the Revolution (originally there were seven), but it remains a work of art.
The figures below are standing by one of the Cathedral doorways. I was particularly struck by the knightly figure on the right. He has a halo, yet there is something very ruthless about him, there's a speared dragon at his feet. Do you think he might be St George? Or maybe he is St Michael and he has just overcome the Devil...