Vegetal reverie for a cathedral

Our Lady of the Plants

by Gilles Clément

Bayard, 180 p., € 19.90

Children, in their games, often use the “what if …”, opening up the space of possibilities. Gilles Clément resembles them in these pages where he imagines another way of reconstructing Notre-Dame. “Since the light has finally entered this place, all we have to do is turn it into a garden! “, had launched the landscape gardener, during a conference where one asked him about what he thought of the site of reconstruction of the cathedral. Liking to cultivate words almost as much as plants, Gilles Clément was invited to deploy this intuition by the Bayard editions. The result is a little iconoclastic and springtime work, utopian and questioning. Gilles Clément defends his dream of seeing trees, flowers and herbs mingling with the stones of Notre-Dame. He does so in the form of a dialogue between an attendant for sacred affairs (PAS), shocked by the audacity of this proposal, and a mad weed who speaks for him, free and insolent, convinced that the beauty of the plant world to its place in this Gothic architecture. Utopia unfolds little by little, even taking shape in a few drawings. It takes shape in three spaces. First, a “approach garden” located on the forecourt. Then, in the cathedral, a greenhouse which would welcome the vines of the mass wine, the passion flower whose motif recalls the cross, a basin decorated with water lilies which would also serve as a holy water font … Finally, at the back of the cathedral, a free garden would spread its variegated grass. We may not recommend this reading to conservative minds, although … If a few skirmishes weigh down the subject, the imagination that emerges is powerful. Gilles Clément highlights how much the plant teaches us about gratuity, sharing, fragility, hope… If he sticks to a celebration of the natural world, believers can seize on its audacity to question the relationship from worship to creation.


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