This afternoon, I passed a mother dragging her daughter by the hand. The girl was asking, or rather moaning: "Mom, where is the car?" Obviously, to have to walk a dozen paces in the parking lot required more strength than she had. It has reminded me of a pupil's heartfelt cry.
I was explaining that the roofs of the gothic cathedrals look like upside down hulls because they had been designed and built by nautical carpenters.
"In the beginning, a Roman church was as wide as the shortest beam of its ceiling was long. If the shortest beam measured 20 meters, the church measured 20 meters wide."
I went on the explanations on how the technical breakthroughs allowed to build wider and wider, higher and higher buildings. These buildings needed roofs; nautical carpenters, who knew how to assemble pieces of wood to create volumes, and not only surfaces, had been hired to designed the roofs of the cathedrals.
I told them the story of roofs that collapsed, of conflicts cropping up between the religious authorities and the masters of art, of work stopped for years because of the lack of money or the death of the bishop, etc. I took advantage of their interest to explain how some phrases appeared, and to teach them some unusual French vocabulary.
The class listened and looked at the pictures showing upside down hulls that had not received their facing yet and cathedral roofs shoot from inside, showing their skeletons so to say. Even the usual troublemakers listened. I was surprised.
"You can see it by yourself. Go into a cathedral and look upwards. Do you never go and visit something?"
A pupil answered from the deep of his heart: "Oh yes, Madame! And you have to walk!"
All the class nodded their heads in agreement.
Gabrielle Guichard is a French teacher