PRINT September 1989



“THE ARCHANGEL LOVED HEIGHTS.” And I love the high I get from the book that opens with those words: Henry Adams’ Mont Saint Michel and Chartres. Adams is writing about the statue of Saint Michael atop the pinnacle of a 12th-century French abbey; he does not fear the pathetic fallacy. He wants to bring the archangel down to earth without discrediting the idea of heights. Saint Michael, he tells us, hasn’t attained this eminence on account of God, or religion, or even architecture. He’s up there on account of a craving for high places—a taste we may share when we find ourselves transported higher by one building or one book than we are by other books and buildings. A few chapters later, when he gets to Chartres, Adams asks us to look at cathedrals as enormous doll houses and the Virgin Mary as the world’s biggest doll; if we can’t imagine ourselves as children playing with dolls, Adams

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