Exactly one year after the great fire of Notre-Dame, Filippo Sorcinelli launched a new fragrance, as a new addition to the Delire de Voyage Collection: Notre-Dame 15.4.2019. A new extrait de parfum, inspired by the devastating fire of the Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris revolves around the idea of three main elements: „the triggering event, the water on the stones, and the Essence that remains“ – forever.
What is the essence of the Cathedral?
“Why was I not made of stone like thee?—Quasimodo (to a gargoyle on the ramparts of Notre Dame as Esmeralda rides off with Gringoire).” – Victor Hugo
I wished that I was made of stone on that early spring afternoon of Anno Domini 15.4.2019: first news and photos in my inbox, sent by friends from Paris, showing smoke coming from the roof of the famous Cathedral were simply unbelievable, we were hoping that this is just a minor incident. What followed later that evening was even more shocking: as we watched the fragile spire collapse, a feeling of utter helplessness prevailed. Of all the Gothic variety and magnificence, only the ethereal skeleton of 850 years old Notre-Dame remained.
The first thing that came to my mind was how the „Old Lady“ felt and smelled when I last visited her a couple of years ago: ancient, solemn and modest in its multilayered beauty, filled with sighs of awe coming from all the visitors that found themselves inside at the moment, with rays of sunshine filtered through magnificent vitrages floating above our heads, and distant, soft trails of incense and candle-smoke in the shadows. I took her for granted, I admit, because for 850 years her multi-colored „eyes“ have observed historical events unfold before, and inside of her. Now I’m just happy that my son had a chance to meet her in all her glory, to remember her – as she was.
Through all these years she was admired, forgotten, denied, and glorified again: whatever the fashion of the time obliged – she gracefully stood her ground, ever since Charlemagne laid down the first stone.
And yet she was always more, so much more than just a tourist attraction, a fine example of Gothic architecture of Middle Ages exhibiting heritage of exquisite craftsmanship from the past, or a national symbol of France and Paris.
Built upon ruins of a Gallo-Roman temple dedicated to Jupiter, Notre-Dame was and is a part of global, human collective memory. It left no one untouched: Notre-Dame was and is „visus cordis“ – an uplift of the heart.
I’ve always felt that entering a cathedral was reciprocal: I would step inside, and it would inhabit me in return. Fine, invisible strings of history were almost immediately attached to my heart each time I stepped into Notre-Dame.
Those stones were alive and whispering about hands that carved them, that organ had vocal cords of hundreds of choir singers, and the stained-glass rosettes were a reflection of Garden of Eden that never stopped blooming. A special universe, just as Victor Hugo wrote:
„And the cathedral was not only society for him, but the universe, and all nature beside. He dreamed of no other hedgerows than the painted windows, always in flower; no other shade than that of the foliage of stone which spread out, loaded with birds, in the tufts of the Saxon capitals; of no other mountains than the colossal towers of the church; of no other ocean than Paris, roaring at their bases.“
Visus cordis! A feeling of uplift, exultation of the heart.
No, the smell of Notre-Dame is NOT incense. The fragrance reveals a “reverse” development: the opening is a provoking, triggering layer of bitter, tar-tainted smoke. It feels like still soft burnt wires&freshly melted rubber tar, and it hovers above the dark shadows of greenish moss and scattered splinters of charred, centuries-old oak beams. Yet, through that subtly created layer of density, welding-like sharp sparks protrude, and the overall feeling is comforting-aromatic, with shaves of the ginger bark mixed with dry basil leaves and coriander seeds, crushed together in a cup made of stone.
” It is today that moment of smoke that affects history.”
As these first layers, one by one slowly blend into each other and disintegrate, warm hues of a heart made of geranium emerge, feeling as if touched by specks of ashes and slowly dripping, saliva-thick water at the same time: almost salty, slightly mineral-cold, with deep musky-floral undertones. This muskiness flutters between stone-sharp and wooden-soft edges, between ambery gentleness and just a slight touch of incense sharpness, as if the stones were soaked in it long, long ago – it’s more a memory of incense than incense itself.
“It is also water that overflows from the stones, which flows down the sides of the organ.”
It is only then that the feeling of lightness vividly rises, like a golden cross hovering above burnt material: soft lemony tones, the tender earthiness of iris, and bitter green-herbal intensity of galbanum is what adds a new, brighter dimension.
This is why I said that the whole pyramid seems “upside-down” or reversed: what usually opens a fragrance, here brings light and closure, while some “darker” elements still carry the story. Hope is to be found underneath all the layers of destruction – fluttering, fragile, and tender like new, fresh green spurts. Yet it is there, and it can’t be extinguished!
“It is today the gash of the vaults that brings light from the naked sky. It is the smell of uninterrupted life, of the soul not affected.”
Once again Filippo, who had the privilege of having access to places closed to common visitors as an organist, makes a fragrance that is heart-wrenchingly lyrical in its creative expression, one that will surely be proclaimed controversial by some. Again.
The packaging of, as well as the bottle itself, are sublime works of art: the bottle cap is a burnt wood monolith, and the box opens with four falling wings – painted and signed by Filippo Sorcinelli. Samples of both fragrances in this collection – Notre-Dame and Epicentro are available at the webshop, here.
Subject: Patchouli, Vetiver, Precious Woods, Tonka Beans, Amber, Sandalwood
Back subject: Lily of the Valley, Geranium, Ambrette
Tail: Neroli, Basil, Coriander, Ginger, Iris, Lemon, Orange, Bergamot, Incense, Galbanum
Note from the brand: “Notre-Dame 15.4.2019 will also be small support to the Matriese, the ensemble of singers and musicians who guard the priceless heritage of the Sacred Music of the Cathedral. The proceeds from sales will be donated to the association “Musique Sacre”.
Visus cordis! The heart of Notre-Dame is not dead…Just as the heart of the Cathedral in my home town is not dead, even if the building has been badly scarred by the recent earthquake. Its both towers were cut in half and removed, and the interior damage is significant.
And just one year ago, at Esxence Milan 2019 Filippo presented Epicentro, and I was deeply moved by it – not in my wildest dreams could I imagine that I’ll witness a devastating earthquake very soon. You can find my full review of Epicentro here .
The Plum Girl
Photos&Editing: Elena Cvjetkovic, Filippo Sorcinelli, Wikimedia.org/photos by Baidax, notredamedeparis.fr, Christophe Petit Tesson, Pool, AFP.
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