Between the Pages: Blood & Moonlight SETTING
(Part 2 on the making of Blood and Moonlight)
Medieval cathedrals have always fascinated me. Entire cities were built around them, and their construction spanned generations, so one was always going to be the central element of both the plot and setting of Blood and Moonlight. As my original idea was purely a historical novel, I began with a ton of research into dozens of the most famous buildings (and a few less-known ones) and how and when they were created. Everything began to center perfectly around Laon, in northeastern France, and it wasn’t long before I was head-over-heels in love with both the city and its cathedral.
Façade of Laon's Cathedral de Notre Dame. (Source: Wikipedia)
Laon Cathedral, looking up from the center. (Source: Wikipedia)
The levels of the Cathedral: Aisle, Gallery, Triforium, Clerestory (Source: Wikipedia)
View of city and countryside from top of Laon's Cathedral. (Source: Wikipedia)
The internet is a marvelous thing for writers. I was able to print city maps and centuries-old blueprints of churches and monasteries and convents and precisely place homes and plot locations.
Satellite view of Laon
On YouTube, I found videos from drones flying around Laon’s cathedral, which is situated on the top of a massive hill, and traveling specials that walked the streets and went inside and climbed the tallest towers. What a feast for the eyes, mind, and soul!
But, as you know if you’ve read the book, this became a fantasy novel. That required changing a few details (mostly names of places, and I’ll do another entry on those), and while some of the wonderful historical elements I’d researched fell by the wayside, I gained a little bit of flexibility.
The city maps were still useful, but now I could put things where I wanted them. An abbey I wanted Catrin to have been raised in actually existed and is currently a French government building, and I created it on the location from the few details I had found. The Selenae Quarter I placed right next to it, within the city proper, but on its edge. I tweaked some elements of the cathedral, now called a sanctum, to make it slightly simpler (the yet-unfinished transept towers were eliminated) and put statues and gargoyles and bells wherever I needed.
Solis Abbey and Selenae Quarter in relationship to the Sanctum and other locations
Path of Prayer, aka Pleasure Road
Slightly adjusted locations of Abbey and Selenae Quarter.
(This is me figuring out heights)
Abbaye Saint Jean Baptiste de Laon
I also have folders full of gorgeous pictures of the insides of cathedrals–mostly Notre Dame de Paris, due to its fame–and medieval towns and buildings and inspirational art, but unfortunately I can’t share them here as I'd first have to dig up the names of the photographers and artists to so they would get proper credit. When I downloaded them all, it was only for my personal reference, but I'm eternally grateful to them. Next time I'll save the source with the names.
Even with the fictionalization of the city, when writing scenes, particularly those that took place inside and out of the Sanctum, I returned over and over to this particular video, and you can stage them all yourself quite easily.
Overall, Collis compared to Laon is probably 90% historically accurate. Not bad.