A Ys, città bretone sotto il livello del mare, protetta da dighe, viveva Dahut, la dissoluta figlia del re di Cornovaglia, Grallon. Un demonio, travestito da affascinante giovane, soggiogò Dahut, le sottrasse le chiavi della città e aprì le dighe. L’acqua sommerse la città che sprofondò nel mare. La leggenda narra che si sentano ancora i rintocchi delle campane della cattedrale inabissata. A questa storia si ispirò Claude Debussy, per “La Cattedrale sommersa”, contenuta nel primo volume dei Preludi per pianoforte (a fianco, La Cattedrale sommersa di Escher; sopra Impression, soleil levant di Claude Monet).

THE SUNKEN CATHEDRAL, Claude Debussy #thesunkencathedral #thecathedralengloutie #claudedebussy #tempodacqua #thetimeofwater

 “La Cathédrale engloutie” is based on the ancient Breton legend of Ys, on the coast of Brittany (Northwest France) in the Bay of Douarnenez. Run by a king named Gradlon (or Gralon), itwas also very vulnerable to flooding, being situated below sea level. To protect the city, a huge Gradlon’s daughter, Dahut, was a dissolute princess. Princess Dahut holds a secret banquet for her lover and the two, drunk with wine, steal the key from her father and open the gates, letting the waters flood in.

The opening of The Sunken Cathedral gently brings in the cathedral, out of the water, with a melody that resembles waves. Debussy wrote in Peu à peu sortant de la brume (Emerging from the fog little by little). Then after a section marked Augmentez progressivement (Slowly growing), the cathedral emerges and the grand organ is heard with a powerful fortissimo. This is the loudest part of the piece. The cathedral then sinks back down into the ocean and the organ is heard once more, but this time from under water. Finally, it is out of sight and only the bells are heard at a distant pianissimo.