Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Notre Dame Cathedral

A Medieval Gargoyle high atop Notre Dame cathedral keeps watch over the city of Paris, France
I've been to Paris many times and visited Notre Dame, too, but never hiked up the stairs to the roof before. I've heard it is a narrow climb of 387 steps to the top of several spiral staircases to get up there.  But once there you can see the very famous bells and the gargoyles up close and personal.

You also get a fabulous view of Paris from the top.

My friends Angie and Glenn made the climb.  (Good for them!  Bless their knees, I say!)  And, what's even better, they took photos!  Woo-Hoo!

I love it.

Angels and gargoyles stand sentinel, keeping out the evil spirits
I can't believe the beautiful details, the fleur-de-lis grillwork and stone balustrades, high up on the roof where few would ever see it.

Speaking of the famous Hunchback of Notre Dame - there are actually 10 bells in the cathedral, not just one, and they all have names: Emmanuel (which rang announcing the Allied Liberation on the 24th of August, 1944), Marie, Gabriel, Anne Genevieve, Denis, Marcel, Etienne, Benoit-Joseph, Maurice and Jean-Marie.

So, who do you think of when you see Notre Dame de Paris?  The famous bell-ringer, Quaismodo, the hunchback?  Or the Immortal Highlander McCloud whose barge was tethered to the river below?  Hmmmm....

Statues of the apostles, their copper surfaces green from the elements,
grace the juncture of nave and transept
When I first saw Notre Dame cathedral, the surface of the stone was black from centuries of dust, grime, and soot from thousands of coal and wood fires.  The next time I saw Paris, they were in the middle of cleaning it - using a very simple system of running water over the facade.  The trickle of water was deemed the safest way to clean it, and it worked.  It now looks as if it was new.

There is a wonderful organ inside the cathedral with 7,374 pipes.  It was originally built in the 18th century and restored in the 1990s in a two-year project that fully computerized the organ.  It is a truly magnificent and unique instrument.

I love this cathedral and the stories of the Old and New Testaments which grace its facade and interior.  Now cleaned from centuries of pollution, the stained glass shimmers again with color and light.

Many of the windows of Notre Dame were shattered during World War II.
These were remade after the war in a simple, geometrical pattern (above).
The original windows showed scenes from the Bible (see the top middle frame of the window).
Notre Dame was one of the first buildings in the world to use that new-fangled architectural contraption known as a flying buttress, or arched support, for the walls on the exterier.

Tourists throng through her on weekdays, but services are still held regularly in the centuries old building
The cathedral was begun in 1160, but there was evidently an older church on the site which was razed first to make room for the new house of worship.  The Bishop of Paris, Maurice de Sully, wanted a new church in the Gothic style that was all the rage back then.

Many architects worked on the cathedral, which wasn't finished until the mid-1240s (and, as people kept adding on to it, and fiddling with it, not considered truly finished until 1345).  I read somewhere that originally the exterior statues were painted with vivid colors, but the paint has long since worn off.  

There are crypts underneath the cathedral which show historical ruins that date back to the earliest settlement of Paris to the modern day.  There is even evidence of under-floor heating installed by the Romans for a Gallo-Roman temple that existed on the site a thousand years before the cathedral was built.

Angelica and Glenn in front of the Cathedral
Built on the Île de la Cité, in the heart of Paris, the cathedral has more than 14 million visitors a year.

This concludes our mini-series on France with Angie and Glenn.  Thanks so much for sharing your Anniversary trip photos with us, Glenn.  It's been fun!

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