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Paris Notre Dame Cathedral
There are cathedrals and there are cathedrals.
Some are cathedrals of dance!
Before our visit to Notre Dame Cathedral, we had a date at Barrio Latino.
…with it’s extraordinary interior decorated like a Spanish bordello -not that I have been in one.
Having said that I realise it is not true. An interesting place in Seville where I stayed by accident (“Oh sure!” you say!) when all the hotels were full – turned out to be a bordello - but that is another story!
Having danced all night, should one confess?
…and is it a sin to dance all night – or a sin not to?
At any rate a visit to Notre Dame Cathedral is a must, whether to confess, climb as if to heaven, join the crowds inside examining its features, light your candles, pray, listen to a concert or to participate in the normal activities of a working church.
When you go there, make note of the “0 kilometer” stone outside in the square. It is the point from which all mileages in France are measured, so if you visit, you can always then say that at least once in your life you started from zero!
No matter what language you speak, you cannot help overhearing tour group explanations of the detail of the Saints surrounding the entrance
... and the statues above.
But like most major tourism attractions, the back of Notre Dame Cathedral is as interesting as the front – and usually much less crowded!
In the park behind Notre Dame, a man sat reading his paper.
I wonder if he lives nearby and comes here often – perhaps a neighbour of the lady watching her children play.
Has he seen it all and it is now nothing to wonder at, just a calming backdrop to everyday life?
Do the locals see the detail of the roof spires?
...or the equally highly decorated, flying buttresses overlooked by more saints - and more gargoyles on dual guard and water spout duty.
Or do they just know it it as a holy place, for once inside there can be no doubt of that.
Despite the commercialism, there is a depth of feeling about this working church that overcomes that of it being one of the world’s best known and most visited tourist attractions.
Notre Dame Paris was one of the first Gothic cathedrals to be built - and one of the first to use Flying Buttresses.
While we just admire their beauty, in fact Flying Buttresses perform a critical function in Gothic architecture. They are designed to hold up the towering high walls that were a
new architectural feature.
Flying Buttresses were added to Notre Dame when stress fractures started to appear in the walls during construction.
Notre Dame reminds me of a cake decorator gone wild with a wedding cake ...
...for there seems to be no surface undecorated.
While it is an interesting place and a must to see, it is a bit too busy for me: busy with people and busy in detail.
Before I climbed the tower, I noticed the simplicity of these doors: a welcome contrast to all the ornate decorations.
Victor Hugo is most remembered for creating The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and while his Quasimodo has passed into legend, we should also give thanks for his genuine interest in the grand old lady herself, here glowing in welcome.
Hugo was critical of the architectural vandalism enacted upon Our Lady in Paris following the Revolution, writing:
Upon the face of this old queen
of the French cathedrals,
beside each wrinkle we find a scar.
His criticism inspired Eugene Emmanuel Violet-le-Duc to restore her to earlier glories - bringing back the stained glass, removing white wash from inside, and treating the outside against industrial pollution.
Our Lady is finer for the work of Violet-le-Duc - and for Victor Hugo’s criticism.
Like all great mothers, Notre Dame Cathedral welcomes us – drawing us to her quiet places and to the peace to found there despite the hundreds of visitors per hour.
I love to visit beautiful churches and cathedrals and absorb their peacefulness, but I think of the world as my cathedral.
In the words of Thomas Carlyle:
The old cathedrals are good,
but the great blue dome that hangs over everything
More Paris pages:
Paris Notre Dame Tower
Paris Eiffel Tower
Paris: Theatre at Large
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