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Notre Dame, 'Our Lady' of Paris, Gothic grandeur
Notre Dame (Paris, France)
Member Name: logberg
Notre Dame (Paris, France)
Date: 02/10/05, updated on 02/10/05 (697 review reads)
Advantages: Divine history, grand architecture and a calm, reverent place to visit
On previous visits I only saw it from the outside but this year fate called me on a historic day, one remembered in sadness: the day Pope John Paul II died. My sister and I walked around this massive, beautiful interior and we slowly realised the priest was praying sadly, amid holy incense and across the floor a growing ''lake'' of candles with a photograph of the ailing Pope centre-place.
We thought he had died but other visitors quietly advised us that he was in his last hours. That evening he died and the next evening we went back to Notre Dame and took part in his special Mass, attended by the French Prime Minister. The entire area was closed off to traffic, police were everywhere and we were so moved to join many thousands for this really special Catholic farewell to the Pope who had visited for a special service at the Notre Dame 'Our Lady' in May 1980.
Notre Dame de Paris, as it stands, was not the first church on this site but the Gothic church as it is now, has been a visually impressive part of the Paris scene, beside the Seine river, since the first foundation stone was laid in 1163 using plans designed by Maurice de Sully.
Construction took three stages until it was finished in 1250, with huge sponsorship from French kings during this time and from wealthy benefactors through the years.
Some vital statistics will give you and idea of how huge and impressive Notre Dame is: 130m long, 48m wide and 35 m high and the Twin Towers are 69 metres high and you have to walk up 386 stairs to get a magnificent view of Paris. The South Tower houses a 13 ton Emmanuel bell.
Most impressive feature inside has to be the Rose Window - 10 metres of the most fabulous stain-glass windows - what a feat this must have been for its creators and what a photo opportunity for me. It is, however, only one of many beautiful, themed, stain-glass creations which light up this truly ancient, house of prayer and communion.
The cathedral took a battering during the Revolution in the 18th century, with treasures being destroyed and parts of the building plundered but it has recovered and what you see today is just magnificent.
All cathedrals have huge majesty and awe but Notre Dame really does quiet you, forces you to be peaceful, to contemplate the energy and effort craftsmen and women have put in over the centuries.
In 1991 a modern ''general maintenance'' programme commenced so today you may have ugly scaffolding obscuring your view of creatively attractive features, but you have to remind yourself that it is all for the future preservation and maintenance of Notre Dame.
We would have liked to go to a sacred music concerts which we'd been told are held in Notre Dame but time constraints prevented us from doing so. If cathedral choral music interests you, check this out because I think the accoustics would be ''heavenly'' here.
And from the heavens: Notre Dame has a special place in literary history. The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Victor Hugo's Quasimodo, I'm reliably informed that it is not him currently ringing the Emmanuel Bell!
From the exterior, the front of Notre Dame Cathedral is architecturally stunning; two massive white towers and three big, arched doorways welcome you to this historic Paris landmark.
Hundreds and hundreds of people gather outside the front of Notre Dame; each time I've been past it the scene is one of a park, with many people sitting, chatting and of course taking photos out in front. If the queue looks formidable, be patient because what awaits you inside is definitely worthwhile.
As mentioned earlier, I hadn't been inside Notre Dame Cathedral on previous visits and several people chided me and said I was missing out - they were right. Don't put it off, take the Hop on Hop Off bus, the Metro or reglar bus: be sure to set aside an hour or two to meander in and around Notre Dame. It is nearby the Louvre and just over the bridge is the Latin Quarter with it's narrow lanes and fantastic restaurants/cafes and little shops.
During the week Notre Dame 'Our Lady' opening hours are 8am to 12.30 and 2pm to 7pm. On Sunday 8.30am to 12.30pm and 2pm to 7pm. (I cannot remember if I paid or not so I went on a long search in the internet and finally found a mention: I believe the cathedral is free but you do pay a fee for specialist areas of antiques and religious pieces and the tower climb.)
Summary: Notre Dame's ambience is divine, architecturally pleasing and comforting