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Notre-Dame de Paris
Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrIn the middle of the “City of Lights”, on its own island on the Seine, lays one of the most famous cathedrals in the world, and a paragon of Gothic architecture. Made famous by numerous novels, among which the most known is probably Victor Hugo's Notre-Dame de Paris, the cathedral has a rare power among the structures: to transport its observer back in time upon the first glimpse, to inspire one's imagination to recreate the scenery of the Middle age Parisian life, and also the universe of Quasimodo, Cosette, and d'Artagnan.
HistoryLegend has it that Maurice de Sully , the Bishop of Paris in the second half of the 12th century, had a dream of a glorious new cathedral and drew the blueprints right on the grounds where the Notre Dame is today. In truth, he had the former Paris cathedral, Saint-Étienne, demolished because he thought it unworthy of the role of the "Parisian church of the Kings of Europe".
Construction began in 1163 and was not completely finished until 1345. The choir construction took 14 years, and the high altar was finished in 1182. Maurice de Sully oversaw the construction and dedicated his whole attention and wealth to the cathedral, and in 1208 it was almost complete. The final wall was already cast, but it took almost 40 years to be finished. Construction was slow because many architects worked on the project, and each of them brought changes in design, the most significant being the remodeling of the transepts in the Rayonnant style.
In 1548, during the events of the Saint Bartholomew's Day Massacre , certain pieces of the cathedral have been destroyed by the revolting Huguenots, who considered them idolatrous. One century later, during the reign of Louis XIV, the Notre Dame suffered some modifications in the crown's effort to modernize churches according to European fashion.
During the French Revolution, the cathedral became a food warehouse while reclaimed by the Cult of Reason, and the Cult of Supreme Being. In 1793, several facade statues were beheaded, and the spire was destroyed along with many valuable items inside. The statue heads were been recovered in 1977 and exposed at the Musée de Cluny .
In 1845, the cathedral underwent a restoration, following a program which is believed to have been initiated due to Victor Hugo's novel, which drew attention over the condition of the Notre Dame. The restoration took five years to complete, including the famous chimeras, and the rebuilding of the spire.
During World War II, minor damage was caused to the stained glass windows which have been remade with non-religious designs.
In 1991, another major restoration program began, which is still ongoing today due to the delicacy of the sculptures' restoration process. In 1992, an organ modernization was complete, making it unique in France, being fully computerized under three networks.
ArchitectureNotre Dame's world-renown architecture has no need for any introduction. A masterpiece of the Gothic style, it is easily recognizable by its facade's intricacy and famous gargoyles, which have a more important role than that of simple decoration. Notre Dame's walls were built higher than originally planned, and this required extra stability as they were starting to present fissures and were pushing outward. To counter this, the architects built several additions, among which the flying buttress - the external side arches, and the different gargoyles, intended as column supports. Though initially painted, they now share the same stone gray tone. The cathedral's organ counts 7,374 pipes, roughly 900 of which are historical pieces. The head organist of Notre Dame is one of the most prestigious posts in France.
VisitingNotre-Dame is free to visit, but to go up to the bell towers and to visit the crypts, there are fees. The cathedral is open daily from 7:45 AM to 6:45 PM.
The towers are accessible through a climb of 387 steps, during which the bells and gargoyles can be admired from up close while the top offers a breathtaking view of Paris City.
How to Get ThereNotre Dame is considered the “kilometer zero” of Paris. The closest metro stations are Cite, which is right on the island, and Saint-Michel Notre Dame (also RER station), both in walking distance of the cathedral.
Other AttractionsLocated right in the center of Paris, Notre Dame has a lot of attractions in its vicinity. The Pantheon and the Luxembourg Gardens are merely two metro stations to the south. The Royal Palace, and The Louvre are within walking distance towards northeast - you can reach them by strolling along the Seine, which is a pleasure in itself, to admire the variety of docked boats, some of which also serve as dwellings for their traveling owners. If you feel like taking a longer walk, continue in the same direction after you pass the Louvre will take you to the Eiffel Tower, while taking a right up north will get you to the Opera House, which although eclipsed by the other Paris landmarks, is a must-see architectural jewel.
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Author: aelumag. Last updated: Jun 10, 2015