Notre Dame

France, Paris

My trip to Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris

Summer, 2012

Notre Dame Street Sign

Notre Dame Street Sign

I was especially excited to see Notre Dame in Paris. I’m not entirely sure why the idea of seeing this particular landmark filled me with so much excitement. Perhaps it was the fact that The Hunchback of Notre Dame was the first movie I had ever seen in theatres as a toddler, and the image of the imposing church looming over the city has stuck in my mind forever.

Notre Dame against the blue Parisian sky

Notre Dame against the blue Parisian sky

Victor Hugo, the author of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, went into such visual detail about the Cathedral in his novel that it inspired the complete restoration of the building. People were so captivated with how he described its beauty that they demanded the structure be preserved. Without the influence of literature, the building would be in shambles today.

I had seen Notre Dame a day or so before, during my boat trip on La Seine,

Taken from google: Notre Dame view from La Seine

Taken from google: Notre Dame view from La Seine. Sometimes I forget that the Cathedral is more than just those two front towers.

but I was still excited to be close up and personal with this beautiful and famous star of Paris.

We had been told that, since this was an active Cathedral, we would not be permitted to enter unless we were dressed conservatively. From what I could see, however, most tourists dressed for the summer heat were getting in just fine. Oh well, better safe than sorry, I suppose. And I prefer to feel like I’m being respectful.

The line of tourists wound back and forth in the courtyard in front of the majestic cathedral. The long line was a bit daunting, but it went fast, and gave us a few moments to stop for pictures.

The birds surrounding Notre Dame had learned to rely on the flood of tourists for some afternoon meals, and people were feeding them bread crumbs straight out of their hands!

Feeding the birds in front of Notre Dame

Feeding the birds in front of Notre Dame

This is one of my all-time favorite photos.

The building itself was regal, with a simple color palate that emphasized its age.

Notre Dame

Notre Dame

Something that I’ve found a lot of people don’t know, is that most ancient buildings like this used to be brightly painted. Those stately white Greek/Roman columns that we are familiar with were actually originally painted in vibrant colors. This is a big reason why America’s capitol building is called “The White House.” It was built to look white whereas the Greek architecture it mimics were built to be colorful.

Some monuments in France, including (I believe) Notre Dame have certain days where they project colors onto the building to show what it looked like in its original glory. We didn’t see this, but were shown pictures of the resplendent display. Even though I didn’t see it, I would recomend you look into it.

You could stare at the front doors of the Cathedral for hours and still find new details and stories in the intricate carvings

Font doors of Notre Dame

Font doors of Notre Dame

Our Parisian tour guide gave us a lengthy description on as much of the sculpturework as he could in a limited amount of time. I enjoyed all of the fun facts, and some still stick in my mind forever.

Notre Dame front entrance arch: right side

Notre Dame front entrance arch: right side

Notre Dame Front entrance: Left side

Notre Dame Front entrance arch: Left side

For instance, the right side (from the perspective of standing in the church) is always considered holy, and the left side is considered evil. If you are ever at a church as old as this one, pay attention to the sides on which the angels are. In these pictures, you can see that sleeping angels are on the right side, whereas scenes of demons torturing sinners are on the left. In fact, the latin word for left, “sinistra,” is where English gets the word “sinister.”

Eventually, we made it inside the cavernous cathedral. The immediate reverent quiet hit us as soon as we stepped past the doorway.

Cathedral Candles

Cathedral Candles

Prayer candles were lit throughout various locations, and you could pay a Euro or two to light one.

Prayer candles in Notre Dame

Prayer candles in Notre Dame

We were lucky enough to see the cathedral while monks were going about their routines. They sang in haunting melodies, which echoed throughout the cavernous cathedral so that you couldn’t tell which direction the music was coming from.

Monks singing in Notre Dame

Monks singing in Notre Dame

The stained glass windows were of course gorgeous.

Stained glass windows of Notre Dame

Stained glass windows of Notre Dame

Notre Dame Stained Glass Window

Notre Dame “South Rose” Stained Glass Window

I’m so lucky that I got to see the Notre Dame. It’s one of the first images that comes to mind when one thinks of France, and now I get to say that I saw it in person. Another item crossed off my bucket list!

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