"yakacik's new Paris Page" Paris by yakacik
Paris Travel Guide: 22,145 reviews and 53,809 photos
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"The bells, the bells" cried Victor Hugo's famous literary creation, The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Young visitors to this magnificent example of Gothic architecture may be disappointed to discover that Quasimodo is not in residence, but the rest of us will simply marvel at its stunning façade and experience a real sense of religious wonder within its ancient walls.
The present-day cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris was built on the site of earlier churches and places of worship. Work on the cathedral began in 1163 and took a mind-boggling 200 years to complete. Even before completion, it was the venue for auspicious events such as state funerals and thanksgiving ceremonies. The ensuing years saw the building ravaged by the Revolution, with the good citizens of Paris intent on destroying anything that smacked of royalty. By the end of this bitter period in French history, Notre Dame was a shadow of its former self, having been reduced to the status of a wine store.
It wasn't until 1841 that Victor Hugo and a band of like-minded individuals managed to instigate a restoration programme. Heading up the project was Gothic revivalist Eugene Viollet-le-Duc. It took 23 years and involved a virtual top-to-toe refurbishment, replacing stained-glass windows with painstakingly recreated copies and using the statues of other Gothic cathedrals as the templates for replacements for ones destroyed during the Revolution.
Notre Dame Today
Visitors cannot fail to be impressed by the breathtaking frontage of Notre Dame. Pause for a moment or two on the Place du Parvis to gaze at its majestic twin towers pointing their way heavenwards. Take note of the various asymmetrical elements of the structure - a key component of the Gothic style. For example, the three main doors are each a slightly different shape. Appreciate the miracle that is the Rose Window, situated above the doorways and a true testament to the genius and tenacity of the stonemasons who created it over 750 years ago. Measuring 10 metres across, it depicts the Virgin and Child in rich primary hues. Enjoy the spectacle of those fierce-looking gargoyles which - as depicted in the Disney cartoon version of the Hunchback tale - look as if they might spring to life.
Anyone suffering from claustrophobia or vertigo would be advised to avoid climbing the Tours de Notre Dame (Notre Dame Tower). The otherwise fit and phobia-free will find a marvelous view of Paris before them. On ground level, there is much to admire within the vast interior of the cathedral. Supported by flying buttresses, the vault of the chancel appears to soar almost weightlessly, while the exquisite stained-glass windows distribute rays of coloured light into the somber shadows below. There are no fewer than 37 side chapels within the building, each telling its own unique tale of days gone by. Make a note in your diary to visit on a Sunday at 5.45pm when the organ master of Notre Dame fills the cathedral with classical music from the majestic 113-stop instrument. Some of the organ's pipes date back to the medieval era, but the majority were installed in the 17-1800s.
Notre Dame is open daily to the public from approximately 8am to 6.45pm (later at the weekends). On Saturdays it is closed around lunchtime for maintenance work. Guided tours in English are conducted on Wednesdays and Thursdays at noon, and on a daily basis in the summer months. Opening times are subject to change and were correct at the time of writing this article.
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