Thursday, June 22, 2017

Notre Dame Cathedral Amazes on Many Levels

The great Cathedrale Notre-Dame du Paris has so many design features on its exterior that many satisfying hours could be spent studying those without ever going inside the sacred church.

Sitting near the Seine River, Notre Dame is "insanely" huge, intricate and Gothic.

It is considered one of the first and finest examples of French Gothic architecture.
The church's front facade is a bit of a facade, in the sense of how narrow it looks from this perspective, belying just how big a building it is.
It would take centuries to build. Ground was broken in 1163. It would not be completed until 1345.

That's 182 years!  More details and other additions would go on for decades and decades after 1345.

Some sources say it took 300 years for Notre Dame to be finished.
The Sunday afternoon of our visit the line to get in Notre Dame was very long. I did not think we would go inside.

But the queue was moving at a good pace, so we opted in- and I'm so glad we did.

What an experience and education this would be!

Oh, and there's no admission charge to get in, which has to be the best deal in Paris!

The detail in and all around the three large arched entries is unbelievable.
The arches have layer upon layer of design, of faces, of people, of sculpture work of varying sizes.
The figures are likenesses of priests, bishops, popes, kings and other religious and political leaders.  And there are no duplicates, from what I understand.
The sizes vary, as do the expressions and actions of each figure.
Fantastic images!  More on Notre Dame's unique qualities here. 

One figure is holding his head. This would be St. Denis.

He was the first bishop of Paris, back in the 12th century.  Denis' success at converting people to Catholicism did not please the Romans who ruled France at the time.

He was tried, convicted and executed by having his head cut off.

St. Denis is honored with several statues around Paris.
Apparently, the Notre Dame designers figured they did not have enough figures on the front of the cathedral, so they added more on the roof.
These guys perform quite a balancing act up there.

Maybe this one intentionally looks like he's trying not to fall of the roof!

On the sides of Notre Dame can be seen dozens of gargoyles.

The serve multiple purposes. One, to ward off evil spirits such as the devil.  Another, is that rain water drains through their mouths. Now that's a creative gutter system!
They are not the most friendly looking creatures.
I learned from this site that the gargoyles were not put on their high perches until the 1840s.
They may scare off evil spirits, but pigeons are a different story.

Inside Notre Dame is beautiful and busy.
Mass at 4:30. We were surprised that soon after entering, after only about 15-20 minutes in line, to see Mass preparations underway.

Notre Dame is hardly just a museum.  It is an open, active church with regular services like any other church.

So with people walking around the inside's perimeter to see the historical and artistic displays, priests conducted Mass- business as usual- you have to appreciate that!

Amazing stained glass- as you might expect at such a mecca of design and excellence.

The stained glass is gorgeous and elaborate, a nice complement to the exterior features.
Visitors, for a few euros, can light candles, kneel and pray.
They can also walk along the church's side areas to see an array of paintings and murals depicting France's rich Catholic history.
There are sculptures too, depicting important events.
Crypts are here too, for long ago bishops and other religious leaders.
This crypt is jeweled, even bedazzled- just kidding!

The history of Notre Dame's construction can be studied by reading this timeline of panels.
There are so many architectural firsts and distinctions, and to have Notre Dame today in such great condition is also amazing.
Notre Dame Cathedral put the Gothic in Gothic.

Visiting here, saying a few prayers, seeing a Mass take place- what a special day this was.

I continue to count my blessings to have been able to see this special place in person with Alesia!

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