As a history nerd who enjoys historical architecture, I watched BBC with sadness last night. The devastating fire at Notre Dame yesterday has broken hearts around the world. I’m amazed at how it’s survived a revolution, two world wars, and now a devastating fire. Wounded but still alive. Notre Dame, you will always be Paris’ pride.
The history behind Notre Dame
The cathedral is considered a great example of French Gothic architecture and it’s an iconic symbol of Paris and of France.
When I visited Paris last year, I absolutely fell in love with the city instantly. I felt blessed to stand before the architectural beauty of France. And just like that by the Seine river, you will find the world-famous Notre-Dame Cathedral, its towers reaching up to Heaven from the heart of Paris.
The Notre Dame Cathedral is one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture and a symbol of the nation. It survived wars and desecration during the French Revolution in the 1790s, in 1804 it was the site of the coronation of Napoleon 1 as Emperor of France and today severely damaged by the fire. It is the most visited monument in Paris with about 21 million visitors yearly and it is more than just a cathedral to the French.
Although restorations and alterations have been made since the build, the cathedral still has a similar appearance to when it was first completed in 1345. The pointed spires and flying buttresses on the outside of the cathedral are common to many churches built in the Gothic architectural style, but what I think sets Notre-Dame apart, and really any church for that matter, are the smaller details – the statues, carvings, and sculptures that tell the church’s stories.
The most defining characteristics on the front of Notre-Dame Cathedral are the West Rose Window (the circular window at which the Virgin Mary stands with an angel on each side), the Gallery of Kings (28 statues depicting the Kings of Israel and Judah), and the three asymmetrical portals that mark the entrance to the cathedral.
Notre-Dame Cathedral is also well-known for its famous architectural gargoyles. These statues actually do serve a purpose other than to befriend Quasimodo.
While practically everyone who visits Paris is told to reserve a spot on their itinerary for Notre-Dame Cathedral, I’m going to take it a step further and recommend, if at all possible, to try and make your visit coincide with one of the church’s services. Watching the traditions within and hearing the glorious singing of the choir will be an experience you won’t soon forget.
The 13th century stained glass window, statue and murals are one of the many elegantly designed spaces in Notre Dame Cathedral. Scroll below to see the photo’s from my archive French heritage. As I write this, the Paris firefighters had finished the race to save the cathedral from the ongoing fire.
Here’s to my beautiful Paris, France.