Visiting Notre-Dame on the day that we landed in Paris was a great way to kick-off our trip to France…and a great place to take refuge from a brief rainstorm. Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris (Our Lady of Paris in French) was every bit as beautiful inside as I had hoped it would be. Notre-Dame is on the eastern half of Île de la Cité, and is a great example of French Gothic architecture. Notre-Dame’s cornerstone was laid in 1163, and construction was completed during 1345, though it was damaged, restored, and updated many times throughout the years. It was one of the first churches built with flying buttresses as supports. It was designated a Monument Historique in 1862. Fun fact: much of the outside of the cathedral, including the gargoyles and chimeras were painted in vivid colors at one point in time, though all of the paint has since worn off.
We got to our hotel in Paris around 10 AM, checked in to our room at Hotel du Cadran, grabbed our backpacks, and ventured out into the city. Our first stop was Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral. It started raining almost immediately when we got out of the metro station, so we went straight into the cathedral without spending any time outside. The inside of the cathedral was beautiful, but I really wanted to go up into the towers. Thanks to the rain shower (which passed quickly) the line for the Notre Dame Towers was fairly short, so we didn’t have to long to wait.
As I understand it, the gargoyles are used as water spouts to direct the flow of water off of the cathedral roof. I assume that everything without a water spout is a chimera. Chimeras are mythological fire-breathing creatures, most often portrayed as lions, though I did not see any lion-esque chimera at Notre Dame.
Being eye-level with the chimeras was amazing, and the views of Paris were spectacular. The 387 step climb to the top of the South tower was well worth it! I was amazed to see that each of the chimeras on the upper levels of the cathedral appeared to be unique. So much thought and artistry went into the design of older buildings. It always amazes me that mankind was able to accomplish so much with such little technology. According to the cathedral’s website, the gargoyles and chimera were installed during the 17th and 19th centuries and were designed by Viollet-le-Duc and Emmanuel Bell.
For reference, I thought I’d include a photograph of the front of the cathedrals so that you can see where the towers are. The South tower is on the right.
Notre Dame Cathedral Towers