Beautiful gypsies and bell tolling hunchbacks are often the most popular images associated with the gorgeous Cathedral of Notre Dame. However, this amazing medieval structure far precedes Victor Hugo’s classic 19th century romantic novel.
Initial construction of the cathedral began in 1163, it erection proposed in order to accommodate the cities rapidly expanding population. Taking over 180 years to finish, Notre Dame was finally completed in 1345, a stunning example of medieval High Gothic architecture.
Considered the center of France, the Notre Dame is as beautiful as it is immense. Gorgeous colonettes, pinnacles and exquisite flying buttresses adorn the east end, while the famous West entrance contains the beautifully elaborate carvings of the Last Judgment. Above the West front emerges the imposing North and South Towers, the latter of which contains the famous 13 ton Emmanuel Bell, which is still in use today.
The towers are open to the public, permitting visitors to climb the spiraling 387 steps to the top, providing a breathtaking view of Paris, the cathedral’s steeple, the Emmanuel bell and the numerous gargoyles whose menacing faces continue to guard the walls of Notre Dame.
One of the cathedrals most prominent features however are the remarkably gorgeous Rose Windows which grace both the North and South sides of Notre Dame. A gorgeous display of light and color, the South Rose Window is an intricate depiction of the Old Testament, while the North Rose window portrays the New Testament.
Boasting beautifully carved 14th century panels and one of the largest organs in the world, the cathedral can hold up to 6,000 parishioners within the beautiful columns of its interior.
Now, beneath the cathedrals parvis is the Archeological Crypt, the largest of its kind and housing artifacts and relics from some of the foundations original religious structures, the earliest of them being the Temple of Jupiter, dating back to the regions days of Roman occupation.
In addition, the Crypt also contains remnants and information from some of the original buildings that once occupied the area around Notre Dame. Brass strips are now embedded into the floor of the cathedrals plaza, each marking the original streets and structures that once stood there.
Visitors are welcome to purchase guidebooks for a more in-depth look at this stunning cathedral as well as rent personal audio guides for a solo tour. Or if you prefer a social setting feel free to join one of the Churches guided hour long tours, exploring everything from Notre Dames art to its history
The Cathedral is free to enter and is open daily, while the towers are open to the public in the summer months. Early arrival is recommended as the cathedral admits only 20 visitors at a time. And while the Notre Dame Museum and Archeological Crypt charge a minimal entrance fee, it exhibition and precious contents are well worth the visit.
Well over 800 years old, Notre Dame has witnessed everything from the reverent prayers of Crusaders and the crowning of emperor Napoleon of France, to the development of Polyphonic music. While 19th century artists such as Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres and Victor Hugo immortalized in their work, the Gothic beauty and stunning architecture of this gorgeous historic site.
With 13 million people visiting Notre Dame every year, this breathtaking historic destination is a must see stop should you find yourself in the beautiful city of Paris. Located in one of the oldest districts in the city, with the gorgeous Seine River just beyond, a trip is well worth the chance to marvel at the gorgeous colored glass and tolling bells of Notre Dame.
History of Notre-Dame de Paris. (1999). In Discover France. Retrieved July 6, 2010, from: http://www.discoverfrance.net/France/Cathedrals/Paris/Notre-Dame.shtml
Notre Dame. (2009.) In Paris Pages. Retrieved July 10, 2010, from: http://www.paris.org/Monuments/NDame/
Cathedral for Art and History. (2010). In Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris. Retrieved July 14, 2010, from: http://www.notredamedeparis.fr/-English-