Saturday, 25 February 2012

Notre Dame Cathedral: Neo-Gothic Architecture at its Best

Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris is a must-see in the City of Love. Its neo-gothic structure and dark interiors never fail to mesmerise visitors.

By far, Notre Dame Cathedral is the most beautiful Christian house of worship I've seen in my life.

There's no entrance fee into the cathedral. However if you wish to climb to the towers and say hi to its famous gargoyles, you'd have to pay €8.00 (also covered under the Paris Museum Pass).

The interiors of the 700-year-old cathedral are dark and mysterious, making it the perfect setting for Victor Hugo's classic, The Hunchback of Notre Dame that was written based on this cathedral.

I sat on the pews and imagined Quasimodo swinging across the pillars to rescue the beautiful Esmeralda. If you don't know what I'm talking about, go read The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo. And if reading's not your thing, watch the Disney version :-)

I visited the cathedral twice during my visit to Paris.

First visit was to attend Sunday Mass and then climb to the bell towers. But when I saw the queue to the towers that went up to Timbuktu, I returned on a weekday to find myself third in line :-)

If you don't want to queue forever, visit Notre Dame Cathedral on a weekday.

I attended the 11.30am International Mass which was entirely in French with only the First Reading in English. 

The interiors of the cathedral was so dark I had to strain my eyes to read the song sheets. 

The constant flow of tourist is a distraction to those attending Mass. But cannot be helped; this is what happens when you have to juggle the needs of the parishioners and the interest of the nation's tourism industry.

I waited a long time for the perfect moment to shoot this pic. If I had missed it, I'd have to wait for the next Mass. Btw, check out the stained glass.

Within the grounds of the cathedral there's a park where people sit and chat and bring their kids to play.

I sat on one of the benches in the park and munched on my sandwich :-)

At the back of the cathedral is Pont Arch (Pont means bridge) that connects the mainland to Ile de la Cite (part of the Seine Islands) where the cathedral is located. And on Pont Arch I was surprised to find so many locks:

I presume lovers must have placed the locks there as a sign of their love for each other - just like the love that Quasimodo had for Esmeralda. Now, don't you want to just pick up that book I've been telling you about?

I particularly like this lock:

Tortoise-shaped lock that caught my eye.

You can stand on Pont Arch and watch the river cruise that runs through the Seine:

As I was admiring the scene from Pont Arch, suddenly the heavens opened and the sun came out. So I rushed to the other side of the bridge to snap this shot. The wonders that lighting does for photography!

Here's an interesting bit of info that Rick Steve wrote in his travel guide, France 2010. According to Rick, there's a bronze plaque marked "Point Zero" in the square facing Notre Dame Cathedral. This plaque is 30 yards from the central doorway and when you stand on it, you're standing at the centre of France, the point from which all distances are measured.

Doesn't that make you want to hunt for the plaque the next time you visit Notre Dame Cathedral?

So don't forget to visit this neo-gothic masterpiece when you're in Paris.

The facade of Notre Dame Cathedral is a prelude to what lies inside - lovely gothic architecture, dark interiors and the love story of Quasimodo & Esmeralda. 


JIPP said...

Good thing about this cathedral is they allow you to take photos inside unlike most other cathedrals in Europe (and Australia) and it doesn't make it less popular among tourists. BTW, I didn't go up to the bell because I couldn't stand the line. Reason to come back I guess. :-)

Julie Lim said...

I haven't come across any church that does not allow photography inside. Then how to take wedding shots like that?

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