Cathédrale de Notre Dame is an iconic landmark of Paris. This Gothic masterpiece is world-famous for its size, ancient past and fine architecture. It is located on the Ile de la Cité, in the historic centre of Paris. The Île de la Cité is one of two natural islands on River Seine. It is a short walk from the Palais de Justice and Sainte Chapelle.
During repair work on 15 April 2019, a huge fire broke out and destroyed the spire, clock and central frame of the twelfth century Gothic landmark. Reconstruction work is in full swing and an army of craftsmen gallop towards a deadline to reopen in time for the 2024 Paris Olympics. The fire generated a flood of contributions, with 340,000 donors in 150 countries raising €844 million in donations, according to the public body overseeing the restoration.
Notre Dame Cathedral’s three iconic thirteenth-century stained glass windows, called the rosettes, are intact after the fire. The Crown of Thorns, Tunic of Saint Louis and several major works of art are in a safe place. The Great Organ, one of the world’s most famous musical instruments, was undamaged.
The twin bell towers also remain unharmed. The cathedral’s spire had collapsed during the blaze, as did the wooden latticework of the roof.
Inside the Cathedral
There was a sprinkle of rain when we visited Cathédrale de Notre Dame. We did not have to wait in long queues to enter. Within the cathedral you can see artwork, furniture and other valuable items that originate from Neo-Gothic designs. The stained glass windows are beautiful. Flash photography is prohibited, so I had to stick to wide apertures on my camera lens.
Going Up the Cathedral Tower
The cathedral is open daily, from 8:00 am to 6:45 pm. There is no entry fee. But you have to pay to go up the Cathedral Tower. We did not climb the tower because we would have had to tackle 387 steps to the top. You have to be physically very fit. The Notre-Dame tower tour is a trip through upper levels of the western facade which dates back to the thirteenth century. Visitors can take a look at the intriguing gargoyles and there is a chance to see one of the church bells.
It is 2.1 km from the cathedral to the famous Orsay Museum. We took a walk along the banks of River Seine on a sunny May day. We managed to reach the museum in about 30 minutes, after asking for directions at some places. Along the way, we could see many bridges spanning the river. Among of them was Pont des Arts, one of Paris’ main bridges. It had thousands of locks symbolically fastened to it by love-struck Parisians. Later authorities dismantled the locks due to safety considerations.
Victor Hugo’s Novel
The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, Victor Hugo’s famous novel, was published in 1831. The hunchback in the novel is Quasimodo who was a bell-ringer at the cathedral. The name Notre Dame means Our Lady in French. There are numerous restaurants and hotels around the cathedral. Incidentally, there are Notre Dame Cathedrals in Strasbourg, Lausanne and Saigon too.
The Hollywood movie Hunchback of Notre Dame is a film version of Victor Hugo’s novel. The movie came out in 1956. Anthony Quinn portrayed the hunchback Quasimodo. Gina Lollobrigida played the role of Esmeralda.
Construction of the cathedral began in the twelfth century. Work finally came to an end 200 long years later. Today it is one of the oldest and best known cathedrals in the world.
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