Paris 2006 - Notre Dame

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I stayed an extra day in Paris to have a day for myself after the conference ended (actually, two days, but the previous one was devoted to the trip to Giverny and watching the World Cup final). I spent the day taking a long walking tour of some of the major tourist attractions in the immediate area of my hotel. I started early in the morning by visiting Notre Dame cathedral, the national church of France. In front of the cathedral on the left you can see a small group of people looking down at the Point Zéro medalion, which I'll show and discuss later.

The entrance to the Gothic cathedral. Notre Dame was built over a period of nearly 200 years, beginning in 1163 during the reign of Louis VII and ending in 1345. Henri VI of England was crowned here, as was Mary Stuart as the Queen of France. Many of its treasures were destroyed or plundered during the Revolution at the end of the 18th century. It was also nearly destroyed during the Commune of 1871, but managed to survive. In August of 1944, The Te Deum Mass here celebrated the liberation of Paris, according to some accounts interrupted by sniping from the galleries. This pile of rocks has quite a history!

Statues at the entrance.

The interior of the cathedral, looking towards the stained glass windows at the front.

Another stained glass window at the rear of the cathedral, above the entrance.

A statue of Charlemagne outside the cathedral. The inscription reads "Charlemagne et ses Leudes". "Leude" is a word from the tradition of chivalry meaning "noble companion or guard of the chief". "Ses Leudes" is plural. So the inscription means something like "Charlemagne and his noble companions/guards". A second "leude" is on the other side of the statue, not visible from this angle. The statue was created in 1886 by Louis and Charles Rochet.

Point Zéro, a medallion embedded in the pavement of the parvis in front of the cathedral. (A "parvis" is "the enclosed area or court in front of a building - particularly a building such as a cathedral or church".) All locations in France are geographically measured relative to this point, which is defined to be the exact center of Paris. The inscription, which is unfortunately illegible in this picture, reads "Point zéro des routes de France". I've read that old provincial road signs in France would sometimes announce "Paris-Notre Dame, xxx kilometers".

Looking up at the north tower of the cathedral while waiting in line to climb the stairs up, over, and up to the top of the south tower. This is another favorite picture, with the white stone, shadows, pure blue sky, and the interesting perspective.

The climb up the incredibly narrow spiral staircases of stone inside Notre Dame is straight out of Victor Hugo. There are pauses on the journey to the top at two different levels. This picture was taken on the second level, about two thirds of the way up the cathedral. When seen up close these chimera are wonderfully scary. The one on the left is quite whimsical, holding his head in his hands and sticking out his tongue.

More chimera and gargoyles. The gargoyles are the ones sticking straight out. They are medieval rain gutters. When viewed from above as in this picture you can see the channels carved out of the stone for the water.

A view looking down showing part of the structure of the cathedral and the rooftops of Île de la Cité, with the Seine and the right bank in the background. C'est très joli, n'est-ce pas?

The spectacular view west from the very top of the south tower, with the Eiffel tower in the distance. I'm sorry, but this is the only shot of the Eiffel tower you will see here. Some Parisians call it "the giant asparagus", and when it was originally built it was so disliked that Parisians joked that they liked to go to the top, because it was the only place in the city where they didn't have to look at the damn thing. I understand that Parisians have mostly grown to love the tower now, or at least accept it, but I still think it is ugly, especially at night when it is lit up like a way-overdecorated Christmas tree, and they pulse the lights to give everyone within the blast zone a nice headache. Your opinion may differ. You can also see some modern high-rise buildings in the distance. The Paris city planners have never permitted tall buildings in the heart of the city, only in the outskirts and in the suburbs. For this I say "thank God".

The view south from the tower, looking towards my neighborhood in the Latin Quarter. The large dome in the middle is the dome of the Panthéon, with the Sorbonne visible at the right edge of the picture.