Notre-Dame Cathedral

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  • Alchemy at Notre-Dame

    On the west portal of the Cathedral, there is a scultupure of a woman whose head is touching the clouds. She holds a ladder between her legs and two books - one opened, the other closed - in her right hand. She stands for alchemy, a theme rather commonly expressed among Notre-Dame's sculptures. There is even an alchemist as an old man made of stone standing near the gargoyles and chimeras of the balcony between the two towers.

The place

Widely considered one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture and among the largest and most well-known churches in the world ever built, Notre Dame is the cathedral of the Catholic Archdiocese of Paris ; that is, it is the church that contains the cathedra (official chair) of the Archbishop of Paris, currently André Vingt-Trois.

The cathedral treasury is notable for its reliquary, which houses the purported crown of thorns, a fragment of the True Cross and one of the Holy Nails – all instruments of the Passion and a few of the most important first-class relics.

Notre Dame de Paris is often reputed to be one of the most prominent examples of Gothic architecture in both France and in Europe as a whole, and the naturalism of its sculptures and stained glass are in contrast with earlier Romanesque architecture. The first period of construction from 1163 into 1240s coincided with the musical experiments of the Notre Dame school.

The cathedral suffered desecration during the radical phase of the French Revolution in the 1790s, when much of its religious imagery was damaged or destroyed. An extensive restoration supervised by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc removed remaining decoration, returning the cathedral to an 'original' gothic state.

Many small statues were placed around the outside. These were crafted individually and served as supports for columns and water spouts. Among these are the famous gargoyles and chimeras (the former of which is designed to run off rain water). These were originally colored, as was most of the exterior. The paint has worn off, but the grey stone was once covered with vivid colors. The cathedral was essentially complete by 1345. The cathedral has a narrow climb of 387 steps at the top of several spiral staircases; along the climb it is possible to view its most famous bell and its gargoyles in close quarters, as well as having a spectacular view across Paris when reaching the top.

Source : Wikipedia contributors, "Notre Dame de Paris"

More info
  • How to visit - Notre-Dame is open everyday from 8am to 6.45pm (7.15pm on saturday and sunday). Entrance is free but you'll have to pay to visit the towers (be prepared for a climb, as there are a significant number of steps, but you'll get spectacular views of Paris and of the Cathedral's gargoyles) and often wait a while because of the limited number of simultaneous visitors allowed. Visits to the towers occur between 10am and 5.30pm.
  • Kilometer zero of French national highways - The point from which all french road distances are calculated is located on the Parvis de Notre-Dame, a few dozen meters from the Cathedral's entrance. It is also the official center of Paris.
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