Monday, January 07, 2013

Reflecting in Paris

This is a reflection of one of the numerous saints at one of those chapels inside the Notre Dame de Paris. As an icon of French gothic architecture, the cathedral is filled with beautiful stained glass windows such as this to let natural light in and allow marvelers to bask on the beauty of this church constructed sometime in the middle of 1100's.

I guess tourists are starting to realize that there is more to Paris than the Eiffel Tower, that according to the Paris Tourist Office in 2012, Notre Dame saw more visitors than the iconic tower!
And it is rightly so.
Apart from the fact that it is indeed beautiful inside and out, let me describe this church from the point of view of an Asian (a Filipino, to be exact) who's used to Spanish-influenced, Agustinian Baroque churches. Notre Dame's facade, with its three portals -- Portal of the Virgin, Portal of the Last Judgment, and Portal of St. Anne -- is teemed with intricate carvings of Biblical symbols and personalities. Aside from the gargoyles and chimeras which are common among other gothic structures, the other walls of the Notre Dame are supported by flying buttresses, which I learned from various tours of gothic churches in Europe is meant to support the thin, high walls of the church and enable them to have stained glass windows.

A visit to this structure will have a different meaning by knowing just a bit of its history. I've learned from Sandeman's free walking tours that the church was once in a great state of disrepair as the government didn't have the money to have it fixed. The solution then was to have it demolished, but thanks to the power of Victor Hugo's "The Hunchback of Notre Dame," the demolition didn't push through. Up to this time, we are still able to bask on the beauty of this magnificent structure.

And so when in Paris, don't just go out to shoppe at Champs-Elysees or confine yourselves within the views of the Eiffel Tower. Have some time to reflect and fill your soul while feasting your eyes in this architectural gem.

Adorning the facade of the Notre Dame cathedral is the bas relief of headless Saint Dennis, patron saint of Paris, whose martyrdom served as basis for the name of Montmartre. "Mountain of the martyr".
There you have it, ladies and gentlemen, the magnificent facade of Notre Dame de Paris!

Tip sheet:

- Notre Dame de Paris can be accessed via Metro Line 4 Saint-Michel or Cite; Line 1 or 11 at Hotel de Ville station, Line 10 at Maubert-Mutualite or Cluny-La Sorbonne stations; or Lines 7, 11, or 14 at Chatelet station. But based from experience, I think the easiest is at Saint-Michel as the cathedral is already visible from Place Saint-Michel.

- Entrance to the cathedral is free of charge as long as it's open. The Notre Dame is open everyday from 8am to 6:45pm, and until 7:15pm on Saturdays and Sundays.

- Visitors can climb the 387 steps of the south bell tower, for a fee, without elevators.

- There are free tours by volunteers during summer months (July-August).