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Thursday, July 12, 2012

My Notre Dame View of Paris (Part One)

  Over the course of the next week, I'd like to offer a tour of Notre Dame Cathedral.  While Paris has an incredible number of cathedrals, churches, and chapels, Notre Dame is at the geographical center (in the open square there is a star pinpointing the center of Paris, though I did not find it), the historical center, and the cultural heart of Paris.  Situated on Ile de la Cite, the largest island in Paris on the Seine, it is a part of the original city proper.
  In this post, I'd like to share the extraordinary western view as seen from the upper level of the cathedral, the Gallery of Chimeras, which is at the midway point of the cathedral, and the base of the two towers.  The gallery, with its statues, was part of the restoration from the mid-1800s, as designed by Eugene Viollet-Le-Duc.
  To begin, you can see the left branch of the Seine flowing northwest between the Ile de la Cite and the Left Bank.  The bridge in the center of the photograph is the Pont Saint-Michel.  Just to the left of it, if you click on the photo and look closely, you'll see blue awnings at the corner of the buildings just under the trees.  This is the souvenir shop where Jennifer made friends with Roger, who runs the register.
  Of course you can see the Eiffel Tower, as well as a corner tower of the Prefecture of Police at center right.  The brooding winged figure in the photo is a chimera, not a gargoyle.  Thought they are usually called gargoyles, this name should only be applied to figures which are the termination point for water spouts.
  In this broader shot, you can see the tower of Saint-Severin (on the left, as if the bird is about to bite off the tip of it), the tops of the Saint-Sulpice towers (sticking out of the bent chimera's back), the golden-domed Les Invalides (site of Napolean's tomb), Saint-Germain-des-Pres tower immediately next to it, the Eiffel Tower, and off to the right, the skyline of La Defense, which is the modern business district.
  In the center of the photo you can see the Petit Pont.  This odd little bridge is only one hundred and sixty years old.  However, a bridge has been on the spot since Roman times, but 13 times the bridge had been destroyed by floods, due to the narrowing of the river at this point.  In one instance, back in the 1700's, a woman looking for her drowned child's body, accidentally set a hay barge on fire directly beneath the bridge, burning it down.
  In this shot of the Ile de la Cite, you can see the spire of Saint-Chappelle, which is surrounded by the Palace of Justice.  You can barely see the Conciergerie, famous site of Marie Antoinette's prison cell next to the dome of the Greffe du Tribunal de Paris, which is a grand way of saying the Paris Clerk of Commerce Courts.  This dome is off-set on top of the building so that the Boulevard de Sebastopol has a visual focus at its termination point.  This is very important in Paris street planning.  There should be prominent landmark views at the end of each major thoroughfare.  Oddly, the Boulevard was rerouted to one-way traffic going the opposite direction, so that now no driver can appreciate this view.
  Beyond the immediate buildings on the island, you can just make out the Louvre to the right of Saint-Chappelle.  At far right you can see Saint-Eustache Eglise.  L'Hotel Dieu, a hospital, is in the foreground.
  Finally, completing the view, you can see Le Basilica du Sacre Coeur atop Montmartre, behind that rascal Le Stryge.  On the right you can see the magnificent Saint-Jacques Tower, which is all that remains of the 16th century Church of Saint-Jacques-de-la-Boucherie (which is the unlikely name St. James of the Butchery) which was destroyed after the French Revolution.  I will be posting pictures of it later this year.  A masterpiece of art of which few people are aware.
  If we look at Le Stryge's eye, then shift your own eye an inch to the left, you'll see the arches of the Theatre de Chatelet, which faces Place du Chatelet at the Pont au Change.  It was here that Jules Verne's Around the World in Eighty Days played for 2195 performances, the first of which was in 1876, and only closed in May of 1940 due to the Nazi Occupation.  Though not consecutively, it ran a total of 64 years.

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