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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

My Paris View of Notre Dame (Part Five)

  Having taken an exterior look at the facade and towers of Notre Dame Cathedral, it is time to step inside.  Remove your hat, keep your voice low, and please remember that while this is a world famous tourist site, it is also a place of worship.  (And no flash photography, if you please.)
  Unlike Sacre Coeur Basilica, Notre Dame Cathedral allows visitors to take photographs while viewing the interior.  So I am able to add these pictures to our tour, and I hope you enjoy them.
  The first view here is looking back from the chancel over the nave.  The congregation sits in the nave, and so they majority of the faithful do not see this view during a service.  The height of these thin walls is the reason Notre Dame is one of the first buildings in the world to use flying buttresses.  Stress fractures began to appear as the walls were built ever higher.  The exterior supports were added and this improvisation seems to have done the trick.  The walls have stood for over eight hundred years.

  Though made of stone, these walls have a delicate appearance, honeycombed with such graceful arches and bursting with sunlight.
  The nave itself is not very big, but this overhead space made it feel like you could have seated the whole of Paris within it.
  Construction began on the cathedral in 1163.  It would not be completed until 1345.  I think anyone who has been through a construction project knows how these things can drag out.  During this construction period, in 1185, the call for the Third Crusade was made from here.
  Here we are looking from the ambulatory, which circles around the apse, into the apse and chancel, from which the service is conducted.  It was here that Napoleon famously snatched the crown away from Pope Pius the VII and crowned himself Emperor during his 1804 coronation.  Here also, Mary Queen of Scots was married to Francis, the Dauphin in 1558.  Actually, quite a few English and French Royals were wed here.

  Here we can see left side of the transept, and the pipes for the organ, some of which were installed in the 18th century.  This stained-glass window is the lesser known of Notre Dames' famous Rose windows.

  This odd little scene can be found in a chapel off the southeast side of the ambulatory.  I did not see any sign that would explain who this was or what was happening, and so I would love to hear from any reader who might know the story here.  As a protestant, growing up in the Bible Belt, I have to admit I never would have expected to see something like this in our sanctuary.  It certainly gets your attention.

  This view is what parishioners would see as they sit in the nave and raise their eyes in prayer.  It is a most beautiful sight, and certainly does its job, which is to encourage the faithful to raise their eyes to heaven.
  The cathedral is nearing its 850th birthday.  We were thrilled to be able to visit and share in the wonders of this amazing historical and spiritual site.  There is no charge for the visit, unless you wish to climb the tower or tour the Treasury and Crypt.

  Our last look at Notre Dame will be a final exterior view of the cathedral in our next post.

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