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Thursday, July 19, 2012

My Paris View of Notre Dame (Part Four)

  The west facade of Notre Dame Cathedral is an image that many people will recognize.  This iconic view is almost always shown from a long view.  What surprised me when I first came upon the cathedral, was the intricate work around the entrance.  It was staggering.  I wanted to give readers a chance to see some of the details up close.

  First off, you can see this row of Kings, which is above the doors, covering the entire width of the facade.  During the Revolution, these Kings were beheaded, and the heads were thought to be lost.  There was a mistaken belief among the rabble that these were representations of French Kings, when in fact they were Kings of Israel.
  Many of these heads were found in a basement nearby the cathedral in 1977.  Someone had carefully buried them, laid out in rows, to preserve them.  The heads you see in the picture are reproductions, done during the 19th century restoration.
  Here is a detail of a group of figures on the left side of the left portal.  What stands out here is the second figure on the right, who is holding his own head.  This is Saint Denis, the patron saint of Paris, who was beheaded on Montmartre by pagan priests in 250 AD who were not happy that he was converting the locals.  A legend is told of Denis, after his beheading: he picked up his head and walked ten miles, preaching to all who he encountered.  What I find touching about this scene are the angels ministering to him.

  Above the central portal you can see this arch, heavily decorated with multiple figures.  While the image of Jesus in the center is impressive, I was amazed to see the host around him.  I was more than amazed; I was baffled by many of them.

  The source of my bafflement can be see in this closer photograph.  There seems to be demon-imps or something like them all over.  I'm not sure what the purpose is here.  Seen as a whole, standing in front of it, this cacophonous scene is breathtaking.  I can't begin to imagine how much time and effort this kind of thing takes.

  One more detail for today.  I like the relaxed posture of this character.  I have not been able to find any information on him/her.  What also catches my eye is the little imp down in the left corner.  He is definitely up to something.

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