The Religious Hot Spot Of Paris: Notre Dame De Paris
Notre Dame de Paris is situated in the 4th arrondissement (administrative districts) of Paris, the capital city of France. Situated on the right bank of the Seine, it is known for its little streets, cafés and shops, but is regarded as expensive. It is desirable for those insisting on old buildings and multi-cultural exposure. It has a lot to offer like the Paris City Hall, the Renaissance square of Place des Vosges, the overtly modern Pompidou Centre, but most of all it offers the Notre Dame de Paris.
The Notre Dame de Paris (Our Lady of Paris) is truly a beautiful cathedral. The building begun in 1163 and was mostly completed by 1250. Most people consider the Notre Dame de Paris as an important example of French Gothic architecture, sculpture and stained glass. We read that the Notre Dame de Paris is the most popular monument in Paris and in fact in all of France, beating even the Eiffel Tower with 13 million visitors each year. But the famous cathedral is also an active Catholic church, a place of pilgrimage, and the focal point for Catholicism in France. We noticed that religious events of national significance still take place here.
Although many of the figures that you can see from street level on the lower part of the cathedral are true gargoyles, decorative waterspouts used to preserve the building by diverting the rain water away from it, the more photographed figures on the upper levels are grotesques or chimères since they do not function as waterspouts but are still referred to by most people as gargoyles. These famous “gargoyles” don’t have any function besides gazing over Paris and forcing tourists to work off a bit of the rich French food by climbing 387 steps for a better view of them.
Climbing to the top of the Notre Dame is really the only way to get a good look at these gargoyles, they are located on the “Galerie des Chimères” that connects the towers. The climb is broken down into three stages, the first stop in a gift shop, the second stop at the gallery and the third stop at the top of the South tower.
The current gargoyles on the “Galerie des Chimères” are not original to the building; they date to the restoration started in 1845 by famous architect Viollet-le-Duc. Incidentally, Victor Hugo’s “Hunchback of Notre Dame” was written in 1831 before the renovation by and one of the original illustrations had a couple of gargoyles on that level.
Access to the towers of Notre Dame is included on the Museum Pass but you can’t use the Museum Pass to skip the line like you can at other attractions. The line was about 1 1/2 hours long mostly all the time, but the most crowded is close to the closing time in the afternoon. We recommend taking the time and going inside the place for a really full view on the Gothic architecture and the powerful atmosphere that the interior offers to each and every visitor, Catholic or not.