Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris was built from stone called cliquart. taken out on the Left Bank; and so were the other medieval churches of Paris, as well as the Louvre, the Luxembourg, and the mansions of the. 17th and the 18th centuries. This free-stone, was taken out on the Left  Bank of the river Seine. It’s two best qualities, aside from its creamy color, is that it is easy to work with and that it hardens in the air.

The stone-masons were masters; the builders had the secret of lifting the great stones into place without any of the mechanism that we now use, although the principles were the same.

When this cathedral was built in the Middle Ages, there were no digital architectural drawing programs, no cranes to hoist everything up, no nail guns, no steel, and yet, Notre Dame de Paris stands as a stunning example of the lightness of stone.

Only by putting yourself into the age in which Notre-Dame was built can you realize its meaning. Think of the persistence, the skill, the faith that entered into it.

All the dimensions are greater than you might suppose, because the proportions are so perfect. Their full value is best felt at night, when the Cathedral is illuminated from outside by electric lights.
Described as the greatest masterpiece of the Middle Ages, Notre Dame is truly impressive, especially the great H-shaped west front. The rose window is forty-two feet in diameter, the bell up there in the tower weighs twelve and a half tons; the other bell, brought here from Sebastopol, was never used.

The most striking feature inside the cathedral is the dramatic contrast between the darkness of the nave and the light falling on the first great clustered pillars of the choir. The three  round stained-glass windows still have their original 13th-century stained glass. The rest of the cathedral's windows have been replaced several times over the centuries.

Inside of the Cathedral look down at the center of the parvis for that octagon with the Paris coat-of-arms. This is the zero point for measuring all the roads in France!

Slowly walk through the cathedral, soaking up the glorious stained glass windows and those airy Gothic stone arches that bridge the empty spaces.

On the fun side, there is always a bunch of spectators jostling for a view of the young rollerbladers going through their gymnastic stunts just outside the cathedral on the Pont au Double.

The Headless saint

The next time you are standing in front of Notre-Dame, look closely at its left-hand portal. There you will find a rather strange sculpture of a saint, holding his head in his hands. This is Saint Denis, the first bishop of Paris, who met his death around 273 A.D., almost two millennia ago.

The Romans, who then occupied Paris, already had their hands full in fighting off barbarian hordes when this charismatic Christian arrived in Paris.

According to legend, Roman soldiers tortured Denis near the present site of Notre-Dame and then decapitated him on the slopes of Montmartre. Then, the martyred saint astonished everybody by picking up his head and walking northward almost four miles until he collapsed on the site now marked by the cathedral that bears his name.

No matter that the legend was created centuries afterwards, probably by the monks of Saint-Denis. It gave their abbey and their founder a special aura, and Denis went on to gain a special prominence among French saints.

His abbey church became the traditional burial place for French royalty, and his legend continued through the centuries. Which is why, on the portal of Notre-Dame, he is the saint who patiently holds his head in his hands.

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Notre Dame Cathedral

SIGHTS / RELIGIOUS

Some Facts

The Owner - Under a law dating to 1905, Notre Dame belongs to the French government, which maintains it, but the Catholic Church has the exclusive right to use the cathedral.

The Bell - The largest bell in Notre Dame's bell tower is named "Emmanuel." It was cast in 1631, and weighs over 28,000 pounds.

Napoleon’s coronation - It was in 1804 that Notre Dame enjoyed one of its most magnificent moments — at the coronation of Napoleon and Josephine Beauharnais. Notre-Dame was very cold on the morning of the coronation, and the Emperor kept the Pope waiting, chilly and apprehensive. The ceremony started late, the Pope Pius blessed Emperor and Empress crowns and rings and was about to place the crown on the Emperor's head, but Napoleon being Napoleon, hastily took it from the Pope's hands and placed it haughtily on his own head — a proceeding which doubtless startled his Holiness.


Gargoyles

Climb the 387 steps to the top of Notre Dame for a close encounter this with the ‘Gargoyles’. Frightening and fascinating, they are some of the most defining features of Notre Dame. They are not just a  decorative elements of the Cathedral, but they also serve as drains (in fact, the name "gargoyle" comes from the gurgling sound of the drains), siphoning water off of the roof via the Cathedral's flying buttresses. In earlier times, their contorted faces were believed to ward off evil spirits and warn sinners of their future fate.

You'll also see The Emmanuelle, Cathedral's famous bell. Just imagine Quasimodo here, as the peals of Emmanuelle spread out over the whole of the city.

Esmerelda, Phoebus, and Quasimodo, the main characters of Notre Dame novel, are world famous. The book was written by Victor Hugo, one of the most famous French writers, You can read the book or watch the cinematic adaptations, such as a classic Jean Delannoy's 1956 version, with Gina Lollibrigida as Esmerelda or the Disney version “Hunchback of Notre Dame”.

Also visit his house (Maison de Victor Hugo), located in the Place des Vosges, at number 6. This was Hugo's home from 1832 to 1848 .The current museum was opened in 1902, on the 100 year anniversary of Hugo's birth. It offers up a realistic look at the conditions in which he lived and wrote.

Location

Paris , France


Address

6 place du Parvis Notre Dame, 4e


Telephone

+33 1 42 34 56 10


Getting there

Metro: Cité


More information

www.cathedraledeparis.com/


Prices

cathedral free, towers adult/child €8.50/free, treasury €2/1


Opening hours

cathedral 8am-6.45pm Mon-Fri, to 7.15pm Sat & Sun, towers 10am-6.30pm Sun-Thu, to 11pm Fri & Sat Jul & Aug, 10am-6.30pm Apr-Jun & Sep, 10am-5pm Oct-Mar, treasury 9.30am-6pm Apr-Sep, 10am-5.30pm Oct-Mar