Cathedrals represent the pinnacle of medieval technology and artistic achievement. They dominate their landscape and are designed to impress and reinforce the Church’s power over the population – at least when they were made. Today they are still very impressive pieces of architecture, and Notre Dame de Paris is one of the best of its genre. It was commenced in 1160 by Bishop Maurice de Sully and finally completed in 1345.
I had previously been put off doing the tower tour by the length of the queue. So there was no real intention to do so on this day, but when travelling it pays to be flexible.
The day dawned overcast and with a light drizzle. Yes it put off the tourists and the queue was fairly short when we got there. We had intended just to scope it out for a later visit, but carpe diem and all that… Sharon went off to explore the interior.
The wait was about 15 minutes and soon I was herded up a few stairs into the tower shop. Tickets are €8.50 – and then came the climb. 387 steps to climb the south tower and I was ready for a rest! At first all I could see was the back of the person in front. Then came the view.
First the chimeras – no they’re not gargoyles as they are not water spouts – these ones are perhaps designed to keep evil spirits at bay, and are known as chimera or grotesques. I’ve seen photos of them, but didn’t realise how close you can get to them, or how big they are – these ones are about human sized as they gaze out over the landscape
This is perhaps the most famous and is named ‘Le Stryge’ or ‘the vampire’.
The views over Paris are amazing, because this city is not full of skyscrapers, so the towers of Notre Dame rise majestically above everything else.
And from here you can see across to Mont Parnasse above Montmartre to the other great cathedral, the Sacre Coeur (Sacred Heart)
Once back on terra firma it was time to go inside and find Sharon – And here is what strikes you about the design of this cathedral. While it looks like a solid pile of stone, its innovative use of flying buttresses were actually all about window space and light. From the inside, the cathedral is a multimedia multicoloured light show due to the expanses of stained glass throughout the walls. At that point you realise the stone is a just a thin lace to support the roof over the stained glass windows.
And it is quite breathtaking – moreover, the pillars and ceiling are richly decorated too! It is a feast for the eyes.
Is it worth the money for the tower tour? Resoundingly yes! There may not be a tour guide, but who needs one with views like these?