Sunday, October 3, 2010

Notre Dame de Paris

Notre Dame (Our Lady) is the Gothic, Catholic cathedral of the Paris archdiocese. The groundbreaking took place in 1163 and the cathedral was completed in 1345. In 1991, it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

On the left side of the main entrance is a statue of Saint Denis. He was the bishop of Paris during the 3rd century and as more and more people began to convert to Christianity, he was beheaded by the Romans in around A.D. 250. The story goes that he picked up his head and walked six miles, preaching the whole way. Saint Denis is the patron saint of Paris.

In addition to being one of the first Gothic cathedrals ever, it was also one of the first to use the flying buttress which are arched exterior supports. Although they were not part of the original plans. As construction progressed, the thin walls of the Gothic style grew higher which led to stress fractures and the walls began to push outward. So supports were built outside the walls and later additions continued using the pattern.

A lot of the religious imagery was damaged or destroyed in the 1790s during the French Revolution. Luckily, during the 19th century there was an extensive restoration project that returned the cathedral to its original state.

At the beginning of WWII the windows were removed due to fears that German bombers would destroy them. They were restored after the war was over.

I've attended Catholic mass before in English, Latin, German, Spanish and Czech. Not that Czech really counts because I was clueless most of the time. I don't know what it is but, I've got to say, that mass in French is just way cooler.

And no, you won't find anything here about Quasimodo, the Hunchback of Notre Dame. But I did tell my niece Emme that I would be on the lookout, just in case.

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