Even if you have never been to Paris, you must have heard of Notre Dame. One of the most well-known Paris landmarks, Notre Dame de Paris is a symbol of the city. The huge Gothic cathedral dominates the Cité – a natural island in the river Seine. Meaning of Notre Dame de Paris is Our Lady of Paris, as the cathedral is consecrated to the Virgin Mary. If you plan to visit it soon or you are just curious about this majestic building, have a look at the article and discover amazing facts about Notre Dame!
The Cathedral’s history dates back to IV century A.D.
One might wonder how long did it take to build Notre Dame. The answer is approximately 200 years, from 12th to 14th century. According to archaeologists, the first Christian church was built on the Cité as early as in IV century. Thus, the location of the cathedral can be considered one of the most ancient sacral places in Paris, and the meaning of Notre Dame is much more profound. Not only is it a cathedral, it is the place where French history started. You can find out more in the Archaeological Crypt of Notre Dame de Paris. The exposition is interesting to anyone who is looking for historical and architectural facts about Notre Dame and surroundings.
Notre Dame de Paris could have been demolished in the 19th century
Tumultuous French history left its marks on the cathedral. By 19th century, after riots, fires, and French Revolution, Notre Dame de Paris was in a poor condition. One of the most surprising facts about Notre Dame is that the Paris authorities were actually considering demolishing the cathedral. Luckily, it was saved thanks in large part to Victor Hugo, a great French writer. His “Notre Dame de Paris” novel was widely read and the public finally became aware of a forgotten gem. The reconstruction began in 1845 and lasted 25 years.
Chimeras on towers of Notre Dame are not medieval
Curious Notre Dame de Paris facts concern the cathedral’s towers. The 19 th-century renovation brought a number of new elements which sparked huge controversy at its time. Nowadays people climb 387 steps to the towers of Notre Dame in order to see the chimeras or gargouilles – picturesque beasts which overlook the city from the balcony on the South Tower. They look medieval, but they are less than 200 years old. The most famous chimeras are:
- the so-called Spitting Gargoyle or Stryga – a pensive creature with wings and horns;
- a two-footed dragon or Wyvern;
- a goat-shaped demon looking over the balcony.
Victor Hugo claimed that the true meaning of Notre Dame lies in its countless carvings and sculptures, created by anonymous medieval craftsmen. The chimeras add brilliantly to this exhibition of people’s fantasy.
The Notre Dame bells all have personal names
Another reason why people take the narrow stairs to the towers of Notre Dame is its bells. There are 10 of them, all different in size and mass. The bells have proper names: Marie, Gabriel, Anne Geneviève, Denis, Marcel etc. Not every bell has a gripping story to tell, but one bell is special. Here are some facts about Notre Dame metal giant, Emmanuel:
- made in 17th century;
- weighs over 13 tons;
- was one of few Notre Dame bells to survive the French Revolution;
- tolled to announce the Liberation of Paris in 1944.
Notre Dame bells ring several times a day, and the first bell you can hear is Emmanuel – the voice of the cathedral.
There is more than one rose window in Notre Dame
No Notre Dame de Paris facts are over without mentioning the rose window. Actually there are three such windows in the cathedral. The North, the South, and the West or Entrance window form a marvellous ensemble of stained glass. The most ancient Notre Dame rose window dates to 1220. The South window, completed by 1260, still contains most of its original elements. The windows are rightfully considered the gem of Gothic art.
Notre Dame de Paris is a cathedral second to none. Visit it and let yourself be overwhelmed by its splendor!