March 15, 1999
Notre Dame, french expression for “Our Lady, the Virgin Mary”, is the most famous catholic cathedral and a very well-known landmark in Paris. It is otherwise known as the Cathedrale de Notre Dame de Paris by the French. It stands on the Ile de la cite, a larger of two islands in the Seine River. It is considered a masterpiece of gothic architecture in France.
Maurice de Sully was the bishop of Paris at the time, and started the cathedral’s construction in 1163. The construcion and design were done by the best artists around and was completed around 1345. Jean de Chelles and Pierre de Montreuil oversaw and directed the construction. It was not finished until the beginning of the 13th century. During the Revolution (the 1700’s), it was heavily destroyed by mobs, however, it was restored beginning in 1841 by Viollet le Duc. He added chimeras and gargoyles to the tower walls. The chimeras were being built as decoration, and the gargoyles as rain gutters.
The facade of the cathedral is composed of several levels crowning three great portals: the Portal of the Last Judgement, the Portal to the Virgin, and the Portal to Saint Anne. Above this is the Gallery of Kings, which consists of 28 statues of kings of Judah and Israel.
Every year about 500,000 visitors make the climb of the 380-stepped stairway that leads to the peak of the cathedral. Their reward for making the long climb is a great view of Paris and a look at “Emmanuel”, the 13 ton bell. The bell was operated by pedals that required the energy of 8 men, but today, “Emmanuel” is rung electronically.
The Rose Window is one of the only original stained-glass windows left in the cathedral. Most of the windows were removed and rebuilt after World War 2. These are a wonderful and beautiful part of the cathedral.
The cathedral itself is 130 meters long, 48 meters wide, and 35 meters tall. Although many other cathedrals have been designed to recreate the structure of Notre Dame, the cathedral in Paris is still considered the original materpiece of Gothic Art.