We recently went back to Paris for a quick weekend trip, because when we were there for the marathon, there were a few things we didn't get to do, so this was our chance to make good on those. One of the things I really wanted to do was to see Notre Dame Cathedral. I'm not really sure why, because it's not as if I wildly love gothic architecture, and I haven't even read the book, Hunchback of Notre Dame, but to me, the cathedral is one of the first things I picture when I think of Paris.
I mostly wanted to see the gargoyles, but we also spent a little time inside marveling at the stained glass. For the obligatory history, the cathedral was built starting in 1163 and took almost 200 years to complete. It was heavily damaged in the French Revolution, including that for awhile, it was used as a food storage facility. Victor Hugo's novel about the Hunchback helped restore the cathedral to the public's eye, so it underwent major repairs starting in 1845.
Much of the cathedral was damaged by stray bullets in WW2, so if it's a window with a general geometric pattern (left), it's part of the reconstruction, as opposed to the windows with biblical scenes (right), which are originals. Either way, the windows were all spectacular, and yes, I'm a sucker for stained glass windows, but these were especially impressive.
Plus, the detail work all around the outside of the cathedral was unreal.
Let's be honest though, I went for gargoyles, and since I have a wonderful husband, he was willing to get up early to be sure we were in the front of the line to climb up the 400 steps to the top of the south tower for an up close look at the gargoyles and the view they have, including of the Eiffel Tower in the distance.
The handy brochure they gave you prior to climbing up the tower explains that what I had come to see weren't gargoyles, but were actually chimera. What's the difference, you ask? A gargoyle is a protruding feature to drain rain water, which we saw plenty off, but they aren't particularly interesting. In comparison, the chimera are depictions of a monster or mythical being, and they were added in the reconstruction that started after the French Revolution destroyed much of the cathedral.
The brochure wasn't kidding either, some of the chimera were seriously creepy looking, although I'm not really sure how an elephant is a monster or mythical, but who am I to question?
While we were up there, we stopped to see the the cathedral's biggest bell, which weighs over 13 tons, is from the 17th century, and is called "Emmanuel." Why that name, I don't know, but it was quite massive. Plus, it was fun to pretend that the Hunchback was there with us, although given the super narrow stairwell, walkways, and doorways, I'm not sure how he fit to get around, but never mind; it is a work of fiction.