Statistics declare that 13 million people visit the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris every year and it is the most visited monument in Paris (no, it’s not the Eiffel Tower). One has seen it in books, travel shows and facebook posts by friends! And then there was the Disney movie that sealed its fame. We studied about the Notre Dame during art history lessons with elaborate terms like Gothic architecture, flying buttresses and rose windows being thrown about.
Despite all this, nothing prepares you for the beauty and the absolute perfection that this structure represents. Once you get there, it’s easy to understand why it is a mecca for architects, sculptors and art enthusiasts. It epitomizes prayer and divinity in a physical form.
“When a man understands the art of seeing, he can trace the spirit of an age and the features of a king even in the knocker on a door.”
― Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame
Notre Dame de Paris – Architecture
Before going to Notre Dame, it’s a good idea to know some basics about its architecture and history. It will not just make your visit an enriching experience, you can also impress others with design jargon.
The Stained Glass Windows
Most of the innovations of Gothic architecture were developed for the very purpose of adding larger and taller stained glass windows to cathedrals! There are two standard Gothic shapes of stained glass windows: the tall window with the pointed arch and the round rose window.
Since very few people could read at the time, stained glass windows offered a dazzling, gigantic glass screen, to display stories from the Bible in light and color. Sounds very much like the colorful, huge billboards of our times which are hard to ignore. When light passes through the panes they glow like jewels, creating an almost magical, dreamlike atmosphere. The Notre Dame cathedral has three rose windows and nearly two hundred other stained glass windows.
The South Rose Window inside the Notre Dame de Paris is a true masterpiece. It has 84 panes divided into four circles and its imagery presents the New Testament.
Notre Dame de Paris – Interiors
Notre-Dame is symbolically and literally the centre of France. In front of it is the “Point zéro des routes de France”, the spot from which all direction in France is measured, the zero point in distance measurement.