Standing on the Pont des Arts gave me an idea of how Paris had evolved through its history. In the distance was the Cathedral of Notre Dame, an architectural masterpiece.
Construction began in 1163 and was completed in 1345, a little under 200 years. Visiting the most famous of the Gothic cathedrals of the Middle Ages and one that retains 3 great rose windows which was made in 13th century glass was an awe moment. Standing on the Ile de la Cite, Notre-Dame suffered damage and deterioration through the centuries and underwent major restorations in the 19th century. It was made famous by that book, a French romantic/gothic novel by Victor Hugo in 1831, turning it into a tourist attraction today. Recently, the Cathedral has embarked on a sponsorship programme.
I recall watching the Disney movie with my kids and remembering the song about Notre Dame and its tolling bells:
“Morning in Paris, the city awakes, to the bells of Notre Dame. The fisherman fishes, the bakerman bakes, to the bells of Notre Dame. To the big bells as loud as the thunder, to the little bells soft as a psalm. And some say the soul of the city is the toll of the bells. The bells of Notre Dame.” — Disney, from The Hunchback of Notre Dame
My initial visit to Notre Dame was during the day and the place was thronging with people, spilling over the sidewalk, with queues waiting to get up the tower. We were fortunate enough to hear the bells of Notre Dame sing and we all stood still when it. Afterwards, we made our way into the Cathedral. There were lots of people here too, sitting on the pews or lighting the candles and some waiting for the mass to begin. There was silence too, a certain quietness and calmness around us. We decided to stay for a little while for the mass which was in Latin. I thought that I would feel the same as other Latin masses I have listened to at St. Paul’s Cathedral, London , but it was not! The atmosphere, the feel of the Cathedral and the sun shining through the rose windows was all too different an experience, one which I will treasure for a very long time.
Notre Dame is a beautiful Cathedral which is well worth your visit if you are in Paris. No visit here is complete without the experience of hearing its tolling bells, so plan your visit well. It is really busy during the day and you may wish to capture the magic of Notre Dame at night.
You will probably need 1-2 hours to visit this landmark, but you can spend many more hours exploring every detail of its uniqueness, statutes, carvings and masonry. It is open everyday of the year and admission is free. For more information, click here