Notre Dame de Paris, a medieval Catholic cathedral in the centre of Paris is considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture. Construction began in 1163 and finally opened in 1345. Over the centuries, the church has been added to, almost destroyed during the French Revolution, used for other purposesd, renovated and most recently significantly damaged by fire in 2019.

Paris - Notre Dame Cathedral

I am taking a look back at what this beautiful church looked like before that fire.

Entry to the cathedral is free (there is a fee to climb the tower) and is the most visited French monument (even more so than the Eiffel Tower).

Paris - Notre Dame Cathedral

Entrance is through the western facade. While waiting in the courtyard (there’s always a huge line), take the time to look around, look up to the towers and zoom in on those amazing doorways and sculptures.

Paris - Notre Dame Cathedral

Paris - Notre Dame Cathedral

Paris - Notre Dame Cathedral

These archways were truly magnificent – all three were different with many religious stories, figurines and decorative doors.

Paris - Notre Dame Cathedral

Time to zoom in on some that intricate work.

Paris - Notre Dame Cathedral

Paris - Notre Dame Cathedral

We were lucky to visit Notre Dame in Spring when the trees were in full bloom.

Paris - Notre Dame Cathedral

Paris - Notre Dame Cathedral

Views from the back give a very different view of the cathedral which is also impressive. There is a lovely park here to walk around.

Paris - Notre Dame Cathedral

Cross the river and look back, or perhaps take a boat ride on the Seine in order to capture your view.

Paris - Notre Dame Cathedral

Paris - Notre Dame Cathedral

Time to step inside. It seems we did not spend too much time in here due to crowds but managed to get some photos. However capturing them in black and white seemed to add to the ambiance of the church.

Paris - Notre Dame Cathedral

Paris - Notre Dame Cathedral

Paris - Notre Dame Cathedral

There are three rose stained-glass windows. The west rose in the front of the church was constructed in 1225 while the other two much larger roses were constructed between 1250 and 1260. The south rose measures 19 metres in diameter. All windows have undergone reconstruction over the many centuries.

Paris - Notre Dame Cathedral

Paris - Notre Dame Cathedral

Paris - Notre Dame Cathedral

There are many other stained glass windows in the cathedral.

Look for smaller statues and artefacts as you walk around. One of these was a choir screen showing a 14th Century carving of Christ appearing to the apostles.

Paris - Notre Dame Cathedral

Paris - Notre Dame Cathedral

Paris - Notre Dame Cathedral

Before leaving Paris, we were determined to climb the well-worn steps to the tower to see the famous gargoyles. This resulted in waiting in line for ages but it was definitely worth the climb. There were about 400 steps.

Paris - Notre Dame Cathedral

The views across Paris were breathtaking.

Paris - Notre Dame Cathedral

Paris - Notre Dame Cathedral

We were able to get a closer look at the tower and the buttresses that support the church.

Paris - Notre Dame Cathedral

Paris - Notre Dame Cathedral

The copper statues depicting the 12 apostles graced the roof of the church. These copper statues had been removed for renovations just prior to the fire in 2019.

Paris - Notre Dame Cathedral

Paris - Notre Dame Cathedral

The cathedral has 10 bells. We saw reconstructions of the Marie (Great Bell) and the Emmanuel Bell in their wooden structure in the tower. They rang while we were up in the tower. Very loud and impressive.

Paris - Notre Dame Cathedral

The cathedral is syonymous with the deformed bellringer named Quasimodo from the fictional novel “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” by Victor Hugo.

And now for those gargoyles…

Paris - Notre Dame Cathedral

A gargoyle is a carved or sculpted mythical figure, usually designed with a waterspout that carries water away from the building. They are most likely sculptured in stone but eroded away due to their purpose thereby having to be replaced. Their other purpose was to protect the church against evil spirits. They date back to the 13th Century.

Paris - Notre Dame Cathedral

Chimera are mythical monstrous fire-breathing creatures with parts taken from various animals (lions, goats, snakes, etc). They do not have waterspouts but are purely decorative. Surprisingly they only date back to the 19th Century. The most famous of these is the Stryge (the spitting gargoyle) chimera with his head in his hands.

Paris - Notre Dame Cathedral

Most sit along the balcony connecting the two bell towers (known as the Galerie des Chimeres) and eerily peer out over the city, sometimes adorning the cathedral with their silhouettes. Wyvern is the two-legged winged dragon. (right in picture below).

Paris - Notre Dame Cathedral

Paris - Notre Dame Cathedral

Paris - Notre Dame Cathedral

Paris - Notre Dame Cathedral

In 2019, the church’s spire and most of the roof were destroyed in a fire causing of millions of euros in damage. Some valuable artefacts were either destroyed or smoke damaged. Thankfully little damage was done to the altar, organs and the three rose windows.

Despite this catastrophic fire, the cathedral will one day return to its former glory.

Paris - Notre Dame Cathedral

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