Saturday, October 15, 2005
In the Steps of Quasimodo
The Bored Gargoyle on Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral
I had the opportunity to climb to the top of Notre Dame Cathedral while I was in Paris a few weeks ago. This picture was taken as we headed towards the final steps of the bell tower, and the view included not only the famous "Bored Gargoyle" shown here, but a sweeping view of Paris.
In the center of Paris, in the church's square, is a small bronze circle noting the center of the city. This Ground Zero in France notes the beginning point from which all distances in the city are measured.
Notre Dame sits on a large island in the middle of the Seine River, called "Ile de la Cite" (Isle of the City), which affords a fantastic view from its belfry. Ile de la Cite also holds Ste. Chappelle, a Gothic cathedral where the entire Bible story is told in stained glass, the Justice Center for the French Police/Courts, and La Conciergerie, the notorious prison where Marie Antoinette spent her final months before being beheaded during The Terror -- the bloodbath that followed the French Revolution.
On the right, you see Sacre Coeur (Sacred Heart) Cathedral on the city's highest point, and closer to your right you see the Louvre, with the grand Tuileries Gardens giving way to Place de la Concorde (where Marie Antoinette and her husband, along with thousands of other Frenchmen lost their heads to the guillotine during the French Revolution in the late 1780s and '90s). From there, you can see the Champs Elysees, the grand boulevard of ultra-chic shopping and Lance Armstrong's famous 7-time ride to victory in the Tour de France. It ends at the Arc de Triomphe, built by Napoleon and resting place for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier where to this day, a nightly military band and Honor Guard play the French National Anthem and lays great floral wreaths to honor the war dead from World War I (The War To End All Wars).
In front of you as you look West from the cathedral is the Eiffel Tower, to the left is Les Invalides (where Louis XIV built a grand military hospital and cathedral for his soldiers to recouperate after fighting his wars, and is still the "Veterans Hospital" to this day, and where Napoleon is buried.
Yes, the view from Notre Dame is spectacular. I hope everyone gets to see it in their lifetime. I'll post more pictures later.