Paris Tips: Embracing the Cathédrale Notre Dame
By Theadora Brack
Let’s take a sentimental journey to the Cathédrale Notre Dame in Paris. For the love of Quasimodo and Esmeralda, I’ll also include a few historical tidbits. So grab a snack, umbrella and video phone. Seven is the time we leave!
Queen of the French cathedrals
Notre Dame has had its share of monumental ups and downs throughout the centuries. Maurice de Sully (that’s “Bishop” to you) set the redo project in motion back in 1163. Yes, it was a very good year, but as time marched on, it took a toll on the cathedral’s interior and exterior. Heck, we’ve all been there. Touché! That’s what he said.
Meet Victor Hugo
Thank writer and historic preservation activist Victor Hugo for jumpstarting a sensational sightseeing frenzy, along with the much-needed renovation that followed the publication of his very first novel, Notre-Dame de Paris, in 1831 (released in English in 1833 as The Hunchback of Notre Dame much to the author’s dismay).
A “vast symphony in stone” is how the eloquent and passionate Hugo described Notre Dame.
A Star is Born
Word quickly spread, making Hugo a literary hero, and inspiring beaucoup visitors to pay homage with copies of the book in hand. However, at the time Notre Dame was pretty much in ruins because of the French Revolution and general lack of routine maintenance. It was time for an extreme makeover: cathedral edition!
Enter architect Viollet-le-Duc in 1841. Contributing his own interpretive gothic revival twist, he added a fantastical spire, and cool sprinkling of gargoyles to keep the evil spirits at bay, along with a good cleaning and various other minor changes.
Shortly (bare)after, 19th century urban renewalist Baron Haussmann completed the redo by demolishing the medieval houses surrounding the church and creating a public square. Times are always a-changing!
Yearning for your own copy of Notre-Dame de Paris? After popping by the real thing, stop by the legendary English bookshop Shakespeare and Company, nestled across the street in a former 16th century monastery. Both paperback and hardcopies of the book are available.
Also, let’s not forget the funky bouquinistes (book stalls along the Seine) and the kitschy souvenir stands, located near the cathedral. Your cat sitter will thank you!
Grab a pencil
Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris
6 Place Parvis Notre Dame, 5th arrondissement
(Métro: Saint Michel)
Shakespeare and Company
37 Rue Bûcherie, 5th arrondissement
(Métro Saint Michel)