Thursday, March 19, 2009

Day 1: Notre-Dame


Sunday Day 1 of a week in Paris

The Islands: Ile de la Cité - Ile Saint-Louis

  • BREAKFAST Hotel? (not sure if la patisserie is open Sundays)
  • Notre-Dame; tour and climb tower - TODAY'S POST
  • Place Louis-Lepine - bird and flower market
  • Sainte Chapelle; tour and purchase billets for evening concert
  • LUNCH Brasserie de Isle St-Louis -- Look for the stork!
  • Walk Isle St-Louis; ice cream at Berthillion; Square Barye
  • SUPPER Sandwich or omelette?
  • Evening concert at Sainte Chapelle
Day 1
The Islands: Ile de la Cité - Ile Saint-Louis

The famously painted scene of the crowning of Napoleon took place at Notre-Dame in Paris on December 2, 1804. After taking the Charlemagne crown from Pope Pius VII and placing it on his own head, he then replaced that crown with a gold laurel wreath like those worn by Roman emperors. Then, as the painting by Jacques-Louis David below shows, he took the Charlemagne crown and crowned Josephine as his wife.

The Coronation of Napoleon, Jacques-Louis David
1805-1808, Musée du Louvre

In 1831 Victor Hugo was only 20 when he wrote Notre Dame de Paris, later known as The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

'And the cathedral was not only company for him, it was the universe; nay, more, it was Nature itself. He never dreamed that there were other hedgerows than the stained-glass windows in perpetual bloom; other shade than that of the stone foliage always budding, loaded with birds in the thickets of Saxon capitals; other mountains than the colossal towers of the church; or other oceans than Paris roaring at their feet.'
The contrast between Napoleon I and Mr. Hunchback is striking, no?

For those interested in an extensive history of the cathedral that was begun in 1163, read here.


A good way to start Day 1 - Sunday is at the Notre-Dame cathedral. Between this tourist magnet and the Eiffel Tower, you will eventually have to check it out, so let's get this one on the first day. One good reason to visit on Sunday is to sit in on a morning service. I am very glad Don and I sat through the opening of a service if only to hear the priest and congregation sing. (You can see a clipping from the service's bulletin in an interior image below with mother and child statue, and I have embedded a YouTube of the audio for Donnes-nous Seigneur too.)

In 1997 my sister Nancy and I saw the front of the cathedral with scaffolding for cleaning the exterior, as you see in my photo at the top of the post. Restoration of the building began in 1991 and was still ongoing in 2005, since the cleaning of old sculptures took delicate attention. I well remember the first images I saw of the Notre-Dame, which my brother took in 1970 when it was blackened with soot.

By 1997 the cleaning had already been painstakingly completed on the south and east sides, seen in my photo below. You can just see the scaffolding to the left of the front of the cathedral.

With Don in 2003, I snapped the next two images when we emerged from an hour's browsing in the Shakespeare & Co bookstore, just across the Seine from the cathedral. The sky had blackened (can you scrub a black sky?), and I don't remember where we hid out the storm from here.

The interior of the cathedral is dark, lit by candles and old lamps. It is a disconcerting experience to sit in a service on a Sunday morning in the center of the church, while tourists are quietly - and occasionally not so quietly - shuffling around the perimeter viewing artifacts and the Rose Window. There were plenty of "real" congregants, mostly elderly women.

Below, as I mentioned, is the interior shot, and then the YouTube of
Donnes-nous Seigneur, which we sang with the congregation. I wish I had audio of the singing, which was sweet.

Of course the Rose window is among the things to see. Thanks to Donica for the next two images.

Another good reason to visit the Notre-Dame on the morning of your first full day is that you should climb the narrow stairway of the South Tower to the roof (387 steps!) to get a gargoyle-eye's view of the city, and you will still have energy for such exertions.

Thanks to Wiki Commons for the gargoyle image below, taken on the roof of the Notre Dame with a distant view of the Tour Eiffel. I've walked that distance in one stretch, and it's a hike.

Also in front of the Notre-Dame, under the Parvis (sidewalk square), is the Archeological Crypt, built in 1980 to protect the archeological ruins discovered during excavations in 1965. I've never seen the crypt!

On my next visit to the Notre-Dame, I will photograph interior details and learn more about the art and history. There is enough to fill a book or two.

According to my itinerary at the top of the post, next we'll visit the flower-bird market.


Dakota Bear said...

Notre Dame is my favorite place to visit in Paris. I have been there four times. Each time I just in awe of the place. The most remembered was the first visit. As soon as I entered the cathedral it felt like I had been hugged by a big bear. Than that evening while sailing on the Seine past the Cathedral, looking back and seeing the flying buttresses the tears just flowed.
To some the Eiffel tower is Paris, but for me it will always be Notre Dame.

Ruth said...

Dakota Bear - oh, the feeling when you connect with a place like that! I think it's spiritual, the way it goes into your core. I've had other churches do that for me, the cathedral at Chartres was one. But many other small ones along the way. I love how you put that, a bear hug. I wonder what year your first visit was?

Dakota Bear said...

Ruth-my first visit was March 1999. than I was there March 2001 and November 2001. My latest visit was June 2008.

I finally got to see the cathedral without all the scaffolding.

jiva said...

Well, as you know Ruth, Mind Travel is the way I like to go when I can't. This post made me breathless! I LOVE that painting of Napoleon, but the gargoyle, whew, want to sit up there with it.
Great additions, so wonderful that you are doing this. Thanks.

Ruth said...

Dakota Bear, I got so used to seeing photos of the cathedral when it was black, it was strange indeed to see it white.

Ruth said...

So good of you to come and read, Jiva.

Deslilas said...

Ou un petit noir !
Fine blog, now I'm no longer a Parisian as I live in Champagne I discover Paris each time I come back to my native town or have a look on your blog or Peter's one.
Your pic of Napoleon's "sacre" was cut so Arnail-François de Jaucourt can't be seen.
Some years ago in the 1980's I made some researches about him, born in 1756 he died in 1852 in Presles en Brie a small village close to the town where I liverd for 33 years Gretz-Armainvilliers (Seine-et-Marne). A long life, a friend of mme de Stael, he worked for the Napoleon's family and after for Louis XVIII was Marine ministry, Foreign affairs Ministry when Talleyrand was in Vienna congress... He had a very romantical lie too.

Was a protestant, a free-mason, Pair of France, marquis, Comte...

In the early 200's I tried to launch a blog about him and I gave up.

Deslilas said...

Some documents could be seen on this sleeping blog of mine.

dutchbaby said...

What is it about the Notre Dame, how she beckons to come first in our visits?

I look forward to your bird-market visit!

Ruth said...

Daniel, how interesting! Such political intrigue in art in those days, eh?

Ruth said...

Good, Dutchbaby, I hope you'll enjoy it.

ds said...

Un cafe au lait, s'il vous plait. But that's all you can get from me in French, and there are probably twelve mistakes in that one sentence. Someday...I have been to Paris three times now (the last for a whole week!), and each time have fallen more and more in love with her. Like you, I have never felt 'snubbed' by the French. I believe, firmly, that if you approach people with respect and make the effort to reach them, they will return that effort 1000-fold....So glad you are doing this, it will be fun to 'visit' all of the places I've never seen & some of the ones I have.

Ruth said...

I am the same, DS. I know just enough French not to be rude at the outset, then on to English. I'm ashamed of that actually, but I've done nothing about it.

Oh I've had such gracious encounters with the French! It just takes some getting used to their initial demeanor sometimes. Not everyone is overly enthusiastic the way some of us Americans are.

shicat said...

Ruth, thank you for the tour. I have never been to Paris, but hope to go someday. In fact, David and I have been contemplating a trip to Europe this summer. Your posts can help us plan,if you don't start up your tour business,that is. I look forward to seeing the interior of Notre-Dame especially since it is lit by candles and old lamps.

Ruth said...

Cathy! That sounds wonderful, I hope you will go. I would LOVE to help you plan. I have a little survey you and David can fill out separately, then make a loose, suggested itinerary. Let me know! It would be my pleasure.

Gwen Buchanan said...

... the excerpt by victor Hugo is so relative to the world inside the world.....he could see the beauty and it filled him just as much... I love this......
the architecture ... the stone, the spires, the towers, the strength and the longevity.. .. I know I would be overwhelmed.. so much to absorb... this is a good way for me to tour ...through you...

love this gargoyle...and what a view from that location...


Ruth said...

Gwen, maybe it's the overwhelmingness that makes me want to 'deconstruct' it and take it in bites. I think you could spend a week in the Notre-Dame and keep finding new mysteries and treasures that would inspire you.

Oliag said...

...this post got me out of my seat looking for my travel diary from our family visit to France...I partly described our visit to Notre Dame in this way...
"As we approached Notre Dame the church bells started ringing and we sat and listened to the change of bells. When we entered the catherdral 4PM mass had started. The organ music in that space was beyond describing..."
As a not particularly religious person I remember feeling that this space made one feel religious...

Now I just have to find all the photos!

Ruth said...

Bonjour, Oliag! Oh so wonderful that you wrote down your impressions and feelings in those moments! Some experiences just take you to the beyond. Churches are quite lovely for that.

Peter said...

Wonderful and so complete! (After some 500 Paris post on my blog, I have not yet covered Notre Dame!)

Ruth said...

Merci, Peter, wow, I am surprised.