Exploring Paris: Notre-Dame & Sacre-Coeur

Gem at Notre-Dame

The Notre-Dame Cathedral Paris or Notre-Dame de Paris (meaning “Our Lady of Paris” in French) is a must-see in the romantic capital City of Lights. Victor Hugo, French writer and politician who authored the novel, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, made Notre-Dame one of the most famous cathedrals in the world. Remember the main character, Quasimodo, the deaf hunchback, deformed and confined bell-ringer of the cathedral later crowned as the King of Fools?

The French Gothic architectural masterpiece, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, stands on a tiny island called Ile de la Cite in the Seine River. Founded in 1160 by Bishop of Paris, Maurice de Sully, its construction began in 1163 and took nearly two centuries to complete. In the 1820s the steeple and the gargoyles were added.

Notable among the outstanding features of the cathedral is the facade with its beautiful stained glass and rose windows and gallery above. Holding up the choir are the spectacular flying buttresses of the apse to the side. The south tower of the cathedral holds the famous Emmanuel bell and the 387 steps of the north tower can be climbed for a view of the famed gargoyles. There are three (3) entrances to the cathedral – to the left is the Portal of the Virgin with signs of the zodiac and the coronation of the Virgin Mary; to the right is the Portal of St. Anne featuring the Virgin and Child, and the Central Portal depicting the Last Judgement. Much more than this we love the gorgeous interior decoration and high ceiling as well. The end walls of the transepts are a mass of glass including more fabulous rose windows in purple.

Through the centuries the cathedral had suffered damage and deterioration and restoration took place in the 19th century. On 15 April 2019 Notre-Dame caught fire while the cathedral was undergoing renovation – its roof caught fire and burned for fifteen (15) hours destroying the fleche before its collapse and the oak roof beams. Reconstruction began in 2021 hoping to be completed by Spring 2024 in time for the opening of the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris. A Te Deum mass would be held in the cathedral on 15 April 2024 exactly five years after the fire.

Standing majestically on the top of the hill of Montmartre is the vast and impressive Romanesque and Byzantine Sacre-Coeur Basilica, its huge dome with its four small dome and bell-tower dominating the tiny squares and winding streets of the area. The Basilica of Sacre-Coeur is a Roman Catholic Church dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and it has maintained a perpetual adoration of the Holy Eucharist since 1885 and is also traditionally associated with the martyrdom of Saint Denis, the patron saint of Paris. The tower contains an 18.5-tonne bell called “Savoyarde” said to be one of the biggest and heaviest in the world. Leading up to the facade and porch (the bronze portico doors depict scenes of the life of Christ) of the basilica are the 222 dignified steps that you have to climb unless you want to walk thru a network of sloping path that runs alongside the gardens. Or take a funicular from the bottom of the hill up to the basilica which costs 1.90 euros. Inside the basilica are elaborate decorations of reliefs, paintings and mosaics.
Au revoir!