In 1163 Bishop Maurice de Sully laid the first stone for the Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris. This Gothic masterpiece was finished in about 1330. The 90m spire was designed by Viollet-le-Duc during the restoration that started in 1845. The climb to the top of the 69 metre tower is rewarded by a magnificent view of Paris. To the west the Louvre and Arc de Triomphe, to the north Sacre-Coeur and to the south the Pantheon. To the east you have a close view of the spire, surrounded by 4 groups of 3 apostles, looking out to the 4 corners of the world. Except for Saint Thomas, who has the face of Viollet-le-Duc and he is looking at the spire, as if admiring his handwork 🙂
Saint-Chapelle was built between 1242 and 1248, to house the relics of the Passion of Christ. The most famous was the Crown of Thorns, bought in 1239 for a sum much higher than the cost of building the Chapel itself. The relics had belonged to the emperors of Constantinople since the 4th century. King Louis IX purchased them to add to the prestige of both France and Paris, which in the eyes of medieval Europe, became the “new Jerusalem”. Of the upper level, the brochure says “Sculptures and windows combine harmoniously to glorify the Passion of Christ and create a feeling of entry into the Heavenly Jerusalem bathed in light and colour”. On the lower level is a shop selling books, key-rings, pens and other souvenirs, guides are giving directions, lots of ‘selfies’ in progress, not quite setting the scene for entering the new Jerusalem?
But on the upper level, I was grateful for the sunny weather and for my friend that recommended visiting on a clear day! (thanks Ilona!) The windows are breathtaking. Photo’s cannot do justice to the sparkling symphony of colors that meet your eyes. When I read the information sheets about the 15 windows, the 1,113 scenes telling the story of mankind from Genesis through to Christ’s resurrection, I was in awe of the magnitude of this work. Only 5 colors were used, blue, red, yellow, green and purple, it just goes to show what can be done by limiting your choices. I wish I could sit there, reading the bible from beginning to end and finding each of these glass images in the Word. I would probably need binoculars for the top half!
Apparently king Louis IX used to sit below the window with reference to Kings and Chronicals and the queen mother, Blanche of Castile sat opposite him, below the window depicting the virgin Mary. It was said that she ‘saved’ France by standing in as ruler for her small son, until he could become king, and was thus likened to Mary, a bit presumptuous?
Next door is the Conciergerie, once the royal residence of Clovis, the first French king. Through the centuries this building served many purposes in the monarchy. At the end of the 14th century, Charles V appointed a concierge (steward), endowed with legal powers to run the Palace and prison. Numerous famous prisoners were kept here. Among them Queen Marie-Antoinette and Robespiere. The cells are small and the prisoners slept on straw on the floor, unless they could afford to pay for a bed. There is quite a nice courtyard, separate for men and woman. One room has the names of all the people executed there, a very long list, covering 3 walls. A sombre depressing history lesson. The main hall consists of 4 wide passages. Walking through that spacious medieval hall, I felt more cramped in, than in the narrow one-way stone spiral staircase of the Notre-Dame. Walking out into the sunshine was a relief.
A photo session on pont Phillipe caught my eye, another perfect ending to a great day.