Like so many of the other churches we have visited, Notre Dame didn't disappoint. Iconic stained glass windows that soared for stories, a grand pipe organ, and numerous apses were all a part of Notre Dame. We visited on a Saturday around noon and were surprised to see a mass underway. I'm not Catholic, or for that matter, religious, but somehow it felt wrong to be traipsing through a cathedral while a sacred rite was taking place. I would have assumed that the church would have been closed to all but the worshipers during services. In fact, that is why we opted to visit on Saturday rather than on Sunday since we had encountered more than one iconic church who closed their doors to tourists during religious services. Numerous signs, written in multiple languages, cautioned visitors to silence their cell phones, remain silent and refrain from using the flashes on their cameras but human nature being what it is, people continued to speak at volumes that echoed throughout the church as flashes popped and a few cell phones rang. We tip-toed along the perimeter of the cathedral taking in the grand spectacle of this famous church. With my layman's perspective, I vacillated between being in awe of the gold gilded accouterments and wondering about the monetary worth of the treasures the church contained. It is easy to see the wealth and influence the Catholic Church held, and perhaps still holds, over the faithful. During especially dark times I can understand why people would turn to such an impressive institution for both comfort and direction. At the same time I take pause when thinking about the abject poverty that thousands of common people endured while the Church prospered. Despite, or perhaps because of these dueling feelings, I left the inside of the Cathedral slightly disturbed but in awe just the same.
|Just one of many amazing stained glass windows|
Despite all of the cathedrals we have visited--ones in Rome, Budapest, Prague, and Vienna to name just a few-- our visit to Notre Dame marked a first for us. For the first time, we went to the top of the church and viewed the city from the 69 meter high towers. Since I have an insurmountable fear of heights, this excursion was not planned. When we first approached the exterior of the cathedral we noticed an ever growing number of people lining up along the perimeter of the building. Upon closer inspection we saw the usual stanchions indicating where people should stand and a sign informing us that the tour started at this point. We assumed our place in line and huddled in the blustery wind as the queue of people snaked forward ever so slowly. Finally after what seemed like hours but was actually closer to just one, we earned our opportunity to enter the cathedral. I thought we were going to enter the chapel; instead we found ourselves climbing a steep and narrow staircase that wound upwards in an endless spiral.
|A bird's eye perspective of Paris|
|And the view in the other direction|