Well, I started this post on March 25th. How time changes things.
Monday (April 15), two of my favorite people sent me text links to breaking news: Paris was burning; actually, Notre-Dame was burning.
First thought was arson. That seems reasonable, given the Paris protests and the fact that arsonists have set church fires in various locations around the country, including Saint-Sulpice on Paris’s left bank.
The St-Sulpice fire did little damage and, though out Air B&B was only a block away, we didn’t even realize it had happened.
Yet, the news outlets immediately dismissed arson and blamed renovation crews. I’m still a bit skeptical about that.
The following is my commentary before the fire, with some post-fire edits.
Paris and its outskirts offer some of the most spectacular churches in the world. Of course, there’s Notre-Dame, but slightly less famous churches around Paris are beautiful, too, and provide examples of classic architectural features.
Notre-Dame de Paris
Notre-Dame de Paris is the Queen of the city. This iconic structure exemplifies the architectural advances made during the major period of its construction, from 1160 to 1260.
Notre-Dame’s flying buttresses (those side supports that remind you of a whale’s ribcage) demonstrate the structural mechanism invented to hold up cathedral walls.
Ken Follett’s historical novel, Pillars of the Earth, explores the time, effort, expense, and creativity that went into the design of these Gothic cathedrals.
Follett’s book is well worth your time, especially if you are planning a trip to Europe and have cathedral visits on your agenda.
Notre-Dame’s construction spanned over two hundred years. That means no original builder ever lived to see its completion.
Some of the stained glass windows inside the church are stunning in their detail, including the “rose windows.”
The Rose windows are the large, round stained glass windows that we all know from paintings and photographs of the cathedral.
How much remains inside the cathedral following the fire? We don’t know yet. The only glimpse so far is camera video attributed to one of the firefighters.
Is Notre-Dame truly inspiring? Just think back to all the references to this structure from your childhood. (If you haven’t read these books, give them a try. You don’t have to be a kid to appreciate good children’s literature.)
While you are on the Ile de la Cite, be sure to visit Sainte-Chapelle. Head west to 6 Boulevard du Palais. After going through security, you will end up inside the walled grounds and follow the sidewalk to Sainte-Chapelle.
Constructed from about 1238 to 1248, the chapel is considered a prime example of Gothic style.
Sainte-Chapelle was built by Louis IX exclusively for the King’s use, and to hold royal relics. Its 50 foot-tall stained glass windows make this chapel one of the most beautiful in Paris.
Luckily, the expertise of firefighters saved many historic structures like Sainte-Chapelle on April 15th.
On the left bank, in the neighborhood of St-Germain-des-Pres, you’ll find the impressive Saint-Sulpice church.
This church is second only to Notre-Dame in size. The plaza leading to the front doors of the church features the Fountain of the Four Bishops.
I hope that you’ve found some inspiration in our Paris church tour. Stay tuned for more from this beautiful city!