As promised, the second episode of my Tour of Notre Dame Cathedral takes you up the iconic towers on the magnificent west facade, both of which thankfully survived last week’s blaze. Take a look at one of the bells in the South Tower, see in detail what was lost in the fire and enjoy the splendid views of Paris….
The western facade is divided into three stories. The massive doors are adorned with fine early Gothic carvings and surmounted by a row of figures of Old Testament kings. Two massive towers (erected 1210–50) crown the beautiful facade, each 223 feet (68 metres) high. The tower tour starts in the North tower, then across the outdoor gallery on top of the third level and then through the inside of the Southern tower up to the viewing platform right on top of it.
Walking around the open air balcony of the North tower, across the gallery to the balcony of the South tower, you are treated with wonderful views of the historic buildings of the Ile de la Cité below, the Hotel-Dieu, the Prefecture de Police and the more distant Palais de la Justice with the equally magnificent Sainte-Chapelle.
You also pass the gargoyles – water diversion devices in the form of birds, mythical monsters and hybrid beasts, silent witnesses to the history of Paris.
The interesting detail in this image is that the roof on top of the main nave of Notre Dame is actually separated from the Tower structures. Possibly this was great luck in the fire catastrophe of last week, as the fire could not directly enter the Tower interiors.
Notre Dame’s most famous bell is “Emmanuel”, which was witness to some of the most major events in the history of France ever since it was first cast, such as for the Te Deum for the coronation of French kings, the visit of the Pope and the end of World Wars I and II. It also rings in times of sorrow and drama to unite believers at the Notre-Dame Cathedral, like for the funerals of the French heads of state, tragedies such as the 9/11 terrorist attacks and it is reserved for the Cathedral’s special religious holidays like Christmas, Easter and Ascension. This huge bell weighs 13 tons, and, fortunately, it was saved from the devastation that arose during the French Revolution.
The views of Paris from the top of the South Tower are absolutely beautiful, and you can see almost all the principal sights of the French capital.
Amazingly, the copper statues situated on all sides of the spire, have been taken down for restoration just a week before the fire, otherwise they would have been lost for sure, as everything visible here went up in ashes.
This last photograph with the view across the nave to the Eastern end of the Ile de la Cité shows perfectly all that was lost in last weeks fire. The lead roof held by thirteenhundred 850 year old oak trees (called “The forest”), that was still the original roof construction of the Cathedral. And of course the magnificent spire added by French architect Eugène-Emanuelle Viollet-le-Duc during renovations in the 19th century. The North and South portals are still standing, but what damage the intense heat did to the century old stones remains to be seen.
Tomorrow I will post episode 3 of my Tour de Notre Dame, with the views of the Cathedral from the ground walking along the banks of the Seine river.
Wish you a happy Easter weekend!