Tour of Notre Dame (2) – Up on the Tower

Views of Paris from the towers of Notre Dame de Paris

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….

West Facade of Notre Dame de Paris
Notre Dame de Paris – West Facade

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.

Views of Paris from the towers of Notre Dame de Paris

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.

Views of Palais de Justice from the towers of Notre Dame de Paris

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.

Dome des Invalides and Eiffel Tower from the towers of Notre Dame de Paris
Dome des Invalides and Eiffel Tower
Views of Paris from the towers of Notre Dame de Paris
Gallery between the two towers of Notre Dame
Views of Paris from the towers of Notre Dame de Paris
Lead roof and spire of Notre Dame

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.

Views of Paris from the towers of Notre Dame de Paris
Tour Montparnasse
Giant bells in the towers of Notre Dame de Paris
Bell Emmanuel

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.

Centre Pompidou Paris seen from the towers of Notre Dame de Paris
Centre Pompidou

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.

Views of Paris from the towers of Notre Dame de Paris
Sacre Coeur and Montmartre
La Defense and Louvre seen from the towers of Notre Dame de Paris
La Defense and Louvre Museum on the banks of the Seine
Views of Paris from the towers of Notre Dame de Paris
Western end of the Ile de la Cité
View of Pantheon from the towers of Notre Dame de Paris
Pantheon
Roofs of Paris from the towers of Notre Dame de Paris
Roofs of Paris
Views of Paris from the towers of Notre Dame de Paris
North Tower and Montmartre in the distance
Rescued statues below the lost spire
Rescued statues below the lost spire

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.

The lost roof and spire of Notre Dame de Paris
The lost roof and spire of Notre Dame de Paris

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!

Marcus

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41 thoughts on “Tour of Notre Dame (2) – Up on the Tower

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  1. For my money, that was always the best view of Paris — even with the “hairnet” they installed over the south tower in recent years. Thank you for sharing your beautiful and inspiring photos with us, Marcus.

    1. Thanks Heide, appreciate your comment. I was only once on the Tower and thought the “hairnet” was always there. As long as it is wide enough I can stick my lens through I’m fine with those safety nets. Have a great week! Marcus

      1. You’re right that it’s still possible to get a good shot by sticking your lens through the gaps in the net, Marcus — I did the same myself. I guess I got spoiled, having been up there back in the 1990s when they had no barriers at all. But given how careless people can be, for eveyone’s safety it’s probably a good thing. Hope you have a wonderful week ahead as well!

      2. 🙂 Me and The Significant Other just spent two marvelous days in Dresden. What a stunning rebuilt they have done after the WWII destructions. One of the most beautiful cities in our country. Post is coming up 😉 Marcus

  2. We didn’t get a chance to take the tour through the towers. The views from there are absolutely phenomenal. Thanks for sharing them!!

    1. You are welcome, Amy, maybe next time you head to Paris. I hope the towers are the first thing they open up again, as it seems they were not severely damaged and probably can be accessed. Have a great week! Marcus

  3. Breathtaking photos of Notre Dame! I saw it once in my life and it was under construction.
    How different everything looks when you take photos from the high point! How wonderful!
    Happy Easter, Marcus!

  4. Wow. What a wonderful set of images. Before this, I have only seen “postcard” ground level exterior shots. I really like the close ups of the gargoyles. Thanks so much for sharing. May you have a Blessed Easter.

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