While I’d been checking out the Cathedral my partner in crime had been minding our place in the queue for the Cathedral basilica tour, we swapped and she went off to have a look while I minded our place. I’d like to point out that’s not me in the shorts…

You duck into the cathedral by a side entrance then it’s up some stairs to the gift shop. Oh yes, you don’t come back via the gift shop so if you want souvenirs, that’s your one chance. Unless you have a wife and travelling companion who can sweet talk her way round just about any obstacle, I think she may have super powers…

And after another round of stairs (nope I didn’t count) you arrive on the roof of Notre Dame, with a birds eye view of the Ile de la Cite and the surrounding arrondissements. This really is the heart of France, road distances are still calculated from the 0 kilometre mark in the square facing the west end of Notre Dame.

Of course once you’re up there you realise that there’s someone else watching the city below with interest. What is he thinking? Maybe about some deeper point of medieval theology, or maybe about all the changes that he’s seen or maybe he’s just thinking about lunch…

I hate this safety fence, people have been climbing up and down Notre Dame for centuries and there hasn’t been a body count, so why spoil the view and the experience?

Looking upstream, so the left bank is on the right and the right bank is on the left, clear? To clarify, the left bank or ‘la rive gauche’ is on the south side of the Seine while the right bank or ‘la rive droite’ is on the north side. Of course talking about north and south only applies if the river is following the east west line, which it doesn’t (all the time). Well see me after class if it’s still not clear.

And on the left bank tucked next to her younger sister is the church of St Julien le Pauvre, the oldest church in Paris and the medieval heart of the city.

But turning away from the lure of the left bank, inside the south tower of the cathedral you find Emmanuel, the great bell of Notre Dame. She’s a survivor, the only bell to make it through the revolution, the rest were melted down and turned into cannon. She’s also had some powerful protectors, Louis IV was her godfather and Napoleon had her re-installed in 1802.

The belfy is made of wood, to prevent the bell from cracking the stone work of the tower. I kind of like the fact that a musical instrument is powerful enough to crack stone and tumble church towers.

Apparently Emmanuel is in good shape and still in tune, unlike the bells of the north tower who have fallen out of tune (I heard them, they are) and are scheduled to be melted down and reforged.

And yep, that’s me, stepping through the tiny entry to the belfry, it’s lead sheathing by the way. Hmm, lead, wood and copper, you can understand why medieval buildings burned so furiously when struck by lightning.

In a city designed around geometrical precision and monumentalism there’s something reassuring that the heart of the city is a little medieval island anchored to the modernity by a few bridges.

One thought on “Gargoylies!

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