I had admired it from afar for a long time, from still images in collegiate art history texts, and I have always had a thing for flying buttresses and ribbed vaults. So with a Centerbrook Travel Grant in hand, I headed straight for the Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris, which is surrounded by the meanders of the Seine River. It does not disappoint. I also visited St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, but that is a parable for another day.
Begun in 1163, Notre Dame took nearly two centuries to complete, if anything so enormous and intricate can ever truly be complete. They began with the Choir, next the Nave and Aisles, and finally the Western Façade was finished in about 1200. In 1250, the façade of the North arm of the Transept was completed, and its twin on the south side followed not too long thereafter. Work continued until 1345.
It has survived multiple architects and contractors, fire, the elements, and desecration during the French Revolution. The Cathedral’s renown was sealed in 1831 when Victor Hugo published “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” Inspired by the tale, the architect Eugene Emmanuel Violet-le-Duc undertook a definitive restoration that took 20 years. Continue reading Notre Dame: Architecture for the Soul