There is an island in the middle of Paris formed by the meanderings of the Seine River. As early as the 2nd century it was first inhabited by the Gauls parisii, and the island became the centre of ancient Lutetia.
The Romans, led by none other than Julius Caesar, occupied the island in 52 BC. Eventually in the 4th century the great city of Lutetia, or Lutetia Parisiorum, “Lutetia of the Parisii” was renamed Paris.
Today, the island is home to one of the largest and most well-known churches in the world: Notre Dame.
Notre Dame de Paris; meaning “Our Lady of Paris”, is a medieval Catholic cathedral of French Gothic architecture. It was constructed over the demolished remains of a previous cathedral from 1163 to 1345.Over the nearly 200 years of construction, each successive architect changed and evolved the design which can be noticed in the different parts of the cathedral.It continues to be restored to this day. The openly visible façades are mostly clean, while the sides facing the street and the difficult-to-reach nooks and crannies are still very dirty black. It’s also one of the earliest examples of the flying buttress; an arched arrangement that extends from the upper portion of the walls to transmit the great lateral wall loads to the ground.It’s only by stepping inside do you really appreciate the monumental scale of its beauty.Impossibly high vaulted ceilings held aloft by huge stone columns; it’s an engineering marvel! Although, she’s showing her age with many stress cracks to be found up high.We found the interior quite dark, mostly due to the lack of large stained-glass windows letting in natural sunlight. We didn’t complain too much.Chandeliers hang down the sides, throwing a photogenic mix of mood lighting that would make Joan of Arc proud.Among Notre Dame’s other residents, are some very lifelike (and deadlike) statues.Beneath it all lies the Archaeological Crypt, with historical ruins of the earliest Gaul settlements and some great history displays to read.
Notre Dame is no ordinary cathedral.
But then again, Paris is no ordinary city.Visited 7th October 2014.