Notre-Dame watches over Paris

Notre-Dame de Paris is located in the middle of the city, on the Île de la Cité. As many as 14 million people step across the threshold every year to admire the cathedral from within. Those who brave the 387 steps to the top of the south tower are treated to stunning views of the city and the vast Seine, and come eye to eye with the famous gargoyles.

Arts & Culture
The rose window in the south façade

The rose window in the south façade

The treasures of Notre-Dame

Notre-Dame houses many treasures. Most striking are perhaps the colourful window rosettes from the 13th century. The largest one is in the south façade: this immense window shows various scenes from the Old and New Testaments in 4 circles. 3 relics associated with Jesus are also kept in the cathedral: a piece of the true cross, the crown of thorns, and one of the holy nails.

The hunchback of Notre-Dame

Many old buildings have a story, myth or legend, and almost everyone knows the Hunchback of Notre-Dame. The tale comes from the eponymous book (called simply Notre-Dame de Paris in French) written in 1831 by Victor Hugo. It tells of the hunchback bell-ringer Quasimodo who lives high up in the towers of Notre-Dame and falls in love with the beautiful gypsy Esmeralda. His love remains unrequited. The story has been adapted for the big screen several times and Disney’s 1996 cartoon version brought it to an audience of all ages.

Monster figures on the façade of Notre-Dame

Monster figures on the façade of Notre-Dame

Fantastic gargoyles

The gargoyles on the façade were placed at the end of the gutters to drain the rainwater so that it wouldn’t run down the walls of the cathedral. Other residents of the tower include the funny statues (drôleries) of the Galerie des Chimères. These monstrous caricatures were intended to scare off demons: seated on the galleries around the towers they watch over Paris day and night. Their creators used their imagination well for these half human, half animal statues – elements such as beaks, snake tails and eagle wings give them an often terrifying look.

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