Above: A gargoyle looks over Paris and the Seine River, with the Eiffel Tower far in the background.
Scaling the skinny 400-step spiral staircase in the west buttress of Notre Dame Cathedral is not easy. It is a fascinating, historical experience, and well worth the wait in line.
First stop is the chimera gallery – chimera meaning animal – which features an array of mythical creatures. At 46 meters, or 151 feet, above the ground you’re already above much of the Paris skyline.
The Chimera gallery is the same height as the Cathedrals main roof. The bronze statues visible are some of the 12 apostles.
The roof of Notre Dame Cathedral and apostle statues, July 10, 2013.
After crossing the gallery more stairs are in store. The top of the belfry is an impressive 69 meters, 226 feet, above ground. Here a full 360 degree view of paris is attained, as well as a feeling of helplessness if there were to be an emergency.
The roof of the previous picture can be seen leading into the cathedrals spire with the apostle statues. The Seine river winds out of the frame. The only thing more impressive then the view is realizing the tower is roughly 800 years old!
The very top of Notre Dame Cathedral, looking west.
On the right bank of the Seine River that splits Paris in half stands Notre Dame Cathedral. The first stone of this ancient and enormous house of worship was laid in 1163 by Bishop Maurice de Sully. Built of limestone from nearby quarries, Notre Dame, or “Our Lady,” took almost 200 years to complete and today is the most visited site in Paris.
While Notre Dame seems hidden until relatively close due to surrounding structures, once in eyesight it immediately dominates the skyline. In cool morning air and soft light with the flowing water – before crowds arrive in the hundreds – the scene is calm, relaxing.
Something as simple as circling the cathedral is astounding. It radiates history. Everywhere hand-carved statues and motifs overwhelm the eyes. One can’t help but imagine simple peasant farmers in the early days seeing Notre Dame and thinking they had seen part of heaven.
A jogger makes his way along the Seine River with Notre-Dame Cathedral in the background, July 8, 2013.
Notre Dame as seen from the left bank of the Seine River.
Architecture close up.