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The book, the musical, the cartoon, cups and notebooks, pens and key rings � all of them remind us of the story told by Victor Hugo, which saved the cathedral from being torn down. None of the history and art experts can dispute its magnificence.
Notre Dame de Paris � The Cathedral of Our Lady � stands on the bank of Seine not far from the Louvre, rising above Paris. The spacious square in front of the cathedral is always full of tourists, most of whom aspire to observe the city from above the cathedral. Its capacity is really impressive � there is room for around 9000 people at a time. Victor Hugo called this construction �a vast symphony in stone… the colossal work of one man and one people, all together one and complex… where, upon each stone, one sees the fancy of the workman disciplined by the genius of the artist start forth in a hundred fashions.�
Construction of this magnificent Gothic cathedral took more than 1,5 centuries. This building was the initiative of bishop Maurice de Sully, who ordered to demolish the current Parisian cathedral in 1160. Legend says that de Sully wanted Notre Dame de Paris to outshine all the other world buildings and become the best Our Lady’s cathedral ever existing. Works started in 1163, during the reign of Louis VII, the foundation stone was laid by Pope Alexander III. Those were the times when Roman architectural style was gradually giving place to the Gothic one, that is why the cathedral’s looks is typical of the time. Construction finished in 1345, both styles were harmoniously combined. The variety of sculptural ornaments is what many visitors to the cathedral are attracted by.
Notre Dame de Paris is 35 meters high and 48 meters wide. The South Tower holds the magnificent Emmanuel bell, which weights over 13 tons and contains gold and silver � many explain it by the legend that the bell was made of molten jewellery that local women threw into the cauldron.
Like many other French churches, during the French Revolution Notre Dame has suffered destruction and plunder. The statues of Biblical Kings were beheaded � some of those were found much later and are now displayed at the Mus?e de Cluny. Restoration started in 1845 and brought some changes to the cathedral’s looks: they added chimeras � the allegorical images of human griefs. Some think that those are the masterpieces of different authors, created in different periods of time. But in fact, they are important constituents of one complex plot. Chimeras and other �creatures� of Notre Dame help communicate the ideas of its architects, the main of which is the idea of complexity of human nature. They are the soul of the cathedral, its different �egos�: thoughtful, melancholic, watching, cunning, wicked, looking at something that we don’t see. What is unusual about all these sculptures is that sometimes they look more even lively than people.
Don’t be in a hurry when visiting the cathedral. Just think how many people worked to construct it, how much force and efforts they put into this work, to carve these chimeras, and saints, and scenes from the Bible, and religious sermons � all that many tourists never pay attention at.
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