The more I write about Paris, the more I get a hankering to get back there as fast as possible! It’s really a magical city! And my readers must love Paris too, because I get LOTS of messages from y’all about more tips and insights into the City of Light! So today, I’m sharing a secret or two about Notre Dame Cathedral Paris! Including Alchemy, the famous Notre Dame Gargoyles, and the Notre Dame Towers. Let’s dive in!
Notre Dame Cathedral Paris
Besides the Eiffel Tower, I can’t think of a site that is more connected to Paris than Notre Dame Cathedral. And while the horrific fire on April 15, 2019 destroyed so much of this beloved place of worship, and symbol of Paris, the cathedral is being rebuilt! Experts estimate the project to last a few years, but visitors can still admire the outside. And, Notre Dame still has many secrets. If you promise not to tell, I’ll share some of her secrets today!
Notre Dame Secret #1: Alchemy
When we visit cathedrals, our assumption is that every statue, stained glass window, and general iconography is related to Christianity, or the Christian Bible in some way. Well, that’s not entirely true! If you stand underneath the central doorway in front of Notre Dame Cathedral, there are circles, or medallions, which MIGHT represent various vices of Christianity, like Gluttony or Greed.
But, there is a secret! According to legend, the circles actually illustrate each step of transforming metal into gold! In other words, Alchemy! So, get your inner Alchemist on, and decipher away…and don’t forget your humble Blogger friend if you are successful!
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Notre Dame Gargoyles: Secret #2
Everyone knows about the famous Notre Dame Gargoyles. But, in addition to frightening off evil spirits and reminding all of the sinners who visit of the demons waiting for them in Hell if said sinners don’t change their wicked ways, gargoyles originally served a more mundane purpose…..as rain gutters.
Even today, water from the roof travels along the grooved back of each gargoyle, eventually draining out of their mouths.
And for you super-studious types, another secret. The word gargoyle that we use today, comes from the French verb “gargouiller” which means to gargle water in your throat. You’re welcome.
Secret #3: The Notre Dame Towers are Missing Something
Originally, tall spires were designed for the Notre Dame towers. It’s a mystery why they were not actually built. Money wasn’t an issue, because construction of the cathedral continued after the Notre Dame towers were erected. Now that you look at the front of the cathedral, doesn’t it seem like there SHOULD be spires on such an important church?
Tip: The Cluny Museum
How’s that for some good secret info? One other piece of information, that is more of a tip, than a secret. Do take the time to visit the Cluny Museum. It’s totally amazing, all on its own, with its incredible collection of medieval art and preserved Roman Baths, but among its collection are the Kings of Judah.
The stone heads, date back to circa 1220. During the French Revolution, citizens frustrated by feudalism and other injustices damaged the Notre-Dame cathedral and its statues. The mob interpreted the crowned statues as French nobility, rather than Biblical Kings and Queens, and many were pulled down.
In the late 18th century, 28 damaged statues that represented the kings of Judah were removed from the church and sold as scrap. Some pieces were saved, and buried. In 1977, a construction project on the other side of the Seine near the Opéra Garnier unearthed some of the kings’ heads and many parts of other statues. It is considered one of the most important discoveries in archeological history.
P.S. This post was originally written in May 2018. I updated it on April 16, 2019, one day after a fire ravaged this important site. The world is grieving for the damage done to Notre Dame Cathedral Paris, and we stand united in prayer and hope for its rebuilding and restoration.
Enjoy your trip to Paris friends, and for more information from yours truly, click here! Bon Voyage!
Tags: Notre Dame | Paris | Paris Guide | Paris History | Paris Tips