Since I was a little girl, one of the things that has always fascinated me when I visit a new city is its churches. I’ve always felt very intrigued by them, specially by the great Gothic cathedrals, their incredible architecture and their infinite tiny details: the sculptures, the impressive and colorful stained glass windows, the incredibly high columns trying to reach the sky, the ethereal flying buttresses… There is so much to admire in these ancient buildings! They are so high, so light and so full of small details… It’s impressive to think that they’ve witnessed so many centuries of history in Europe and they are still standing tall and proud, their majestic towers and spires dominating the skyline of their cities… I don’t know why, but since I got my first DSLR I don’t photograph many churches, probably because without a tripod, it’s hard to take photos of these beautiful buildings in their very low light conditions. I should try it more often!

Before visiting Paris, I knew that I wanted to visit Notre-Dame cathedral and climb its towers, as it is one of the finest Gothic buildings in France. We knew that Notre-Dame is the French monument with more visitors, so we tried to avoid the crowds. In our first day in Paris, we were really lucky, there wasn’t almost any queue to enter the cathedral and we could admire its beautiful interior with not so many people around. To climb the towers you have to book in advance, so we left that for our second day in the city. The plan worked out perfectly. The second day, queues to enter the building were huge! But as we had our tickets in advance, we didn’t have to wait long before we could climb the towers.

Notre-Dame is stunning. Although its interior and part of its decoration has suffered damage during the French Revolution, its columns, pointed arches, gorgeous stained glass windows and immense vaults are enough motive to keep you amazed during hours. Outside, I was fascinated with the intricate sculptures that adorn the facades, specially the ones that illustrate the Last Judgement at the central portal, the mysterious gargoyles that seem to be watching over the city and the impressive spire over the transept.

But not only Notre-Dame got my attention. I was really surprised to find so many majestic churches all over the city! Romanesque, Gothic, Baroque… The cultural and artistic heritage that the Catholic church has left in Paris over the centuries is stunning. I didn’t have enough time to visit all the churches that I’d have liked, but I loved the ones I saw.

So, here are some photos from Notre-Dame cathedral and the other churches I visited in Paris. Although I planned to post these photos before the fire that destroyed the spire and the oak roof of the cathedral last April, I doubted about posting them after that… but then I though that this post could be a little tribute to this majestic building. I hope that in not so many years, we can enjoy again the impressive Notre-Dame as beautiful as it was when I took these photos!

14 Comments

  1. Even if you are not religious, you could not help but be inspired by this incredible architecture.

    • mercedescatalan

      I totally agree! It’s not only architecture, it’s art and sentiments and believes… there’s so much in those buildings!! Every little thing and detail in these churches has its own meaning, its own purpose and not only in a material or terrestrial sense… how awesome is that? We don’t build buildings like these anymore… being able to last centuries, witnessing History and surviving fires and earthqueakes and wars…

      • Indeed. We build steel structures that are a little soulless.

      • The gargoyles – do they mean to scare off evil spirits?

        • mercedescatalan

          Apparently, there are two theories… One says that they are evil creatures running away from the church. The other one, that they are like scarecrows for evil spirits…
          In any case, they look quite intriguing, don’t they?

          • Intriguing and scary.

          • mercedescatalan

            Uuumm I don’t find them that scary… They make me wonder if there’s any hidden meaning behind them… Something that the builders and sculptors in the Middle Age wanted us to know but they didn’t reveal us what. Sounds a bit like Da Vinci Code, but these Gothic cathedrals always make my imagination fly!! 🙂

          • Hmm. They are a mystery. I guess the medieval folk wetter a superstitious lot?

          • mercedescatalan

            Well, there was a time when people believed that when you sneeze your soul separates from your body… so they said “bless you” to keep Satan from taking your soul… Yep, people during Middle Age in Europe were very superstitious and illiterate, so I guess these sculptures were an important part of their beliefs and culture! Such a pity that the meaning of the decoration of Gothic buildings is mostly lost now and we don’t understand anymore its importance.

          • It is funny to think of the concerns about sneezing now, in light of what we know. In those times, it was surely a grave concern for them. I agree it is a shame the meaning of many Gothic decorations is lost, and I think this is why it is important to hang on to traditional ways, while not getting obsessed with them, of course.

  2. Beautiful images and definitely a tribute to what was! I also love to shoot churches. Sometimes the simple country churches are the most beautiful. Thanks!

    • mercedescatalan

      Thanks a million, Anne! When I took the photos I was planning to post them, but then it didn’t feel very appropriate after the cathedral roof burnt down. Now seeing the proposals for the renovation, I feel that Notre Dame will never be the same, so I though the old spire and everything I saw from the towers deserved a little tribute.
      Yes, you’re right! These great cathedrals are stunning, but sometimes, small churches have all the enchanting of simple things!!! Actually, I think I have more photos of tiny and isolated churches than from big cathedrals, hehehe. I specially love one from Iceland. Not the famous black church, but another one that is completely lonely in a golden field. It looks so simple and romantic! 🙂

  3. Love it Mer, whether you are Christian or not, religious or not, one cannot be humbled by Notre Dame Cathedral. The architecture which has been added through the centuries is mind boggling. The impressive navel as well as the stained glasses which is famous for. But it is the amount of little details that you have captured so beautifully, that would keep you busy discovering and admiring for years. So wonderful that you were able to capture this before the fire, what a wonderful tribute to such an iconic building. I also love that ceiling from the Saint Sulpice. The photos are stunning! Thank you for posting for posterity. Blanca

    • mercedescatalan

      Thanks a mil, Blanca! I don’t know why, but I don’t usually post photos of cathedrals or churches… I take them, but then they never “see the light”. In this case, I was sure I wanted to post some of these photos when I took them. The fire made me doubt, but you convinced me to post them anyway! I hope it doesn’t look as I exploited the tragedy… but as a sincere tribute to a building and a city that fascinate me! And they are now also a memory of something that will never be the same

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