These are a few more from that last remaining roll of b/w I didn’t develop until yesterday. Just some additional looks at Notre Dame cathedral in black and white.
It’s hard to view the cathedral without trying to interpret the towers as a graphical element. They’re the most recognizable element to the church, perhaps other than the rose window. The main body of the church is actually rather narrow and delicate, relative to its perception. All those flying buttresses make it seem much more massive than it is. The tower facade, though, really establishes that perception because when viewing it straight on, it seems like a solid wall, and that the church behind it must be equally as massive.
Trying to look at the towers is a vertigo-inducing experience. They are quite tall, and the nature of the decorations make you keep looking up to see all the details to the very last set of gargoyles some 226 feet in the air. Getting up in the towers to view them up close and personal is vertigo-inducing as well – it’s a nearly 400-stair climb to the top of the tower (which I did NOT do – I’m too out-of-shape to attempt something so heart-stressing). At one point in time, Notre Dame was the largest building in the western world – you can still easily spot it from the 2nd tier of the Eiffel Tower, despite the intervening buildings, several miles and the bend in the river between the two landmarks.
Here is a view of the incredibly detailed facade. One thing I did not realize until looking at this photo is the fact that all three main doorways are different. I always assumed that the left/right halves of the facade would be symmetrical. If you look carefully, the archway over the left hand door is a little smaller, and crowned by the angular, peaked molding. The right arch is larger and lacks the angular molding. Another detail that often gets forgotten – we assume that these cathedrals were all bare stone, and that the way we see them today is how they were intended. Au contraire – most cathedrals of the Romanesque and Gothic periods (the 7th-15th centuries) were brightly painted, inside and out. The statues on the exterior would all have been polychrome, as would the interior walls have been. Time, weather, wear and neglect have conspired to strip the coloring off the buildings. They did find some early medieval frescoes inside the old cathedral in Salamanca that had been covered up for centuries after an earthquake damaged both cathedrals (they’re kind of conjoined twins and share a wall).
I really don’t know why they built this mammoth viewing/reviewing stand in the plaza in front of the cathedral. You can ascend the steps on the front face, or you can climb the ramp up the back. This is the view of the towers from the ramp – the tarp-like covers on the ramp provide a starkly modern contrast to the gothic stonework of the cathedral.
The crowds at Notre Dame are non-stop, even at night after the cathedral is closed. This is a typical weekday afternoon on the plaza out front. The little house to the right is the rectory for the cathedral. Along the fence surrounding the rectory is where you will find the bird feeders – people who will sell you a scrap of day old bread or a stale churro that you can hold up in your outstretched hand to attract the sparrows who will hover over to get a bite.
Some architectural details of the fence around the rectory:
Beside the cathedral there is a park with views of the Seine, replete with benches, gardens and, as part of Haussmann’s renovations, public drinking fountains. I loved the way this looked backlit with the evening light. Consider it another one of my portraits of everyday objects.
And last but not least, the tradition that began in Rome of young couples buying a padlock, writing their initials on it, locking it to the railing of a bridge, and tossing the keys in the river as a symbol of how their love cannot be undone has come to Paris. It is so popular that it has infested three or four bridges across the Seine now, and the boquinistes with bookstalls along the Rive Gauche nearest the Ile de la Cité sell a variety of padlocks and permanent markers. It seems only natural that people would do this on the bridges closest to Notre Dame, as it is one of the most romantic, inspiring buildings in a city full of romantic inspiration.
(see, I told you you wouldn’t have to wait long for the next Paris post!)