|facade de Notre Dame|
"A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral."
- Antoine Saint-Exupery
Mercredi: I took the metro from Cité Universitaire to Notre Dame. I made my pilgrimage up stairs, over bridges, across streets, until it found absolute permanence in my line of sight. Standing in the front gardens of the structure, I mirrored the physical movements of those surrounding me. Our motions seemingly choreographed.
We leaned our heads back. Panned left, then right. Tilted our eyes up, and then tilted them down.
Being contrary by nature, I believe that most people do not look at all buildings and marvel at them in the same way as I do. They take for granted the complexity of architecture, the incorporation of new design into the built environment, and fail to marvel at the capabilities of human beings to create powerful monuments. I know that most people would agree that to look at Notre Dame and not be instilled with some varying emotional response is close to impossible. Its vertical emphasis, highly intricate ornamentation, and ecclesiastical majesty, was designed to glean an emotional response from an approaching worshiper, as all Gothic cathedrals intend. From mere observation alone, a survey of the surrounding landscape designates the cathedral as the stand out. Its very French design with dual towers, and large rosette, are meant to inspire. Large buildings compare as diminutive to Notre Dame, and people close to insignificant.
The architectural grandeur of the cathedral is not the sole driving factor compelling congregations to visit Notre Dame. Americans are fascinated with the idea that the stonework and colored glass they see are older than the Motherland. Construction, beginning in 1160, finished during a time span of 185 years. The history of the cathedral brings millions through its doors. Built during the reign of Charlemagne, the first king of France, the cathedral has witnessed seven centuries of French history. The island resides as the true origin of Paris. The original inhabitants on the island, the Parisii tribe, built Paris on the island for protection against enemies. Yet with the age of cities and the built environment, farmland and wooded acreage metamorphosed into government buildings, encapsulating the cathedral on the Ile de la Cité.
So stands Notre Dame as a testament to French architecture and history. A national monument, an architectural jewel. A structure with a maddening emotional charge.
I sat in the pews of Notre Dame while the others walked along the outer aisles. The stained glass shone radiant. The chandeliers twinkled with light. I was not alone. Others sat beside me, facing the nave with bowed heads. For many, Notre Dame has a bigger meaning than merely a beautiful example of Gothic architecture.
It is a place of hope and salvation, worry and redemption, prayer and contemplation.