Gargoyles, “les guardiens” of the churches of Paris

From the North Tower of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, one can see many other beautiful churches in the skyline. Nearby, also on Ile de la Cite is another Gothic style church with exquisite 13 c. stained glass windows, Sainte Chapelle. It was consecrated in 1248 and was part of the royal family residence until the 14th century. This church was also restored in the 19 century.

This pensive gargoyle on the tower of Notre Dame, seems to watch over Sainte Chapelle in this photograph. Photo by Catherine Kelly, 2004.

On a distant hilltop to the north, stands Sacre Coeur Basilica, a magnificent 20th-century Roman Catholic Church decorated with mosaics inside. Sacre Coeur and its quaint neighborhood Montmartre are also must-do destinations for any visit to Paris. I recommend climbing to the tower of Sacre Coeur as well for a fantastic view.

Gargoyle of Notre Dame Cathedral frames the distant view of Sacre Coeur Basilica in Paris. Photo by Catherine Kelly, 2004.

Gargoyles of Notre Dame Cathedral

If you climbed the North Tower of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, you must have enjoyed the gargoyles at the top. These fiendish dragon-like sculptures evolved in the Middle Ages originating in nearby Rouen, France. Some gargoyles decorate the end of rain spouts, and others are merely decorative, effectively keeping the evil spirits away.

These Notre Dame Cathedral gargoyles overlook the city of Paris and the Eiffel Tower. Photo in 2004 by Catherine Kelly.
This horned and wingless gargoyle overlooks the west facade of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Photo in 2004 by Catherine Kelly.

Check this blog tomorrow for more gargoyles from the North Tower of Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris.

The Spire of Notre Dame Cathedral, 2004

Fifteen years ago (2004) I climbed to the top of the North Tower of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris to enjoy the view and take photos. I was fascinated by the gargoyles and incorporated them into my compositions. Fortunately, I turned around and noticed the Cathedral’s beautiful, intricate spire and the copper statues at its base and made some photos in that direction as well. Since the Cathedral spire was destroyed in the fire of April 15, 2019, we can now remember it in pictures.

Here is an image with the spire centered in the frame and a closer view of the copper statues, which were removed and preserved days before the fire.

Historic Spire of Notre Dame Cathedral of Paris, as seen in 2004 from the North Tower of Notre Dame, before the spire was destroyed in the fire of 2019. Copyright Catherine Kelly
Gargoyles keep watch over the rooftop of Notre Dame Cathedral in 2004. Base of the spire and copper statues seen in the background. Photograph taken from the North Tower of Notre Dame by Catherine Kelly.

Notre Dame de Paris: Rose Windows Survived the Fire

If you watched the television coverage the catastrophic fire in the Cathedral of Notre Dame of Paris, the interior of the Cathedral looked like an inferno. As the burning spire collapsed inside the nave, the heat must have been intense. Somehow, miraculously, the famous stained glass rose windows from the 13 century have survived, according to news reports today.

The rose windows are certainly one of the most beautiful elements in the elegant 850-year-old Cathedral. I photographed the North and South windows during my last visit to Notre Dame of Paris on November 17, 2018.

The North Rose Window in Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, built in 1250, has survived the 2019 fire.
The South Rose Window in Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, built in 1260, stands over 60′ tall. It has survived the April 15, 2019 fire, according to news reports today 4/17/19.

These images, shot with a Sony mirrorless camera aIIr7, show detail one might enjoy through binoculars on site. The full resolution version of these images are available for sale on my website (in the Paris gallery), and can be printed at 16 x 20″ at 300dpi. Since I first laid eyes on these windows, as a college student more than 40 years ago, I have been fascinated by their intricacy, artistry and beauty. Take a close look yourself.

The rose window on the West facade, behind the historic organ, has also survived according to reports.

Pont Alexandre III, Paris

Call me old-fashioned, but I love the architecture of 100 years ago. A walk along the Seine River in Paris last month gave me the chance to admire a series of beautiful bridges. This ornate one was built as part of the 1900 Exposition. Just look at the sculptures, the gold leaf and the series of lanterns.

Looking across Pont Alexandre III in Paris toward the Champs Elysee on a sunny Saturday.

I was walking from the Eiffel Tower to Notre Dame. It was cold and crisp, and I was grateful that there will still a few leaves on the trees. Paris is a great city to walk until your feet beg for mercy. When that happens, you can stop for a coffee and croissant, and then walk some more.

Symmetry at the Louvre

Symmetry is a key attribute of Renaissance architecture, and this side entrance of the Louvre Museum in Paris, France is a classic example. If you fold this photograph in half, down the center line, the two sides would nearly match up — save for a few pedestrians and patches in the old roof.

Do you like patterns? You can appreciate the double and triple repetition in the exterior when you take time to study this photograph. Look at the three portals and parallel windows above. Then see how many pairs you can find: in windows, towers, statues and so on. This architecture almost reminds you of music — perhaps Bach.

This side entrance to the Louvre is a Renaissance gem. Note the symmetry and repetition of elements.

While the new pyramid pedestrian entrance designed by Chinese American architect I. M. Pei gets all the attention these days, don’t forget about the historic parts of the museum (first a royal palace) built in the 16th to the 19th centuries. This section of the Louvre faces a bridge over the River Seine.

Decoding Symbols at Versailles

Le Petit Trianon was a small but elegant palace in the gardens of Versailles, which Louis XVI gave to his teenage Austrian bride Marie Antoinette. The young queen Marie welcomed a private refuge from the abundance of formal ceremony of the court at the grand palace, and she was able to relax in a more rustic setting alongside her “hameau” or little farm.

This ornate metal banister in Le Petit Trianon caught my eye, and I am intrigued by the symbols in the design. First, I see the monogram of Marie Antoinette (“MA”), and next I see some chickens, perhaps a reference to her farm. I would be interested to hear from a scholar about the types of leaves that are represented here, laurel leaves? 

#versailles, #petittrianon, #marieantoinette, #art, #design, #history
The beauty is in the details in Le Petit Trianon within the grounds of Versailles. Note the monogram, the chickens, and the leaves in the metal work.

Rich vs Poor at Versailles

Standing in the security line at Versailles, I noticed the fresh gold leaf on the  ornate gates to the Palace. My mind wandered to the history of the Sun King, Louis XIV who built most of the Palace and the angry and hungry French revolutionaries who stormed the Palace, attempting to capture and kill the monarchs.

And how history repeats itself. The current Yellow Vest protesters in Paris argue that the rich need to aide the poor. Then, in America we have a “man bites dog” situation where the wealthy president fights to build a wall to keep out the poor. Poor vs rich, rich vs poor.

Then, I come back to the present where I stand in line and admire the gates for the outstanding piece of historic artistry they are. In this view, perspective lines up the gates in opposition to the palatial architecture behind them. Admire the iconography: see the “Sun king” represented? I’m grateful that the French government of the 20 and 21 century has restored these gates for all of us to admire and appreciate and to reflect upon history.

#versailles, #gates, #gold, #iconography, #sunking, #palace, #architecture
Fresh gold leaf adorns the gates of the Palace of Versailles built by Louis XIV before the 18c. French Revolution.

Peace and Light in Paris

Violent demonstrations have eclipsed the peace you can usually count on in Paris, the “City of Light,” but we are hoping that this unrest will soon come to an end, so Parisians and their visitors can enjoy their city again. The lights of the Paris monuments at night are magical. 

Since much of the recent demonstrations disrupted the Champs d’Elysees and the Arc de Triomphe, I felt especially lucky that I had the opportunity to climb the 230 steps of the Arc in order to capture this night photo of the Eiffel Tower just last month. The Eiffel Tower puts on a dazzling show on the hour when it sparkles for about 5 minutes.

#paris, #toureiffel, #eiffeltower, #eiffel, #night, #light, #cityoflight, #peace, #peaceful, #beacon, #arcdetriomphe, #arc, #violence
The rotating blue beacon atop the Tower seems to radiate a sense of hope for peaceful times to come in 2019.

I’m sorry for the two weeks without new blog posts, but the holiday rush and some traveling has kept me super busy. I will try to resume my good habits of posting three times a week, and I hope you will follow me.

Prints of this image or others in my blog are available through my website if you click on the PRINTS link above. If you need help finding what you are looking for, don’t stress — just send me an email, and I am here to help!

Happy Holidays and good luck with your busy December!

Vivid Sainte-Chapelle

After the iconic Eiffel Tower,  Sainte-Chapelle with its amazing stained glass windows is my favorite place to visit in Paris. The height and vivid color of the windows create a stunning effect. As you look at them, you wonder how they stand, as the stone supports are quite tall and thin and the walls appear to be “all window.” The chapel’s architecture and windows date to the early 13th century. It’s hard to image the construction taking place 800 years ago. 

#stainedglass, #saintchapelle, #Paris, #thingstodo, #iconic, #architecture, #history, #Louisix, #13century, #chapel, #church, #art
Admire the stained glass of Saint-Chapelle in this wide angle photograph taken with the Sony a7rII.

This royal chapel, commissioned by Louis IX on Ile de la Cite in Paris, is located near Notre Dame Cathedral. If you buy the Musee Pass to pay admission to numerous museums and monuments for a 3-5 days, this beautiful church is included. I recommend going on a sunny day!