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 Cathedral: Crown of Thorns Chapel

No one would have predicted the catastrophic fire at Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral yesterday. Millions of people around the world have visited the iconic, historic and major religious site, and I imagine that millions watched the fire on television with feelings of horror and grief. We are all immensely grateful that much of the stone construction survives, and that the French are committed to rebuilding — replacing historic 800-300 year old craftsmanship with today’s. A reconstructed Cathedral won’t be the same, but we can’t leave Paris without its heart.

I have visited Paris six times, and I plan to revisit my photos from all of those trips. Most recently, I walked through Notre Dame late in the day on November 17, 2019. The security line stretched across the plaza, and the interior was packed with people, but we walked the the perimeter in the side aisles, and I took photos of the two Rose windows and the Crown of Thorns Chapel behind the main altar.

Crown of Thorns Chapel in Notre Dame Cathedral on 17 November 2018. Copyright by Catherine Kelly of USA. Prints available at http://www.cathykellyphotography.com.

My Sony mirrorless camera takes amazing images in very low light. Of course, I was not using a tripod in the Cathedral, so I set the camera for ISO 10,000 to hand hold it. It is ironic that my photo of the Crown of Thorns Chapel included a small fire extinguisher in the lower left corner.

The image shown here in this blog is lower resolution, so it will load quickly on your computer or mobile device. The full resolution image will be uploaded to my website and available for purchase. It can be printed 26.7″ x 11.6″ at 300 dpi (recommended). Please keep in mind that this image is protected by U.S. Copyright law, which means it can be purchased from Cathy Kelly, but it should not be copied and distributed without permission/purchase. If you wish to share this image, you are most welcome to share a link to this blog. Follow my blog, please, if you would like to see more images of Notre Dame Cathedral in years past. My next post will feature the beautiful Rose windows, which were destroyed in this tragic fire.

Our hearts are with the brave first responders, the French, the Roman Catholics, the tourists who visited and held Notre Dame in their hearts and the art historians who revered the Cathedral. We all mourn together.

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.