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JACK-PARIS-(Stroll 6) Notre Dame, its unanswered questions (3)

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Old September 11th, 2003, 03:41 PM
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Default JACK-PARIS-(Stroll 6) Notre Dame, its unanswered questions (3)

(copyright Gilette Media Cartes)
On a few meters along rue du Cloitre-Notre-Dame the RED DOOR decorated
by Pierre de Montreuil between 1250 and 1270 with floral and animal
figures said to have been inspired by oriental designs. In the lintel,
an angel crowns Mary while Jesus blesses her, holding the book of life
in his other hand. Looking in adoration here are King St.Louis IX
(left) and his Queen, Marguerite de Provence (right) during whose
reign the red door was built. "Reading" the archcurve from left up and
then down to the right, you find six episodes of the life of
St.Marcel, a popular 5th century bishop of Paris.
Moving along the sidewalk we now come on A SERIES OF BAS RELIEFS about
Mary, mutilated but four of which are recognizable.
Let's now walk into THE JOHN XIII SQUARE and take a seat. Note that
the Gothic fountain that figures prominently in so many tourist photos
and videos was, in fact, erected in 1845; Above all, look up at the
FLYING BUTTRESSES: according to one computer study, if the point where
each buttress receives the thrust of the roof's weight were moved a
few centimeters up, down or to the side, a goodly part of the
structure would come tumbling down. How such perfect precision in the
14th century calculations appears to be an unresolved question.
Step for a moment on to the Pont de l'Archévéché bridge, and look up
to the base of the Cathedral's spire. There you see FOUR VERTICAL
STATUE ROWS OF THREE APOSTLES each. What better place to put them?
They preach the "urbi et orbi". Ah! But wait a minute! One of the
apostles-at the top of the row entirely visible from this bridge- has
turned his back on "the city and the world" and is looking in
wonderment at the spire, shielding himself from its overpowering
fascination with his left fore arm. Who might he be? None other than
Doubting Thomas. And why this gesture? Because the spire was a
much-criticized part of Viollet le Duc's restoration, and this was the
architect's somewhat truculent response, the more so since the face of
this particular St.Thomas was fashioned as a likeness of Viollet le
Duc himself!
Now, along the southern side of the cathedral to ST.STEPHEN'S PORTAL
which most unfortunately can only be viewed from a distance through a
grillwork fence. Binoculars are useful here! Recounted in the lintel
and the tympanum are episodes of the life of the first Christian
martyr, Saint-Stephen. Through the garden's gate now (note the
military, castle-keep impression made by this southern tower, with its
archers' slits, and containing a room of asylum from which police were
barred) and to the back (western) end of the "parvis". From this
vantage point we can discover some of the mysteries and unanswered
questions surrounding Notre Dame. Look first at the HIGH GALLERY OF
With the exception of some which have been repaired, each column is
hewn from a single piece of stone. More, despite appearances, this
almost lilting stonework is not merely decorative, but plays a
structural role in consolidating the façade: take but one of these
columns away and a major collapse would ensue; as with the flying
buttresses, one wonders at the skill that produced such perfection.
Why, the, does Notre Dame also feature so much asymmetry??Examples
will be given in my next article.


(Folder no 6 containing stroll number 6 of Pierre Gilette's series
about Paris through the ages edited by Media-Cartes They are still
obtainable by mailing to )

Visit my personal website where you'll find my
travel tips, hotel suggestions, and restaurant
reviews for Paris, most regions of France, Belgium,
Amsterdam and Venice.
personal contact address:

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