Day Four

After awaking to another overcast day, I readied myself and headed downstairs once again to enjoy breakfast. Even though it was less that what I usually had for breakfast, I must admit that I did enjoy it. Maybe it was the fact that it was being served to me or that I was on holidays or maybe just the fact that I was in Paris.

I once again headed to my local Metro station and boarded the train for the short ride to the Cité stop. Ille de la Cité is located at the centre of Paris and is the origin of the city. It was first settled by tribes over 2,000 years ago and there is no older place in Paris. My first stop was Sainte-Chapelle.

Sainte Chapelle

Sainte-Chapelle was built in 1248 by Louis IX to house the holy relics. The most marked features of the chapel are the 15 stain glass and Rose windows, depicting passages from the bible. These windows are over 15 metres tall and depict stories from every book of the bible. The building is divided into two sections, an upper and lower chapel. The lower chapel was for servants and commoners, while the upper chamber was reserved for Royalty.

Once again my museum pass allowed me unfettered access to the Chapel. The lower level, even though for commoners and servants, is very richly detailed. I was disappointed by the amount of damage that the structure appeared to have as well as there apparently being no effort made to stop anyone from touching the walls or columns. I suppose that over the centuries a fair amount of damage and weathering would have been sustained. However, I still feel that maybe the touring public should be kept at a safe distance.


From the lower level you ascend the spiral stone stair case, at the front of the Chapel to the upper level. The upper level is truly magnificent, with it's big stained glass windows all around. The windows depict stories from both the Old and New Testaments of the bible. At the end of the Chapel, directly opposite the Rose Window is the raised altar.


The altar was designed to display the Holy relics that Louis IX acquired. Such relics apparently include, Jesus' crown of thorns and a fragment of the Cross of Christ. Apparently Louis paid more than three times what he paid for the Chapel to built for the collection of relics - none of which I could see ! Oh well the stained glass windows in themselves are a sight to behold.


Also around the base of the windows are located medieval wood carvings of the Apostles. The windows start to the left, as you face the altar and continue around to the right and end with the round Rose window, directly opposite the altar. The Rose window, apparently best seen at sunset, depicts the Apocalypse and was a gift from Charles VIII in 1485.


A visit to Sainte-Chapelle is one of my "must do" recommendations of Paris. It is amazing to think of how old the Chapel is, what history it has seen and that it has survived so long, even in the face of modern wars.

Notre Dame

My next stop was probably to one of the most famous churches in Paris, if not the World. I am of course talking about Notre-Dame. This church is also located on Ille de la Citè and only about 5 minutes walk from Sainte-Chapelle. The foundation stone for the church was laid in 1163 and restoration still continues to this day - as I was about to discover ! Upon arriving at the western entrance to the Cathedral I was dismayed to see the lower half covered in enclosed scaffolding. I do realise that such work is very necessary but it was going to ruin my photos ! Anyway I did my best to frame out the scaffolding as the following photo of the western entrance shows.


Below these towers is the main entrance to the Cathedral. The Cathedrals famous gargoyles watch over everyone from their perches atop these towers. Around to the left of the western front ( northern side ) there is another gate that has a sign containing details about tours up the towers. Even though I returned a few more times during my stay they didn't appear to be operational, another drawback to refurbishment I suppose !


When I entered the Cathedral I was amazed at how austere it was. After having just come from the Sainte-Chapelle it was amazing at how basic the insides were. Basically all the brick work is exposed being a dull grey in colour and it is rather dark inside as well - which probably didn't help. when you actually stop and think how old the structure is you being to appreciate its functionality. The simplicity of the internals of the structure do not in any way take away from the magnificence of the building or its history, however it struck me as very different from what I had expected.


After moving around the inside of the Cathedral I decided to explore the rest of the external architecture. I proceeded along the south side of the structure ( side near the river Seine ) towards the eastern end of the building.


Along the southern side is also the Cathedral's Treasury. The treasury houses many of the Cathedral's religious treasures, including manuscripts and items originally housed inSainte-Chapelle. I did not unfortunately get an opportunity to visit the Treasury, however I do believe that it is open for exhibition during certain hours.


It isn't till you get round to the eastern side of the structure that you really being to appreciate what a remarkable architectural design the Cathedral is. It is amazing to consider that distinctive architectural designs such as the flying buttresses were designed and constructed without the aid of modern technology. I think that the best views of Notre-Dame can be found from the Square du Jean XXIII on the eastern side of the Cathedral.

 

All in all I would have to also include Notre-Dame as one of my "must do's" here in Paris, however I would also suggest that you visit the location at night - this is even better than during the day as I was to find out later that evening !

Back around the western side of Notre-Dame is the Crypte Achéologique. It runs directly under the square that faces Notre-Dame and contains exhibits of the remain of foundations and structure that pre-date the Cathedral. Once again my museum card granted me free access to some interesting historical background to the oldest part of Paris. Although probably not worth a trip by itself, if you are visiting the Cathedral, pop in and have a quick look around.


I started to head south east into the Jardin des Plates Quarter of Paris. My travels so far had convinced me that not only was Paris an extremely easy city to visit using the Metro but also very easy to walk around. I think that you don't get a real feel of a place until you actually walk the streets. My suggestion is to work out where you want to go and then put the map away and try and get there without consulting it directly. It is is my experience that you find may sights that you never expected this way. Sure, you may end up somewhere totally different than you had planned to go but that's half the fun !


While wandering south I came across the Aréne de Lutéce. This is the remains of a Roman arena that dates from the second century. The Arena was gradually buried over time until unearthed in 1869 by local construction. There is seating here for over 15,000 people and was used for all formed of entertainment, including gladiator fights. It is amazing to think that these structures have survived all these thousands of years and are still standing. It is truly hard to comprehend the history that these places have seen and what the people who built them would think now.

Panthéon


Continuing to the west I crossed over into the Latin Quarter and was drawn to a large domed building that stood out from the rest. This building turned out to be thePanthéon. It was started in 1764 and completed in 1790. Originally designed to be a church but changed during the revolution to be a location for the tomb's of France's good and great. These individuals are located in the Panthéon's crypt, one level below street level. The crypt covers the entire area under the building and is well worth the visit, you are sure to recognise at least a few of the famous people entombed here.


The interior of the structure is in the shape of the cross and I could only walk around the perimeter of the structure. It appeared that some of the stone work was coming loose and was currently undergoing refurbishment. Inside you will also find information about those buried in the crypt and the functions that have been accorded here.


Probably as spectacular as any church or cathedral in Paris is St Etienne su Mont located a within sight of the Pantheon. This church houses the shrine of Saint Genevieve - who is the patron saint of Paris. It is church different to many others that I saw in Paris due to its unique internal architecture including circular wooden staircases, a bridge or "platform" across the middle of the church. Another interesting feature of this church is its stained glass, which again is different from any of the other examples that I saw during my stay.


I headed back down the hill, north, towards Notre-Dame, looking for a Metro station. I soon found one and headed off towards my next destination - Musée de Orsay.

Musee d'Orsay

I disembarked at the Metro station Solférino and proceeded north towards the Musée de Orsay. On the other side of the plaza that enter Musée de Orsay is the Musée Nationale de la Légion d'Honneur. Seeing how my museum card granted me free access to this museum as well I decided to take a quick look. The museum contains everything you need to know about the French Legion of Honour. It is a decoration that was initiated by Napoleon I. There is an impressive display of medals, insignia and paintings on three levels. The museum is not only restricted to French awards, you'll also find a Victoria Cross and Purple Heart here.

Directly across from Musée Nationale de la Légion d'Honneur is the Musée de Orsay. In 1986 this old mainline train station was re-opened as a museum. During the conversion most of the original architecture was kept. It has been designed to showcase each of the arts from 1848 ( 2nd Republic ) to 1914 and is probably the best place to get a good overall idea of the art that Paris has to offer in one place. The museum covers three levels and is well worth a full half day for a complete viewing. Inside you'll find works from Rodin, Renior, Van Gough and more. It is amazing to walk through the galleries and find such famous works of art such as Van Gough's "Sunflowers" and Renior's " Dancing at the Moulin de la Galette" in adjoining galleries. 

I stayed right up until closing time and managed to see most of what this museum offered. I can highly recommend Musèe d'Orsay and consider it an excellent combination of many different artists and works or art that are usually not located in the one building. The structure of the building is very open, modern and inviting and well worth an extended visit. Once again my museum card allowed me free entry.


After proceeding home and having my dinner in what was now my "local" café I returned to my hotel room. After being captivated by the architecture of Notre-Dame earlier in the day I decided that I wanted to return and see how it looked at night. The weather outside had taken a turn for the worst but I decided to take the opportunity anyway. Everyone has heard the story of the hunchback of Notre-Dame and other legends about the gargoyles that sit atop its towers and I wondered what the structure would behold at night.

As I emerged from the Metro station the rain really started to come down and I was forced to run and see cover. At night the cathedral is flood lit, however it has been done in a very low key way. The spectacle of the Cathedral at night is something that I think is really worthwhile. It is amazing how different the whole structure appears at night and how "gothic" it appears. I really wish that some of my photographs had turned out a little better.

After getting a good soaking, I once again headed home to get some rest for my next day.

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