THE cornerstone was laid in 1163 to mark the start of its construction and took almost a century to build and complete the structure, one of the first buildings in the world to use flying buttresses in its architectural design, that became a city’s icon.
Cathédrale Notre-Dame’s history is rich as it was turbulent. In this French Gothic cathedral, the Third Crusade took off, royalties tied the knot, kings were crowned, and Joan of Arc was beatified the canonized. It survived vandalism and severe damage in several incidents, a revolution included, and it was the 19th century restoration program that brought it back to its former glory.
Today, Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris is on the Unesco World Heritage List and one of Paris’ most visited attractions receiving 14 million visitors a year. People line up everyday, either to fulfill the duties of a tourist—look, pose and snap a photo with a famous religious structure, or as a Catholic—kneel, pray and hear mass. Whatever it may be, the church attracts crowds long before it opens its famous portals and after it shuts close at nightfall.
In the year’s statistics was one group of Asians traveling from across the globe—us, the Pinoy contingent traveling to the City of Lights to celebrate the golden wedding anniversary of my very good friend’s (and host) parents. The visit to the cathedral was a good time to offer a prayer of gratitude.
But it was not only the couple celebrating a milestone. It was a timely visit as the church we were in was celebrating its 850th anniversary as well.
It was an exciting event for the locals and visitors who took part in the yearlong commemoration that included symposiums, musical events, exhibitions, and the installation of the very interesting Jubilee Route, a reinterpretation of Medieval Paris constructed on the cathedral’s forecourt where the former Rue Neuve Notre-Dame was located. Built on this “old road” was a 13-meter high temporary belfry adorned with stained-glass windows created in 1937 by a master glassmaker,
Jacques le Chevallier. This marked the opening of the route.
Along with the exciting activities, “most famous of cathedrals” underwent an enhancement. The famous structure was refitted with new interior lighting and sound system in the cathedral tower, the Great Organ was renovated, and the highlight of the preservation program—the installation of the new bells, eight new bells on the north tower and one new tenor bell on the south tower replacing the great tenor bell Emmanuel. Paris heard the bell rang for the first time on the Palm Sunday of 2013, March 23rd.
We were lucky to have walked the Jubilee Route but we missed hearing the bell ring. Perhaps on the next visit to this wonderful city we will. How about you, have you heard the new bells of Notre Dame Cathedral peal?
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