Our Lady who art in heaven…
Notre-Dame in 1482, as seen in ‘Notre-Dame de Paris’, by Victor Hugo. A long, long time ago, I found this old book in the gutter, downstairs from my parents’ flat in Paris. The cover was gone. I opened the book, saw the engravings, picked it up and brought it home. It took a bit to restore, glue some pages together, put on a new cover pasting the leather cut off a derelict leather armchair I bought at the flea market. But finally the book was alive again. Bound anew.
Notre-Dame de Paris was published in 1831. Hugo was 29. This edition is probably 1870-1875, based on some of the drawings. You can see the main cast: Esmeralda, Phoebus, Frollo, Quasimodo. And the writing on the wall: Anagké or Ananké.
“Les sanglots longs des violons de l’automne
Bercent mon coeur d’une langueur monotone…” (Verlaine)
The long sobs of the violins of Autumn
Wound my heart of a monotone lassitude…
“Un cofre de gran riqueza hallaron dentro de un pilar”.
A coffer of great wealth they found inside a column.”
Esmeralda dancing in front of Notre-Dame de Paris. The action takes place in 1482. The engravings are c.1870. The text is in Spanish in the French edition. I assume Hugo spoke Spanish?
Our Lady last year. Construction started in 1163 and lasted for two centuries. Last year, one of the towers that had been wrapped in scaffolding for years, was finally “finished”. Fully restored. Time to climb for the first time. I’d never been up the towers of Notre-Dame. The queues alway stopped me a tad.
“J‘ai tendu des cordes de clocher à clocher; des guirlandes de fenêtre à fenêtre; des chaînes d’or d’étoile à étoile, et je danse.”
I flung ropes from belfry to belfry; garlands from window to window; gold chains from star to star, and I dance. (Rimbaud, as quoted by Sylvain Tesson, who just wrote a magnificent text on Notre-Dame)
From the pont de l’Archevêché. 2018.
On the River. 1482. (As seen in 1870). Note the houses on the bridge to the left. All bridges had houses then. Think Ponte Vecchio in Florence.
August 1944, Paris has just been liberated. A Te Deum was held at Notre-Dame. German commander of Paris Von Choltitz was under strict orders from Hitler to explode charges on all monuments and burn Paris if the Allies arrived. He refused to obey the orders. Paris and Notre-Dame survived.
“I am a bad Christian but a Christian still”, Tesson writes. “Chrétien” in French does not have the exact same meaning as “Christian” may have in America. In French it just means Catholic or Protestant. No “revivalism” involved. He also writes: “Maybe an (entire) people will rush to their Queen’s bedside?”.
One of Viollet-le-Duc’s chimeras. I’ll come back to that. Photo (c)ourtesy Karla.
The kings of Israel, on the western façade. Mistaken for the Kings of France, they were torn down during the Revolution, and replaced during the major restoration led by Viollet-le-Duc in the 19th century. In other words: those are copies. The original heads were found a few years ago in the cellar of a bank. 🙂
From the Ile Saint-Louis. That island did not exist when the cathedral was built. Originally a couple of small islands, Saint-Louis was not “built” until 1614, under the reign of Louis 13th, and the Regency of Marie de Médicis. “Yesterday”, from the perspective of a city that’s been around for 2000 years.
Eugène Viollet-le-duc (1814-1879) was not even an architect, which may explain why he drew so much criticism. My French compatriots can be… how can I phrase that? Haughty? If you haven’t gone to the right school…
(Source of the photograph: Ateliers Roméo)
He did however have a very good hand, as shown in the above (Source: BNF). Those sketches of gargoyles are a good example of the enormous work he had on his hands when he was awarded the restoration works of Notre-Dame, in 1843. He was barely thirty and commissioned to restore the old Lady. Notre-Dame was in a poor state. Many gargoyles and other elements had been destroyed over time. The task was huge.
Left to right: The Virgin Mary.
And… I don’t know. The Bishop? The statue on the left is “Synagoga” who personifies Judaism, and the Jewish roots of Christianity.
Violet-le-Duc set to work. One of the fist things to do was to replace most or all the Chimeras placed between the towers. Yes. You read correctly. Those are… not fake, but the product of Viollet-le-Duc’s 19th century imagination:
The pelican. (Source unknown.) Those are chimeras. Not gargoyles. The gargoyles are exclusively dedicated to evacuate the water from the roof and do so at a distance for the walls, to preserve the stone. The name gargoyle comes from the latin ‘garg’, gorge, throat, and the old French: ‘goule’, gueule. To simplify: in English, think ‘gargle’ or ‘gurgle’. The chimeras have no functionality.
In Notre-Dame de Paris, by Hugo, author’s edition. (To not make this tedious, when you seen an engraving, it comes from that rescued book) 🙂
Note: the book’s tremendous success in 1831 contributed to an awareness of the need to restore the old Lady. 150 years ago.
La porte rouge, the red door, 1482.
The red door, 2018. The very same door, on the northern side. Shorter clothes. No idea who the ladies are. Now, check on the engraving above, you will notice 6 statues are missing!
The novel opens with this word: Ananké. In ancient Greek mythology, Ananké is the Goddess of Fate, of the inevitable. Most adequate for the beginning (and the end?) of the greatest of cathedrals?
To be continued…
Unless otherwise mentioned, all material displayed is mine, so are my opinions… This is a much longer post that I like to publish, but the subject… The subject! Until next time then.