Until recently, a visit to Notre Dame Cathedral offered opportunities to step inside to attend a service, view centuries-old artworks, appreciate light streaming in through beautiful stained-glass windows, delve into a crypt or even tour the tall bell towers. Today view parts of the exterior draped in tarps and scaffolding while reconstruction is underway after a massive fire in April 2019.
The church’s tall, narrow spire collapsed in the fire, but both bell towers remain standing above the main structure and famous flying buttresses. The 8,000-pipe medieval organ, a huge rose window, many of the artworks and the crown of thorns believed to have been worn during Christ’s crucifixion were all preserved during firefighting efforts. View photos of these items, which will thankfully again be available for viewing when the church is repaired.
Notre Dame is famous worldwide for its gothic beauty and more than 850-year history as a symbol of Paris. This isn’t the first time the church has incurred major damage. After assault during the French Revolution, reconstruction required two decades.
For safety concerns, don’t try to approach the church during the current construction period. However, several spots offer opportunities to peek at the work being done.
Relax at the cafés and shops along the Left Bank of the Seine and look east toward the cathedral’s position at the southwestern end of the Île de la Cité. Enjoy a ride on one of the Seine boat cruises and gaze through the trees at activities underway.
The northwestern part of the island that holds the cathedral generally remains open during construction. Walk across the multi-arched stone bridge, Pont Neuf, built in 1578. This point offers an excellent opportunity to reflect on the long history of Paris and its impressive architecture. Just east, step inside the Sainte-Chapelle for views of its exquisite stained glass and gothic design.
Return to Paris when the Notre Dame Cathedral is restored to appreciate what Victor Hugo described so eloquently as a “vast symphony in stone.”