Thursday, January 1, 2009

Photo of the week: Notre Dame at Night

This is the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. I took this photo two days before Christmas, and you can just see the Christmas tree in front of the cathedral. Notre Dame was started in 1163 as a result of the debacle that surrounded the blessing of the Second Crusade by Pope Eugenius III, when the previous church was inadequate and led to squabbling and fighting between the French and Italian priests. The squabbling turned into a brawl as each faction argued over who would keep the elegant carpet laid on the floor, and the French King Louis VII was even hit in the face when he tried to break it up.

Built on the Ile de la Cité, the largest of the islands in Paris, the site for Notre Dame was chosen not only for its centrality to the major trade route that was the river, but also for the metaphor comparing Christianity to a ship steering for harbor. The Ile de la Cité resembled the rear of a ship, and the ship eventually became the main symbol on Paris' coat of arms.

The site of the cathedral is not a new one, as a Roman temple was originally built on the same ground. The ruins of that temple, as well as other Roman ruins, can be seen by walking down the staircase located at the far side of the empty space in front of the cathedral.

One of my favorite things to do in Paris is just walk around the center of the city at night. It's perfectly safe, and the monuments, churches and governmental buildings are well-lit, providing for great photo opportunities and letting you know that you're in Paris, the City of Light.

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