It was a great cave in the midst of a city; and what were the altars and the tinsel but the sparkling stalactites, into which you entered in a moment, and where the still atmosphere and the sombre light disposed to serious and profitable thought?
– Henry David Thoreau on visiting Notre Dame
A great cave is definitely one way to describe this hulk of a structure that stands at the edge of a square on the Île de la Cité.
Notre Dame is certainly cavernous.
The silence hits you first when you walk in – a heavy and eerie stillness.
Everyone seems to be tiptoeing through, interrupted here and there by teenage giggles and screaming babies.
Until the organ starts playing and fills up the empty air with chords.
And then it’s the dim lighting that you notice as your eyes adjust to the hundreds of glowing candles flickering their prayers up to the ceiling.
The ceiling is definitely somewhere you want to look, with all of its dark gothic detail.
But there’s also plenty of other crevices to explore.
There are random alters.
There are statues and sculptures.
There are big, bright and colourful stained glass windows.
It’s also an excellent place to people watch – the mixture of worshipers there to pray and meditate, those who are genuinely interested in the architecture and history of the cathedral and the people who are there because Lonely Planet told them they shouldn’t miss it if they’re going to Paris.
Next time I’m definitely bringing a tripod because taking photos in this light without one was not easy!