Paris: December 2009

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Tour St Jacques

On our way to find Notre Dame, we passed this thing. Tall and gothic, yes. Notre Dame, no. I snapped a photo and kept walking.

Palais de Justice

Also not Notre Dame. This turned out to be the Palais de Justice.

Notre Dame

There it is! Complete with Gothic-sized Christmas tree.

door of saints

One of the doors. This photo gives a bit better sense of scale, and a sense of the detail and density of the sculpture encrusting this thing.

madonna nursing

We were trying to get up to the towers, but ended up inside. Notre Dame has been a church for about 800 years. For some of that time, it was fashionable for the wealthy to give extravagant gifts to the church, presumably in exchange for skipping the sermon about the camel and the eye of the needle. The result for Notre Dame is that the alcoves are full of amazing, and often very large, works of art. Eric pointed out this unusual piece showing Mary nursing the baby Jesus. Has it ever struck you as odd that Mary is almost never depicted nursing?

stained glass

Stained glass.

stained glass

The big stained glass piece. This is the round window on the front.

wood carvings

These wooden carvings depict some kind of biblical scenes.


For 3 euro you can see the church's treasury. Mostly it consists of gold-tassled robes, chalices encrusted with jewels and carvings that look more tacky than treasured by today's fashion, and other items whose significance is lost on me. Relics, though, I like. Most relics look more like a vaccuum tube or a stash box than a body part, but this one is definitely recognizable.


Its pair.


A little gold snake about to eat the cherubs.


This sculpture was positioned in the shadows with its head slightly down, so that you didn't see the face until you got fairly close. There's also a photo of the whole piece but its rather grainy.

look up

Looking up.

archaeological crypt

Underneath the plaza outside there's an archaeological dig happening under the city. Paris has been inhabited for at least 6000 years. In 52BC the Romans conquored the Parisii, the Gaulish tribe living in the area, and renamed the city Lutetia Parisorum. These stone blocks are from that settlement. They have the distinct Roman character of stone archways and plumbing. Apparently some Roman statuary, pottery, etc. was found here, but all that remains in this museum is the gritty stone of a half-dozen buildings, standing right where it has been for 2000 years.

Tour St Jacques

We came out into the dusk and went to find the other gothic tower which we had spotted earlier. Turns out it is this: the Tour Saint Jacqúes, the remains of a 16th-century church paid for by the butchers of Paris. The remainder of the church was scrapped in 1797 (literally: it was sold for its building materials) but the tower was preserved. In the mid-19th-century it was purchased by the City of Paris and restored. Recent investigation shows that most of the stonework is original (19th century restoration often consisted of simply replacing bits which were looking ragged), but was in serious need of restoration. Restoration was finished in 2009.


A couple of the grotesques (those are gargoyles that do not have a water spout) on the tower.

subway tunnel

One thing I wouldn't have guessed Paris would have is a steampunk subway station. But this 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea look can only be art for art's sake. There are sculptures in the portals: Eric's looking at one with a bunch of elliptical gears.

notre dame gargoyles

The next morning we went back to Notre Dame to get up the towers.


It was raining, which made the 2 hour wait to get in rather cold and damp, but it meant that we got to see the gargoyles do a bit of their job. The king above these gargoyles is the only one left, although each of the towers around the edge have a place for them. Most of them were destroyed in the French Revolution, under the mistaken impression that they represented the monarchy of France. They are, of course, meant to be biblical kings.


The gargoyles placidly watch the line of people work its way inside. Note the pock-marking on the back of the one in the middle, caused by hundreds of years of dripping water.


Open mouth of the gargoyle. Note the little person crouched in the corner below.

lady gargoyle

The ground-level pieces are all broken off, but given Paris's none too peaceful history, the remainder of the building is remarkably intact.

horned watcher

Finally it was our turn to climb the tower. Emerging rom the stairs, you find this fellow quietly contemplating the view.

horned watcher

He seems not to think much of recent developments.

Sacre Coeur

The Sacre Coeur in the distance, with the Tour Saint Jacqúes in the right foreground.

ace with Gargoyle

Me with my new friend.

bird with Sacre Coeur

Bird with Sacre Coeur.


Elephant, cat-monkey, and one whose face has been worn away by 800 years of rain.

wizard and lizard

Their companions on the other side: lizard, wizard, and beast.

wizard and lizard

Another angle on this group. A zoom on the wizard, saber-toothed cat, and beast here.

old and new

Demons of diferent ages.

eaten alive

This one's enjoying his lively dinner. If you take a look through the bars,, though, you can see that dinner is not going down peacefully.

grotesque and eiffel

The Eiffel tower is a new addition from this one's point of view. Photo by Eric.

cat-frog, sheep, and lizard

Cat-frog, sheep, and lizard.

wings and Eiffel

Watching the tower.

dragon bird

Malproportioned dragon-bird.

decayed grotesque

The stone of this one is slowly crumbling, looking out over Saint Jacqúes and Sacre Coeur.

hooded bird

Monk vulture?

bird Eiffel

Another grotesque with an interest in modern art.

beaked lizard

A lizardy bird, with the faceless one and the church spire in the background.


A contented-looking pelican. I have not found the identity of the building in the background.


A pair of kitties, and a monk with webbed feet.

'goyle got back

I like this view of the latter half of a grotesque...

decaying waterspout

A close look at one of the waterspouts.


Kitty and the spire.


Eric points out that the plaza below has the locations of old buildings marked out on it.

Eric with grapes

Eric with an unusually vegetarian avian grotesque.


A dragon and the Saint-Chapelle church in the background. A closer view of the dragon.


A tower encrusted in grotesques. Note that the second from the right is human.


Finally at the top! The same tower from above.

down the waterspout

A look down the gargoyle.


A side view of the gargoyle, with the church garden in the background.

gothic crows

Crows on the top of the Notre Dame.

crow and Sacre Coeur

A crow posing in front of the Sacre Coeur.


I will eat your garden! This is not a great composition, but I really love the moss on the towers to the right, too.


The gargoyles are all the ends of the butresses, which double as gutters. Here's a closer look at the waterspouts and buttresses.

waterspouts from below

The same gargoyles in the photo above, from the ground.


Another row of gargoyles.


A closer look at the nearby ones.


Another angle on the gargoyles and their waterworks. The sun had just come out, which made for great lighting but also fogged up my lens.

headless king

This is a figure which is repeated a few times in the stonework: the king with his head very literally in his hands.

human gargoyle

See how much better it is when the lens isn't foggy? One of the human gargoyles.

weathered tower

A gargoyle with a very weathered tower. There are places where you are reminded that this building has been standing since 1182.


The courtyard was closed (note the construction materials to the far right) but you could still get a good look through the fence.

from the side

... or over the fence.

Eric at church

Eric in his vacation-job as measuring stick.

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