The Grand Lady of Paris, Notre Dame

The ancient marble steps leading through the doors to French Gothic Notre Dame are slightly grooved from centuries of weekly worshipers. You can feel it under your feet as a reminder that you are merely one of millions who have gone before you – people on pilgrimages, wandering vagabonds, visiting kings and queens, street people, modern day gypsies, students of ancient art and architecture and folks just like you and me who are in awe of the grandeur and the sacred space. As we arrived the bells for Sunday mass were tolling and a long line was forming for entrance; a huge Christmas tree decorated in blue bulbs stood in the entrance courtyard and it was brutally cold and windy. I was almost hyper-ventilating from reverence and excitement.

The cathedral is gargantuan; the air I was breathing was rarefied, the enormity of the experience was profound. There are few words worthy of the time I spent there…

I lit candles and said some silent prayers; I tried to catch my breath as I wandered through. I knew I had to come back again the next day when there might be an empty pew where I could sit and spend more time. My photographs do not begin to reveal the size and scope I was seeing. The proportions in the nave are astounding. There was not an empty seat in the place.

And I returned the next day, every bit as anxious as I had been the first time, on Monday, my final day in Paris. After wandering for an hour or more, taking more pictures,  I found the gift shop and purchased some little six inch Notre Dame Christmas angels crafted from what looked like humble material and a few gold charms for necklaces. Treasures that will become family heirlooms…for some treasured people in my life.

I cannot help but wonder how many people down through the ages, no matter their beliefs about a higher power, have journeyed to this magnificent place of worship,  praying for peace on earth. For me, Notre Dame is a symbol of hope, an ancient wonder of a place, begun in 1163 and mostly completed by the 14th century. The famous flying buttresses support its walls and roof, heavily damaged during the French Revolution. In the South Tower hangs the cathedral’s original bell, 13 tons, named Emmanuel ( all the bells are named) which announced the liberation of France from the Nazies in 1944. Emmanuel is extremely important to French history. The bell was recast in 1631 from copper and bronze, and Parisian women threw into the pot their precious gems and jewels, thus incorporating them into the bell. In 2013 as part of Notre Dame’s 850th anniversary since construction began, nine new bells were installed replicating the original chimes.

Notre Dame is very much the center, the heart and soul of Paris, in both location and adoration. You must go visit her. She is a beauty.

Additional photos of Notre Dame and my entire Paris trip can be found on my Instagram pages at The Creative Epiphany and on FB under Jo Ann (Rossiter) Brown-Scott.

Jo Ann Brown-Scott, author and artist –   www.acanaryfliestheycanyon.com

http://joann-brown-scott.fineartamerica.com

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My Birthday in Paris, Part 4

The Splendor of Musee d’Orsay

On Friday of our astounding week in Paris we visited the Musee d’Orsay, an enormous  destination that is now dear to my heart. The famous clock, that spot-on perfect icon that defines this museum in the minds of folks who are passionate about art history was clearly visible and unmistakable as we approached from a bridge on the right bank crossing over the Seine to the left, an easy walk from our hotel in St Germaine. What better symbol, what better icon, to identify such a priceless location commemorating the very passage of time and the treasures therein? What time has given us is personified in Paris and its museums. All that is right in the world of art, antiques, fashion, food, design, music, literature, treasures small and large and tradition I found in abundance during our week of wandering this gorgeous city. A city that remains easy to explore, welcoming, comfortable and always extraordinary in its offerings.

The gigantic rotunda of this museum might reveal that it was once a railway station built for the 1900 Exposition Universelle but by 1939 rail travel ceased at this building. Later from 1848 to 1914 the government set about transforming it it to what became the country’s premier showcase for art. It is grand and glorious but not uncomfortably so, with comfy beanbag chairs accessible for relaxing in the upstairs space where you see the interior photo of the window clock, which reveals an amazing panorama of the city’s Montmartre area including the Sacre-Coeur. It was nearly shrouded by fog the day we were there….

As with the Louvre and its Mona Lisa, I had one primary goal in the Musee d’Orsay and that was Degas’s ballerina sculpture titled Little Dancer. Once again, blotting tears streaming down my cheeks, I walked around and around her as I remembered my own tiny dancer daughter when she was in the Nutcracker at Denver’s Christmas season years ago. I have always been a fan of Degas, and this sculpture is tres magnifique and especially realistic with its unusual addition of a pale peach-colored gauzy  tutu and a wide satin hair-ribbon to match that have remained almost unscathed since it was incorporated into the 1880 sculpture. The young girl depicted in the sculpture is a fourteen year old Belgian, a student at the Paris Opera Ballet School of that time named Marie van Goethem. Little did she know that she would live forever in the Musee d’Orsay in Paris and become a worldwide symbol of the ballet. Degas’s huge body of work portrays many ballet scenes; this one is by far his claim to fame.

I also viewed more Van Gogh’s than I had ever seen in one space that day in the Musee d’Orsay, as well as Manet, Monet, Renoir, Gauguin and many others who were made real to me through my viewing of their Impressionistic art.

To be so fortunate, so blessed and so enlightened on one day in Paris, just one day out of seven, was rare and immensely joyful for me. I am forever changed by it and thankful that my daughter sent me there for my birthday. If you read my own grown-up ballerina’s travel blog here on WordPress at http://www.compassandcamera.wordpress you will be reminded that she wrote about my mother’s (and her grandmother’s) trip to Europe of many years ago including a trip to Paris, based upon the postcards she sent home. Of course my daughter has also been to Paris, included with many other countrys on her travel resume.

Hhmm…. this Paris thing is a golden heirloom thread running through our family now and it is no accident believe me. We women know where to go and what to see that will enrich our lives and add to our appreciation for the life we have been given and the very brief time we have here on earth in which to live it….. I wish for all of you a trip to Paris.

For additional photos of Paris please follow me on Instagram at “the creative epiphany” Jo Ann Brown-Scott