This is the Cathédrale de Notre-Dame de Paris, on the Île de la Cité, an island in the Seine River that is the original birthplace of Paris. The name is pronounced /katedʁal də nɔtʁ̩ dam də paʁi/, and it means “Cathedral of Our Lady of Paris”—“our lady” in this case being the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus in Christianity. The cathedral is almost nine hundred years old. This is the cathedral that played a key role in Victor Hugo’s Hunchback of Notre-Dame. The bells are still rung several times daily, by human beings (but not by hunchbacks, as far as I know).
Like all churches built prior to the formal separation of the Roman Catholic Church and the French Republic, this edifice is now public property; however, daily services are still held within. The state is responsible for the building itself, along with major maintenance, and it runs the tours of the towers; but the church is given responsibility for the interior. You can visit the interior, climb the towers (not recommended for people afraid of heights or tight places) to see the gargoyles, or see a small collection of art objects and relics in a tiny museum; a crypt beneath the cathedral and the plaza in front of it, along with its associated archaeological excavations, can also be visited. Notre-Dame Cathedral is a very well-known landmark, and tourists crowd around and within it all day long, every day. It is called Our Lady of Paris to distinguish it from the many other variations of Our Lady throughout Paris and France.
The rose windows (the southern rose window is visible in the photo—I have a close-up of it, if you’re interested), about the only original stained-glass windows left in the cathedral (most others were replaced several centuries ago with “new” stained glass), were removed during the Second World War and reinstalled after the war ended. The cathedral overall is notable among Gothic cathedrals in that the entire edifice was very faithful to the plans of the original architect when constructed; this is somewhat unusual, in that many Gothic cathedrals drifted in design from the original plans during the century or more required to construct them. The structure of Notre-Dame later drifted slightly, when small chapels were added around the nave and apse after most of the construction was completed, and Viollet-le-Duc made some changes (including the restoration of the central spire, and one other very specific change) when the cathedral was restored in the mid-1800s, but most of it is just as the original architect designed it.
This picture was on an extremely pretty day of April, with cloudless blue skies and a stiff
breeze—classic weather for Paris in the spring. I shot it from the Pont de
l’Archevêché (/põ də laʁʃəveʃe/,
“Archbishop’s Bridge”), which connects the eastern end of the Île de la
Cité (/il də la site/, “City Island”) to the Rive Gauche
(/ʁiv goʃ/, Left Bank). The bridge in the distance is the pont
au Double (/põ o dubl̩/, so named because it was once necessary to pay a toll of
two deniers—a double—to cross it in the 17
The Cathedral is just north of the Latin Quarter, in an area that is very popular with tourists.
I have a video on the Île de la Cité that shows the interior and exterior of the cathedral, if you're interested.
Click directly on the photo to see a larger version (twice this size). Photographed on
April 8, 2002.