Waiting to climb the towers of Notre-Dame
Have you ever been to a service at Notre-Dame de Paris? It can be quite moving when you think of all the history that has passed in these walls. Most non-Jews whose families are from western Europe probably have ancestors who took part in building a cathedral or at least a parish church. Nowadays the number of people waiting to climb the tower and look at the gargoyles is greater than the number of people who attend the multilingual services.
Saint Louis, the king of France, brought back "Christ's crown of thorns" from the Crusades and housed it here while he was building the Sainte-Chapelle specially for it. Later, Mary Queen of Scots was married here. During the French revolution, it was called a Temple of Reason and was sold to a man who wanted to tear it down for its stone. The Cathedral was saved by Napoleon, and it was here, at his coronation, that he seized the crown from the hands of the nonplussed pope and crowned himself Emperor.
World War One, which was fought almost entirely on French (and Belgian) soil, killed ten percent of the French population, including almost all its young men. When the war ended on November 11th, 1918, the great bell of Notre-Dame de Paris, which is named Emmanuel, rang without stopping for eleven hours to express joy. The bell weighs 14 tons and rings in F sharp. It has a beautiful sound but you will hear it only a few times a year. Some of the smaller bells are now being re-cast after years of sounding discordantly. They will arrive in March of next year.
Notre-Dame rewards a patient visit. This is the great front gate with its sculpture of the Last Judgment. It makes you think of the cruel life in the Middle Ages. What a comfort to know that powerful evil people, who had the upper hand in real life, were going to be led off in chains at the End!