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24 Apr 2019 2:45
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  •   Home > News > International

    Notre Dame cathedral is known for its stained glass windows and iconic towers. Take a look inside before the fire

    Notre Dame cathedral is home to invaluable works of art and is visited by thousands of people each year. But if you've never been inside, it can be hard to understand what makes it so special. This is what it looked like before the fire.

    French President Emmanuel Macron said it was "the epicentre of our lives".

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel has described it as a "symbol of France and our European culture".

    Former US president Barack Obama called it "one of the world's greatest treasures".

    Notre Dame cathedral is home to incalculable works of art and is visited by thousands of people from around the world each year.

    But if you've never been inside, it can be hard to understand what makes it so special.

    So we asked out Messenger audience to share their memories of the building and walk you through what it was like inside.

    The first thing you see is the iconic towers

    The two towers are estimated to be almost 70 metres high and were completed in the 13th century.

    Visitors can access the north tower by a stairway, where they are able to see almost unrivalled views of Paris.

    Linda V visited the cathedral in 2015 and remembers climbing up to the top.

    "Looking down over the city and going into the bell tower, it was amazing to see," she said.

    The stained glass windows 'transport you to another world'

    The three rose windows found inside the cathedral are a feature popular in Gothic buildings.

    These particular windows have been described by experts as "really irreplaceable," although the originals dating back to the 13th century have been replaced over the years.

    Quinn C said Paris was the first place she travelled to as a child with her family.

    "I remember being in total awe of the huge rose window," she said.

    Brittany A said inside it was so serene and beautiful with the colours of the stained glass window coming down through the church.

    Natalie E said the greatest part of the Notre Dame cathedral for her was the stained glass windows.

    "I remember being so anxious to get there, to see this famous cathedral and it didn't let me down. The stonework on the outside by the doors, the views of the cathedral from all around. It was absolutely breathtaking," she said.

    "But what was even more remarkable, was walking into this cathedral and being blessed that it was the right time of day to see the sun streaming through the rows and rows of stained glass windows.

    "I was transported to another world, an historical one where I marvelled at this great feat.

    "The windows for me held all the beauty — the light they brought in, the stories they told and by their very nature you couldn't help but think about the highly skilled workmanship that must have gone into them."

    There's an overwhelming feeling of history inside

    A medieval architecture expert and educator at the Met Cloisters told The Associated Press there were "a lot of details that remind one of intricate lace".

    "Even though it's a building of cold hard stone," she said.

    Helen A said it took her breath away.

    "While I am not religious I was moved to tears to stand in amongst that history, on those worn stone floors, listening to the service going on in the background," she said.

    "We lit a candle for my brother who has since passed from cancer.

    "I was so reluctant to leave but we were being moved by the crowd inevitably out. I loved it."

    The disturbingly lifelike gargoyles

    The gargoyles are also one of the best-known features of the cathedral and are displayed in many different animal forms on the building.

    They can be found at the top of the tower's stairs, watching over Paris.

    Kevin H said he would never forget his visit to the roof.

    "I got to share my first Parisian sunset with a bunch of photogenic gargoyles," he said.

    George L said the "most fantastic part of the cathedral is the facade and the gargoyles that's atop it".

    Sue H said the memory of "climbing to the top and seeing the breathtaking views of Paris will never leave me".

    The sound of bells ringing

    The cathedral has 10 bells, with the main bell, Emanuelle, found in the south tower

    It has been rung during some of the major events in French and global history, as well as during special occasions like Christmas and Easter.

    Stephanie C said she and her friend remembered the bells the most.

    "Hearing the bells ringing made us start screaming, it was one of the best memories ever," she said.

    "The architecture was incredible and humbling considering it took hundreds of years to complete, centuries ago."

    © 2019 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved

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