We had planed to see Notre-Dame in the morning. After having breakfast at the hotel, we were on our way at 8am. Place Saint-Michel was very quiet in the early morning, barely saw anyone there; but it’s a busy place during the day, where French like to meet. On the right side of the following picture, is Fontaine Saint-Michel. Given its popularity, I feel that it requires some maintenance to say the least. With so many people around it during the day, it’s not looking good in the picture.
Cathedral of Notre Dame is located at the east end of Île de la Cité. The construction started in 1163. From choir to nave to the western Façade, it’s 90 years later when two towers were built. After that, the north and south transepts were redesigned and flying buttresses were added, plus remaining touches and elements, it took over 180 years for the Cathedral to be fully completed. The cathedral opens at 8 am, there were not many visitors yet. Notre Dame’s western Façade is famous for its well-proportioned imposing presence and exquisite carvings and statues; but the interior is quite simple.
Talked with the keeper, we learned that the tower wouldn’t open until 10 o’clock and now it’s not even 9 yet. We decided to see Panthéon first. The distance between Notre Dame and Panthéon is only 1 km, we just need follow Rue Saint-Jacques. On our way, we passed the backdoor of Sorbonne, but the entrance was jammed with trash bins and traffic cones. I couldn’t even take a picture.
Panthéon is located in the center of an oval plaza. We first walked to a small plaza in triangle shape at its back. Here sits a small church called Saint-Étienne-du-Mont. Several churches had been constructed on this location in the past 1500 years. The latest one was completed in 17th century to honor St. Geneviève, who in the legend protected Paris from destroyed by Huns. Her shrine is located in the church. Pascal and Jean Racine were also buried here. The building combines different architecture styles, rose window in Gothic and the nave in Renaissance. One of the most famous features in the church is the rood loft with delicate carvings left no surface untouched. It’s said to be one of kind in Europe. Unfortunately, we came to early, the church was not open yet.
Those who have seen movie “Midnight in Paris” should recognize this location. Gil was sitting on those stairs, picked up by an old car and his fantasy time travel started there.
We circled around the small street around the plaza and returned to the Panthéon. Panthéon was constructed at the end of the 18th century. It was originally planed to replace Abbey of St. Genevieve on the same site, but as the construction completed, it’s the time that French Revolution started. The church was repurposed as the place dedicated to the great intellectuals of France. Voltaire, Rousseau, Hugo, Zola, Marie Curie were all buried here. It’s a building in neoclassical style, with its façade modeling Pantheon in Rome. With its dome 70 meters in height, Foucault performed its famous Foucault pendulum experiment here in 1851 to demonstrate the rotation of the earth.