It almost seems as though every town within the country of France contains a cathedral by the name of Notre Dame. There is even one in the town in which I am currently living. Though I am sure that there is an obvious reason for many of the churches in the country to be named as such, I myself unfortunately do not know the reason. Shamefully, I did not even know what the name "Notre Dame" actually meant until I looked it up specifically for this post.
It seems that the title Notre Dame actually means, "Our Lady" and refers to the Blessed Virgin Mary (aka Jesus' mother).
Regardless of its name though, the Notre Dame cathedral in the city of Rouen was a serously impressive site for me to see. It was by far the largest and most ornate church that I have ever had the pleasure of visiting in the country thus far.
With its intense and ornately decorated exterior, and its countless peaks and towers that rise into the air like a medieval crown, the cathedral was an awe inspiring site to behold.
There is so much detail and craftsmanship put into its design that it was almost overwhelming to the senses. It really reminded me of the elaborate pieces of ivory artwork that you sometimes see in museums. The ones that are so detailed that you can't help but wonder just how a person could be able to carve such detailed piece of artwork.
The cathedral, which is built in the ornate Gothic and Romanesque styles, is one of the oldest and most prestigious monuments within the city of Rouen. Construction of the modern building dates back to the year 1063 and work continued on the structure all the way into the 1800's.
With restoration efforts still taking place to this day, the cathedral is truely a living monument.
The modern cathedral was built on the ruins of a church dating back to the 4th century that had been burnt to the ground during a viking raid. Some of the stones used in its more modern construction even date back to the middle ages.
The cast iron arrow of the center peak of the cathedral was constructed in a neo gothic style in 1825 - 1876. The peak itself was actually once made of wood but it too burned down in 1822 after being struck by lightning. Being so tall, the structure had actually been hit by lightning several times throughout its history.
Rising a whopping 151 meters into the air, the peak of the cathedral makes it currently the tallest cathedral in all of France. From 1876 to 1880 is was also the tallest building in the world and according to some online sources, it actually remains the third tallest church even to this day.
In 1944 during world war II the cathedral took damage twice after the area was bombed by British and American military forces. Though most of the structure survived the bombings, the bells of one of the towers melted during an ensuing fire leaving molten metal on the cathedral floor.
Almost as impressive as its exterior, the interior of the cathedral is characterised by its intensly high ceilings and an elaborate array of archways.
One thing that was neat for me in seeing this church on this particular day, was that we had just come from visiting the ruins of the Abbey of Jumièges. What was neat was that the abbey appeared to be very similar in its construction, minus the damage and degradation of course.
As such, I almost got a sense of what the Abbey probably would have been like before its destruction as it too had extremely high ceilings and numerous domed archeways.
Among the interior decorations of the cathedral were numerous stone statues of religious figures that had long since passed away. There were also countless windows of decorative stained glass, as well as many large and beautiful paintings. I was particularly interested in these large brass containers which I assume are used for burning insense.
A large stone staircase was also pretty neat to see, as was the very large organ located at the cathedrals entrance. Unfortunately, I couldn't get a very good picture of the organ because of how dark it was in the cathedral. In fact many of my pictures didn't really turn out well.
Like many churches that are lit by natural light, there were no lights on in the building when we visited.
One last picture of the architecture before I conclude my post.
This one shows the numerous columns used to prop up the larged domed ceiling of the cathedral. Such beauty and such grandeur. The architecture of the older buildings never cease to amaze me.