A Journey through the Medieval City of Sighisoara, Romania

Winter Journey to Medieval Sighisoara, Romania

If you journey through Transylvania, ‘the land across the forest’, (searching for Vlad Tepes, Vlad the Impaler or Dracula) and head towards Brasov along the banks of the Big Tarnava River, you will surely spot from quite afar the pointy towers of medieval Sighisoara City, with its centuries old fortress and churches. We traveled there by train one winter.

I give you the ‘Pearl‘ and the ‘Nürnberg‘ of Transylvania, Sighisoara!

A brief history of Sighisoara

Nearly two millennia ago here rose a Roman castrum, a military fortified camp for guarding the roads. But more proof of local human settlements dates back to the Bronze Age.

Looking at Sighisoara fortress from the Lower City
We see the fortress up on the hill, as we cross the river over Tarnava Mare

Sighisoara as we know it took shape during the 12th century when Saxon merchants and craftsmen settled here for a few reasons…

First, to defend against Tatar invasions the eastern and southern borders of the Hungarian Kingdom, formed at the beginning of the Middle Ages on the Pannonian Plain. This border was none other but the line of River Târnava Mare.

Second, in search of a better life. These settlers, who chose the banks of the slower Saes river to build their homes, were soon known as the Transylvanian Saxons. By the 14th century, Sighișoara was a well known royal center with the status of an urban settlement, Civitas de Segusvar, and by the 15th century its guilds had received the sole right to its administration.

As it was the custom during the Middle Ages, captains ruled such territories, or royal citadels, and these captains obeyed the Prince of Transylvania which, in turn, was a vassal of the King of Hungary.

Yet there was a third, less known reason. As the people already living in this land were Christians and the Pope loved converting new territories to Catholicism, the plan of populating this area with Saxons emerged. So, over the centuries, in Transylvania arrived first the military contingents, then the Saxon merchant settlers.

Dominican monks also settled here at the end of the 13th century, followed by the Franciscans.

Sighisoara view
Admiring Sighisoara from the very top of the hill

Today, a journey through the medieval city of Sighisoara is time-travel at its best, as this is one of the few preserved medieval cities still found in Europe and the only one fully inhabited found in Romania.

Sighisoara – the etymology of a town’s name

Castrum Sex, Castle Six, was the name of the fortress that existed here prior to the apparition of the first Hungarian military contingents. This fortress was first attested at the beginning of the 13th century, before being almost completely destroyed by Tatars.
Later we hear the name Castrum Sches, from Hungarian seges, or citadel, although it makes more sense to connect the fortress’ name with that of one of the rivers that run through it, river Şaeş.

Other names used for Sighisoara during the Middle Ages were Segusvar and Segeswar, as well as the German Schägesburh.

Vlad Dracul, Prince of Wallachia, was the first one to use the Romanian transcription of the town’s name, Schegischone, in a document from July 1st, 1435.

Sighisoara City – a layout with a purpose

One of the things I enjoyed about our journey around the medieval city of Sighisoara was that everything is within walking distance. Although the train station’s location is in the Lower City, Sighisoara’s modern area, it is easy to spot the walled fortress, atop a hill in the Upper City. The medieval citadel rises, colossal and gray, yet within close range, accessible through a bridge spanning across Tarnava Mare River.

Encircling Sighisoara fortress, one can very well admire the original defensive wall with its towers and bastions.

To recognize the craftsmen’s importance, each guild – and there were ten such associations in Sighisoara – received a tower of the citadel’s fortification. Thus, each guild was responsible for its own administration and it is still easy to guess which guilds were the most productive ones, as their towers are the best-preserved ones, and the biggest: Tailors’ Tower, Tin-makers’ Tower, and Goldsmiths’ Tower. But, above all, stands the 14th century Clock Tower and through here we made our entrance into the Sighisoara fortress.

The guilds were important as they fought against those who practiced the profession illegally. Also, their members enjoyed privileges with the Wallachian rulers.

Sighisoara City Map (Harta Orasului Sighisoara)
Sighisoara City Map (Harta Orasului Sighisoara) source

The story of the fortresses’ ramparts and towers

Apart from its 164 houses, what we admired the most during our journey through the medieval city Sighisoara were its 930 meters long defense wall and towers. Why so many – for such a small fortress?

During the Late Middle Ages, sadly, the danger of the Ottoman Empire escalated. Therefore, the first mention of a wall around Sighisoara fortress dates back to 1490. The very first wall elevation showcased crenelations and rose only 3-4 meters in height, principally intended for arbalesters (crossbowmen).

16th century came and the bastion rose by two extra meters. Meurtrieres were now built in the wall, either as floor-holes (for dropping hot substances onto the attackers) or as loopholes (arrow slits or cannoniers). After the big fire of 1676, the fortress’ wall was 8 – 10 meters in height.

Let’s make our way inside this incredible medieval fortress.

The Clock Tower

Placed on the eastern side of Sighisoara’s defense system of walls and towers, closer to sunrise, to mark its value, the Clock Tower was the first to welcome us on our journey. On a follow-up blog post we’ll have a detailed look at the other towers, each one with its own incredible history, but for now let’s start here.

The Clock Tower is the main entrance in the fortress and the first spot we visited during our journey through the medieval city of Sighisoara.
The Tailors’ Tower, on the opposing wall of the fortress, is the second way into the citadel.

Yet it is the Clock Tower that hides a few symbols.

Massive and everlasting, the Saxons built their Clock Tower out of a myriad of humble river stones handpicked from the banks of the nearby rivers. Each stone is insignificant on its own, their strengths coming from their number, much as a king’s army. Erected with the intention of being the main entrance in the fortress the Clock Tower, fortified accordingly, had only two levels. Its walls are 2.3 meters thick and three gates defend it, while its belly protects the stairway connecting the Upper City with the Lower City.

Only a handful of visitors know that the Clock Tower is a symbol of Transylvanian Saxons’ pride and craftsmanship. They desired to build the biggest, tallest clock tower in the principality – as horology had a long tradition here, since the 14th century.

The only path into the fortress takes you underneath the tower itself. It is the Front Gate ensemble and part of the tower’s barbicane, a fortified outpost.

journey medieval city Sighisoara

In 1844, inside the barbicane a courtyard appeared, the Old Ladies’ Corridor that you can see here. This is a wooden passage meant to ease the aged peasants’ access into the fortress, during heavy winters.

Sighisoara, Old Ladies' Corrisod - Galeria Doamnelor Batrane

Into the fortress we go, underneath the Clock Tower, through the belly of the beast:

Sighisoara: main entrance in the fortress, underneath the Clock Tower

And emerging into the fortress. The visitors’ entrance in the Clock Tower is immediately on the right-hand side. The ground level of the tower dates back to the 14th century.

Similar to the second gate tower, the Tailor’s Tower, the Clock Tower has a rectangular floor plan and a ground floor with two vaulted gates over the passageway.

Soghisoara Fortress - the visitorts' entrance in the Clock Tower

Hard to guess, but the Clock Tower, or the Big Tower of the Front Gate, reaches a height of 64 meters, of which 34 meters is the roof alone!

I admired the central, pointy roof with its baroque embellishments and its own main tower surrounded by four smaller ones, each rising at 12.5 meters. These four towers are a symbol of the city’s own judicial autonomy, right of the sword, meaning that back in the Middle Ages the Sighisoara City Council could give the death sentence and executions were also performed in the City Square.

The Clock Tower. journey medieval city sighisoara
The Clock Tower, Sighisoara

Unlike the other wall towers, each belonging to a guild, the Clock Tower belonged to the public authorities serving as headquarter for the City Council. Master builders added the upper levels during the 15th and 16th centuries and when the great fire of 1676 destroyed the roof, Austrian craftsmen built a new one in 1677.

The top of the Clock Tower, Sighisoara

At the very top is a golden sphere, atop which a wind vane in the shape of a rooster still stands. The bulb-shaped roof stands as the oldest proof of Baroque influence in Transylvania.
The golden sphere is a symbol of local power and has a diameter of 1 meter. Why? Because it is a time capsule hidden in plain sight. Inside you would find a copy of the Chronicles of the Clock Tower by Georgius Krauss as well as documents pertaining to the history of Sighisoara and that of the Transylvanian Saxons.

The Sphere, the Crescent and the Double-headed Eagle of Sighisoara

At the very top of the Clock Tower is a rooster weather-vane. But underneath, between the rooster and the golden sphere, now this is an entirely different story.
We now see the double-headed eagle, a symbol of the Austrian Empire between 1867 and 1915.
During the tower’s refurbishing from 1677 the three builder masters placed here a Turkish crescent, surely under political orders, meant to remind the people of Sighisoara of the Ottoman Empire’s ruling.
The crescent got damaged in 1704 by local insurgents or curuti, from Hungarian kuruc. New work on the Clock Tower was only possible in 1776. Then the double-headed eagle, in a nod towards the Austrian Empire’s authority, replaced the crescent.

A time capsule and hidden symbology of Clock Tower and its very top. Journey medieval city Sighisoara
The Sphere, the double-headed Eagle and the golden sphere – symbology in Sighisoara

The roof, as we see it today, dates back to the 19th century. It uses hexagonal, glazed shingle tiles in shades of red, yellow, blue, green, and white. Mostly birds, able to fly this high, can enjoy such intricate details.

The Clock Tower's roof  has glazed shingle tiles in shades of red, yellow, blue, green, and white. Medieval Sighisoara.
The Clock Tower’s roof has glazed shingle tiles in shades of red, yellow, blue, green, and white.
journey medieval city Sighisoara
The Clock Tower’s roof as we saw it on a winter’s day.

Yes, we climbed to the very top, to the balcony you see above – the sixth level of the Clock Tower.

Imagine living here in the late Middle Ages. The Tower, the tallest structure for miles, protecting you, and beside the sun, the keeper of time and your only measure for the time of day and the day of the week. Yet the tower was much more than that, for during important celebrations an orchestra would climb to the balcony placed at its very top and perform music that reached every corner of the fortress as well as those living outside its walls, in the Lower City.

And looking up at this medieval giant you will want to watch out, as the slits and murder holes are still visible:

The Clock Tower in Sighisoara - Medieval, solid rock.
Looking up at the Clock Tower in Sighisoara – Medieval, solid rock.

The two faces of Sighisoara’s Clock Tower

Well worth noticing as you journey towards and through the medieval city of Sighisoara are the two faces of the Clock Tower, on its fifth level.

The best feature of the Clock Tower is on the fifth level, its 17th-century clock mechanism. In 1648 craftsman Johann Kirtschel even improved its system. He included a minute hand, added quarter-hour chimes and the one-meter tall wooden statues representing the days of the week.

Facing the Upper City or the inner fortress we can see a niche carved in the tower, holding statues and located to the left side of the 2,4-meter diameter clock dial.
Here, Peace holds a trumpet and an olive branch, near a Drummer who marks quarter hours and full hours.
Also, two statues in blue dresses symbolize Righteousness, with her eyes covered, holding a raised wooden sword and Justice, with laurels on her head, holding a scale. Yes, here Righteousness has her eyes covered and not Justice.

Later, two more statues appeared here, placed right at the top, two angels. At 6 AM the Angel of Day shows up, with flames above his head, holding a burning heart, replaced at 6 PM by the Angel of the Night, holding a torch in each hand.

On the clock’s side facing the Lower City, we can admire a horse and a drummer as well as seven 80 cm tall statues depicting seven Roman gods, symbols of weekdays: Diana / Artemis, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Saturn, and the Sun.

Sighisoara - the Clock Tower - Turnul cu Ceas
The Clock Tower, the clock’s face and the statues’ niche its the left side as seen from the Upper City, the inside of Sighisoara fortress.
The Clock Tower in Sighisoara: the inner, fortress' side: spot Peace with a trumpet and an olive branch and the Drummer
The Clock Tower: the statues placed bellow represent Peace, with a trumpet and an olive branch, and the Drummer .
journey medieval city sighisoara. The Clock Tower, the clock's face and the statues' niche its the right side as seen from the Lower City, the  outside of Sighisoara fortress.
The Clock Tower, the clock’s face and the statues’ niche its the right side as seen from the Lower City, the outside of Sighisoara fortress.

The Seven Statues of Sighisoara’s Clock Tower

Diana / Artemis, the goddess of hunting, depicted in a blue dress holding a bow and arrow; she has a half-moon over her head, the alchemist’s symbol for silver.
Mars / Ares god of war, holds a spear and wears a helmet with a feather, and above is the chemical symbol for iron, also a symbol for the star sign Ares.
Mercury / Hermes, the god of commerce, holds a caduceus in his right hand and a bag with money in his left and has a pair of wings at his helmet and another pair at his heels. Above his head is the symbol for mercury or quicksilver – just like his temper.

Jupiter / Zeus, the god of sky and the King of gods, depicted with his right foot resting on a globe, holds a lightning rod in his right hand and a thunder in his left. Above his head we find the alchemy symbol for tin, looking like a 24.
Venus / Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty and love, has the alchemy’s symbol for copper, passion, above her head and a winged cupid.
Saturn, the god of agriculture and abundance, has the symbol for lead above his head.
Sun / Sol / Helios, depicted as a female goddess with a crown of golden rays, the symbol for gold.

The Warning Statue, a Vestige of Sighisoara’s Medieval Past

But the traveler is also warned on his journey, long before he approaches the medieval city of Sighisoara. Can you read the signs?
Two lone statues are easily spotted underneath the seven peaceful ones, depicting days of the week and crafty symbols. One of these two statues is a drummer, matching the one on the other side of the clock tower, and hammering away as the bells chime.
Lo and behold for next to him stands an executioner, who once held in his hands a whip and a hatchet…

Going up into the medieval Clock Tower of Sighisoara

220 years old, the Clock Tower’s museum is a place worth visiting. One can admire coins, weapons, medieval pharmacy equipment and a detailed layout of the fortress.

Up until 1566, the rooms located on the tower’s first floor accommodated the Council’s City Hall.

going up in the Clock Tower of medieval Sighisoara

But what you do want to visit is the roofed gallery at the very top, hugging the clock tower all around.

Up here a 360 degrees panoramic view of Sighisoara unfolds in front of your eyes.

We spot the bridge over Tarnava Mare River that connects the Lower City with the Upper City.

If you dare count, you will see over 150 medieval houses clustered in the old town, their red roofs and the stone-paved streets where once kings, artisans, and even Vlad Tepes strolled.

over 150 medieval houses are clustered in the old town of Sighisoara
There are over 150 medieval houses clustered in the old town of Sighisoara

There, on the left, below, is the house where Vlad Tepes, Vlad the Impaler, Dracula, was born. We’ll go there soon. Meanwhile, have you noticed the slanted roofs powdered with snow?

journey medieval city sighisoara

From the top of the Clock Tower, we even had a glimpse back in time, through the history of Sighisoara. The Church on the Hill, dating back to the beginning of the 14th century, was one of the first constructions the Transylvanian Saxons built:

The early 14th century Church Hill as seen from the top of the Clock Tower.
The early 14th century Church Hill as seen from the top of the Clock Tower.

From the Clock Tower’s top balcony one can get a panoramic view of the world as well. How good is your eyesight? Can you see as far as Moscow?

Clock Tower - 1368 km to Moscova, Moscow

Measuring from the Clock Tower, Vienna is 656 km away, Rome 1.096 km, Paris 1.680 km, London 1.872 km, New York 7.431 km, Tokyo 8.890 km, and Sydney 15.438 km away.

Sighisoara, Clock Tower - 14 025 kn to South Pole

It looks like someone has left a secret message for us. Can you decipher it?

footsteps in the snow in Sighisoara - a secret message?

As a child, Vlad would have played hide-and-seek through this passageway when he was a lad of five. Lucky times as later, during the 18th century, this small space became a prison. For when the Clock Tower was first built there were two dark passageways running through it – what better place for children to play?

After the great fire of 1676, when the tower was rebuilt, one of these passageways became a torture chamber / jail. In this very space the convicts had their hands and feet tied in chains. As a way of torture the convicts were tied to the infamy pole, in the city square, with 6 kilograms river stone hanging around their necks, for all to see.

The Clock Tower, Sighisoara. A secret saide gate. Vlad Tepes would have played hide-and-seek here when he was a lad of five.

Go ahead, take a peek:

I am sure that, as a child, Vlad would have engaged in snowball fights and even built animals out of snow. On the patch of snow you see above, we built a dragon to honor Vlad’s name derived from the Order of the Dragon awarded to his father:

A Dragon of snow in Sighisoara
A snow dragon in Sighisoara

I hope you enjoyed our journey through the medieval city Sighisoara thus far.

If I were you, I would follow this blog as there are three more legs to this journey: a visit inside at the house where Vlad Tepes, (Vlad the Impaler or Dacula) was born, a walk around the medieval towers of Sighisoara fortress, as well as a pair of horns on a building, a mysterious stairway, and a graveyard.

Notre-Dame de Paris, a Visit before the April 2019 fire #NotreDame #tourism #culture #poetry

Over 12 millions tourists visit Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris every year. It may seem like a vast number, but compare it to the billions who haven’t even heard of this breathtaking, this époustouflante church nestled on a tiny island in the City of Lights and you can consider yourself lucky to be one of those few millions. We were. We are, went through my mind as we dumbfounded witnessed her (for the French consider their monuments of art to be of feminine genre) burn on in the evening of Monday 15 April 2019 during a LIVE TV broadcast . We’ve visited the Notre Dame Cathedral of Paris in August 2018. I want to share with you a tiny fraction of the marvels we saw.

Getting there…

To visit “Our Lady of Paris” or The Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris on Ile de la Cité (one of the two Parisian islands on Seine) you can take the Line 4 metro (M4 purple) or use one of the five bridges that connect the island to the rest of Paris. Do use the metro (Métropolitain, Métro de Paris) when in Paris, it is super fast, reliable, easy to use and super fun.

The Ile de la Cité metro station (stop for the Notre Dame Cathedral) was opened on 10 December 1910 .

Metropolitan - Cite Metro station near Notre-Dame de Paris - photo by Lysandra Furstenberg.jpg
Metropolitan – Ile de la Cite Metro station near Notre-Dame de Paris

Here is the first sight of the Paris Notre Dame Cathedral, the precious 300 foot (91.44 meters) spire lost in the fire that engulfed most of this magnificent church in April 2019.

The Notre Dame’s spire was a key component of the Paris skyline and it one of the first things you see as you search for this medieval cathedral. Perhaps not many know that this spire, first erected in 13th century, was damaged before, at the end of 18th century and replaced in 19th century using a design by architect Eugène Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc.

Notre Dame Cathedral of Paris and spire – as seen from Ile de la Cite Metro station, August 2018

Slender arm outstretched

She reaches for her Father.

Notre Dame’s spire.

(Spire, a haiku by Patricia Furstenberg)

From the metro station, as you hurried footsteps take you along Rue de Lutèce then Rue de la Cité and you round the corner towards left, you are suddenly rewarded, faced with a beautiful square bordered by shady trees and behind it, closer than it might appear and so modest in its centuries-old fame, awaits, always awaits, the Notre Dame Cathedral of Paris.

Notre Dame Cathedral facade -  photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
Notre Dame Cathedral facade

Icon, Gothic bride,

Graced with long lines, rose windows.

Awaits your prayers.

(Notre Dame of Paris, a haiku by Patricia Furstenberg)

The Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris is a place of worship before being a historical landmark.

Front facade (west facade):

As in any Christian church, the altar faces east, away from us. The main entrance will therefore be through west. As you stand in front of the cathedral, left hand side is north, right hand side is south.

Notice the two 69-meter (228-feet) tall towers and the spire (at the back) raising between them. The famous bell sounded by Victor Hugo’s Quasimodo is the North Tower (left side and slightly bigger). The South Tower (right) houses the cathedral’s famous and oldest bell, “Emmanuel” (recast in 1631). This bell was the only one that was not melted down to become a cannon during the French Revolution.

Also worth noticing are: the “Galerie des Chimères” or Grand Gallery – it connects the two towers. Here is where the cathedral’s legendary gargoyles (chimères) are found and the King’s Gallery (a line of 28 statues of Kings of Judah and Israel – placed right above the three arches or portals).

Notre Dame Cathedral -West entrance and facade- photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
Notre Dame Cathedral -West entrance and facade: North (left) and South (right) towers, the spire showing between them, the Grand Gallery and the King’s Gallery underneath.

Of hope and promise

Her white rose blooms set in stone.

A new beginning.

(Rose Window, a haiku by Patricia Furstenberg)

Right in the middle of the west facade is the beautiful West Rose Window dating from about 1220. It is 9.6meters in diameter and its glass was recreated in the 19th century.

A rose window is any circular widow, especially used in Gothic style constructions and depicting a detailed design like a multi-petaled rose. Why a rose? Perhaps because the rose flower is a symbol of balance, of hope and new beginnings.

Notre Dame Cathedral rose window exterior - photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
Notre Dame Cathedral – the West Rose window exterior also known as The Virgin’s Balcony

All along the front of the west rose window is the balcony of the Virgin with the statue of the Virgin with Child guarded by two angels Do you notice how the rose window forms a halo behind the statues of Mary and those of the angels?

Notre Dame Cathedral rose window exterior statues - photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
Notre Dame Cathedral rose window exterior statues

Pure eternal bliss,

Angel kiss on baby’s cheek.

Our Mother’s love.

(Mother Love, a haiku by Patricia Furstenberg)

On the main, west facade of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris one cannot miss the three (west) portals (not identical), magnificent examples of early Gothic art. They were sculpted in the 13th century with the purpose of teaching bible lessons to the peasants that could not read, but came all the way to this church to pray to God.

Notre Dame Cathedral under sunlight - photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
Notre Dame Cathedral under sunlight

She always awaits.

Sun, mist, snow… blazing fire.

Our blessed Lady.

(Notre Dame, a haiku by Patricia Furstenberg)

The Center Portal – The Last Judgment Portal

This is the largest of the three portals. The space between two portals is called a buttresses. Each buttress has a niche that houses a statue.

Notre Dame Cathedral - west entrance detail above main portal - photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
Notre Dame Cathedral – west entrance detail above central portal – the tympanum

The sculpture above depicts the Last Judgement. Above the sculpture thee are archivolts with lots pf saint sculptures.

The Right Portal – Portal of St. Anne (the Virgin Mary’s mother)

The Left Portal – Portal of the Virgin

Notice the three parts of the tympanum. On the top part there is a scene depicting the Coronation of the Virgin, with an angel crowning Mary.

Underneath, the top lintel depicts the Death of the Virgin – Mary lies on her death bed surrounded by Jesus and the 12 Apostles. Underneath is the bottom lintel with three Old Testament prophets (left) and three Old Testament kings (right) holding scrolls with Christ ‘s prophecies.

Notre Dame Cathedral - left portal photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
Notre Dame Cathedral – left portal

Solid, tactile pray

Centuries encased in stone.

Hopeful new whispers.

(Statue, a haiku by Patricia Furstenberg)

Notre Dame Cathedral - West entrance left portal - photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
Notre Dame Cathedral – West entrance left portal, Virgin Mary’s

On the left side of Saint Mary’s portal there are the door-jamb statues: Emperor Constantine, an angel, Saint Denis holding his head, another angel.

Notre Dame Cathedral - Saint Denis holding his head and two angel- photo Lysandra Furstenberg
Notre Dame Cathedral – Saint Denis holding his head and two angel – left side of Virgin Mary’s Portal

On the right side of Saint Mary’s portal there are more door-jamb statues: Saint John the Baptist, Saint Stephen, Saint Genevieve and Pope Saint Sylvester.

Notre Dame Cathedral - Statues of Saint John the Baptist, Saint Stephen, Saint Genevieve, Pope Saint Sylvester on Portail de la Vierge - photo by Lysandra Furstenberg.jpg
Notre Dame Cathedral – Statues of Saint John the Baptist, Saint Stephen, Saint Genevieve, Pope Saint Sylvester on right side of Portal de la Vierge

Between the two doors of Virgin Mary’s portal there is a statue of Mary and Child. When we visited Notre Dame of Paris there was a bird’s nest in Mary’s crown… Always hope.

Madonna with Child, Portal of the Virgin -Notre Dame Cathedral - photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
Madonna with Child, Portal of the Virgin -Notre Dame Cathedral

Shelter in winter,

Cover from rain, blazing sun.

Love’s many faces.

(Mary’s Love, a haiku by Patricia Furstenberg)

At the very left of Virgin Mary’s portal (the left portal) is the Statue of Saint Stephen.

Saint Stephen -Notre Dame Cathedral - photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
Saint Stephen -Notre Dame Cathedral

Here is a view at the King’s Gallery (a line of 28 statues of Kings of Judah and Israel) – above the three west portals. The original statues were placed there in the 13th century. Sadly, during the French Revolution they were mistaken for kinds, pulled down and decapitated. New statues were later sculpted by Geoffroi-Dechaume. In 1977, 143 remains of the decapitated statues were discovered and can now be seen at the Middle-Ages Museum (Hôtel de Cluny).

To be so small…

Notre Dame Cathedral - looking up 2. photo by Lysandra Furstenberg.jpg
Notre Dame Cathedral – looking up

I am child again,

Safety, acceptance, peace, love.

In God’s Home, my church.

(Home, a haiku by Patricia Furstenberg)

Notre Dame Cathedral - looking up. photo by Lysandra Furstenberg.jpg

Inside the Notre Dame Cathedral of Paris before the April 2019 fire

A view along the enormously tall and long nave (130 meters long, with double isles left and right), towards the altar, while standing in the (west) entrance. The nave can accommodate 6500 worshipers.

All the columns that support the vault are identical, although they reach different parts of the six part vault. Because of this our eye is led all the way to the altar.

Notre Dame Cathedral ceiling main nave view 1 - photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
Notre Dame Cathedral – the ceiling above main nave view 1

Right above the altar rose the Cathedral’s flèche or spire that sadly collapsed in a mass of led and charred wood in the April 2019 fire.

The Altar

solemn interior of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris with stained glass windows and altar with cross and crucifix - photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
solemn interior of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris with stained glass windows and altar with cross and crucifix

Left and right of the high altar are the kneeling statues of Louis XIII and Louis XIV. At the back we have a glimpse of theouble ambulatory.

Notre Dame Cathedral view of High Altar and Pieta - photo by Lysandra Frustenberg
Notre Dame Cathedral view of High Altar and Pieta

In front of the cross found on the altar is the Pietà statue by Nicolas Coustou. They both escaped unharmed from the April 2019 fire. How unbelievably amazing is that, considering that the spire that collapsed rose right above them? Did you know that pietà means “pity”, “compassion’? A pietà is Christian art sculpture depicting
the Virgin Mary cradling the dead body of Jesus.

Notre Dame Cathedral view of High Altar and Pieta 2 - photo by Lysandra Frustenberg
Notre Dame Cathedral view of High Altar and Pietà – close up

The Rose Windows

The North rose window, 12,9 meters in diameter, has almost all the original stained glass dating back to the 13th century. Its central medallion is dedicated to Virgin Mary.

A beautiful N rose window of Notre Dame Cathedral-photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
A North beautiful rose window of Notre Dame Cathedral including lower 18 vertical windows
Notre Dame Cathedral - N rose window (about 1260, rebuilt in 1861) photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
The north rose window of Notre Dame, Paris. Built in 1250 AD rebuilt in 1861

Sun’s prayer on glass,

Life giving rainbow indoors.

Bright, solid liquid.

(Stained Glass, a haiku by Patricia Furstenberg)

The South rose window, 12.9 m in diameter, 84 panes ( donated by King St. Louis and installed around 1260) was affected by the French Revolution and both World Wars. Its stained glass window dates from 1845. The south window is dedicated to Christ as south receives the most sunlight, more illumination (in the northers hemisphere) – associated with the coming again of Christ thus being the most alight between the two rose windows of the transept.

Looking up towards a beautiful S rose window of Notre Dame Cathedral-photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
Looking up towards a beautiful South rose window of Notre Dame Cathedral

After multiple repairs throughout the centuries its panes are now out of order. The architect Viollet-le-Duc rotated the entire rose with 15° to create horizontal and vertical axes for stability in the masonry.

Notre Dame Cathedral South rose stained window and ceiling - photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
Notre Dame Cathedral south rose stained window and ceiling

The Stained Glass Windows

Beautiful lighting through the stained windows. The lighting inside the Notre Dame Cathedral is never the same as the outside daylight plays different shades on its stained glass windows.

Notre Dame Cathedral - stained glass windows detail -photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
Notre Dame Cathedral – stained glass windows detail

The elegant stained windows of Notre Dame Cathedral depict religious stories. Although some of them were destroyed during the World Wars, some are even originals from the Middle Ages.

Above the isle there is a (with windows as well) and above are the clerestory windows. Notice there is one arch on the bottom level, then three arches above, then the windows.

Notre Dame Cathedral stained glass windows along the North and South aisles
Notre Dame Cathedral stained glass windows along the North and South aisles

Shimmers in the air,

Red, green, yellow, blue – festoon.

My prayers upbeat.

(Church Mood, a haiku by Patricia Furstenberg)

The original clerestory windows were just a rose window and up above was just wall. The cathedral was much darker. So below, the left bottom image shows an original clerestory window (except that above the round window it would have been wall).

Notre Dame Cathedral stained glass windows  - photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
Notre Dame Cathedral stained glass windows

Lighting with color through the stained glass windows of the Notre Dame Cathedral of Paris.

The clerestory windows are the little windows right at the top. They have no crosspiece dividing the light.

Notre Dame Cathedral - clerestory windows, photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
Notre Dame Cathedral – clerestory windows

The light pouring through a stained glass window always differ – with your distance from the window, the angle you see the window at, the time of day or season. It is always a good idea to revisit a church, if time permits. It will be a whole new experience. Spiritually too.

Notre Dame Cathedral - Saint Mary Statue and stained glass window in one of the side altars of the ambulatory - photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
Notre Dame Cathedral – Saint Mary Statue and stained glass window in one of the side altars of the ambulatory

Each stained glass window has a biblical story to tell.

Notre Dame Cathedral - stained glass windows details - photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
Notre Dame Cathedral – stained glass windows details

Is this statue looking away from us or is he absorbed by something small, at his feet?

Notre Dame Cathedral - statue in the aisle - notice the high vaults and the inner row of columns- photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
Notre Dame Cathedral – statue in the aisle – notice the high vaults and the inner row of columns

The Chandeliers

There are 27 chapels inside Notre Dame of Paris, their entrances marked by chandeliers. These chandeliers are a symbol of the light of God and were know as “Crowns of Light” during the Middle Ages.

Notre Dame Cathedral - columns and chandeliers - photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
Notre Dame Cathedral – columns and chandeliers

Lighting up a candle is such a personal, spiritual experience.

Notre Dame Cathedral - prayer candles - photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
Notre Dame Cathedral – prayer candles

Heart wrenched secrets, hopes.

Embodied in a flicker.

Candles speak to God.

(Candles, a haiku by Patricia Furstenberg)

The Transept

The transept, perpendicular on the nave, forms the big body cross of a church. Notre Dame of Paris has a rather narrow transept as it has been built after its nave. At each end of the transept we find a big, rose window, the North and the South.

Notre Dame Cathedral ceiling main nave view 2 - photo by Lysandra Furstenberg.jpg
Notre Dame Cathedral ceiling main nave view above the transept.

If memory serves me right, this medallion mural of Mary and Jesus surrounded by gold stars on blue sky was in the middle of transept, above the altar. The great spire would have rose above it.

Notre Dame Cathedral ceiling mural - Mary and Jesus gold stars on blue sky photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
Notre Dame Cathedral ceiling mural – Mary and Jesus gold stars on blue sky

Brighter than the moon

In its magical glory.

Prayer for my home.

(Star, a haiku by Patricia Furstenberg)

The area where the choir members sit is located behind the transept and shielded by this Gothic wood screen.

Notre Dame Cathedral interior detail, stone column and wooden panel depicting the life of Jesus- photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
Notre Dame Cathedral interior detail, stone column and wooden panel depicting the life of Jesus

Medieval wood sculpture on the chancel screen in Notre Dame de Paris depicting biblical scenes – below.

Medieval wood sculpture on the chancel screen in Notre Dame de Paris depicting biblical scenes - photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
Medieval wood sculpture on the chancel screen in Notre Dame de Paris depicting biblical scenes

Great image standing in the ambulatory, looking up through one of the arches, looking up into the vault. Have you ever tried to steal an unconventional peek inside a cathedral or museum? See things from a different perspective, literally.

Notre Dame Cathedral - interior 1- photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
Notre Dame Cathedral – interior

This would be a view from the North ambulatory. You can see the North Rose Window and the stained glass windows of the north aisle.

Notre Dame Cathedral - interior 1- photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
Notre Dame Cathedral – interior

The Vaulted Ceiling

Notice the six part of the 12th century vault. The clerestory windows are 13th century.

Notre Dame Cathedral - vaulted ceiling - photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
Notre Dame Cathedral – vaulted ceiling

One lesson I learned from our visit to France: always look up. The ceilings, the vaults are often overlooked and are simply magnificent. A work of art in their own right. Just think of all the forces that keep them together. Right above your head.

Notre Dame Cathedral - vaulted ceiling 2- photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
Notre Dame Cathedral – vaulted ceiling

On each side of the vault notice the isle, above it the galley (with windows as well) and above the clerestory windows. What a beautiful elevation.

The Pipe Organ

Notre Dame Cathedral - view along the nave towards the main entrance and vaulted ceiling - photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
Notre Dame Cathedral – view along the nave towards the main entrance and vaulted ceiling

I love the space above my head when I sit in a church.

Notre Dame Cathedral - view of organ, West rose window and Angel statue standing above the main entrance - photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
Notre Dame Cathedral – view of organ, West rose window and Angel statue standing above the main entrance

Did you know that your entry in the Cathedral of Notre Dame, Paris, is blessed by this Angel placed atop the entry doors?

Notre Dame Cathedral - Angel statue standing above the main entrance - photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
Notre Dame Cathedral – Angel statue standing above the main entrance

Bless  those near by,

Hear their prayers, see their hearts.

Sings the Angel still.

(Notre Dame Angel, a haiku by Patricia Furstenberg)

The Notre Dame Cathedral Great Organ was one of the world’s most famous musical instruments consisting of almost 8 000 pipes, playing five keyboards, parts of it dating back to medieval times. It has been often renovated over the years but it still contained pipes from the Middle Ages before the April 2019 fire.

Notre Dame Cathedral Pipe Organs and West Rose window - photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
Notre Dame Cathedral Pipe Organs and West Rose window – photo by Lysandra Furstenberg

Sculptures

Christ on cross-great bronze crucifix was a gift from Napoleon III. Napoleon III (Louis-Napoleon) married here Empress Eugénie de Montijo in 1853. He was 45 years old, she was 23 and would not succumb to his charms without a marriage. Later Napoleon III
restored the flèche, or spire, of this Cathedral, a work carried by architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc.

It was Napoleon I, Napoleon Bonaparte, to be crowned King in Notre Dame Cathedral on 2 December 1804.

Notre Dame Cathedral -Christ on cross-great bronze crucifix was a gift from Napoleon III. photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
Notre Dame Cathedral -Christ on cross-great bronze crucifix was a gift from Napoleon III.

A painted wood sculpture in scenes from the life of Christ, the risen Christ appears to the holy women, Wood painted panel inside Notre Dame Cathedral

Scenes from the life of Christ, the risen Christ appears to the holy women, Wood painted panel inside Notre Dame Cathedral. Image by Lysandra Furstenberg
Scenes from the life of Christ, the risen Christ appears to the holy women, Wood painted panel inside Notre Dame Cathedral
Notre Dame Cathedral - Virgin Mary icon and painted statue - photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
Notre Dame Cathedral – Virgin Mary icon and painted statue

So much dedication and work goes in a sculpture. Dare I compare it to the work that it is poured inside a novel?

Notre Dame Cathedral - interior: stone carving and column detail - photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
Notre Dame Cathedral – interior: stone carving and column detail

Cloister detail in Notre Dame Cathedral, interior -Statue and stained glass window

Notre Dame Cathedral interior = Statue and stained glass window - photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
Notre Dame Cathedral interior -Statue and stained glass window

Hopeful stretching towards the sky.

North facade of Notre Dame showing the exterior of the north rose window - photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
North facade of Notre Dame showing the exterior of the north rose window

A different view of the Notre Dame Cathedral: from atop the Eiffel Tower.

Notre Dame Cathedral seen from top Eiffel Tower - photo by Lysandra Furstenberg
Notre Dame Cathedral seen from top Eiffel Tower

“But noble as it has remained while growing old, one cannot but regret, cannot but feel indignant at the innumerable degradations and mutilations inflicted on the venerable pile, both by the action of time and the hand of man, regardless alike of Charlemagne, who laid the first stone, and Philip Augustus, who laid the last. On the face of this ancient queen of our cathedrals, beside each wrinkle one invariably finds a scar. ‘Tempus edax, homo edacior,’ which I would be inclined to translate: ‘Time is blind, but man is senseless.’” (Victor Hugo – The Hunchback of Notre Dame)

Embedded in the stone and concrete outside the Notre Dame Cathedral of Paris is this geographic marker. It is used to measure all distances away from Paris. It is Paris Point Zero.

All roads lead to Notre Dame Cathedral
All roads lead to Notre Dame Cathedral – Paris Point Zero.

A useful detailed floor plan of Notre Dame Cathedral, source Wikipedia. When visiting a monument or a museum having a detailed floor plan is an excellent idea.

The Notre Dame Cathedral of Paris - floor plan. Source wikipedia
The Notre Dame Cathedral of Paris – floor plan.

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