( Originally Published 1918 )
Pagan Origins and Christian Predecessors — The beginnings of Notre Dame — Victor Hugo — The Dangers of Renovation — Old Glass and New — A Wedding — The Cathedral's Great Moment — The Hundred Poor Girls and Louis XVI. — The Revolution — Mrs. Momoro, Goddess of Reason — The Legend of Our Lady of the Bird — Coronation of Napoleon — The Communards and the Students — The Treasures of the Sacristy — Three Hundred and Ninety-seven Steps — Quasimodo and Esmeralda — Paris at our Feet — The Eiffel Tower — The Devils of Notre Dame — The Precincts — Notre Dame from the Quai.
IF the Ile de la Cité is the eye of Paris, then, to adapt one of Oliver Wendell Holmes' metaphors, Notre Dame is its pupil. It stands on ground that has been holy, or at least religious, for many centuries, for part of its site was once occupied by the original mother church of Paris, St. Etienne, built in the fourth century; and close by, in the Place du Parvis, have been discovered the foundations of another church, dating from the sixth century, dedicated to Saint Marie; while beneath that are the remains of a Temple of Apollo or Jupiter, relics of which we shall see at the Cluny. The origin of Notre Dame, the fusion of these two churches, is wrapped in darkness; but Victor Hugo roundly states that the first stone of it was laid by Charlemagne (who reigned from 768 to 814, and whose noble equestrian statue stands just outside), and the last by Philip Augustus, who was a friend of our Richard Coeur de Lion. The more usual account of the older parts of the Notre Dame that one sees to-day is that the first stone of it was laid in 1163, in the reign of Louis VII. by Pope Alexander III., who chanced then to be in Paris engaged in the task of avoiding his enemies, the Ghibellines, and that in almost exactly a hundred years, in the reign of Saint Louis, it was completed. (I say completed, but as a matter of fact it is not completed even yet, for each of the square towers was designed to carry a spire, and I remember seeing at the Paris Exhibition of 1889 a number of drawings of the cathedral by young architects, with these spires added. It is, however, very unlikely that they will ever sprout, and I, for one, hope not.)
Victor Hugo is, of course, if not the first authority on Notre Dame, its most sympathetic poet, lover and eulogist; and it seems ridiculous for me to attempt description when every book shop in Paris has a copy of his rich and fantastic romance, Book III. of which is an interlude in the story wholly given to the glory of the cathedral. You may read there not only of what Notre Dame is, but of what it is not and should be: the shortcomings of architects and the vandalism of mobs are alike reported. Mobs ! Paris is seared with cicatrices from the hands of her matricidal children, and Notre Dame especially so. Attempts to set her on fire were made not only by the revolutionaries but by the Communards too. These she resisted, but much of her statuary went during the Revolution, the assailants sparing the Last Judgment on the façade, but accounting very swiftly for a series of kings of Israel and Judah (who, however, have since been replaced) under the impression that they were monarchs of native growth and therefore not to be endured.
The statue of the Virgin in the centre of the façade, with Adam and Eve on each side, is not, I may say, the true Notre Dame of Paris : She is within the church — much older and simpler, on a column to the right of the altar as we face it. She is a sweeter and more winning figure than that between our first parents on the façade.
When I first knew Notre Dame it was, to the visitor from the open air, all scented darkness. And then as one grew accustomed to the gloom the cathedral opened slowly like a great flower — not so beautifully as Chartres, but with its own grandeur and fascination. That was twenty years ago. It is not the same since it has been scraped and lightened within. That old clinging darkness has gone. There are times of day now, when the sun spatters on the wall, when it might be almost any church ; but towards evening in the gloom it is Notre Dame de Paris again, mysterious and a little sinister. A bright light not only chases the shade from its aisles and recesses but also shows up the garishness of its glass. For the glass of France, usually bad, is here often almost at its worst. That glorious wheel window in the North transept — whose upper wall has indeed more glass than stone in it — could not well be more beautiful, and the rose window over the organ is beautiful too. But for the rest, the glass is either too pretty, as in the case of the window over the altar, so lovely in shape, or utterly trumpery.
The last time I was in Notre Dame I followed a wedding party through the main and usually locked door, but although I was the first after the bride and her father, I was not quick enough to set foot on the ceremonial carpet, which a prudent verger rolled up literally upon their heels. It was a fortunate moment on which to arrive, for it meant a vista of the nave from the open air right up the central aisle, and that, except in very hot weather, is rare, and probably very rare indeed when the altar is fully lighted.
The secret of Notre Dame, both within and without, is to be divined only by loitering in it with a mind at rest. To enter intent upon seeing it is useless. Outside, one can walk round it for ever and still be surprised by the splendid vagaries, humours and resource of its stone ; while within, one can, by making oneself plastic, gradually but surely attain to some of the adoration that was felt for the sanctuary by Quasimodo himself. Let us sit down on one of these chairs in the gloom and meditate on some of the scenes which its stones have witnessed.
While it was yet building Raymond VIII., Count of Toulouse, was scourged before the principal doorway for heresy, on a spot where the pillory long stood. That was in 1229. In 1248 St. Louis, on his way to the Holy Land, visited Notre Dame to receive his pilgrim's staff and scrip from the Bishop. In 1270 the body of St. Louis lay in state under this roof before it was carried to St. Denis for burial. Henry VI. of England was crowned here as King of France — the first and last English king to receive that honour. One Sunday in 1490, while Mass was being celebrated, a man called Jean l'Anglais (as we should now say, John Bull) snatched the Host from the priest's hand and profaned it : for which crime he was burnt. In 1572 Henri IV. (then Henri of Navarre) was married to Marguerite de Valois, but being a Protestant he was not allowed within the church, and the ceremony was therefore performed just outside. When, however, he entered Paris triumphantly as a conqueror and a Catholic in 1594, he heard Mass and assisted at the Te Deum in Notre Dame like a true Frenchman and ironist. In 1611 his funeral service was celebrated here.
Some very ugly events are in store for us; let some-thing pretty intervene. On February 9th, 1779 (in the narrative of Louise de Grandpré, to whom the study of Notre Dame has been a veritable passion), a large crowd pressed towards the cathedral; the ground was strewed with fresh grass and flowers and leaves; the pillars were decorated with many coloured banners. In the choir the vestments of the saints were displayed : the burning tapers lit up the interior with a dazzling brightness : the organ filled the church with joyful harmony, and the bells rang out with all their might. The whole court was present, the King himself assisting at the ceremony, and the galleries were full to overflowing of ladies of distinction in the gayest of dresses.
Then slowly, through the door of St. Anne, entered a hundred young girls dressed in white, covered with long veils and with orange blossom on their heads. These were the hundred poor girls whom Louis XVI. had dowered in memory of the birth of Marie-Thérèse-Charlotte of France, afterwards Duchess of Angoulême, and it was his wish to assist personally at their wedding and to seal their marriage licences with his sword, which was ornamented on the handle or pommel with the " fleur de lys."
Through the door of the Virgin entered at the same time one hundred young men, having each a sprig of orange blossom in his button-hole. The two rows advanced together with measured steps, preceded by two Swiss, who struck the pavement heavily with their halberds. They advanced as far as the chancel rails, where each young man gave his hand to a young girl, his fiancée, and marched slowly before the King, bowing to him and receiving a bow in return. They were then married by the Archbishop in person.
A very charming incident, don't you think ? Such a royal gift, adds Louise de Grandpré, would be very welcome to-day, when there are so many girls unmarried, for the want of a dot. Every rich young girl who is married ought to include in her corbeille de noces the dot of some poor girl. All women, remarks Louise de Grandpré, have a right to this element of love, which is sanctified by marriage, honoured by men and blessed by God. Christian marriage, says Louise de Grandpré, is a nursery not only of good Catholics but still more of good citizens, It is much to be wished, she concludes, that obstacles could be removed, because one deplores the depopulation of France.
The most fantastic and discreditable episode in the history of Notre Dame occurred one hundred and fifteen years ago, when the Convention decreed the Cult of Reason, and Notre Dame became its Temple. A ballet dancer was throned on the high altar, Our Lady of Paris was taken down, and statues of Voltaire and Rousseau stepped into the niches of the saints. Carlyle was never more wonderful than in the three or four pages that describe this cataclysm. He begins with the revolt of the Curate Parens, followed by Bishop Gobel of Paris clamouring for an honest calling since there was no religion but Liberty.
"The French nation," Carlyle writes, " is of gregarious imitative nature; it needed but a fugle-motion in this matter; and Goose Gobel, driven by Municipality and force of circumstances, has given one. What Curé will be behind him of Boissise; what Bishop behind him of Paris ? Bishop Grégoire, indeed, courageously de-clines; to the sound of `We force no one; let Grégoire consult his conscience'; but Protestant and Romish by the hundred volunteer and assent. From far and near, all through November into December, till the work is accomplished, come letters of renegation, come Curates who ` are learning to be Carpenters,' Curates with their new-wedded Nuns: has not the day of Reason dawned, very swiftly, and become noon ? From sequestered Townships come Addresses, stating plainly, though in Patois dialect, that `they will have no more to do with the black animal called Curay, animal noir appellé Curay.
"Above all things, there come Patriotic Gifts, of Church-furniture. The remnant of bells, except for tocsin, descend from their belfries, into the National melting-pot to make cannon. Censers and all sacred vessels are beaten broad; of silver, they are fit for the poverty-stricken Mint; of pewter, let them become bullets, to shoot the ` enemies du genre humain.' Dalmatics of plush make breeches for him who had none; linen albs will clip into shirts for the Defenders of the Country : old-clothesmen, Jew or Heathen, drive the briskest trade. Chalier's Ass-Procession, at Lyons, was but a type of what went on, in those same days, in all Towns. In all Towns and Townships as quick as the guillotine may go, so quick goes the axe and the wrench : sacristies, lutrins, altar-rails are pulled down; the Mass-Books torn into cartridge-papers : men dance the Carmagnole all night about the bonfire. All highways jingle with metallic Priest-tackle, beaten broad; sent to the Convention, to the poverty-stricken Mint. Good Sainte Geneviève's Chasse is let down : alas, to be burst open, this time, and burnt on the Place de Grève. Saint Louis's Shirt is burnt; — might not a Defender of the Country have had it?
"For the same day, while this brave Carmagnole-dance has hardly jigged itself out, there arrive Procureur Chaumette and Municipals and Departmentals, and with them the strangest freightage : a New Religion ! Demoiselle Candeille, of the Opera; a woman fair to look upon, when well rouged; she, borne on palanquin shoulder-high; with red woollen nightcap; in azure mantle ; garlanded with oak ; holding in her hand the Pike of the Jupiter-Peuple, sails in: heralded by white young women girt in tricolour. Let the world consider it ! This, O National Convention wonder of the universe, is our New Divinity; Goddess of Reason, worthy, and alone worthy of revering. Her henceforth we adore. Nay, were it too much to ask of an august National Representation that it also went with us to the ci-devant Cathedral called of Notre-Dame, and executed a few strophes in worship of her ?
"President and Secretaries give Goddess Candeille, borne at due height round their platform, successively the Fraternal kiss ; whereupon she, by decree, sails to the right hand of the President and there alights. And now, after due pause and flourishes of oratory, the Convention, gathering its limbs, does get under way in the required procession towards Notre-Dame; — Reason, again in her litter, sitting in the van of them, borne, as one judges, by men in the Roman costume ; escorted by wind-music, red nightcaps, and the madness of the world.
"`The corresponding Festival in the Church of Saint-Eustache,' says Mercier, `offered the spectacle of a great tavern. The interior of the choir represented a landscape decorated with cottages and boskets of trees. Round the choir stood tables overloaded with bottles, with sausages, pork-puddings, pastries and other meats. The guests flowed in and out through all doors : whosoever presented himself took part of the good things : children of eight, girls as well as boys, put hand to plate, in sign of Liberty; they drank also of the bottles, and their prompt intoxication created laughter. Reason sat in azure mantle aloft, in a serene manner; Cannoneers, pipe in mouth, serving her as acolytes. And out of doors,' continues the exaggerative man, `were mad multitudes dancing round the bonfire of Chapel-balustrades, of Priests' and Canons' stalls; and the dancers, — I exaggerate nothing, — the dancers nigh bare of breeches, neck and breast naked, stockings down, went whirling and spinning, like those Dust-vortexes, forerunners of Tempest and Destruction.' At Saint-Gervais Church, again, there was a terrible `smell of herrings'; Section or Municipality having provided no food, no condiment, but left it to chance. Other mysteries, seemingly of a Cabiric or even Paphian character, we leave under the Veil, which appropriately stretches itself ` along the pillars of the aisles,' — not to be lifted aside by the hand of History.
"But there is one thing we should like almost better to understand than any other: what Reason herself thought of it, all the while. What articulate words poor Mrs. Momoro, for example, uttered; when she had become ungoddessed again, and the Bibliopolist and she sat quiet at home, at supper ? For he was an earnest man, Bookseller Momoro; and had notions of Agrarian Law. Mrs. Momoro, it is admitted, made one of the best Goddesses of Reason; though her teeth were a little defective. —And now if the Reader will represent to himself that such visible Adoration of Reason went on `all over the Republic,' through these November and December weeks, till the Church wood-work was burnt out, and the business otherwise completed, he will perhaps feel sufficiently what an adoring Republic it was, and without reluctance quit this part of the subject."
I quote in the following pages freely from Carlyle, because the Revolution is the most important event in the history of Paris and so horribly recent (you may still see the traces of Buonaparte's whiff of grape-shot on the façade of St. Roch), and also because when there is such an historian to borrow from direct, para-phrase becomes a crime. None the less, I feel it my duty to say that the attitude of this self-protective contemptuous superior Scotchman towards the excitable French and their hot-headed efforts for freedom often enrages me as much as his vivid narrative fascinates and moves.
In 1794, when the New Religion had died down, the Church became a store for wine confiscated from the Royalists. In the year following, after the whiff of grape-shot, the old religion was re-established. A strange interregnum ! How long ago was this ? — only one hundred and fifteen years — not four generations. Could it happen again ? Will it ?
These revolutionaries, it may be remarked, were not the only licentious rioters that Notre Dame had known, for in its early days it was the scene every year of the Fête des Fous, an orgy of gluttony and conviviality, in which, however, one who was a true believer on all other days might partake.
After these lurid saturnalia it is pleasant again to dip into the gentle pages of Louise de Grandpré, where, among other legends of Notre Dame, is the pretty story of a statue of the Virgin — now known as the Virgin with the bird. In the Rue Chanoinesse there lived a young woman, very devout, who came every day to pray. She brought with her her son, a little fellow, very wide awake and full of spirits : his mother had taught him to say his prayers. Cyril would close his little hands to say his "Ave Maria," and he would throw a kiss to the little Jesus, his dear friend, complaining sometimes to his mother that the little Jesus would not play with him. "You are not good enough yet," said his mother; "Jesus plays only with the little children in Paradise."
A very severe winter fell and the young mother fell ill and no longer came to church. Cyril never saw the little Jesus now, but he often thought of Him as he played at the foot of his mother's bed. On one of those days when the sky was dull and leaden and the air heavy and depressing, and the poor woman was rather worse and more hopeless than usual, she became so weak they thought each moment would be her last.
Cyril could not understand why his mother no longer smiled at him or stroked his hair or called him to her. With his little heart almost bursting and his eyes full of tears, he said, "I will go and tell the little Jesus of my trouble."
While they were attending to the poor mother the child disappeared. He ran as fast as his little legs would carry him and entered the cathedral by the cloister door, crossed the transept, and was soon at the foot of the statue of the Virgin Mary, where he was accustomed to say his prayers with his mother. "Little Jesus," said he, "Thou art very happy. Thou hast Thy Mother; mine, who was so good, is always asleep now and I am alone. Little Jesus, wake my mother up, and I will give you my best toys, morning and evening I will send you the sweetest kiss and say my best prayer. And look, to begin with, I have brought you my favourite bird : he is tame and will eat the golden crumbs of Paradise out of your hand." At the same time he stretched out his little closed hand towards Jesus.
The divine child stretched out His hand and Cyril let his beloved little bird escape. The bird, who had a lovely coloured plumage, flew straight to the hand of the Infant Christ and has remained there to this day. The Virgin smiled on the child, and her white stone robe at that moment became the same colour as the bird's plumage.
Cyril, with his heart very full, got up to go out, but before leaving the church turned round to have one more look at his little bird he loved so dearly: he was struck with delight and astonishment when he heard the favoured bird singing one of its sweetest songs in honour of the Virgin and her Child.
When Cyril returned to his home he went into his mother's room without making the least noise to see if she was still asleep. The young mother was sitting up-right in her bed, her head, still very bad, resting on a pillow, but her wide-open eyes were looking for her little one.
"I was quite sure the little Jesus would wake you up," said Cyril, climbing on to her bed. "I took Him my bird this morning to take care of for me in the Garden of Paradise."
Life once more returned to the poor woman and she kissed her boy.
When you next go to Notre Dame, Louise de Grandpré adds, be sure to visit the Vierge à l'oiseau, who always hears the prayers of the little ones.
It was in 1804 that Notre Dame enjoyed one of its most magnificent moments — at the coronation of Napoleon and Josephine Beauharnais. The Duchess d'Abrantès wrote an account of the ceremony which, in French, is both picturesque and rapturous. "The pope was the first to arrive. At the moment of his entering the cathedral, the clergy intoned Tu es Petrus, and this solemn chant made a deep impression on all. Pius the VII. advanced to the end of the cathedral with a majestic yet humble grace. . . . The moment when all eyes were most drawn to the Altar steps was when Josephine received the crown from the Emperor and was solemnly consecrated by him Empress of the French. When it was time for her to take an active part in the great ceremony, the Empress descended from the Throne and advanced towards the altar, where the Emperor awaited her.
"I saw," the Duchess continues, "all that I have just told you, with the eyes of Napoleon. He was radiant with joy as he watched the Empress advancing towards him ; and when she knelt . . . and the tears she could not restrain fell upon her clasped hands, raised more to-wards him than towards God : at this moment, when Napoleon, or rather Bonaparte, was for her her true providence, at this instant there was between these two beings one of those fleeting moments of life, unique, which fill up the void of years.
"The Emperor invested with perfect grace every action of the ceremony he had to perform : above all, at the moment of crowning the Empress. This was to be done by the Emperor himself, who after receiving the little closed crown surmounted by a cross, had to place it on his own head first, and then place it on the Empress's head. He did this in such a slow, gracious and courtly manner that it was noticed by all. But at the supreme moment of crowning her who was to him his lucky star, he was almost coquettish, if I may use the term. He placed the little crown, which surmounted the diadem of brilliants, on her head, first putting it on, then taking it off and putting it on again, as if assuring himself that it should rest lightly and softly on her.
"But Napoleon," the Duchess concludes, "when it came to his own crown, hastily took it from the Pope's hands and placed it haughtily on his own head — a proceeding which doubtless startled his Holiness."
Ten years pass and we find Louis XVIII. and his family attending Mass at the same altar. Twenty-six years later, in 1840, a service was held to commemorate the restoration of the ashes of the Emperor to French soil, and in 1853 Napoleon III. and Eugénie de Montijo were married here, under circumstances of extraordinary splendour. And then we come to plunder and lawlessness again. On Good Friday, 1871, while Père Olivier was preaching, a company of Communards entered and from thenceforward for a while the cathedral was occupied by the soldiers. For some labyrinthine reason the destruction of Notre Dame by fire was decided upon, and a huge pile of chairs and other material soaked in petrol was erected (this was only thirty-eight years ago), and no doubt the building would have been seriously injured, if not destroyed, had not the medical students from the Hôtel Dieu, close by, rushed in and saved it.
Among the preachers of Notre Dame was St. Dominic, to whom in the pulpit the Virgin appeared, bringing with her his sermon all to his hand in an effulgent volume; here also preached Père Hyacinthe, but with less direct assistance.
That the Treasury is an object of interest to English-speaking visitors is proved by the notice at the door: "The Persons who desire to visit the Trésor are kindly requested to wait the guide here for a few minutes, himself charged of the visit;" but I see no good reason why anyone should enter it. Those, however, that do will see vessels of gold, much paraphernalia of ecclesiastical pride and pomp, and certain holy relics. The crown of thorns is here, given to St. Louis by the King of Constantinople and carried to Notre Dame, on the 18th of August, 1239, by the barefoot king. Here also are pieces of the Cross, for the protection of which St. Louis built Sainte Chapelle, the relics afterwards being transferred to Notre Dame; and here is a nail from the Cross — one of the nails of which even an otherwise sceptical Catholic can be sure, because it was given to Charlemagne by Constantine. Charlemagne gave it to Aix la Chapelle, Charles the Bold brought it from Aix to St. Denis, and from St. Denis it came to Notre Dame, where it is enclosed in a crystal case.
The menace of 397 spiral steps in a narrow, dark and almost airless turret, is no light matter, but it is essential to see Paris from the summit of Notre Dame. That view is the key to the city, and the traveller who means to study this city as it deserves, penetrating into the past as industriously and joyously as into the present, must begin here. He will see it all beneath him and around him in its varying ages, and he will be able to proceed methodically and intelligently. Immediately below is the Parvis, the scene of the interrupted execution of Esmeralda, and it was from one of the galleries below that Quasimodo slung himself down to her rescue. Here, where we are now standing, she must often have stood, looking for her faithless Phoebus. Only one of the bells that Quasimodo rang is still in the tower.
Hugo draws attention to the shape of the island, like that of a ship moored to the mainland by various bridges, and he suggests that the ship on the Paris scutcheon (the ship that is to be seen in the design of the lamps around the Opera) is derived from this re-semblance. It may be so. On each side of us, north and south, are the oldest parts of Paris that still stand ; in the north the Marais, behind the Tour Saint-Jacques, and in the south the district between the Rue de Bièvre and the boulevard St. Michel. On the south side of the river lived the students, clerics and professors — Dante himself among them, in this very Rue de Bièvre, as we shall see; while in the Marais, as we shall also see, dwelt the nobility. West of St. Eustache in the Middle Ages was nothing but waste ground and woodland, a kind of Bois, at the edge of which, where the Louvre now spreads itself, was a royal hunting lodge, the germ of the present vast palace.
When the Marais passed out of favour, the aristocracy crossed the river to the St. Germain quarter, which clusters around the twin spires of St. Clotilde that now rise in the south-west. And then the Rue Saint-Honoré and the Grands Boulevards were built, and so the city grew and changed until the two culminating touches were put to it: by M. Eiffel, who built the tower, and M. Abadie, architect of the beautiful and unreal Basilique du Sacré-Coeur that crowns the heights of Mont-martre.
The chief eminences that one sees are, near at hand, the needle-spire of Sainte Chapelle, in the north the grey mass of St. Eustache, the Châtelet Theatre (advertising at this moment "Les Pilules du Diable" in enormous letters), the long roofs of the Halles, and the outline of the medieval Tour Saint-Jacques. Farther west the bulky Opera, then, right in front, the Trocadéro's twin towers, with Mont Valérien looming up immediately between them; and so round to the south — to the Invalides and St. Clotilde, the Panthéon and the heights of Geneviève. A wonderful panorama.
Of all the views of Paris I think that from Notre Dame is the most interesting, because the point is most central; but the views from Montmartre, from the Tour Saint-Jacques, the Panthéon and the Arc de Triomphe should be studied too. The Eiffel Tower has dwarfed all those eminences; they lie far below it, mere ant-hills in the landscape, although they seem high enough when one essays their steps; yet, although it makes them so lowly, these older coigns of vantage should not for a moment be considered as superseded, for each does for its immediate vicinage what the Eiffel giant can never do. From the Arc de Triomphe, for example, you command all the luxurious activity of the Avenue du Bois de Boulogne and the wonderful prospect of the Champs Elysées, ending with the Louvre ; and from the Panthéon you may examine the roofs of the Latin Quarter and see the children at play in the gardens of the Luxembourg.
The merit of the Eiffel Tower is that he shows you not only Paris to the ultimate edges in every direction save on the northern slopes of Montmartre, but he shows you (almost) France too. How long the Eiffel Tower is to stand I cannot say, but I for one shall feel sorry and bereft when he ceases to straddle over Paris. For though he is vulgar he is great, and he has come to be a symbol. When he goes, he will make a strange rent in the sky. This year (1909) is his twentieth: he and I first came to Paris at the same time; but his life is serene to-day compared with what it was in his infancy. At that time his platforms were congested from morn to dusk; but few visitors now ascend even to the first stage and hardly any to the top. No visitor, however, who wants to synthesise Paris should omit this adventure. Only in a balloon can one get a better view, but in no balloon adrift from this green earth would I, for one, ever trust myself, although I must confess that the procession of those aerial monsters that floated serenely past the Eiffel Tower on the last occasion that I climbed it, suggested nothing but content and security. They rose one by one from the bosky depths of the Bois, five miles away, gradually disentangled themselves from the surrounding verdure, assumed their independent buoyant rotundity and came straight to my waiting eye. In an hour I counted fifteen, and by the time the last was free of the earth the first was away over Vincennes, with the afternoon sun turning its mud-coloured silk to burnished gold. Paris has always one balloon floating above her, but fifteen is exceptional.
Notre Dame remains, however, the most important height to scale, for Notre Dame is interesting in every particular, it is soaked in history and mystery. Notre Dame is alone in the possession of its devils — those strange stone fantasies that Méryon discovered. Al-though every effort is made to familiarise us with them — although they sit docilely as paper-weights on our tables — nothing can lessen the monstrous diablerie of these figures, which look down on Paris with such greed and cruelty, cunning and cynicism. The best known, the most saturnine, of all, who leans on the parapet exactly by the door at the head of the steps, fixes his inhuman gaze on the dome of the Invalides. Is it to be wondered at that he wears that expression?
A small family dwells in a room just behind this chimera, subsisting by the sale of picture-postcards. It is a strange abode, and an imaginative child would have a good start in life there. To him at any rate the demons no doubt would soon lose their terrors and become as friendly as the heavenly host that are posed so radiantly and confidently on the ascent to the flèche — perhaps even more so. But to the stranger they must remain cruel and horrible, creating a sense of disquietude and alarm that it is surely the business of a cathedral to allay. Curious anomaly ! Let us descend.
Before leaving the Ile de la Cité, the Rue Chanoinesse, to the north of Notre Dame, leading out of the Rue d'Arcole (near a blackguard pottery shop), should be looked at. The cloisters of Notre Dame once extended to this street and covered the ground between it and the cathedral. The canons, or chanoines, lived here, and there are still a few attractive old houses; but the rebuilder is very busy just now. At No. 10, Fulbert, the uncle of Héloise, is said to have lived ; at No. 18 was the Tour Dagobert, a fifteenth-century building, by climbing which one had an excellent view of Notre Dame, but in the past year it has been demolished and business premises cover its site. At No. 26 are (or were) the ruins of the twelfth-century chapel of St. Aignan, where the faithful, evicted from Notre Dame by the Reign of Reason, celebrated Mass in secret. Saint Bernard has preached here. The adjacent streets — the Rue de Colombe, Rue Massillon, Rue des Ursins and Rue du Cloître-Notre-Dame — have also very old houses.
For the best view of the exterior of Notre Dame one must take the Quai de l'Archevêché, from which all its intricacies of masonry may be studied — its but-tresses solid and flying, its dependencies, its massive bulk, its grace and strength.