Photographs and Text ©John P. Walsh
2002 November 1. Tour de l’Horloge, 1490-97, Évreux, France.
2005 May 24. Le Château des Dames, Main Entrance, 1514-22, Chenonceau, France.
1979 July 12. Gargoyles, Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris.
Tourists can visit the gargoyles on the façade of Notre-Dame de Paris by ascending the south tower that leads to a passageway to the outdoor balustrade of the tower base. (A second balustrade at the top of the tower is not open to the public.)
The exuberant Gothic design of the cathedral — a stone structure that dominates the Île de la Cité — in the most ancient part of Paris, was built in stages. The building project was instigated by Maurice de Sully, the Bishop of Paris (in office, 1160-1196). It started in 1163 with the construction of the choir at the back of the church. The front portals were next starting in around 1200. The towers followed, rising into the Paris sky in the 1240’s.
Whether at ground level or far out of sight at the top of the cathedral, the building’s details are meticulously construed. Its gargoyles of birds, humanoids, and chimeras are, along with its main portals and flying buttresses, the cathedral’s most photographed exterior feature.
With time and changing artistic tastes, 13th century Gothic architecture became greatly reviled in Paris by the early 15th century. Witness to important political and cultural events in the early 19th century–- including the crowning of Napoléon I (1769-1821) as Emperor of France in 1804 followed by the publication of the French Romantic Gothic novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo in 1831–-public interest in Notre Dame de Paris and Gothic design in general was revived.
In the 1840’s, French architects Eugène Viollet-le-Duc (1814-1879) and Jean-Baptiste-Antoine Lassus (1807-1857) overhauled most of Notre Dame. The cathedral’s exterior gargoyles also underwent reconstitution though to what extent is not fully known. The roof fire in April 2019 is the most recent challenge in the church’s long history.
2002 October 31. Courtyard of Le Prieuré Maurice Denis, Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France.
1992 March 1. The Collegial Church of St. Gertrude, c. 1050, Nivelles, Belgium.
The westwork’s appearance is the result of a reconstruction finished in 1984 following the severe damage it received during World War II from bombing by the German Luftwaffe in May 1940. The church was built in the 11th century to serve a Benedictine abbey of cloistered nuns whose first abbess was St. Gertrude of Nivelles. This dramatic church is classified a major European Heritage site and remains one of the finest examples of the Romanesque style in Belgium. Its Romanesque crypt is one of the largest of its kind in Europe where Merovingian and Carolingian tombs have been found.
Interior, Minster (Collegiate Church of St. Gertrude), 11th century, Nivelles, Belgium, March 1992.
St. Gertrude of Nivelles, patron saint of cats!
St. Gertrude’s feast day is March 17–the same as St. Patrick of Ireland.
St. Gertrude is also the patron saint of gardeners.
St. Gertrude de Nivelles, from the Hours of Cardinal Albrecht of Brandenburg (1490-1545), Archbishop and Elector of Mainz, c. 1522. Opaque water-based paint mounted on board by Flemish artist Simon Bening (c.1484-1561). Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.