Notre-Dame de Paris

By Victor Hugo ; Alban Krailsheimer | Go to book overview
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BOOK THREE

I
NOTRE-DAME

NO doubt the church of Notre-Dame de Paris is still today a sublime and majestic building. But for all the beauty it has preserved in ageing, it is hard to repress a sigh, to repress indignation over the countless degradations and mutilations which time and men have simultaneously inflicted on the venerable monument, showing no respect for Charlemagne, who laid its first stone, or for Philip-Augustus, who laid the last.

On the face of this old queen of our cathedrals, beside each wrinkle you will find a scar. Tempus edax, homo edacior [Time devours, man devours still more]. Which I should like to translate thus: 'Time is blind, man is stupid.'

If we had the leisure to examine with the reader one by one the various traces of destruction imprinted on the ancient church, time's share would be the least, that of men the worst, especially men of the art. I have to say 'men of the art' since there have been individuals in the past two centuries who have assumed the title of architect.

First of all, to give only a few major examples, there are assuredly few finer pages in architecture than that façade where successively and simultaneously the three recessed, pointed doorways, the embroidered and serrated band of the twenty-eight royal niches; the immense central rosewindow, flanked by the two side windows like the priest by deacon and sub-deacon, the lofty, slender gallery of trefoiled arches supporting a heavy platform on its delicate small columns; finally the two dark, massive towers with their slate eaves, harmonious parts of a magnificent whole, rising one above the other in five gigantic storeys, all unfold before one's eye, multitudinous and unconfused with their

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