More than 40 stories … !
“Your story”, rather than “Your stories”…. because each of these stories is so personal, so intimate… “Story” rather than “memories”, because I feel your words reflect much more than memories. You are really telling us YOUR STORY with NOTRE DAME
Please…. read them all ! You’ll be amazed !
And… Thank you for sharing your story with us, and for letting me publish it on my website !
(at the bottom of this page : a few words about “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” the novel which has played a major role in the preservation of Notre Dame)
First visit to Paris, first day activity, heard mass at Notre Dame as thanksgiving . And everything was just great the whole trip 😘! The mass was in French which I didn’t understand, but I just sort of extrapolated – Léa C.
The first impression for me when I first saw her was incredible absolutely stunning and so beautiful I was mesmerized by her beauty and I got chills as I saw her for the very first time – Clara B.
One chilly, bright Sunday morning in a February gone by, I attended a Gregorian Chant mass in Notre Dame.
From the usher, I took the leaflet printed in French that I couldn’t read and found a seat among the regular worshipers and tourists alike. Instead of fidgeting like I did through mass as a child, I closed my eyes for a moment, centered myself and reached out, one by one, to each of my senses…
I listened to the melodic, calming chanting reverberate throughout the cathedral…my gaze wandered from the soaring arches to the dim chandeliers to the magnificent stained glass windows that were lit by the bright morning outside…the heavy scent of incense hung in the air, making my nose itch for release…I felt the cold emanating from the stone floor and wondered what parishioners sat on during services hundreds of years ago. I did not taste the communion as I felt that it was inappropriate for me to partake, being the seriously lapsed Catholic I am.
When it was over, I emerged, blinking into the blue-skied sunlight feeling both energized and peaceful. I carried the experience with me throughout that relaxed, quite Sunday in Paris. – The Armchair Parisian
On December 31, 2018 our family enjoyed an amazing New Year’s Eve dinner in Paris. We finished just in time to run to the Seine to ring in 2019 with the bells of Notre Dame. Lisa M
I will never forget the feelings of awe and peace when I first entered Notre Dame. I also loved Joan of Arc’s station; she is one of my heroes and I was pleasantly surprised to see it and to stand in her “presence.” Helen P.
I was twenty years old and climbed around the gargoyles!
I am happy to learn they had been removed due to the renovations and are safe now! – Mary Kay K.
I was 5 the first time I walked through those doors into that immense mysterious dark space and saw the light filtering through those stained glass windows as my eyes adjusted. I spent my 7th birthday there with my parents and sister — at my request. Heard Pierre Cochereau play the glorious pipe organ. I had photos, clippings, reference books and models of the cathedral in my room as a kid. Over the years my love and fascination with the cathedral, its history, its architecture and engineering has only grown. At sixty I love it still with that childlike wonder. Like a sword through my heart to watch this horrible catastrophe play out this week. Bittersweet but also comforting to know I was sharing this grief and love with so many others. I’ve always considered Notre Dame my favorite spot on the planet since I was five. Love and a hug to all who are heartbroken and touched by what this great jewel of civilization has meant to us. So thrilled to see the outpouring of love, money and support for the restoration. – Denis de B.
I went to look at Notre Dame because people told me to – it was a tourist spot. I did not expect that I would feel the way I did. It absolutely took my breath away. I visited several times during my stay and discovered something different each time. I almost cried. It was so stunning – Mary D.
I of course heard about the great cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris but never in my wildest dreams did I ever expect to see it….but see it I did..on a trip to Paris in 2016..we went to see it and tour it …I was totally in awe of the grandeur I encountered ….the bonus point for me was The Joan of Arc station who had been a saintly idol of mine since Grade school…also all the statues and religious artifacts and the living history of the past embodied in the catherdral inspired in me a peace and reverence I hadn’t known since childhood…At this point after the tragic fire of April 15 2019 I give thanks that I was able to visit the most holy place before it was partially destroyed…I await the return of Notre Dame to all it’s former glory – Betty Ann A.
On my husband’s first trip overseas, 2002, I remember him lighting candles for his parents, and awe over the medieval architecture and rose windows.
Our trip in 2015 with daughter and granddaughter was so much fun because we took time to relax and let her play with children in park behind buttresses. – Brenda M.
I remember going to mass there years ago and being in awe of all the beauty, history, and majesty around me! I just wish I had climbed to the top. Jennifer L.
I went with my father last summer. He actually injured himself the day before our flight to Paris so he was on crutches the entire time but he climbed to the very top. Growing up Catholic and watching the Hunchback of Notre Dame and studying art history made me dream of seeing all the beauty of the cathedral and it was worth the wait! – Ashley Elise S.
Went to mass there with my dad – when it was still in Latin. – Theresa N.
I visited Paris for the first time in 1971 when I was 16 years old. Nôtre Dame was the most amazing part of that visit. When I later studied in Paris, my travaux pratiques class was held every day in a classroom on the Rue du Cloître, less than 20 yards away from the cathedral. I never ceased to wonder each day that this magnificent edifice was already hundreds of years old when Columbus discovered the New World. I would go into the building 2 or 3 times every week, sometimes for Mass but just as often because it was a sunny day and I wanted to sit inside and look at the extraordinary light coming through the Rosace. I felt calm and serene and very peaceful. My parish church back then was St. Germain des Prés and I love its Romanesque history and modesty to this day, but Nôtre Dame was always my most cherished place. And with every subsequent visit to Paris, attending Mass here on my final Sunday was my tradition. It will be again. Grâce à Dieu. – Michael H.
My husband and I were poor, poor students. We would walk down Rue Saint Jacques every Sunday evening to hear the most beautiful free organ concerts a highlight of our week. So began our Love for our beautiful Lady and France and it’s inspirational people ❤️I will bring my Grandchildren when they are old enough to walk with you so they can see our beautiful Paris. – Judy A.
Notre Dame has been on my bucket list for as long as I remember. I finally made it just over a year ago. To see it in person was a surreal experience for me. I am not Catholic but I am profoundly spiritual and have a deep love for all religion especially Catholicism as I lived in Spain for a year and a half in my early 20’s. I was with my husband and my two teenage boys last year and it was magical to see Notre Dame through their eyes. As we were leaving the church to go to the bell towers a storm came up of of nowhere with rain and wind so hard it was bringing the rain in sideways. We quickly ran back inside seeking real ‘sanctuary’. We did make it to the top of the bell towers later and I was overwhelmed to the point of tears by the beauty of Paris and this strength of this Cathedral that binds Paris. I’m so grateful that so much was saved and that Notre Dame will rise again. In this Easter season it is especially poignant to know that She will rise again and be whole. – Gretchen B.
I attended Mass at Notre Dame June 1975. Beautiful and had latte at a little cafe across the street. It was raining that morning and the gargoyles looked amazing with the water streaming from them. ♥️♥️♥️ Joanne Z.
For me, the heartbeat of Paris is Notre Dame. I love her windows, her artwork, her solemnity and, especially, the carved wood biblical story which wound around the alter. (I hope it survived.) My last visit was in October 2018 when my sister and I attended a audio/visual show projected onto the face of the cathedral. Following the program the doors of the cathedral were opened, and we experienced another light show inside which was accompanied by the Grand Organ. Such a wonderful memory. – Meredith P. T.
I visited Paris when I was 16. Notre Dame was the most amazing experience! The beautiful windows had me mesmerized! There was such a wonderful, peaceful feeling standing amidst the beauty and history. I was in tears watching the news reports. My heart goes out to Paris! 💕💕💕💕 – Audrey S.
I had the privilege of going to Notre Dame during the week when there were not too many people, our school brought us to the cathedral and we had free time for an hour, often under the eye of the sacristan Who was watching us from far, as long we respected the silence and the collection it was a good time, wonderful memory, we were like at home ! – Dominique G.
I visited Notre Dame during my trip to Paris in 2006. I stood in awe looking at the details in the arches and loved the rose windows. Hope to be back someday. – Mary Jo H.
I have always loved history. As a teenager I read many different histories of various European monarchies. This was my first introduction to Notre Dame. I saved and saved and left to travel Europe after university to find the great buildings I had read about. When I finally made it to Notre Dame I was mesmerized. I wanted to stay in that cool, dim world forever. In the quiet, the majesty, in the past I sat and said a prayer. Then I stood and walked as close as I could to see the Rose window. I imagined all the craftsmen it must have taken. Each beautifully cut colorful piece of glass put in place. Beautiful. – Heather H.
I studied Architecture in college and all I ever wanted to see was the flying buttresses, the rose windows, the layout… I only dared to dream of visiting one day. Fast forward 11 years later I meet Stéphanie Gaveau Mounts , a good friend, from Montpellier, who graciously showed me her home country in all its glory. Climbing to the balcony and peering out at the city I felt the wind and sunshine on my face. It was perfect. That view was liberating. I felt God in that moment. The architecture is breathtaking and forever holds significance as the only place I stepped foot in from my Architecture History books. I’m American but I knew in that moment, breathing in the stone and watching the city below, that I was home. – Datgurl T.
My first visit to Notre Dame was on a trip with my brother. We rented an apartment on Ile St Louis and walked over early in the morning to get in the already long line to climb to the top of the bell towers. 250+ steps. We were up close and personal with the gargoyles and the spire. Absolutely amazing. We then proceeded to climb to the top of the Arc de Triomph, Printemps department store and up to Sacre Coeur on the stairs all on the same day. A day I will never forget starting from the center of France. Sherry F.
I have loved the french culture and history since I was in high school in the U.S. I had the most wonderful French language teacher for four years as a teenager and through her teachings and passion for the topic, I fell in love with France (Thank you Ingrid. !). I dreamed of visiting for most of my life and didn’t have the opportunity until I was an adult in my 40’s. My first visit to Paris was in 2014 and it was everything I imagined and dreamed of as a teenager. Ms. Baird’s teachings came to life for me. Visiting Notre Dame was a highlight of my visit and it immediately became one of my favorite places. This is strange to say given I am an atheist. However, I respect different beliefs, history and art. I respect the significance of places and relics held dear by others. I have since visited Paris a total of 3 times with an upcoming 4th visit in June. Each visit is amazing and Notre Dame is part of what makes Paris such a special place for me. Carrie T.
Last visited Notre Dame was in December of 2018 with my son, his girlfriend, and my wife. This place brings me memories of my 8 year old son who I brought to Paris on my first visit. He was so confident of Paris, that he was my guide! He felt like he belong in this beautiful city. Today, I still dream of my wife and I can retire there. We are from Sugar Land Texas USA. Love your city. – Manny M.
I am not a religious person, but consider myself spiritual. I studied Notre Dame while an architecture student, so put it on my list of must-see sites to visit when I was in Paris a few years ago. When I stepped inside my breath was taken away. Sheer awe of the breadth of history contained in this beautiful cathedral, 850 years of human existence. No photos or videos can do it justice, simply something you have to see in person to truly appreciate its splendor. Randall O.
I had the honor of visiting the roof top bees two summers ago. Followed by a behind the scene tour of the beautiful church by the gentleman in charge of the restoration. It was unforgettable and an honor. Patricia M.
It had always been my dream to visit France 🇫🇷 Ever since I discovered Degas, Monet and Lautrec in High School, I was smitten. Then something awesome happened in college, while studying costume design in theatre school, when we got to the 18th c, well something happened! I flipped. I had never seen such pure majesty and glory. Oh my goodness.
Then I started reading more carefully french authors from Molière plays to Victor Hugo. Well. It had always been a dream to visit, Paris was something I cherished in my heart ❤️ (and fingertips!)
At 45 I finally arrived on the Left Bank on an Ash Wednesday night. I made one stop to my hotel on rue Racine & St Germain, and walked an easy 10 minutes to Notre Dame. I had traveled to be in Paris for my 45th bday!!!
What followed was so special. Part Two of my first visit to Paris…..It Was to Notre Dame!
It was Ash Wednesday, 1999 almost 6 pm. As I walked through the chapel, and the long knave…crying in joy, I noticed a little bit of a commotion to the side. I walked towards an area blocked off by a red velvet rope and a security guard standing there. I read a sign saying only for locals, no visitors allowed (because a french mass was son to begin.) I walked away. But then, I thought, I must ask.
I turned back and asked, politely in my broken French, I asked the guard, if I may not attend? He answered, “For you, Oui!” and I was allowed in and sat on a little chair, attended mass and just was…awestruck!! Mary Lou H.
A visit to Norte Dame brings vivid memories of the beautiful glass windows, the elegance of the building both internally and externally. It was a place of quiet and wonder.
Notre Dame will, in time, again become elegant and a place of peace and calm.
Bravo to the fire brigade who dared to approach the raging flames. Dot D.
I am Canadian. In the 70’s I worked at the American Hospital of Paris for 3 years. My first visit in Paris was for Notre Dame. Was so thrilled to imagine I was walking at the same place Napoleon did when he was sacred emperor and by all the long history of that cathedral.
Went back to France many times later, every time paying a visit to Notre Dame.
In September 2001, with my best girl friend we were there while the NYtowers were attacked. So we ended up attending the solemn mass held at Notre Dame the following day. By shire luck, we were assigned places in the first row, left of the altar. The archbishop of Paris with the Paris American bishop celebrated the mass. It was a moment of such strong emotions. Notre Dame was full. Listening to the archbishop words trying to console the assembly was emotional. I remember crying, sobbing for long minutes. Thinking that the world was changing for the worst from then on.
This mass will stay in my heart until the day I die. Nicole B.
I had the good fortune to visit Paris many times. I visited the inside of Notre Dame twice over the years, I was there in 2016 and was debating if I should go inside for the 3rd time , since it had been awhile, unfortunately I decided against it because of the very long line ahead, I’ll go in next time, I thought!!! In hindsight I should have gone in. If only I would of known that was my last chance to see the original. NEVER take anything for granted ! – Yolanda A.
For me, walking into that majestic place that was 800 years old was surreal. I immediately felt it was a part of me from then on. When I saw the video of it burning, I felt my soul was burning too 😞 Tracie B.
In March, 2014 my brother and I visited Notre Dame after visiting my uncle’s grave at the Normandy Cemetery. I lit a candle for him and my mother, his sister. – Thomas S.
One of my many times in Paris, I was with ma fille et ses enfants, we went to Mass in Notre Dame. It was All Saints jour. A memorable experience.
Et j’aimais pas encore. Je suis très triste. J t’iame France ma pays de mes famille. Nous sommes de Honfleur – Diane D.
Went there as a young girl and have never forgotten it. Xx – Kathy S.
Getting to the top of ND (or at least as high as they’ll let you go without accident insurance) is quite a struggle and they don’t let you dally there all day, either. 10 minutes (max) and mademoiselle is herding you toward the ‘down’ staircase. I asked mademoiselle how often she did the trip and she told me “twice a day: once before lunch, once after”. She had, I would guess, less fat than a bottle of skim milk. You say your diet’s not producing the results you want? I’ve got just the answer… From the top of ND, see the 2nd bridge, the darker one. That is Pont de Sully. If you were on that bridge and walked toward the left up R. Henri IV in about 4 blocks you would come to the Bastille (that is, the monument which marks where it once stood). Paris is very compact. – Frank C.
Hi Ann the first time we were in Notre Dame was on our honeymoon. We rented some headphones to listen to what Notre Dame was all about. Unfortunately we rented them in French lol and didn’t understand what was being said. So we went on our own and were amazed at everything we saw. I remember waiting on a long line and watching people step off the line for sandwiches until it was their turn to go in. The funniest thing I remember was a group of young girls on the very top standing near us but one was sitting behind on the floor. She said she was afraid of heights. Her friends asked us to take their picture and the scared girl agreed to join them. Just as soon as she went to them the bells rang and she screamed and fell back to the floor Although we felt bad for her we all laughed as did she. Those are the memories I have and would love to share with you. Francine P.
20 years ago, visiting our French friends , we walked the grounds and inside of Notre Dame, magnificent then and now, crowded with long queues still we managed to see the confessional box, the statues and the amazing architecture – Sheila G.
It was my senior year in high school. I remember walking through and thinking of all those who had gone before … the people you read about in the history books and those whose names are forgotten by history. And then I thought … I am now part of that same history. – Kevin P.
The “Tresor de Notre-Dame”… Christiane K.
My first visit to France in the early 80’s I went to see the Notre Dame with the school visit to PARIS ! and then second was the school again in1985 ! we stayed in Paris youth hostel was brilliant loved it ever since ! Michelle T.W.
A big thanks to everyone , for sharing such touching memories (and for giving me the permission to publish them on this page) ! Your words are beautiful, They are full of emotion and poesy. It’s a great tribute to Notre Dame !
VICTOR HUGO SAVED NOTRE DAME from RUIN
It took almost 200 years to build Notre Dame : from 1180 to 1260. It’s one of the world’s first Gothic cathedrals and among the first to use flying buttresses. It has survived wars, weather, and the French Revolution too.
When a man understands the art of seeing, he can trace the spirit of an age and the features of a king even in the knocker on a door – Victor Hugo
Victor Hugo began writing “The Hunchback of Notre Dame “ ( = “Notre Dame de Paris”, the French title) in 1829, largely to save the building, to make his contemporaries more aware of the value of the Gothic architecture.
It was an architecture that Parisians didn’t value and that was considered old-fashioned and even vulgar. By then, Gothic architecture had given way to the Renaissance. And Notre Dame was in a horrific state. When Victor Hugo’s novel came out, the attention turned back to the cathedral and the King ordered a restoration in 1844.
The original French title is “Notre Dame de Paris” (Our Lady of Paris). It refers to Notre Dame Cathedral, which is the central character of the novel. Although we know “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” mainly through Quasimodo, born deformed and Esmeralda a sixteen-year-old street dancer. The novel was published in 1831.
- The book in English : The hunchback of Notre Dame (= “Notre Dame de Paris “) – Victor Hugo
- The book in French : Notre Dame de Paris – Victor Hugo ..
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