For kids who love animals by a kid who loves animals
After you read this post, if you enjoyed it, and the Notre Dame sounds like someplace you can or would like to visit on a trip to Paris, be sure to check out TakeWalks tours with the link above! If you are headed to Paris, you may also be interested in my posts about Rats in the Paris Catacombs and Depictions of Animals in Egyptian Mythology in the Louvre.
A couple days ago, I visited the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France. What caught my eye were the Chimera and Gargoyles located on the high walls and the roof. Because I’m all about animals (even mythical ones!), I’m going to share some facts about the Chimera and Gargoyles, specifically the ones of Notre Dame.
A common misinterpretation of gargoyles is that they are the same as chimeras, but they are actually different types of stone architecture. Gargoyles are funneled ledges shaped like demons or other mythical creatures, and they extend from the walls of a structure. They serve as the draining system, to stop rainwater from dripping down and ruining the old walls, almost like the gutters of a roof or a waterspout. In older times, people hid their faces in fear of the demonic looking stone figures, without realizing that they actually do have a purpose for being there. Gargoyles are not exclusive to Notre Dame, and can be found on many old buildings with stonewalls susceptible to erosion.
Many people, especially kids, recognize these iconic figures from the Disney film adaption of the book The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo, in which the chimera convince Quasimodo to leave the bell tower and go to the festival of fools. Although the stone chimera that decorate the roof of the Notre Dame are often referred to as gargoyles, chimera and gargoyles, as explained before, are quite different. While the gargoyles serve a practical purpose in the architecture of the cathedral, the chimera are mostly for show, to intimidate visitors, and scare off demons. The chimera weren’t part of the original structure, and were added when, in 1845, an architect named Viollet-le-Duc restored the cathedral. Out of the entire gallery of chimera, Le Stryge, a goat-like guardian demon that overlooks the rest of the city with his face propped up in his hands, is the most well known. While it is a grueling journey to get to the top of the tower, climbing what felt like hundreds of stairs was worth it because of the fascinating and strange reward of the stone chimera. I would definitely recommend kids go see the Chimera and Gargoyles of Notre Dame.
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