Notre Dame Cathedral brushes up for 850th birthday

Fri Dec 7, 2012 9:23am EST
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By Alexandria Sage

PARIS (Reuters) - Quasimodo would be overjoyed.

Notre Dame Cathedral has had its lighting improved, a new viewing platform erected to appreciate its Gothic facade, its organ renovated and is about to have new bells made for a year-long 850th anniversary celebration that kicks off next week.

The graceful and inspiring Catholic church that has dominated Paris since the 12th century, survived the Hundred Years War, the French Revolution and two World Wars is being readied for an invasion of camera-wielding birthday visitors.

Nestled on an island in the Seine river, Notre Dame is a beloved religious, cultural and historical site in the City of Light that has no shortage of breathtaking showpieces.

"For 850 years this cathedral has been a symbol of beauty, truth and goodness which attracts generations to the water," said Monsignor Patrick Jacquin, rector and archpriest of Notre Dame, speaking beneath it on the bank of the Seine.

With its graceful flying buttresses, imposing facade and famous bells - immortalized in Victor Hugo's "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" by the ungainly bell-ringer Quasimodo - the church has enthralled visitors since the first stone was laid in 1163 in the presence of Pope Alexander III.

From December 12 through November 24, 2013, Notre Dame expects to welcome up to 20 million pilgrims, tourists and others for its celebration - a step up from its average of 14 million per year.

On the vast plaza outside the cathedral, visitors will be able to follow a walkway that leads to an elevated viewing area from which the face of Notre Dame can be better appreciated, before entering the cathedral itself.   Continued...

Inside view of Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral in Paris October 18, 2012. REUTERS/Charles Platiau