CHAPTER 1. NOTRE-DAME.
The church of Notre-Dame de Paris is still no doubt, a
majestic and sublime edifice. But, beautiful as it has been
preserved in growing old, it is difficult not to sigh, not to
wax indignant, before the numberless degradations and mutilations
which time and men have both caused the venerable monument
to suffer, without respect for Charlemagne, who laid its
first stone, or for Philip Augustus, who laid the last.
On the face of this aged queen of our cathedrals, by the
side of a wrinkle, one always finds a scar. Tempus edax,
homo edacior*; which I should be glad to translate thus:
time is blind, man is stupid.
* Time is a devourer; man, more so.
If we had leisure to examine with the reader, one by one,
the diverse traces of destruction imprinted upon the old
church, time's share would be the least, the share of men the
most, especially the men of art, since there have been individuals
who assumed the title of architects during the last two
And, in the first place, to cite only a few leading examples,
there certainly are few finer architectural pages than this
fašade, where, successively and at once, the three portals
hollowed out in an arch; the broidered and dentated cordon
of the eight and twenty royal niches; the immense central
rose window, flanked by its two lateral windows, like a
priest by his deacon and subdeacon; the frail and lofty gallery
of trefoil arcades, which supports a heavy platform above its
fine, slender columns; and lastly, the two black and massive
towers with their slate penthouses, harmonious parts of a
magnificent whole, superposed in five gigantic stories;--develop
themselves before the eye, in a mass and without confusion,
with their innumerable details of statuary, carving, and
sculpture, joined powerfully to the tranquil grandeur of the
whole; a vast symphony in stone, so to speak; the colossal work
of one man and one people, all together one and complex, like
the Iliads and the Romanceros, whose sister it is; prodigious
product of the grouping together of all the forces of an epoch,
where, upon each stone, one sees the fancy of the workman
disciplined by the genius of the artist start forth in a
hundred fashions; a sort of human creation, in a word,
powerful and fecund as the divine creation of which it seems
to have stolen the double character,--variety, eternity.