CHAPTER 1. NOTRE-DAME.
And what we here say of the fašade must be said of the
entire church; and what we say of the cathedral church of
Paris, must be said of all the churches of Christendom in the
Middle Ages. All things are in place in that art, self-created,
logical, and well proportioned. To measure the great toe of
the foot is to measure the giant.
Let us return to the fašade of Notre-Dame, as it still
appears to us, when we go piously to admire the grave and
puissant cathedral, which inspires terror, so its chronicles
assert: quoe mole sua terrorem incutit spectantibus.
Three important things are to-day lacking in that fašade:
in the first place, the staircase of eleven steps which formerly
raised it above the soil; next, the lower series of statues
which occupied the niches of the three portals; and lastly the
upper series, of the twenty-eight most ancient kings of France,
which garnished the gallery of the first story, beginning with
Childebert, and ending with Phillip Augustus, holding in his
hand "the imperial apple."
Time has caused the staircase to disappear, by raising the
soil of the city with a slow and irresistible progress; but,
while thus causing the eleven steps which added to the majestic
height of the edifice, to be devoured, one by one, by the
rising tide of the pavements of Paris,--time has bestowed
upon the church perhaps more than it has taken away, for it
is time which has spread over the fašade that sombre hue of
the centuries which makes the old age of monuments the
period of their beauty.
But who has thrown down the two rows of statues? who
has left the niches empty? who has cut, in the very middle of
the central portal, that new and bastard arch? who has dared
to frame therein that commonplace and heavy door of carved
wood, Ó la Louis XV., beside the arabesques of Biscornette?
The men, the architects, the artists of our day.
And if we enter the interior of the edifice, who has overthrown
that colossus of Saint Christopher, proverbial for magnitude
among statues, as the grand hall of the Palais de Justice
was among halls, as the spire of Strasbourg among spires?
And those myriads of statues, which peopled all the spaces
between the columns of the nave and the choir, kneeling,
standing, equestrian, men, women, children, kings, bishops,
gendarmes, in stone, in marble, in gold, in silver, in
copper, in wax even,--who has brutally swept them away?
It is not time.