You may not have heard, but 2013 marks the 850th anniversary of the cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris.
Let us just stop and reflect a moment on this. EIGHT HUNDRED AND FIFTY YEARS AGO, they started building this magnificent spiritual space. The United States of America, an entire COUNTRY, is only going to be 237 years old this year. Columbus only sailed for the New World in 1492. So Notre Dame dates back to when people believed the world was flat and no one even know the other half of the world even existed.
Ouf! That's called perspective. Suddenly, being almost-52 feels like being a toddler.
The cornerstone of Notre Dame was laid in 1163 during the reign of Louis VII, but the church was not actually fully completed until 1345. It took them 182 years to build it all. Talk about commitment and dedication to the work!
As part of marking the 850th anniversary, four of the large 19th century bells were removed from the North tower, melted down and recast into 8 new bells, each with its own name and with unique decorative details, as well as a 9th bell named Marie (Mary). The new bells were designed in keeping with the tone and quality of the original bells of Notre Dame, most of which were removed and melted down during the Revolution, and later replaced with larger bells of a lesser quality. The 8 new bells will go into the North tower, and Marie will be installed alongside Emmanuel, which is the great "bourdon bell" that dates to 1681, in the South Tower.
The new bells arrived in Paris to great fanfare during the first week in February, and are currently on public display in the center aisle of the cathedral until February 25th, after which they will be installed in the towers. I had the opportunity to go there and see them for myself on Friday, and I'm so glad I did, because this was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see these bells up close and personal. All the bells are named, and each one has a different inscription on it.
I even got to TOUCH them. It was like touching a bit of French history.
More interesting links about Notre Dame, with video:
P.S. I believe the date when the new bells will be rung is March 23rd, so if you're in Paris you may want to head over to Notre Dame to hear them for yourself!