I passed, in returning to my hotel, one of the finest buildings in Paris—the Palace d’ Orsay. It was begun in the time of Napoleon, and is a public building.
[Illustration: Palais de Quai D’Orsay.]
[Illustration: CHURCH OF NOTRE DAME.]
The churches of Paris are full of gorgeous splendor—how much vital religion they contain, it is not, perhaps, my province to decide. But in beauty of architecture, in the solemnity and grandeur of interior, no city in the world, except Rome, can excel them. The church of the Madeleine is the most imposing of all; indeed, it seemed to me that in all Paris there was no other building so pretentious. But Notre Dame has that mellow quality which beautifies all architecture—hoary age.
I started out one morning to see it, crossing on my way one of the bridges to Isle la Cite, and was soon in sight of the two majestic towers of the old cathedral. You can see them, in fact, from all parts of Paris, rising magnificently from the little island city, like beacons for the weary sailor.
The morning was just such an one as Paris delights to furnish in the month of June—fair, clear, and exhilarating—no London fog, mud, or rain, but as soft a sky as ever I saw in America. We stopped a moment before the church, to gaze at the high-reaching columns, and admire the general architecture of the church. Workmen were scattered over different portions of the building and towers, (this was on my first visit to Paris,) engaged in renewing their ancient beauty. My first emotion upon entering, was one of disappointment, for although externally Notre Dame is the finest church in Paris, internally it is gloomy, exceedingly simple, and has an air of faded beauty. Still, the “long-drawn aisles” were very fine. Gazing aloft, the eye ached to watch the beautiful arches meet far above. Then to look away horizontally on either hand through the graceful aisles, filled one with pleasure.
I scarcely know how, but as I was passing a little altar where a priest was saying mass, I unaccountably put my cap upon my head. I was instantly required to take it off. I was reminded of the fact that but a few days before, when entering a Jewish synagogue, upon taking off my hat, I was instantly required to replace it. Such is the difference between the etiquette of a Catholic church and a Jewish synagogue.