Friday, March 29, 2013

Book Review: The Golden Moments of Notre-Dame de Paris

The Golden Moments of Notre-Dame de Paris by Serge Saint-Michel, Claude LaCroix, and Nadine Voillat

This book is probably the most unlikely graphic novel I will ever run across. I saw it in French at the Notre-Dame gift shop. Next to it was an English version! I couldn't resist buying it.

The book chronicles the approximately 200 year construction and the historical highlights of the cathedral in the center of Paris, Notre-Dame. The authors do a good job of telling the history from the perspective of various people involved, like Bishop Sully who initiated the project in the 1000s and various other historical characters and unnamed artisans and Parisians. The blending of comic book storytelling and historical retelling works well, giving the reader a view into the culture surrounding the construction. The original construction (which ended in the late 1200s) takes up about two-thirds of the book.

The continuing history of the building is well presented. Various coronations (of kings and emperors), festivals, fires, restorations, and historic events (there was a sniper shooting at the thanksgiving Mass for the liberation of Paris in 1944!) are shown in memorable ways. The book covers all the way up to 2004, so you get 1000+ years of history in 54 pages of glorious color drawings.

Reading this is a lot more interesting and engaging than the souvenir guide book I also bought at Notre-Dame's gift shop. The book is not available at Amazon, but a simple search turned up this English site that sells it. It is a good read and a great overview of the history of Notre-Dame.

Some samples of the art:

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge (and read about the importance of bacon to French economy!)

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