The Eiffel Tower may be the Most Iconic Landmark in Paris but is it the Most Spectacular?
“There is an attraction and a charm inherent in the colossal…this is not subject to the ordinary theories of art”
If Paris Did Not Have The Eiffel Tower What Would The City Be Remembered For?
A Brief History of The Eiffel Tower
La Tour Eiffel, also known as La Dame de Fer (the Iron Lady) or The Eiffel Tower was finished in 1889 and originally constructed to commemorate the centennial of the French Revolution and demonstrates France’s Industrial Age. At the time, artists demonstrated and petitioned against something that they classed as ridiculous, believing it would be seen as a “gigantic black smokestack”. The general unrest caused an agreement to be made that after 20 years the monument would be removed.
This clearly didn’t happen mainly due to the fact that Gustave Eiffel made it indispensable to the scientific community by installing a meteorology lab on the 3rd floor. Following this, in 1910 the concession for this building was renewed solely due to its usefulness as a radio transmitter.
What started out as a competition to create something to commemorate turned into a boiling pot for emotion and not only from Parisians. Hitler too was to stamp his authority by demanding it was demolished; clearly not succeeding in his request.
Strangely, Gustave Eiffel was not that convinced that this, now iconic landmark, was a good idea either at the beginning which questions how it came into being. Many attribute the Eiffel Tower to him, but what about the original creators of the drawings for this magnificent site?
Maurice Koechlin and Emile Nouguier were the chief engineers for Compagnie Des Etablissements Eiffel and wanted to design something unique. They had the role of convincing Gustave Eiffel that the engineering masterpiece would be a good idea.
Today however, this is one of the most photographed monuments in the world, has been recreated by others and is a popular tourist attraction.
The Eiffel Tower Today
7 million visitors arrive each year to see this mound of iron striking up into the air….but why? To say they have walked up all those steps or to feel their stomach fall away from them when they get into the lift to go to the third floor?
Maybe it’s the romantic ideal that people have created in their minds about this landmark. When you finally reach the top, views are fantastic stretching out across the city and yes there is a champagne bar of sorts up there but that’s it. There is no awe striking moment that makes you revisit or rethink something; you don’t stand up at the top and start reflecting on things that you have done or would like to do and yet we flock to it like sheep. Why? Because it is still a creation that makes a statement and stands out in a crowd.
The Question Therefore Does Have to be Asked: If You Want Beauty in The City of Paris Where Should You Go?
A Visit to Notre Dame
Built in 1345, not only a more beautiful attachment to the Paris skyline, arguably a more impressive structure as well, Notre Dame invokes a completely different feeling in people. Moving away from the hectic fuss of the Eiffel Tower here you will see calm and tranquility reign. A man, feeding the birds, showing children why you shouldn’t be afraid of them, worshippers attending mass and families picnicking in the surrounding park. This is an altogether different experience.
This building too has had it’s share of heart ache, being the victim of many acts of desecration, especially during the revolution. Much of the imagery during this period was either damaged or destroyed; which is somewhat heartbreaking considering that these had survived the rioting of 1545.
The restoration of Notre Dame took so long that the dedication of not one but several architects was required. The different styles surround the Gothic Cathedral, making even the gargouille dragons look charming on a rainy day.
Inside, the sense of serenity continues. The high arched ceilings attract your eye, meaning even if you are not here for theological reasoning the architecture of the building simply amazes. When walking around you can’t help thinking about things. It creates a safe haven to fall into a world of wonder and reflection, even for the non religious.
Whilst standing at only 69m to the Eiffel Tower’s 324m it does not seem dwarfed. In fact it’s presence along the River Seine is captivating. Being 850 years old this is more than a building this is a loving work of art. 14 million visitors arrive each year to spend time in the grounds of Notre Dame; to spend quiet moments sitting in the pews; walking up the two towers to see the impressive views above. Each person is there for their own reasoning and does not intrude into the space of others.
Notre Dame is known as “Our Lady of Paris” and you can see why. It is not simply a place of worship it is a statement for all to enjoy.
Victor Hugo is remembered for saying “spira, spera” (“breathe,hope”) and that is what Notre Dame allows you to do.
The individual within us needs to decide which of the two landmarks is most beautiful because as they say “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” but we also need to consider why both are still so popular today. What do they represent?
Which one would you choose? Do you believe that the Eiffel Tower is the most striking building in Paris?