Wednesday, November 12, 2008

La Flèche De Notre Dame

What we call a church spire in the US is called une flèche in French. We might also call it a steeple. In France, churches can have belltowers and spires in different places.

La flèche on Notre Dame de Paris.

On gothic cathedrals, for example, the belltower or towers are usually at the front entrance to the building. They can be topped with a spire (like at Chartres) or not (like at Notre Dame). At Notre Dame in Paris, the spire, or flèche, is perched atop the transcept.

This is one of many pictures I've taken from the belltowers at Notre Dame. In this one, I removed the color, except for the statues below the spire, and increased the contrast a little. I missed one of the statues on the roof but didn't notice it until it was too late. Did you notice?


  1. My impression is that only these lead covered wooden spires are called flêches, and if they are constructed out of something else there is another (unknown to me) word for them.

    ND's flêche is a 19th C embellishment, btw (but you probably already know that though).

    Great photo – ideal for the b&w treatment.

  2. Susan and Walt, if there is another name for the constructed-out-of-something-else spires, please let us know when you find out :) I'm curious :) What might others be made of? Might they be all metal of some kind? LIke in the south of France?

    Love the photo, Walt.


  3. Susan, you're not referring to the stone pinnacles which are atop the buttresses, are you? The look very spire-like.

    I was looking through the vocab in the "glossaire" section of this site, and then double-checking what the English-language item was on this Medieval Art and Architecture glossary , but nothing popped out at me.

  4. Okay, so my links don't click open... as I was saying, the glossaire on this site:

    And this takes you directly to a wonderful glossary of Medieval Art and Architecture:

  5. gosh, I'm stumped. I'll have to do some more research. I know there's the words beffroi, clocher, and campanile for belltower. But a f1èche without iron - no clue.

  6. I think I've sent everyone off on a wild goose chase, sorry. Flêches = spires and are either stone or lead covered timber. (I haven't come across any iron ones btw Walt.) More simple ones can be slate covered timber (basically just a very pointy roof). I think I must have just assumed the stone ones had a different name.

    ND's is a 19thC copy of the 13thC structure by good ol' Viollet-le Duc.


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