My first ever reference to this place was Victor Hugo’s epic novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame. I don’t remember how old I was at that point. I may have been stepping into teenage at that point in time. I always shied away from classics. They were big books and devoid of pictures! If Paico had not come out with an illustrated version of the classic, I wouldn’t have read it. On second thoughts, if they had not come out with an illustrated version of the popular epics, I would have neither known or read them. Standing in front of the church where the events unfolded in the novel, I was a bit disappointed. It is really a small church; smaller than what I imagined.
There is no entrance fees for visiting the church. When the service is in progress, you can walk around the transept. The church has high ceilings. Under the high ceilings, even the priest conducting the sermon appears miniscule. After admiring the ceilings and mortals beneath it, you suddenly realize the power of the church. Add the reverberating chants of the priests and the smell emanating from the smoking pot. It is a humbling experience.
The right walls are lined with confessionals. The only difference (from what I have watched in countless Malayalam movies) is the glass around the confessional. You can see the priest and also the confessor. But my guess is it is soundproof glass. So, you can’t hear a thing outside!
I visited on a Sunday. The service was in progress. There were many tourists walking along the side of the main prayer area, enjoying the painting and clicking pictures. The noise levels were up. In spite of this, the service went on. The priests and the worshippers were at peace with this arrangement. The ability to pray depends on how focused you are and not on your surroundings! I have heard and read this before. But it took me a visit to Notre Dame to experience it!