Since its construction Notre-Dame has received often sumptuous donations. Sovereigns and nobles thus demonstrated their attachment to the Church and their patronage. It is most often in the form of donations that the objects entered the Treasury. Under the Ancien Régime, all the kings and many of their family members made some presents to Notre-Dame. Until the 19th century, sovereigns placed orders with renowned craftsmen on the occasion of a happy event of their reign.
Throughout its history, donors, wealthy families, brotherhoods have offered cult objects to Notre-Dame: relics of saints, monstrances, lecterns, tapestries… Artists and craftsmen, among the most famous of their time, contribute to the enrichment of this collection. The know-how, the materials used (gold, precious stones, silk) make these objects true works of art.
Until the Revolution, the Treasury was considered as a possible reserve of money for times of crisis: epidemics, famines, foreign wars and civil wars. At the request of the king, or on its own initiative, the chapter of Notre-Dame sends precious objects to be melted down to make money, thus disappear.
Over time, the cathedral has gradually been stripped of many of its original decorations and artworks. However, the cathedral still contains several noteworthy examples of Gothic, Baroque, and 19th-century sculptures, a number of 17th- and early 18th-century altarpieces, and some of the most important relics in Christendom, including the Crown of Thorns, a sliver of the true cross and a nail from the true cross.
The treasury of Notre-Dame, like the other treasuries of religious buildings, preserves objects intended for the liturgy of the Catholic Church. Sacred vessels, ornaments and liturgical books are used for the celebration of Mass, other offices and the administration of the sacraments.
The Chapter, college of canons responsible for the exercise of worship, is traditionally responsible for the Treasury of Notre-Dame. The first inventories date back to 1343 and 1416. Favorable periods and times of crisis follow one another, certain pieces are melted down or sold. This treasure was nevertheless one of the richest in France until the Revolution of 1789 when it was brutally destroyed. No objects from the old treasury remain.
In 1804, the handing over to Notre-Dame of several Holy Relics of the Passion, previously kept at the Sainte-Chapelle, marked the beginning of the reconstitution of the treasury. Orders from the Chapter and donations, often from illustrious personalities or ecclesiastics, enrich it. Ravaged during the riots of 1830 and the sack of the archdiocese in 1831, the treasury experienced a new boom with the restoration of the cathedral and the reconstruction of the sacristy in 1849 by the architect Eugène Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc. He endeavored to give it a coherent appearance by adopting the neo-Gothic style for the architecture, fittings and goldsmithery.
On the occasion of the 850th anniversary of the cathedral in 2013, the Treasury benefits from a new museography, respecting the setting and furniture desired in the 19th century by its directors. Everything contributes to making the meaning, function and artistic value of the pieces presented intelligible to the public.
The value of all these objects is primarily due to the rarity of the materials used: gold, vermeil, precious stones. It is also due to the talent of the artists and craftsmen who executed them. Their value may also be due to the historical circumstances of their creation.
Treasure of Notre-Dame de Paris
The inventories of 1343 and 1416 do not mention the primitive rooms which house the first treasury of Notre-Dame de Paris, used as a monetary reserve in case of need. The kings of France sell parts or send them to be melted down in times of crisis or war. Looted in 1793, the treasury was reconstituted from 1804, notably with the delivery to the Archdiocese of Paris of the relics of the Sainte-Chapelle, then it was enriched by donations and orders from Chapter.
The current treasure of Notre-Dame de Paris is exhibited in the neo- Gothic building of the sacristy of the Chapter, built from 1840 to 1845 under the leadership of Lassus and Viollet-le-Duc, and located south of the choir of the cathedral. It is accessed by one of the right side chapels of the choir. The public can currently visit it every day except Sunday. You can see in particular prestigious pieces such as the Crown of thorns and other relics of the Passion of Christ, monstrances and reliquaries, a large lectern in the Baroque style, a collection of cameosof the popes.
Sacristy of the chapter
The Place du Trésor in Notre-Dame de Paris has changed little over the centuries. It is still kept in a building located perpendicular to the cathedral at the level of the chapels of the South ambulatory. The old buildings also house the sacristy rooms for the use of the servants of the church.
In the 18th century, these annexed buildings threatened ruin. The architect Soufflot (1714-1781) draws up the plans for a new sacristy and lays the first stone on August 12, 1755. This large sacristy claims to mix Greek and Gothic styles and does not fit well with the whole of the cathedral. At the bottom, a staircase with two ramps gives access to a vaulted, spherical room, where the shrines and the relics are. The upper floor houses the ornaments.
In the 1830s, the construction of a new sacristy for the chapter was essential. Indeed, the previous building, built by Soufflot between 1755 and 1758, and seriously damaged during the riots ofJuly 29, 1830, had met a sad fate onFebruary 14, 1831. That day, in fact, the archiepiscopal palace and the sacristy were looted and destroyed. It was a building mixing Greek and Gothic styles: a staircase with two ramps led to a round vaulted room where the shrines and relics were stored, while the ornaments were kept on the floor above.
The budget of 2,650,000 francs for the restoration of the cathedral, voted by the National Assembly in 1845, allowed not only the repair of the sanctuary, but also the construction of this sacristy, and this for an amount of 665,000 francs for the Big work. As we have seen, the construction of the latter proved to be much more expensive, the very unstable subsoil requiring deep foundations of some 9 meters.
Between 1845 and 1850, Lassus and Viollet-le-Duc only rebuilt the sacristy around a small square cloister. The part closest to the transept is used for worship, the other part houses the Treasury. Inspired by 13th century religious art, Eugène Viollet-le-Duc and his predecessor Lassus created the new sacristy between 1845 and 1850. The sacristy is connected to the cathedral by two parallel arms thereby enclosing a space allocated to a small square cloister, the cloister of the Chapter.
Viollet-le-Duc endeavors to reconstitute a whole medieval style goldsmithery. Beyond the adaptation of medieval forms, he also made real creations such as the Pascal candlestick and the reliquary of the Crown of Thorns. He also personally designed the large cupboards and the chapiers of the Treasury room. Goldsmiths Bachelet, Poussielgue-Rusand and Chertier carried out his projects.
Stained glass in the sacristy of the chapter
The stained glass windows had been planned to be white at the start, but Prosper Mérimée having underlined the disadvantages of this absence of coloring, they quickly came to put in place colored stained glass windows. Those in the main hall of the building which represent a series of bishops of Paris by Maréchal de Metz.
The arcades of the cloister galleries have eighteen stained glass windows whose stained glass windows are in lighter colors, the work of Alfred Gérente from the designs of Louis Steinheil. These windows represent the legend of Saint Geneviève, patroness of the city of Paris. You can see at the bottom of each window a Latin inscription describing the scene. Only the last six scenes of the saint’s life can be admired by visitors. These are the ones in the corridor giving access to the Treasury. At the top of the main canopy of the cloister, there is a stained glass window representing the coronation of the Virgin.
Reliquaries and relics
From the origins of Christianity, the body of the martyrs and the holy founders has been the object of a cult. This reached its peak in the Middle Ages with the development of pilgrimages. The reliquaries house the bodily remains of a saint or an object sanctified by his contact. They are made by goldsmiths. The 19th century reliquaries reproduce the forms, styles and decorations of earlier periods. The collection of Notre-Dame illustrates this variety: reliquary in the form of a reliquary, of medieval inspiration, cross characteristic of Limousin enamel of the Middle Ages, reliquary in cylinder leaving the relic visible or topical reliquary which adopts the shape of the relic.
The main pieces on display in the treasury are the reliquaries of the Holy Crown of Thorns and a fragment of the Cross of Christ, together with a nail from the latter. Only the reliquaries that various 19th century donors (including Napoleon I and Napoleon III) offered to the public are presented to the public, since during the Revolution the treasury was looted, and the various objects it contained dispersed or destroyed..
Many cult objects that disappeared during the Revolution were replaced in the 19th century: monstrance, reliquary, lamp or lectern. Most are pieces of goldsmithery inspired by a medieval style. Various cult objects made for Notre-Dame are real works of art, made from precious materials by highly talented goldsmiths or craftsmen.
The centerpiece of the treasury is the reliquary of the Palatine Cross. which has been there since 1828. It is so named because it belonged to Princess Palatine Anne de Gonzague de Cleves who died in the 17th century. This reliquary is intended to contain a piece of the true Cross as well as a nail of the latter. There is a gold blade with an inscription in Greek attesting that the fragment belonged to the Byzantine emperor Manuel I Komnenos who died in 1180.
Another piece of great value, the old reliquary of the Holy Crown of Thorns which was created in 1804 by Charles Cahier. According to tradition, the Crown of Thorns was acquired from Baldwin II of Courtenay, the last Latin Emperor of Constantinople, by Saint Louis, King of France. It is visible during Lent and Holy Week.
The Holy Crown is, according to Christian tradition, the crown of thorns placed on the head of Christ before his crucifixion. According to the New Testament, a woven crown of thorns was placed on the head of Jesus during the events leading up to his crucifixion. It was one of the instruments of the Passion, employed by Jesus’ captors both to cause him pain and to mock his claim of authority. As one of the relics attributed to Jesus, it becomes a Christian symbol.
Relic of the crown of thorns, received by French King Louis IX from emperor Baldwin II. Since at least around the year 400, a relic believed by many to be the crown of thorns has been venerated. In 1238, the Latin Emperor Baldwin II of Constantinople yielded the relic to French King Louis IX. It was kept in the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris until 15 April 2019, when it was rescued from a fire and moved to the Louvre Museum.
During the 1845 restoration carried out by Viollet-le-Duc’s team, the creation of a new shrine -reliquary for the Crown of Thorns became necessary. This new reliquary, in gilded bronze and silver, diamonds and precious stones, dates from 1862. It is 88 cm high and 49 cm wide.. It was made after the design of Viollet-le-Duc by the goldsmith Placide Poussielgue-Rusand, the same who executed the Crown of Light for the cathedral. Adolphe-Victor Geoffroy-Dechaume collaborated in its realization for the sculpture of the figures.
The goldsmith Cahier made this reliquary, commissioned by the Chapter of Notre-Dame to replace that of 1806. In neo-Gothic style, it is inspired by the medieval reliquary of the Sainte-Chapelle which disappeared in Revolution. Maurice Poussielgue-Rusand executed it in 1896 from a drawing by Viollet-le-Duc. Geoffroy-Dechaume sculpts the figures and Villemot the ornaments. The openwork arcades reveal the relic enclosed in a rock crystal crown. Nine chimeras support a first tray, decorated with filigree foliage and precious stones. Saint Helena holds the cross and Saint Louis the crown. Niches shelter the twelve apostles under canopies with turrets. Lily flowers, enriched with foliage and precious stones.
The treasury also contains relics of Saint Louis, King of France: clothes (including Saint Louis’ shirt), a fragment of his jawbone and a rib.
King René to the Célestins convent in Avignon offered the relic of the cross of Saint-Claude in the 15th century. It was authenticated in 1895. This reliquary in the International Gothic style, executed from the designs of the architect Jules Astruc, was appreciated by critics when it was presented at the Universal Exhibition of 1900.
Monstrance of Sainte-Geneviève, object of worship intended to present the faithful with a consecrated host, the monstrance is generally placed on the altar. This one comes from the old church of the same name, current Pantheon. He joined the collection in 1894.
Sculpture of Notre-Dame de Paris
The exterior statuary of Notre-Dame is designed at the same time as the architecture of the cathedral. It tells episodes of Christian history. Inside, the statues are added over time. From the 12th century, architects designed the statuary of the Cathedral, at the same time as the building itself. It is located mainly outside, on the portals. It is designed in a narrative mode. Each part tells a story from the Bible.
Many statues have disappeared over time, degraded by bad weather or destroyed in times of political unrest. During the restorations of the 19th century, some were redone in “the Gothic style” mainly on the western facade. Traces of paint found on some 13th century statues prove that the interior and exterior statuary was colorful in the Middle Ages.
There are few medieval statues left inside the cathedral. However, the most emblematic is a 14th century Virgin and Child. The choir tower represents a sculpted program partially preserved. In the 18th century, following the wishes of Louis XIII, the choir of the cathedral was redesigned. The addition of many sculpted elements, including the imposing Pieta in white marble, marks one of the many changes to the cathedral.
The side chapels are filled with altars, tombs and decorations over the centuries. However, the most representative is the mausoleum of the Comte d’Harcourt by Jean Baptiste Pigalle. When in the 19th century, Viollet-le-Duc directed the restoration work, “the Gothic style” dominated on the western facade. He adds imaginary creations to the building. Thus appear the new spire and its twelve statues of apostles or even chimeras on the edge of the terrace. Some statues come from particular venerations such as Saint Anthony of Padua or Saint Thérèse of Lisieux.
From the 12th century, an altar dedicated to Mary is leaned against the south-east pillar of the cathedral. This location has been a high place of devotion since the Middle Ages. In the 19th century, Viollet-le-Duc placed a statue of the Virgin and Child there, since called “Notre Dame de Paris”.
This sculpture dates from the middle of the 14th century. It comes from the Saint-Aignan chapel, located in the former cloister of the canons, on the Ile de la Cité. In 1818, it was transferred to Notre-Dame to be placed on the trumeau of the portal of the Virgin, replacing the Virgin of the 13th century, destroyed in 1793. Then, in 1855, Viollet-le-Duc decided to move it for the against the southeast pillar of the cathedral’s transept. An altar dedicated to Mary is located at this location in the Middle and remains a high place of devotion. This statue embodies the image of “Notre Dame de Paris”, the name associated with it.
The Vow of Louis XIII
Out of devotion to the Virgin Mary, King Louis XIII wanted to build a new high altar for Notre-Dame. His wish was realized by Louis XIV in the 18th century, under the direction of his architect Robert de Cotte.
In 1723, the white marble Pieta sculpted by Nicolas Coustou took place in the cathedral. It represents the dead Christ resting on his mother’s lap, surrounded by two angels. Moreover, the composition recalls Michelangelo’s Pieta in Florence. The deep drapes that catch the light and the ecstatic attitude of the Virgin expressing her emotion, underline the baroque character of this sculpture. The base decorated with a bas-relief in gilded bronze represents a deposition from the cross.
Finally, a monstrance, a crucifix and six candlesticks made by goldsmith Claude Ballin adorn the new high altar. On either side of the high altar, six bronze statues of angels carry the instruments of the crucifixion. They are the work of Antoine Vassé.
To close this sculpted ensemble, the statues of Louis XIII and Louis XIV are placed on each side. Louis XIII, kneeling, holds out his royal crown in devotion to the Virgin. Moreover, this marble sculpture is the work of Guillaume Coustou. The other marble, sculpted by Antoine Coysevox, represents Louis XIV imploring the Virgin, his right hand resting on his chest.
The stalls, installed on either side of the choir, are wooden seats allowing the canons to sit during the office. Adorned with bas-reliefs, the high backs illustrate the life of the Virgin: Presentation, Marriage, Annunciation, Nativity, Adoration of the Magi, Flight into Egypt, Wedding at Cana, Descent from the Cross, Assumption. On the other hand, the allegorical figures represent virtues like prudence or modesty. Between each stall, a foliage decoration completes the scene.
The mausoleum of the Comte d’Harcourt
The funeral mausoleum of the Count of Harcourt sculpted by Jean-Baptiste Pigalle illustrates a “conjugal reunion” in homage of the Countess to her late husband. At one end of the sarcophagus, will be the tutelary angel of the said Lord Count of Harcourt who, seeing the said Lady Countess of Harcourt coming, will raise the stone of the tomb with one hand and with the other will hold the torch of marriage; M. le comte who, after having seemed to regain a moment of life in the warmth of his torch, gets rid of his shroud and hands his languid arms to his wife… Behind M. le comte will be death holding a sand to show Madame the countess that her time has come.
Once, a brightly colored stained glass window depicted a celestial court and many high dignitaries of the Church. The stained glass window was destroyed in 1774, at the request of Pigalle, and replaced by white glass, to provide a true day to the mausoleum of the late Comte d’Harcourt. The entire decor disappears during the revolutionary period. The current murals, restored in the late 1990s, are made from designs by Viollet-le-Duc. The monogram of the Harcourt family is chosen to illustrate the wall on which the mausoleum rests. Called chapel of Harcourt, it is today under the name of Saint Guillaume.
The choir tour
This wall carved in the 14th century illustrates scenes from the life of Christ. It forms a separation between the choir and the ambulatory. Originally, it offered the canons a screen of silence during the office. In the Middle Ages, an ambulatory was designed to circulate during the office. Thus, in the choir of the cathedral, the rood screen takes on the function of a screen. He embodies the respect for the prayer and silence of the canons gathered for the office. At the beginning of the 14th century, work to modify the chevet of Notre-Dame was completed under the direction of the architect Pierre de Chelles. As a result, sculptors, painters, glass painters and carpenters work on the interior decoration of the choir.
The northern part represents scenes from the childhood of Christ: the Visitation, the Annunciation to the Shepherds, the Nativity, the Adoration of the Magi, the Massacre of the Innocents and the Flight into Egypt, the Presentation in the Temple, Jesus in the middle of the doctors, the Baptism of Christ by Saint John in the waters of the Jordan, the Wedding at Cana, the Entry into Jerusalem, the Last Supper and the Washing of the feet, Christ in the Garden of Olives.
The south wall represents the Apparitions of Christ. Inspired by the Gospel of Nicomedes, they are rarely so complete in the statuary of the Middle Ages. The first scene represents the Apparition of Christ to Mary Magdalene in the garden near the Sepulchre. This appearance of Christ as a gardener remains until the end of the Middle Ages. The other sculpted sets narrate the apparitions of Christ to the Holy Women and to Saint Peter, to the disciples of Emmaus, to Saint Thomas, and to various apostles gathered together.
Sstatues of saints
The statues of Saint Anthony of Padua and Saint Thérèse of Lisieux are recent sculptures. Catholics attach special devotion to these two personalities of the Church. The statues of Saint Anthony of Padua and Saint Thérèse of Lisieux were built, respectively, in 2013 and 1934 by separate sculptors. Each of these statues marks a passage in Christian history.
Painting of Notre-Dame de Paris
The paintings kept at Notre-Dame date from the 17th and 18th centuries. Commissioned by the priests of the cathedral from the most illustrious Parisian painters, they testify to the artistic quality of religious painting in Paris at that time. At Notre-Dame, the stained glass windows testify to the taste of medieval art for colour. In the Middle Ages, the paintings are present on the portals and the rood screen around the choir. Erased by bad weather, they have completely disappeared outside the building. The cathedral has no paintings from the Middle Ages. At that time, religious painting existed mainly in the form of icons. Due to their small sizes, these precious painted objects are easily transportable. Painting also decorates chests and tabernacles.
From the 13th century, many families and trade corporations testified to their devotion to Mary by ordering decorations for chapels. In the 16th century, the corporation of goldsmiths made a habit of offering a painting to Notre-Dame every May 1st. This tradition evolved in the 17th century through large paintings called ” Les Mays de Notre-Dame “. At the beginning of the 18th century, the corporation ceased its annual offering. At the same time, the choir of the cathedral underwent major renovations. Thus, to decorate this new choir, the best painters of the time produced the eight large paintings illustrating the Life of the Virgin, of which only the Visitation by Jean Jouvenet remained on site. Finally, a painting representing Saint Thomas Aquinas recalls the importance that this Dominican exercised in Paris in the 12th century.
The “Mays” of Notre-Dame de Paris
“Mays des Orfèvres” at Notre-Dame is a series of 76 paintings offered to the cathedral by the brotherhood of goldsmiths, almost every year on the date of May 1 (hence their name), in homage to the Virgin Mary, and this from 1630 to 1707. The goldsmiths had long had their own chapel within the sanctuary. In 1449, the tradition of the Offering of May to Notre-Dame de Paris was instituted by the brotherhood of Goldsmiths of Paris.
These Mays were commissioned from renowned painters, who had to submit their sketches to the priests of the cathedral. After the foundation of the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture, in 1648, the artists chosen were all members or relatives of the latter. These commissions soon became a form of religious painting competition. Their subject matter was usually taken from the Acts of the Apostles. After displaying them on the forecourt, they were hung at the level of the arcades of the nave or the choir.
The Mays were dispersed during the Revolution, there are now about 50 left. The most important were recovered by the cathedral and today adorn the side chapels of the nave of Notre-Dame. Some are stored in the Louvre Museum, others in a few churches or in various French museums.
The Descent of the Holy Spirit
Le May of 1634 painted by Jacques Blanchard illustrates the theme of Pentecost. In the texts, fifty days after Easter, the spirit of God, symbolized by tongues of fire, blows on the apostles. Pentecost, from the Greek pentekostê “fiftieth”, is celebrated fifty days after Easter. It celebrates the mystery of the Holy Spirit with the apostles and the birth of the Church. The Holy Spirit generally appears in the form of a dove or an element symbolizing the fire of faith.
Saint Peter healing the sick in his shadow
Le May of 1635, painted by Laurent de La Hyre characterizes the French classical painting in vogue in Paris in the years 1630-1640. The theme is taken from the “Acts of the Apostles”. Saint Peter, and his brother Saint Andrew, are the first disciples of Jesus. As a result, several Mays of Notre-Dame illustrate moments in Pierre’s life. Saint Luke writes the accounts of the “Acts of the Apostles” in the fifth book of the New Testament.
The Conversion of Saint Paul
Le May of 1637, painted by Laurent de La Hyre, recounts an episode in the life of Saint Paul. While he is a Roman soldier who persecutes Christians, he is seized by the vision of Christ on the road to Damascus. Saul of Tarsus is from Cilicia (now Turkey). Approving of the martyrdom of Saint Stephen, he converted to Christianity around 31 or 36. Thus, Saul made himself known under the name of Paul, then of Saint Paul. Considered an apostle of Christ, he is not one of the twelve disciples. A great traveler to preach his Christian faith, he was arrested in Jerusalem and died in Rome in 67.
The Centurion Corneille at the feet of Saint Peter
Le May of 1639 represents the moment when Pierre arrived in Caesarea to meet Corneille. The centurion prostrates himself and Peter says to him, “Get up. I’m just a man, too.” This painting is painted by Aubin Vouet. Saint Luke, in chapter 10 of the Book of the “Acts of the Apostles”, tells the story of the Centurion Corneille. Following a vision, he goes to meet Peter and becomes a Christian disciple. Also, he is one of the first to be baptized by Peter after the death of Jesus.
Saint Peter preaching in Jerusalem
Le May from 1642 is a painting by Charles Poërson. It represents Saint Peter, preacher in Jerusalem. According to Saint Luke, in the Acts of the Apostles, Peter proclaims: “Turn away from this crooked generation, and you will be saved”. The Apostle Peter is one of the first disciples of Jesus. After Christ’s judgment and death sentence, the search and persecution of the disciples continues. Fear and doubt set in. Pentecost, fifty days after the crucifixion, marks the commitment of their faith. Peter is the first to speak and begins to spread the words of Christ. In fact, it is the preaching of Saint Peter in Jerusalem.
The Crucifixion of Saint Peter
The corporation of Parisian goldsmiths commissioned Sébastien Bourdon for the May of 1643. It represents the martyr of Saint Peter crucified upside down according to his wishes. Simon-Pierre is one of the first disciples of Jesus. Persecuted for his Christian faith, Governor Agrippa condemns him to crucifixion in Rome. Not considering himself worthy to be on the cross in the same way as Jesus, he asks to suffer his torture upside down. The place of martyrdom commonly corresponds to the gardens of Nero in the Vatican. According to Tacitus, this is where the harshest scenes of persecution take place. According to Christian tradition, Peter is the first bishop of Rome and of the Catholic Church.
The Crucifixion of Saint Andrew
Charles Le Brun painted the May of 1647. First disciple of Jesus with his brother Pierre, the old man was crucified by order of the proconsul Egéas around the year 60. Andrew and Brother Peter are both fishing on Lake Tiberias when they decide to follow Jesus. Previously a disciple of John the Baptist, Andrew was the first to meet Jesus on the banks of the Jordan. After the death of Jesus, he mainly preaches around the Black Sea. Under the reign of Nero, he converts the wife of the proconsul Aegeas, which condemns him. Later, he dies in Greece, tortured on a cross.
The Stoning of Saint Stephen
This May, offered by the guild of goldsmiths to Notre-Dame in 1651, is painted by Charles Le Brun. It depicts the martyrdom of Saint Stephen as described in the Acts of the Apostles. Stephen or Saint Stephen, learned preacher, known for his well-argued speeches, condemned in Jerusalem to stoning for blasphemy. In fact, he is also the first Christian martyr condemned after the death of Christ. His faith led to the conversion of Saul of Tarsus, known as Saint Paul.
The Preaching of the Prophet Agabus to Saint Paul
Le May of 1687 illustrates Saint Paul’s theme of trust and faith. Faced with Agabus, disciple of Jesus, who predicts his death, he replies “I am ready”. The picture is painted by Louis Chéron. Agabus is a resident of Jerusalem. A disciple of Jesus, he sends him to preach. In the Acts of the Apostles, Luke considers him a prophet. Thus, he tells that Agabus, who came from Jerusalem to Antioch, predicted a great famine, which took place during the reign of Claudius. (Chapter 11, verse 28). In chapter 21, he records the circumstances in which the prophet predicted Paul’s death, as well as Paul’s response.
A set of eight large paintings illustrating the Life of the Virgin was commissioned in the 18th century to decorate the choir of Notre-Dame. The Visitation painted by Jean Jouvenet in 1716 is the most popular work of its time. In 1709, Canon de La Porte (1627-1710), the financial instigator of the Vow of Louis XIII and the redesign of the choir, decided to offer the cathedral a set of paintings on the theme of the life of the Virgin, including the Visitation. When he died at the age of 83, in 1710, the work was unfinished. Thanks to the inheritance he bequeathed to Notre-Dame, the eight paintings were finalized and placed in the choir of the cathedral in 1715.
Saint Thomas Aquinas, Fountain of Wisdom
This 17th century painting bears witness to the fervor of Catholics towards Saint Thomas Aquinas. This Dominican studied then taught theology at the University of Paris in the middle of the 12th century. His writings, written in Paris, are contemporaneous with the opening of Notre-Dame. Born in Italy, Thomas Aquinas came twice to study at the University of Paris in 1245 and 1252, he returned to Paris in 1268 when moral disputes around the thoughts of Aristotle were raging in the Church. There, for four years, he wrote the majority of his work. His words question faith and the existence of God through nature and knowledge of the world. Thus, he associates theology and philosophy. All in all, his writings relate to the soul, the body, the passions, freedom and bliss.
Considered the spiritual father of the Church, buried in Toulouse then canonized in 1323, he obtained in 1567, posthumously, the name of “Doctor of the Church”. At that time, his writings were controversial with Protestants during the Reformation. In the middle of the 17th century, the teaching of Saint Thomas Aquinas was widely disseminated by the Catholic Church. His fame increased when Ignatius of Loyola chose him as spiritual master of the Jesuit order, whose teaching was supported by Louis XIII and Louis XIV.
The Cameos of the Popes
Complete collections representing popes from Saint Peter to the present day are extremely rare. These cameos are jewels of great finesse. The artists of Torre des Greco give each of the popes varied gestures, hieratic no doubt, but alive. The poses are diverse, less conventional than the Roman medallions. The clothes differ: cope or camail, tiara, two or three crowns, Levitical miter, simple cap or the camauro. The movements are often expressive: some bless, others meditate in front of the crucifix; some in profile or face on, others seated or standing like Pius VI in a gesture of firmness or moving like Innocent XII.
Master Goudji and Master Pierre Rouge-Pullon create the cameos of the last ten popes, from Leo XIII to Benedict XVI on the occasion of the 120th anniversary of the collection in September 2008. They are like the previous ones, finely carved on shell, and their frame is silver.
The tapestries of the Life of the Virgin
In 1638, Louis XIII consecrated France to the Virgin. By his vow, he undertakes to build a new altar decorated with a painting by Philippe de Champaigne (Le Vœu de Louis XIII, Louvre Museum). To join the King’s initiative, Cardinal de Richelieu, Prime Minister, offered a set of tapestries on the theme of the life of the Virgin. In 1657, the Pierre Damour weaving workshop finalized the complete series of tapestries, woven in wool and silk. It includes fourteen scenes that adorn the choir of the cathedral during major religious festivals. Three renowned painters at that time designed the tapestry cartoons: Philippe de Champaigne, Jacques Stella and Charles Poerson.
During the renovation of the cathedral choir, completed in 1717, tastes changed. The tapestries are not replaced but hung in various Parisian churches. In 1739, the chapter of the cathedral of Strasbourg bought the whole. Since then, they have been hung in the nave of the cathedral every December, during Advent and Christmas time.
Lamp at Notre Dame
The faithful offered this lamp in 1941 to perpetuate a tradition of devotion to the Virgin instituted in 1357. It is placed at the foot of the statue of Our Lady. Made according to the drawings of the glass painter J. Le Chevallier, it replaces that offered in 1605 by the Aldermen of Paris and destroyed during the Revolution. In his program for the restoration of the cathedral in the 19th century, Eugène Viollet-le-Duc completed the project by drawing sculptures and religious objects. Some objects date from this period.
The large lectern is a masterpiece of woodworking. The tetramorph (symbols of the four evangelists) and the twelve apostles stand alongside a stylized plant decor.
Music of Notre-Dame de Paris
Music at Notre Dame is an integral part of worship and culture. From the Middle Ages, singing was mastered there and polyphony was invented. The great organ has been involved since the 15th century in musical creation and the fame of concerts. With the construction of the Cathedral, singing becomes its musical soul. In the 12th century, an episcopal school was created to train young singers in music. Notre-Dame then became a musical leader in Europe, inventing musical genres such as polyphonies and motets.
At the beginning of the 15th century, the vast dimensions of the cathedral required an instrument capable of enveloping the whole building in musical resonance. The first great organ is built to accompany the offices. The music masters direct the choir mastery. They exert a strong influence on the development of music. In the 18th century, the popularity of organists tended to replace them. Thanks to the talents of the organ builders, the instrument goes from one to five keyboards then continues to be enlarged, reworked, restored. The great organ of Notre-Dame was then the largest and most modern in the kingdom in the 17th century. Its sound quality associated with a new freedom of composition aroused enthusiasm in the 18th century.
During the major restoration project led by Viollet-le-Duc, Aristide Cavaillé-Coll transformed it into a symphonic instrument. In the 20th century, organ concerts, initiated by Pierre Cochereau, developed successfully. The current organ is modernized and resounds with almost 8000 pipes.
One of the earliest organs at Notre-Dame, built in 1403 by Frédéric Schambantz, was rebuilt many times over the course of 300 years, however 12 pipes and some wood survive from this ancient instrument. It was replaced between 1730 and 1738 by François Thierry, and later rebuilt by François-Henri Clicquot. During the restoration of the cathedral by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, Aristide Cavaillé-Coll built a new organ, using pipework from the former instruments. The organ was dedicated in 1868.
In addition to the great organ in the west end, the quire of the cathedral carries a medium-sized choir organ of 2 manuals, 30 stops and 37 ranks in a 19th-century case from the 1960s. It was heavily damaged by waterlogging, but is at least partially reusable. It also had a 5-stop single-manual continuo organ, which was completely destroyed by water from firefighters.
Twenty-one bronze bells make up the ringing of Notre-Dame, of which the drone is the oldest. They ring the hours and key moments in the life of the Church or in the history of Paris. They all bear a first name in homage to a personality of the Church. The largest of Notre-Dame’s bells is located in the south tower. In campanology, it is called “bumblebee”. It rings for special occasions such as Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, or All Saints’ Day and during events such as the death or the election of the Pope.
In the north tower, four bells ensure the daily ringing of the offices of the Cathedral. They weigh between two and three tons each. The ringing of the bells punctuates the life of the faithful, marks the solemnity of the offices. For all Parisians, they give the time according to the number of strokes of the leaf, or warn of the great moments in the history of France. This tradition continues today.
The poor quality of the metal of the four bells of the north tower caused harmonic discordances and poor acoustic quality. They were all replaced in 2013 with the exception of the Emmanuel dome, recognized for its sonic excellence. The Cornille-Havard foundry in Villedieu-les-Poêles makes the bells for the north tower, the Marie dome at the Royal Eijsbouts foundry in the Netherlands.