Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral is one of the most iconic monuments in Paris and France. The cathedral is linked to many episodes in the history of France. Built in the 12th century,, its construction spanned approximately two centuries. modified in the 18th century then restored in the 19th century, it has been the symbol of Christian worship in Paris over the centuries.
The construction of the Cathedral began in the middle of the 12th century and was spread over two hundred years. It is a masterpiece of Gothic architecture in France. The cathedral, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, is considered one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture. Several of its attributes set it apart from the earlier Romanesque style, particularly its pioneering use of the rib vault and flying buttress, its enormous and colourful rose windows, and the naturalism and abundance of its sculptural decoration.
Notre-Dame de Paris is the largest religious building built in Europe in the 12th century. Covering an area of 6000 m2, it is 69 meters high. It testifies to a real technological prowess achieved by the architects of the Middle Ages. Like most French cathedrals, Notre-Dame de Paris draws a plan in the shape of a Latin cross. Its main facade is oriented west-north-west, its apse is oriented east-south-east. The cathedral can hold up to 9,000 people, including 1,500 in the galleries.
Begun at the instigation of Bishop Maurice de Sully, its construction spanned approximately two centuries, from 1163 to the middle of the 14th century. After the French Revolution, the cathedral benefited between 1845 and 1867 from a major, sometimes controversial, restoration under the direction of the architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, who incorporated unpublished elements and motifs into it. For these reasons, the style is not totally uniform: the cathedral has characteristics of primitive Gothic and radiant Gothic. The two rose windows that adorn each of the arms of the transept are among the largest in Europe.
To deal with the collapse of such a vast building, the exterior architecture of Notre-Dame innovates. The architects lighten the walls, pierce large bays, place buttresses and flying buttresses on the facades, cross the ribs of the vaults. Its entrance and its two towers are oriented west-north-west, its apse is oriented east-south-east. The transept is oriented along a north-northeast, south-southwest axis. The main nave has ten bays, the choir five. Its axis is slightly deviated from the axis of the nave. The apse is semi-circular with five sides.
Although built after the choir, the nave is of the early Gothic style, with sexpartite vaults, however without alternating strong piers and weak piers as seen in the Cathedral of Saint-Étienne in Sens. The transept, clearly identifiable from the exterior of the monument, does not project beyond the collaterals and the side chapels. The choir has no collaterals.
Apart from the transept, the interior elevation is on three levels, with large arcades, galleries and high windows. In the first two spans of the two arms of the transept, the elevation is however at four levels. In the 19th century, the restorer Viollet-le-Duc undertook to “correct” the tenth bay of the nave, by recreating the four levels there as they appeared before the modifications made in the 1220s to the initial plan. The north and south facades of the transept have magnificent rose windows decorated with stained glass, among the largest in Europe, with a diameter of 13 meters.
The history of the Cathedral is closely linked to the History of France, in the 4th century, with the advent of Clovis, Paris became the Christian capital of the Frankish kingdom. It was then that a first Saint-Etienne cathedral was built in the 6th century. The rise of the city began in the 12th century after the Norman invasions. Four popes stayed there during the century. The city prospers, it is a place of artistic and intellectual exchanges, equipped with colleges and a university of philosophy and theology. This is how the story of Notre Dame begins.
At the same time, the crusades to Jerusalem and the pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostela move thousands of faithful on the roads. The Ile de la Cité is an essential stopover for crossing the Seine. In fact, the faithful flock to the district of the city. They generate commercial activity and offerings for worship. In this context, Maurice de Sully, bishop of Paris, undertook the construction of a new and vast cathedral to welcome the faithful.
In the 13th century, the population of Paris doubled. Saint Louis brings back from Jerusalem the relics of the passion of Christ which he places in the cathedral in 1239. The cathedral thus becomes a high place of worship. It grows and changes to become a model of religious architecture.
During the Renaissance, tastes evolved, its appeal was neglected. In the 17th century, by the wish of Louis XIII, the kingdom placed itself under the protection of Notre-Dame de Paris. Major developments took place in the 18th century.
During the French Revolution, Notre-Dame the place where the coronation of Napoleon I in 1804, then the baptism of Henri d’Artois, the Duke of Bordeaux, in 1821, as well as the funeral of several Presidents of the French Republic (Adolphe Thiers, Sadi Carnot, Paul Doumer, Charles de Gaulle, Georges Pompidou, François Mitterrand).
The cathedral inspires many artistic works, in particular Victor Hugo’s novel Notre-Dame de Paris published in 1831 and which in turn partly influences its history. Abused by bad weather and the Revolution, the cathedral threatened to collapse in the 19th century. Driven by a resurgence in popularity thanks to Notre-Dame de Paris by Victor Hugo, the State decided to carry out restoration work in the 19th century.
After the French Revolution, the cathedral benefited between 1845 and 1867 from a major, sometimes controversial, restoration under the direction of the architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, who incorporated unpublished elements and motifs into it. For these reasons, the style is not totally uniform: the cathedral has characteristics of primitive Gothic and radiant Gothic. The two rose windows that adorn each of the arms of the transept are among the largest in Europe.
Classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991, the 850th anniversary of its construction was celebrated in 2013. At the beginning of the 21st century, Notre-Dame was visited each year by some 13 to 14 million people. The building, also a minor basilica, is thus the most visited monument in Europe and one of the most visited in the world until 2019.
The violent fire of April 15, 2019 destroyed the spire and the entire roof covering the nave, the choir and the transept. This is the largest disaster suffered by the cathedral since its construction. Notre-Dame is, since this date, closed to the public for an indefinite period. Its identical reconstruction is decided in 2020 and its reopening to the public planned for 2024.
Before the cathedral
In the 4th century, Clovis converted to Christianity. A Frankish king, he raised Paris to the capital and developed Christian worship. A first Saint-Étienne cathedral was built on the island of the city. In Gallo-Roman times, the town was called the “city”. The first city of Paris is erected on an island which forms a natural rampart against enemies. The city is growing rapidly. Two bridges to the north and south connect the new neighborhoods.
Four religious buildings follow one another before the cathedral of Maurice de Sully: a paleo- Christian church of the 4th century rebuilt into a Merovingian basilica, then a Carolingian cathedral 3 and finally a Romanesque cathedral restored and enlarged, but which gradually proves to be too small for the rapidly growing population of Paris.
Marcel is the ninth bishop of Paris in the 4th century. In 360-361, he participated in the Council of Paris which aims to unify various currents of the church. The same year the Emperor Julien is in Lutèce with his army. Around 496, King Clovis chose Paris as the capital of the Frankish kingdom and converted to Christianity. The diocese of Paris becomes very famous and influential. In the middle of the 6th century, Bishop Germain hosted several councils in Paris.
Two centuries later, the Emperor Charlemagne and his successors granted the Church of Paris a privileged status. Subsequently, the kings reinforced the alliance between the Church and the monarchy, granting the Abbey of Saint-Denis and the Cathedral of Paris primordial roles.
According to Jean Hubert, the primitive cathedral dedicated to Notre-Dame forms, from the 6th to the 12th century, with the Saint-Étienne cathedral a double cathedral which, accompanied by the baptistery of Saint-Jean-le-Rond, constitutes in the Middle Ages the ecclesia of the diocese of Paris, the episcopal group which precedes the cathedral of Bishop Maurice de Sully.
Excavations carried out during restoration work in the 19th century revealed remains of capitals and mosaics under the forecourt. These elements prove the existence of a religious building from the Roman or Merovingian period, dedicated to Saint Stephen. This former church was located under the current forecourt. Not far from the cathedral, the church of Saint Jean le Rond housed from the 6th to the 12th century a large water tank, used as a baptistery. On the current site of the choir of the cathedral, was the old chapel of the episcopal palace, reserved for the bishop. The eastern tip of the island was occupied by a set of buildings reserved for the diocese.
Stages of construction
Under the reign of Louis VI, Thibaud II, bishop of Paris from 1144 to 1158 became interested in new architectural trends. The Ile de la Cité was a very popular place of passage in the Middle Ages. Its activity developed there throughout the Middle Ages in the midst of numerous places of worship. During the construction of the cathedral, the district is transformed into a building site. Pilgrims and the sick are welcomed at the Hôtel-Dieu.
To build a large building, it is necessary to have large spaces to install the site and store the materials. This is why Maurice de Sully decides to destroy the Saint-Etienne cathedral. The freed surface is used as a manufacturing site before being transformed into a forecourt. The construction of the cathedral is located to the east of the old church. Similarly, to convey the materials, it is necessary to circulate easily. However, the district only has narrow streets and two small bridges to access the island. Louis VI orders the construction of a large bridge, called Pont-aux-changes.
In 1160, Bishop Maurice de Sully decided to build a new type of sanctuary, much larger, in place of the Romanesque cathedral. The first stone of the cathedral was laid in 1163 by Bishop Maurice de Sully. He undertook a colossal project in coordination with the best mason architects of his time. Together, these builders imagined a new religious art, called since the 16th century “Gothic art”.
An ambitious builder, he founded several churches, abbeys and hospices in his diocese and reorganized their fiefs and revenues. However, his major work remains the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris. He had it built from 1160 on the site of the existing cathedral, Saint-Étienne. Ambitious in its dimensions and its architectural innovations, this building contributes to the life of the community of parishioners. The redevelopment of the urban plan around the cathedral facilitates access.
The architect of the building, who has remained anonymous, therefore designed a building of exceptional dimensions: 127 meters long, 40 meters wide and 33 meters high. Until the middle of the 13th century, the cathedral was the largest religious monument in the Western world. The prowess of construction techniques initiated at the Saint-Denis basilica continues on the Notre-Dame site. Considered immediately as masterpieces, these new religious buildings are called “French works”. The concept and style served as a model in France and Europe, before falling into disuse during the Renaissance.
Etienne de Garlande, archdeacon of Paris, had major works carried out for its embellishment, including the Saint Anne portal, decorated with column statues. At the same time, Father Suger presided over the work of the new Saint-Denis basilica, designed as a shrine of colored glass. The idea is “Bringing Light” into the church is the key concept. The new architectural techniques impressed contemporaries, in particular by the art of stained glass.
The architecture of the new cathedral must be in line with the new Gothic art. Several large Gothic churches then already existed (the Saint-Denis abbey church, the Notre-Dame de Noyon cathedral and the Notre-Dame de Laon cathedral), while the Saint-Étienne de Sens cathedral was nearing completion. Construction, begun during the reign of Louis VII (who offered the sum of 200 pounds), lasted from 1163 to 1345. At that time, Paris was only a bishopric, suffragan of the archbishop of Sens, Sens being at originally the Roman prefecture of theLyonnaise fourth.
Father Suger offers a stained glass window to the Cathedral on the theme of the triumph of the Virgin (destroyed in the 18ths.). During the construction of the new cathedral, various elements were reintroduced, including the Sainte Anne portal and the stained glass window of the Virgin donated by Suger.
As in the whole of Western Europe, the 11th and 12th centuriesare indeed characterized by a rapid increase in the population of French cities, linked to significant economic development, and the old cathedrals become for the most part too small to contain the increasingly large masses of faithful. Specialists estimate that the population of Paris rose from 25,000 inhabitants in 1180, the beginning of the reign of Philip II Augustus, to 50,000 around 1220, making it the largest city in Europe outside of Italy.
The chronicler Jean de Saint-Victor recorded in the Memorial Historiarum that the construction of Notre-Dame began between 24 March and 25 April 1163 with the laying of the cornerstone in the presence of King Louis VII and Pope Alexander III. Four phases of construction took place under bishops Maurice de Sully and Eudes de Sully (not related to Maurice), according to masters whose names have been lost. Analysis of vault stones that fell in the 2019 fire shows that they were quarried in Vexin, a county northwest of Paris, and presumably brought up the Seine by ferry.
The first phase began with the construction of the choir and its two ambulatories. According to Robert of Torigni, the choir was completed in 1177 and the high altar consecrated on 19 May 1182 by Cardinal Henri de Château-Marçay, the Papal legate in Paris, and Maurice de Sully.
The second phase, from 1182 to 1190, concerned the construction of the four sections of the nave behind the choir and its aisles to the height of the clerestories. It began after the completion of the choir but ended before the final allotted section of the nave was finished. Beginning in 1190, the bases of the façade were put in place, and the first traverses were completed. Heraclius of Caesarea called for the Third Crusade in 1185 from the still-incomplete cathedral.
Louis IX deposited the relics of the passion of Christ, which included the Crown of thorns, a nail from the Cross and a sliver of the Cross, which he had purchased at great expense from the Latin Emperor Baldwin II, in the cathedral during the construction of the Sainte-Chapelle. An under-shirt, believed to have belonged to Louis, was added to the collection of relics at some time after his death.
The decision was made to add transepts at the choir, where the altar was located, in order to bring more light into the centre of the church. The use of simpler four-part rather than six-part rib vaults meant that the roofs were stronger and could be higher. After Bishop Maurice de Sully’s death in 1196, his successor, Eudes de Sully oversaw the completion of the transepts, and continued work on the nave, which was nearing completion at the time of his own death in 1208. By this time, the western façade was already largely built, though it was not completed until around the mid-1240s. Between 1225 and 1250 the upper gallery of the nave was constructed, along with the two towers on the west façade.
Another significant change came in the mid-13th century, when the transepts were remodelled in the latest Rayonnant style; in the late 1240s Jean de Chelles added a gabled portal to the north transept topped off by a spectacular rose window. Shortly afterward (from 1258) Pierre de Montreuil executed a similar scheme on the southern transept. Both these transept portals were richly embellished with sculpture; the south portal features scenes from the lives of Saint Stephen and of various local saints, while the north portal featured the infancy of Christ and the story of Theophilus in the tympanum, with a highly influential statue of the Virgin and Child in the trumeau.
Master builders Pierre de Chelles, Jean Ravy, Jean le Bouteiller, and Raymond du Temple succeeded de Chelles and de Montreuil and then each other in the construction of the cathedral. Ravy completed de Chelles’s rood screen and chevet chapels, then began the 15-metre (49 ft) flying buttresses of the choir. Jean le Bouteiller, Ravy’s nephew, succeeded him in 1344 and was himself replaced on his death in 1363 by his deputy, Raymond du Temple.
An important innovation in the 13th century was the introduction of the flying buttress. Before the buttresses, all of the weight of the roof pressed outward and down to the walls, and the abutments supporting them. With the flying buttress, the weight was carried by the ribs of the vault entirely outside the structure to a series of counter-supports, which were topped with stone pinnacles which gave them greater weight. The buttresses meant that the walls could be higher and thinner, and could have much larger windows. The date of the first buttresses is not known with any great precision beyond an installation date in the 13th century.
Art historian Andrew Tallon, however, has argued based on detailed laser scans of the entire structure that the buttresses were part of the original design. According to Tallon, the scans indicate that “the upper part of the building has not moved one smidgen in 800 years,” whereas if they were added later some movement from prior to their addition would be inevitable.
First period (1161-1250)
A legend, founded by the chronicler Jean de Saint-Victor in his Memoriale Historiarum written in the 14th century and reported by a long and abundant historiographical tradition, has it that between March 24 and April 25, 1163, Pope Alexander III, then a refugee in Sens, laid the first stone himself, in the presence of King Louis VII. In the current state of knowledge, the date traditionally retained for the beginning of the work of Notre-Dame is 1163, but it is probable that the site began as early as 1161. Most of the work is done under the direction of Bishop Maurice de Sully (1160-1197) and his successor Odon de Sully(1197-1208) – both unrelated. There are four construction campaigns, corresponding to four different master builders.
The construction of the cathedral of Paris lasted only about 75 years, until the beginning of the work of realization of the side chapels between the buttresses, from 1235. This speed of construction requires significant funding. Henry Kraus’ book on The Money of Cathedrals shows that this first phase of construction only mobilized, for the most part, the proper property of the bishop and the chapter. The construction of the cathedral may have benefited from a period of prosperity and peace. During the reign of Philippe Auguste, the royal domain increased considerably with the acquisition of Normandy and Languedoc, which led to an increase in the finances of the monarchy, but also of the Parisian bourgeoisie, which participated in the management of this new royal domain. However, the names of the kings do not appear in the financing of the cathedral. For example, Saint Louis, who nevertheless makes many donations to abbeys and monasteries, is not mentioned.
The accounts of the cathedral factory have not been preserved. The assets of the bishop and the chapter are known by the cartulary of the cathedral, published by Benjamin Guérard. As Benjamin Guérard points out (page CLXVII), the cartulary of the Notre-Dame church gives no information on the construction of the cathedral. For example, the bishop owned a large part of the land on the right bank of the Seine, and the chapter the Île de la Cité.
The cartulary notes that several properties of the bishop were sold by bourgeois and had to be used to finance the construction of the cathedral. The cathedral obituary has preserved the donation of 100 books made by Maurice de Sully, in 1196, to buy the lead necessary for its cover. Another income of the bishop came from the third of the tax of the crown on the transactions made with the halls of Paris. The contribution of the canons of the chapter was made by taking the size on the subjects of the fiefdoms that the canons possessed. When a new size was announced in 1250 for the construction of the cathedral, the serfs of the chapter fiefdoms refused to pay. The chapter then had them imprisoned. Blanche de Castille intervened to free them, but they were ordered to pay. It was not until 1263 that 636 serfs were able to redeem their manumission.
Second period (c.1250 – c.1350)
At that time, the portals of the transept, built in the Romanesque style, contrasted by the severity of their style with the large Gothic facade, richly decorated in the style of the day. The reconstruction of the Romanesque parts was then swiftly decided by Bishop Renaud de Corbeil (1250-1268) to align the facades of the transepts with those of the side chapels of the nave which were completed around 1250 and of the choir undertaken afterwards.
Jehan de Chelles, Pierre de Montreuil, Pierre de Chelles, Jean Ravy, Jean le Bouteiller and Raymond du Temple were the master builders who succeeded each other during this period. Jean de Chelles lengthens the transept, first to the north (around 1250), then to the south and has the north facade of the transept and its rose window made. After his death in 1265, his work on the south transept was completed by Pierre de Montreuil, who also designed the south facade of the transept and its rose window. Pierre de Montreuil also completed the chapels and the red door. Likewise, he begins the replacement of the flying buttresses of thechoir. He died in turn in 1267.
His successor Pierre de Chelles built the rood screen and began the bedside chapels in 1296. The latter were completed by Jean Ravy, who was project manager from 1318 to 1344. Jean Ravy began construction of the flying buttresses of the choir of a range of 15 meters. He also begins the making of the enclosure of the choir. In 1344, his nephew Jean le Bouteiller succeeded him and worked until 1363. After his death, his deputy Raymond du Temple completed the work, in particular the enclosure of the choir.
15th and 16th centuries
On 16 December 1431, the boy-king Henry VI of England was crowned king of France in Notre-Dame, aged ten, the traditional coronation church of Reims Cathedral being under French control.
During the Renaissance, the Gothic style fell out of style, renaissance artists turned away from Gothic art, considered the work of barbarians, so they did not hesitate to camouflage the pillars, cover the walls and arcades with huge tapestries and hangings. Baroque statuary invades the naves already loaded with numerous altars and desks, tombs and cenotaphs.
In 1548, rioting Huguenots damaged some of the statues of Notre-Dame, considering them idolatrous. The fountain in Notre-Dame’s parvis was added in 1625 to provide nearby Parisians with running water.
King Louis XIV, on the insistence of his father, Louis XIII, decided in 1699 to make extensive modifications to Notre-Dame. He tasked Robert de Cotte with the renovation. Cotte replaced the rood screen with a sumptuous and gilded wrought iron fence, opened up the choir and ambulatory, and removed the tombs in the nave. New furniture was produced as well as the current high altar, depicting Louis XIV and Louis XIII kneeling before a pietà.
Since 1449, the Parisian goldsmith guild had made regular donations to the cathedral chapter. In 1630, it was decided that the guild would donate a large altarpiece every year on the first of May. These works came to be known as the grands mays. The subject matter was restricted to episodes from the Acts of the Apostles. The prestigious commission was awarded to the most prominent painters and, after 1648, members of the Académie Royale.
17th and 18th centuries
In 1625, the fountain of the Parvis Notre-Dame was built by the architect Augustin Guillain, it was intended to supply the inhabitants of the Île de la Cité with running water. In 1699, according to the wish of Louis XIV and the wishes of his father Louis XIII, profound transformations were made in the interior decoration of the cathedral, in particular at the level of the choir.
The architect Robert de Cotte demolishes the rood screen(which was replaced by a wrought iron gate gilded with a gold rabbet), part of the high reliefs of the enclosures in order to open the choir on the ambulatory by replacing them with gates, as well as tombs to allow the complete redevelopment of the choir in the style of the time, like many other Gothic cathedrals throughout Europe, during the 17th and 18th centuries. New stalls were made, as well as a new high altar for which were made the statues that still adorn it today, representing Louis XIV renewing the vow of his father Louis XIII, both kneeling in front of the Pietà.
Seventy-six paintings had been donated by 1708, when the custom was discontinued for financial reasons. Those works were confiscated in 1793 and the majority were subsequently dispersed among regional museums in France. Those that remained in the cathedral were removed or relocated within the building by the 19th-century restorers.
In 1709, Cardinal Antoine de La Porte commissioned from King Louis XIV six paintings illustrating the life of the Virgin for the decoration of the choir. Charles de La Fosse, realized for this project in 1715, The Adoration of the Magi, now kept in the Louvre Museum.
In 1726, Cardinal de Noailles, Archbishop of Paris, modified the architecture of the cathedral, he changed “all the profiles”, at the level of the gables, roses and pinnacles on the south side. He reinforces the flying buttresses, the galleries, the terraces, and rebuilds the great vault of the bay which threatened to fall into ruin. He renovated the framework and the roof, of which he had all the seals changed. He had the gargoyles replaced by lead pipes, changing the evacuation of rainwater. Inside, he had the old medieval rood screen removed and had a chapel inlaid in white marble for his family.
In 1756, the canons, judging the building too dark, asked the Le Vieil brothers to destroy the stained-glass windows from the Middle Ages and replace them with white glass; after which the walls of the cathedral were whitewashed. The rosettes were however preserved. Finally, at the request of the clergy, Jacques-Germain Soufflot, architect of the church of Sainte-Geneviève, removed the trumeau and part of the tympanum from the central portal, decorated with the Last Judgment, to allow the canopy of the processions to pass more easily. Soufflot builds a new portal and a sacristy to the south of the choir.
Until the Revolution, the cathedral was owned by the Archdiocese of Paris. On November 2, 1789, it was made available to the nation as well as all the property of the clergy. Since then, the French state has owned the building. In February 1791, by a series of decrees, the cathedral became the seat of the parish of the city by transferring the prerogatives exercised until then by the ten small churches of the island, created by Maurice de Sully in the 12th century. In 1793, Catholic worship was banned in Paris. The cathedral is looted and vandalized. The revolutionaries establish “the cult of Reason” around the mottos of freedom and equality. Many buildings are transformed into “Temple of Reason” including Notre-Dame.
After the French Revolution in 1789, Notre-Dame and the rest of the church’s property in France was seized and made public property. The cathedral was rededicated in 1793 to the Cult of Reason, and then to the Cult of the Supreme Being in 1794. During this time, many of the treasures of the cathedral were either destroyed or plundered. The twenty-eight statues of biblical kings located at the west façade, mistaken for statues of French kings, were beheaded. Many of the heads of the statues were found during a 1977 excavation nearby, and are on display at the Musée de Cluny.
For a time the Goddess of Liberty replaced the Virgin Mary on several altars. The cathedral’s great bells escaped being melted down. All of the other large statues on the façade, with the exception of the statue of the Virgin Mary on the portal of the cloister, were destroyed. The cathedral came to be used as a warehouse for the storage of food and other non-religious purposes.
With the Concordat of 1801, Napoleon Bonaparte restored Notre-Dame to the Catholic Church, though this was only finalized on 18 April 1802. Napoleon also named Paris’s new bishop, Jean-Baptiste de Belloy, who restored the cathedral’s interior. Charles Percier and Pierre-François-Léonard Fontaine made quasi-Gothic modifications to Notre-Dame for the coronation of Napoleon as Emperor of the French within the cathedral. The building’s exterior was whitewashed and the interior decorated in Neoclassical, then in vogue.
After the Napoleonic Wars, Notre-Dame was in such a state of disrepair that Paris officials considered its demolition. The great novelist Victor Hugo, an admirer of the building, then wrote his novel Notre-Dame de Paris which had enormous success and was intended in particular to raise public awareness of the value of such a monument, He succeeded in creating a broad popular movement of interest in favor of the cathedral. His novel had revived a monument then marginalized and had made it more familiar to Parisians. Through his novel, Victor Hugo largely contributed to saving the battered masterpiece from a fatal fate.
In 1844 King Louis Philippe ordered that the church be restored. The fate of Notre-Dame focused different currents of thought: the Catholics of course who wanted to reconcile France with the piety and faith of yesteryear, the monarchists also who tried to reconnect with a close past, but also the secular current.
The architect who had hitherto been in charge of Notre-Dame’s maintenance, Étienne-Hippolyte Godde, was dismissed. In his stead, Jean-Baptiste Lassus and Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, who had distinguished themselves with the restoration of the nearby Sainte-Chapelle, were appointed in 1844. The next year, Viollet-le-Duc submitted a budget of 3,888,500 francs, which was reduced to 2,650,000 francs, for the restoration of Notre-Dame and the construction of a new sacristy building. This budget was exhausted in 1850, and work stopped as Viollet-le-Duc made proposals for more money. In totality, the restoration cost over 12 million francs.
When Lassus died in 1857, Viollet-le-Duc was left sole architect of the project until its completion on 31 May 1864. Supervising a large team of sculptors, glass makers and other craftsmen, and working from drawings or engravings, Viollet-le-Duc remade or added decorations if he felt they were in the spirit of the original style. One of the latter items was a taller and more ornate spire, to replace the original 13th century spire, which had been removed in 1786. The decoration of the restoration included a statue of Saint Thomas that resembles Viollet-le-Duc, as well as the sculpture of mythical creatures on the Galerie des Chimères.
The construction of the sacristy was especially financially costly. To secure a firm foundation, it was necessary for Viollet-le-Duc’s labourers to dig 9 metres (30 ft). Master glassworkers meticulously copied styles of the 13th century, as written about by art historians Antoine Lusson and Adolphe Napoléon Didron.
The lamentable state of the masonry of the cathedral was widespread, the red door for example was in ruins. There were countless broken pinnacles, collapsed gables. As for the great statuary of the portals and the facade, there was not much left of it. The restorers had to carry out in-depth research in order to restore (identically if possible, which was rarely done at the time) the degraded parts, as evidenced by the writings and drawings of Viollet-le-Duc.
It is the restitution of the sculpted program of the cathedral which constitutes the main success of the two architects. From the outset they wanted to reconstitute all the sculptural ornamentation destroyed, drawing inspiration from or copying works from the same period that had remained intact (Amiens, Chartres and Reims). To do this, the architects brought together a team of excellent sculptors under the direction of Adolphe-Victor Geoffroy-Dechaume. Many of them came from the workshop of David d’Angersand knew each other.
More than a hundred large statues were thus created for the exterior, including the twelve copper statues surrounding the base of the spire, works by Geoffroi-Dechaume himself, which testify to the great talent of this sculptor. Viollet-le-Duc took great care in making these statues. They were first drawn by him, then a life -size plaster model was made. The necessary corrections were then made until the work was deemed satisfactory. Only then was the final stone statue made. No creative freedom was left to the sculptors, whose work was totally controlled by the architects.
During the restoration, the cathedral was somewhat remodeled. The south rose window, for example, was pivoted by fifteen degrees in order to make it rest along a vertical axis, a modification which, sometimes criticized, was motivated by the need to consolidate the whole, whose masonry had collapsed. Finally, a few statues from the architect’s imagination were erected, such as the chimeras contemplating Paris from the top of the facade.
The forecourt of Notre-Dame was cleared in the years 1860-1870 by works desired by Baron Haussmann during the transformations of Paris under the Second Empire, hygienist concernsd’Haussmann combined with a new artistic conception which isolates the cathedral on a square and releases perspectives. These works necessitated the demolition of the former 18th century foundlings’ hospice, which had become the seat of the administration of Assistance-publique, and the former Hôtel-Dieu. After the construction of the archaeological crypt, the contours of the medieval streets and old buildings, such as the Sainte-Geneviève-des-Ardents church, which disappeared in 1747, were materialized on the floor of the forecourt by paving stones of light colors.
During the Paris Commune of March-May 1871, the Cathedral and other churches were closed down, and some two hundred priests and the Archbishop of Paris were taken as hostages. In May, during the Semaine sanglante of “Bloody Week”, as the army recaptured the city, the Communards targeted the cathedral, along with the Tuileries Palace and other landmarks, for destruction; the Communards piled the furniture together in order to burn the cathedral. The arson was halted when the Communard government realised that the fire would also destroy the neighbouring Hôtel-Dieu hospital, filled with hundreds of patients.
In 1965, the twelve high windows of the nave and the twelve small rosettes with alveoli of the galleries were furnished with 24 colored stained glass windows replacing the gray and dull glass implanted by the canons in the 18th century. Non-figurative, they were the work of the glass painter Jacques Le Chevallier who used the products and colors of the Middle Ages. The set used about fifteen tones, predominantly red and blue (the graduation going from west to east from blue to red).
October 3, 1972, during a rally in support of Front de liberation de la Bretagne militants, Breton separatists manage to hang a Gwenn ha Du at the top of the spire of the cathedral, necessitating the dispatch of a helicopter for the dropping out afterwards.
The Requiem Mass of Charles de Gaulle was held in Notre-Dame on 12 November 1970. The next year, on 26 June 1971, Philippe Petit walked across a tight-rope strung up between Notre-Dame’s two bell towers and entertained spectators.
After the Magnificat of 30 May 1980, Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass on the parvis of the cathedral.
The Requiem Mass of François Mitterrand was held at the cathedral, as with past French heads of state, on 11 January 1996.
The stone masonry of the cathedral’s exterior had deteriorated in the 19th and 20th century due to increased air pollution in Paris, which accelerated erosion of decorations and discoloured the stone. By the late 1980s, several gargoyles and turrets had also fallen off or become too loose to remain in place.
A decade-long renovation programme began in 1991 and replaced much of the exterior, with care given to retain the authentic architectural elements of the cathedral, including rigorous inspection of new limestone blocks. A discreet system of electrical wires, not visible from below, was also installed on the roof to deter pigeons. The cathedral’s pipe organ was upgraded with a computerized system to control the mechanical connections to the pipes. The west face was cleaned and restored in time for millennium celebrations in December 1999.
The Requiem Mass of Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, former archbishop of Paris and Jewish convert to Catholicism, was held in Notre-Dame on 10 August 2007.
The set of four 19th-century bells atop the northern towers at Notre-Dame were melted down and recast into new bronze bells in 2013, to celebrate the building’s 850th anniversary. They were designed to recreate the sound of the cathedral’s original bells from the 17th century. Despite the 1990s renovation, the cathedral had continued to show signs of deterioration that prompted the national government to propose a new renovation program in the late 2010s.
The entire renovation was estimated to cost €100 million, which the archbishop of Paris planned to raise through funds from the national government and private donations. A €6 million renovation of the cathedral’s spire began in late 2018 and continued into the following year, requiring the temporary removal of copper statues on the roof and other decorative elements days before the April 2019 fire.
Notre-Dame began a year-long celebration of the 850th anniversary of the laying of the first building block for the cathedral on 12 December 2012. On the occasion of the jubilee of the 850th anniversary of the cathedral, major works are being carried out in the cathedral to mark its entry into the 21st century. century. The lighting in the nave has been extensively restored, allowing the creation of atmospheres specific to visits, masses and concerts in the evening. The great organ sees in a first phase its console completely computerized in 2013.
In 2014, its 12,000 pipes are all cleaned. A fire prevention system is put in place, with new door locks and specific wiring installed. The trailing wires here and there inside and outside are also largely masked to allow for better architectural unity. Finally, the towers of Notre-Dame are adorned with nine new bells, including a dome, which rang for the first time on March 23, 2013. They thus give a new bell tower similar to that existing in the Middle Ages.
From November 2012 to December 2013, a temporary structure of the belfry type, the “Chemin du jubilee” is installed on the forecourt, following the old rue Neuve Notre-Dame and leading to a belvedere and a tier of 600 places giving an unprecedented view of the facade of the cathedral. It is filled with the first names of the employees of the cathedral and the saints of the Christian liturgy.
The pollution generates significant damage (falling gargoyles, ruin of pinnacles, etc.) which led the archdiocese in 2017 to launch an appeal for donations for an expected amount of 100 million euros over 20 years in order to repair the spire which it the watertightness had to be redone (10 million euros of work), for the sacristy located right next to the cathedral (10 million), the buttresses of the chevet had to be consolidated (20 to 30 million).
The restoration of the cathedral in the 1990s only concerned the western facade. A global restoration program lasting ten years and whose cost is estimated at 60 million euros (40 million from the State and 20 million from patronage) begins, April 11, 2019, by removing the sixteen statues, prior to the restoration work on the spire scheduled to last three years at a cost of 11 million euros. The project management of the operation is entrusted to the Regional Conservation of Historic Monuments service within the Regional Directorate of Cultural Affairs of Île-de-France and the project management to the chief architect of the monuments.
April 11, 2019, the 16 monumental statues of Viollet-le-Duc which surrounded the spire were removed, with great lifting, for their rehabilitation. They thus escape the damage of the fire of theApril 15, 2019.
The construction of the Cathedral began in the middle of the 12th century and was spread over two hundred years. It is a masterpiece of Gothic architecture in France. Modifications were made in the 18th century and a major restoration project was carried out in the 19th century. The first phase of construction started in 1163 when Bishop Maurice de Sully laid the first stone. It lasts until 1250 under the reign of Saint Louis.
During the Renaissance, tastes evolved. The renewed interest comes from Louis XIII when he places the crown of France under the protection of the Virgin Mary. As a sign of devotion, he wants to make changes to the cathedral. They take place at the end of the reign of Louis XIV and continued under Louis XV. Under Louis XVI, modifications were still made because the cathedral was considered too dark and its entrance too narrow.
In the 19th century, the architect works on the cathedral with Jean Baptiste Lassus after a competition to restore the building. The cathedral is falling into disrepair. Viollet-le-Duc directed the work for twenty years. He creates structural modifications with the intention of getting closer to his original form. In his program, he recreated the vanished gallery of kings, incorporated new decorative elements such as chimeras and built a new spire. These whimsical additions have sometimes been reproached to him. Following this vast project, the cathedral no longer undergoes architectural modifications, only maintenance in the 20th century.
The cathedral was built of cut stone from quarries located on the old suburbs of Paris. It is a Lutetian limestone whose technical properties have been known and renowned since the Gallo-Roman era. It consists of a soft limestone called “lambourde” used indoors and a hard limestone reserved for exterior facades and pillars. There is also a hard and fine limestone called “liais” used for certain sculptures and monolithic columns.
The cathedral is mainly built in cut stone from the old quarries of Paris, located in the 5th arrondissement at first (during the construction of the choir), then rather in the 12th arrondissement and in Charenton (during the construction of the nave). High quality limestone formations were exploited there: the Lutetian limestones, dating from 40 to 46 million years, very characteristic of the architecture of the entire Paris region. The Lutetian limestones are not present everywhere. In the Gothic period, these stones had already been used for more than a millennium, since the Gallo-Roman period, and we therefore had a good knowledge of the properties and behavior of each of the varieties with respect to aging and weathering. This experience was used for the construction of the cathedral.
Soft limestones, in particular “joists”, were used for the interior of the walls and for the sheltered architecture, such as the vaults or arcades of the stands. On the other hand, hard shell limestones (limestones with cerithes, conical shells of fossilized gastropods which were deposited near the coast in the Lutetian), from the “free banks” in the quarries, were used for the stones exposed to the outside, as well as for the foundations of the barrels of the large columns inside, which must support weight. During modern times, hard limestone with cerithes was mainly used in Paris for the foundations of buildings, but hardly any more for the elevation.
“Liais”, a hard Lutetian limestone with a very fine to small grainmilioles, whose consistency is somewhat similar to marble, was used in particular as statuary stone (such as the famous statue of Adam), and for some small architectural elements, such as the monolithic columns of the stands and those which run along the pillars in the nave (but not in the choir), as well as for the mullions and the tracery of the windows. The binder being present only in a thin bench in the quarries (30 to 40 cm thick), it determined the elongated format of the sculptures. Due to its density, it is conducive to implementation in tort (with the natural stratification of the stone arranged vertically, and not horizontally in the natural direction), but this arrangement offers a lower load capacity.
Until the 2019 fire, the roof frames were made of wood, mainly oak, and the cover was made of lead plates. The large spire was made of the same materials.
The Gothic cathedral was a liber pauperum, a “poor people’s book”, covered with sculptures vividly illustrating biblical stories, for the vast majority of parishioners who were illiterate. To add to the effect, all of the sculpture on the façades was originally painted and gilded. The tympanum over the central portal on the west façade, facing the square, vividly illustrates the Last Judgment, with figures of sinners being led off to hell, and good Christians taken to heaven. The sculpture of the right portal shows the coronation of the Virgin Mary, and the left portal shows the lives of saints who were important to Parisians, particularly Saint Anne, the mother of the Virgin Mary.
The exteriors of cathedrals and other Gothic churches were also decorated with sculptures of a variety of fabulous and frightening grotesques or monsters. These included the gargoyle, the chimera, a mythical hybrid creature which usually had the body of a lion and the head of a goat, and the Strix or stryge, a creature resembling an owl or bat, which was said to eat human flesh. The strix appeared in classical Roman literature; it was described by the Roman poet Ovid, who was widely read in the Middle Ages, as a large-headed bird with transfixed eyes, rapacious beak, and greyish white wings. They were part of the visual message for the illiterate worshipers, symbols of the evil and danger that threatened those who did not follow the teachings of the church.
The gargoyles, which were added in about 1240, had a more practical purpose. They were the rain spouts of the cathedral, designed to divide the torrent of water which poured from the roof after rain, and to project it outwards as far as possible from the buttresses and the walls and windows where it might erode the mortar binding the stone. To produce many thin streams rather than a torrent of water, a large number of gargoyles were used, so they were also designed to be a decorative element of the architecture. The rainwater ran from the roof into lead gutters, then down channels on the flying buttresses, then along a channel cut in the back of the gargoyle and out of the mouth away from the cathedral.
Amid all the religious figures, some of the sculptural decoration was devoted to illustrating medieval science and philosophy. The central portal of the west façade is decorated with carved figures holding circular plaques with symbols of transformation taken from alchemy. The central pillar of the central door of Notre-Dame features a statue of a woman on a throne holding a sceptre in her left hand, and in her right hand, two books, one open (symbol of public knowledge), and the other closed (esoteric knowledge), along with a ladder with seven steps, symbolizing the seven steps alchemists followed in their scientific quest of trying to transform ordinary metals into gold.
Many of the statues, particularly the grotesques, were removed from the façade in the 17th and 18th centuries, or were destroyed during the French Revolution. They were replaced with figures in the Gothic style, designed by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, during the 19th-century restoration.
The cathedral forecourt forms a large esplanade. It becomes a manufacturing workshop during construction and restoration sites. Its current surface designed by the architect Beaufrand in the 18th century was redeveloped in 1960. Kilometer zero is in the center, it marks the starting point of fourteen radiating routes from Paris all over France. Excavations in the 19th century revealed the pre-existence, on this site, of the old church-cathedral of Saint Etienne, built in the 4th or 6th century and destroyed to build Notre-Dame Cathedral. An archaeological crypt is accessible from the forecourt.
The Cathedral is built on a rectangular plan in which is inscribed a Latin cross. It is structured around four main parts: the west facade serves as the main entrance; the two north and south side facades and their braces form the transept;the rounded chevet closes the building to the east.
In the 13th century, a modification of the initial plan brought more interior clarity, in the spirit of the religious buildings built at the same time. It is the emergence of the “Gothic style”. The walls are raised and largely hollowed out to mitigate the risk of collapses. The bay windows are enlarged, the stands are topped with terraces. A complex channeling system terminated by long gargoyles projects rainwater away from the walls. The roof and the frame are taken over. The upper double-flight flying buttresses are replaced by large single-flight flying buttresses, launched above the stands.
The western facade is the result of an innovative architecture of its time. His style offers a regular rhythm of horizontal and vertical lines. Large portals welcome the faithful, while the square towers house the bells. Its construction is the object of all attention because it compiles several functions: the entrance of the faithful, the entrance of the west light, the shelter and the sound diffusion of the bells in the towers.
The facade largely corresponds to the vision of Eudes de Sully, bishop of Paris from 1197 to 1208. The architect of the 1200s adopted the traditional approach of the ” harmonic facade ” (symmetrical and tripartite facade: basement pierced by three portals, the central one wider, the two lateral ones surmounted by powerful towers housing the bells) but the three-part horizontal division does not reflect the internal division of the building with five naves.. Its construction lasted half a century, from 1200 to 1250. Its architectural composition is a simple geometric design.
The harmonious simplicity of its proportions fascinates. The architect Le Corbusier speaks in the 20th century of a pure creation of the spirit managed by the square and the circle, hence its geometric purity. The square symbolizes the rational world, the limited space while the circle is a symbol of the spiritual state, of the unlimited, of the divine.
Three portals make up the lower part of the western facade. The central portal, called the Judgment Portal, is larger than the Saint Anne Portal (south, right) and the Virgin Portal (north, left). These portals are decorated with many biblical characters. They allow the faithful who do not know how to read the Bible to understand the gospel and the history of Christians through images.
On the foothills, niches shelter four statues redone by the workshop of Viollet-le-Duc in the 19th century. From left and right, probably Saint Stephen and Saint Denis, and on either side of the central portal, the allegories of the Church and the Synagogue.
Under the balustrade, a horizontal band presents the gallery of the kings. Twenty meters above the ground, it forms a series of twenty-eight characters illustrating the twenty-eight generations of the kings of Judea, preceding Christ. During the Revolution, wrongly associated with the sovereigns of the kingdom of France, the statues were destroyed or mutilated. During the restorations of the 19th century, the workshops of Adolphe-Victor and Geoffroy-Dechaume produced the statues that are still visible.
The gallery of the kings is surmounted by a small terrace bordered by an openwork balustrade which forms the gallery of the Virgin. In the center of the facade, a rose window 9.60 m in diameter was executed around 1225. Two angels, with candlesticks symbolizing “the fault” and “the redemption”, surround a central statue of the Virgin. This set was commissioned by Viollet-le-Duc to replace the damaged statues and was made in 1854 by Geoffroy-Dechaume. Viollet-le-Duc had statues of Adam and Eve (sculpted by Jean-Louis Chenillon) placed on each side of the rose window. Some experts believe that the statues of Adam and Eve would have their place in the niches of the transept of the south facade.
The two square towers are 69 meters high. You reach their summit by 422 steps. The four faces are pierced by two high bays with arches decorated with sausages and leafy hooks. They are covered with a lead terrace bordered by an openwork balustrade. The south tower was built around 1220-1240, then the north tower between 1235 and 1250. The towers offer an exceptional view of the center of Paris up to distant perspectives. In the past, their heights allowed the faithful and pilgrims to find their bearings from afar, because Paris was located in a basin. Arrows are considered in the 13th century but were never built. The towers house the bronze bells and the Emmanuel staff.
The Gate of the Virgin
The portal of the Virgin evokes, according to the tradition of the Church, the death of Mary, her assumption into paradise and her coronation as queen of heaven. It is set up around 1210-1220. Notre-Dame cathedral is dedicated to Mary, this portal is particularly dedicated to her. The Virgin and Child, placed in the center, on the trumeau between the two doors, tramples the serpent, symbol of Satan. The four seasons are represented on the left and the four ages of life on the right. They remind the faithful, as soon as they enter, of the rhythm of life.
Under the trumeau, a bas-relief represents the story of Adam and Eve in three sequences: Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (or earthly paradise), the temptation of Adam and the original sin (the devil is represented under the form of Lilith, an attractive woman with a long serpent’s tail) and the expulsion of the first men from the Garden of Eden.
The tympanum is located above the two doors. On the lower lintel, three prophets appear on the left and three kings of Israel on the right, holding phylacteries inscribed with biblical texts. The heavenly Jerusalem is placed under a canopy. A chest symbolizes the Ark of the Covenant materializing the promise of God to his people. Mary is considered the new Ark of the Covenant. The upper lintel represents the death of Mary surrounded by Jesus and the twelve apostles, Paul under a fig tree and John under an olive tree. Two angels lift her shroud to carry her to heaven. At the top of the tympanum of the portal of the Virgin, Mary is in paradise, seated and crowned by an angel. Jesus blesses her, gives her the sceptre. Sacred queen of heaven, she sits next to her son. Around, in the four arches of the portal, angels, patriarchs,
On each side of the two doors, nine full-length statues take place. On the left, the Emperor Constantine, an angel, Saint Denis and another an angel. On the right, Saint John the Baptist, Saint Stephen, Saint Geneviève and Pope Saint Sylvester. Saint Denis, Saint Geneviève and Saint Marcel are the patron saints of Paris. Their presence at the entrance to the cathedral recalls their benevolent protections over the faithful who enter the cathedral. These statues, destroyed in 1793 following the French Revolution, were rebuilt in the 19th century under the direction of Viollet-le-Duc. The sides of the two doors evoke the twelve months of the year. On the left, the signs of the zodiac symbolize the cycle. On the right, works of the months represent the terrestrial cycle. The stained glass windows of the western rose take up these themes.
The Gate of Sainte-Anne
The Sainte-Anne portal, in the Romanesque style, is the oldest of the three portals. It recounts episodes from the childhood of Christ. In the center, the Virgin and Child is flanked by the King of France and the Bishop of Paris, testimony to the close ties between royalty and Christianity. The Sainte-Anne portal stands to the right of the central portal. Installed around 1200, it is the first of the three portals placed on the western facade. Some sculpted pieces were taken from a tympanum made fifty years earlier for the old Saint-Étienne cathedral. This is why its Romanesque style seems more archaic compared to the other two portals.
The central trumeau, between the two doors, represents Saint Marcel, bishop of Paris in the 4th century. He crushes a dragon, symbol of the plagues afflicting his diocese. The replacement of the original statue, mutilated during the revolution, took place in the 19th century. Nine full-length statues arranged on either side of the two doors were also redone in the 19th century under the direction of Viollet-le-Duc. They figure on the left a king, the Queen of Sheba, King Solomon and Saint Peter; on the right Saint Paul, King David, Bathsheba and another king. The hinges, forged fittings, are an exceptional example of ironwork in the Middle Ages.
This portal is dedicated to Saint Anne, mother of Mary. Below the tympanum, the two lintels represent in the lower part the marriage of Joachim and Anne (parents of Mary) and that of Mary and Joseph (parents of Jesus). The upper part recounts scenes from the life of Christ: the Annunciation (announcement of the angel Gabriel to Mary), the Visitation to Mary (visit of Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist, to Mary), the Nativity (birth of the Christ in Bethlehem), Epiphany (adoration of the Magi).
Like queens in the Middle Ages, the Virgin and Child stands on a throne, under a canopy and wears royal attributes: the crown and the scepter. She holds on her knees her son Jesus who blesses the faithful and presents the Book of the Law. This representation of the Virgin and Child is characteristic of the Romanesque style with a hieratic frontal attitude. This style draws its inspiration from the Greco-Byzantine style through the succession of small pleats on the dress.
The identities of the figures representing the Bishop of Paris (left) and a King of France (right) remain unknown. They may be Bishop Saint Germain and King Childebert, founder of the Abbey of Saint-Germain -des-Prés, who died in Paris in 558. Or else, Bishop Maurice de Sully and King Louis VII, first sponsors of the cathedral. In the concentric arches, above the tympanum, the celestial court (angels, kings, prophets and elders of the apocalypse) sings the glory of God.
The Gate of Last Judgment
The gate of the last judgment is installed between 1220 and 1230. It represents the judgment of God, according to Saint Matthew, where the accursed are punished and the blessed welcomed to eternal life. The portal of the Last Judgment dates from the 1210s, installed after the other two portals of the facade. It represents, in the Christian iconography of the Middle Ages, the judgment of God when the soul of the deceased is resuscitated. According to Christian tradition, God “will judge the living and the dead”. The Gospel of Saint Matthew reports the words of Jesus: “what you did to the least of one of my brothers, you did it to me”.
At the lower lintel, the dead are resuscitated and come out of their tomb. The angels sound the trumpet. Among these characters are a pope, a king, women, warriors, and an African man. At the upper lintel, the Archangel Michael weighs the souls and two demons try to tip the balance. The elect are led to paradise (to the right of Christ) while the damned, chained and terrified, are led by other demons to hell.
At the tympanum, Christ in Majesty is seated in glory. He shows the wounds on his hands and his side. Two angels carry the instruments of the crucifixion: the lance and the nails for one, the cross for the other. Mary and Saint John are kneeling on either side. As in the other portals, the celestial court occupies the arches: angels, patriarchs, prophets, doctors of the Church, martyrs and virgins. Hell occupies the right of the arches. The “wise virgins” (to the right of God) symbolize the hope of gaining paradise. For they carry lighted lamps, the “foolish virgins” of extinguished lamps. In the center of the portal, on the trumeau between the two doors, the teaching Christ stands on a plinth.
The sculptures represent the twelve apostles on either side of the doors, in the doorways. On the left are Barthélemy, Simon, Jacques le Mineur, André, Jean and Pierre, on the right Paul, Jacques le Majeur, Thomas, Philippe, Jude and Mathieu. In 1792, the revolutionaries destroyed these statues. At the foot of the twelve apostles, medallions represent the virtues and vices, a theme taken up in the stained glass windows of the western rose window.
The portal of the last judgment underwent two important modifications in the 18th century. The first, in 1771 when the architect Germain Soufflot removed the trumeau and the central part of the two lintels because the archbishop wanted to facilitate the passage of the canopy during processions. A wooden arch evoking Mary enhanced with a crown carried by two angels replaces the void. Two doors replace the heavy leaves, one sculpted with Christ carrying his cross; the other of Maria dolorosa, Mary weeping in grief over the death of her son.
The second modification dates from the great restoration campaign of the 19th century. The architect Viollet-le-Duc then restores the original state of the portal. He had the trumeau redone, the statues of the wise virgins and the foolish virgins and the statues of the twelve apostles placed in the doorways.
The north facade and its cloister were built in the middle of the 13th century by Jean de Chelles. The architect fixed new architectural concepts taken up by Pierre de Montreuil on the south facade.
In the Middle Ages, the Notre-Dame cloister was accessible during the day. It welcomes lay people in the service of the priests. In the middle of the 13th century, the priests decided to modify the shape of the cathedral and add an overflowing transept. Its construction predates the south facade. The architect Jean de Chelles carried out the work until his death in 1258. The north facade forms a long, dimly lit bay. It is divided into three floors, slightly set back from each other. It is bordered by a small street and never benefits from direct sunshine. The chapels placed later around the nave tend to erase the overflow of the arm of the transept.
The facade of the north brace has the same architectural elements as that of the south brace: a gable surmounts the portal, a clerestory gallery with the large rose window occupies the middle part. A decorated triangular gable tops it off. A large pinnacle in the shape of pinnacles rises at its base on each side. It is pierced by a rose that illuminates the attic of the north transept.
The statue of the Virgin and Child is placed on the trumeau, in the center of the portal. The statue escapes the ravages of the Revolution, the child it carries in its arms disappears. Her features would be those of Marguerite de Provence, wife of Saint Louis. The attitude of the Virgin is delicate, slightly swaying. The drape with soft folds accentuates the effect of majesty. Her maternal smile interprets a humanized Christianity. The image of the woman and the mother take on all their importance.
The lintel, in the lower part of the tympanum, represents four scenes from the childhood of Christ: the nativity, the presentation in the temple, the massacre of the innocents by Herod and the flight into Egypt. The sober elegance, the delicacy of the faces, the drapes with deep folds are typical of Ile-de-France sculpture of the 13th century.
The upper part of the tympanum represents the miracle of Theophilus. A young cleric, Théophile is jealous of the bishop. To supplant him and get out of poverty, he sells his soul to the devil. With the help of the devil, he manages to humiliate the bishop. Then, not knowing how to get out of the situation, he implores Marie who manages to cancel the pact. Théophile repents as a sign of gratitude.
The Red Door
Commissioned by Saint Louis in the 13th century, the red door allows the priests to pass directly from the cloister to the choir of the Cathedral. Not far from the Portail du Cloître, the small Red Door owes its name to the color of its leaves. In the Middle Ages, red was the color reserved for women. In the iconography, the Virgin or “Our Lady” is dressed in a red dress as in the stained glass window of Notre-Dame de Chartres. From the Renaissance, Mary is generally dressed in blue. In Christianity, red is also the color associated with the Passion of Christ, and by extension with the liturgical vestments of Holy Week, preceding Easter. White is the color reserved for the pope and red that of the vestments of cardinals.
The red door opens with a north side chapel at the level of the third span of the choir. Commissioned by Saint Louis, Pierre de Montreuil built it around 1270. It allows the priests to go to the office by directly linking the cloister to the choir of the cathedral. Saint Louis is represented on the tympanum to the left of the Virgin, crowned by an angel. Marguerite de Provence, the wife of Saint Louis is placed to the right of Christ. Scenes from the life of Saint Marcel, bishop of Paris in the 4th century, are depicted on the arches that frame the tympanum.
South facade and the Gate of Saint-Étienne
The south transept portal pays homage to Stephen, the first Christian martyr. It evokes the name of the first cathedral church of Paris. Built in the 13th century, it was largely restored in the 19th century. The tympanum of the portal tells in bas-reliefs, the life of Saint Stephen, the first Christian martyr. Divided into three superimposed horizontal registers, the decoration of the tympanum is read from bottom to top and from left to right. In the lower register, Saint Stephen preaches Christianity then he is brought before the judge. The stoning of Saint Stephen and his burial take place in the middle register. At the top: Christ surrounded by blessed angels. On the trumeau, the central pillar between the two doors, is the statue of Saint Etienne, a work by Geoffroi-Dechaume reconstructed in the 19th century.
The triple arch of the door is carved with twenty-one martyrs crowned by angels, including Saint Denis, Saint Vincent, Saint Eustache, Saint Maurice, Saint Laurent, Saint Clement, Saint George and others whose identity is unknown. is not determined. On each side of the portal, the three statues of apostles date from the restorations of the 19th century. They replace those that disappeared during the Revolution. The niches in height, above the clerestory, shelter the statues of Moses and Aaron.
Above the Saint-Étienne portal, stained glass windows offered by Saint Louis decorate the rose window, which is thirteen meters in diameter. During restoration work in the 19th century, the architect Viollet-le-Duc noted a collapse of the masonry. In addition, the rose window suffered over the centuries and during the fire started by insurgents in 1830. To consolidate everything, he took over the facade and rotated the rose window by 15° on its vertical axis. The master glassmaker Alfred Gérente restores the 13th century stained glass windows and reconstructs the missing medallions in the spirit of the Middle Ages.
Pierced with an openwork rose in proportion to the large rose window, the gable is located on the top floor of the facade, above the rose window. It illuminates the roof of the transept. A gallery runs behind the balustrade which makes it possible to follow the roofs of the cathedral from east to west. Two large pyramidions flanked on the gable form the upper parts of the buttresses. Three statues decorate the top. They represent Saint Martin and Saint Stephen, and Christ appearing in a dream to Saint Martin who, according to legend, gives his coat to the poor.
On the top floor of the facade, a gable rises above the rose window. It is one of the finest examples of gables built at the time (1257). It is itself pierced by an openwork rose, which lights up the roof of the transept. On the archivolt of the rose window is placed an entablature carrying a balustrade, behind which runs a gallery. This allows the passage from the upper galleries of the east of the cathedral to those of the west, galleries which run along the roofs. The gable itself therefore rises a little behind the rose window, and its thickness is 70 centimeters.. Two large pyramidions flank it forming the upper parts of the buttresses which buttress the rose window.
Three statues decorate the top and the two lower angles of the gable. The one at the top represents Christ appearing in a dream to Saint Martin, wearing half of the mantle given by the latter to the poor man in the legend. The two other statues, located to the left and right of the base of the gable, represent Saint Martin and Saint Stephen. The whole gives an impression of great harmony. The roof rose is of a proportion perfectly in keeping with the large rose window of the transept. According to Viollet-le-Duc, the great beauty of this construction was not surpassed elsewhere in Gothic architecture.
Lateral facades of the nave
The construction of the nave began in 1182, after the consecration of the choir. Some even think that the work began in 1175, before the consecration 120. Work stopped after the fourth span leaving the nave unfinished while the building of the facade began in 1208. The building of the nave was resumed in 1218 in order to buttress the facade. At the end of the 1220s, the fourth architect of Notre-Dame undertook to completely modify the initial plan at the level of the upper part of the building. The architect undertook the lengthening of the bays downwards by removing the old third level, that of the rosesof the old building overlooking the attic of the stands. This attic was therefore removed in favor of a terrace covering these stands and formed of large slabs.
The problem then arose of the evacuation of rainwater which risked stagnating following the removal of the inclined roof of the stands. The architect therefore had to introduce a new element in architecture, of which we are still heirs today: to collect rainwater under the roof by a system of gutters, and to evacuate them step by step through vertical conduits. towards a system ending at the level of long gargoyles intended to project them away from the building a. This was an entirely new system for managing rainwater at the top of buildings. A whole series of other modifications had to be carried out on the upper level of the building (upper parts of the main vessel): resumption of the roof and the framework, raising of the gutter walls, creation of gutters. Above all, the upper double-flight buttresses were replaced by large single-flight buttresses launched above the stands.
The great flying buttresses are remarkable and testify to the genius of the architect of the time. They are in a single long flight, launched above the collaterals and their heads support the top of the gutter walls of the cathedral. These heads rest on the right of vertical conduits intended to evacuate the water from the gutters of the roof of the nave. The extrados of the buttresses is dug with a gutter which crosses the top of the abutment and ends in a long gargoyle.
These buttresses were not primarily intended to buttress the building, but to solve the problem of the evacuation of rainwater, which became very important after the transformation of the roof of the stands into a terrace. This explains the relative weakness of these bows. Their construction is unquestionably a feat, which is manifested by their great length, but also by their thinness. Their role being weak in supporting the vault of the main vessel, the architect allowed himself to be daring.
The great span of these flying buttresses is quite exceptional in the Gothic architecture of the Middle Ages. Indeed in the buildings of the time, lined with double aisles or double ambulatories, the abutments of these enormous flying buttresseswere to take up considerable ground outside the churches. The flying buttresses are two flights, that is, they are separated by an intermediate point of support which, by dividing the thrust, destroys part of its effect and thus allows to reduce the thickness of the outer buttresses or abutments. This is how the flying buttresses of Notre-Dame de Chartres Cathedral are built,, as well as those of the choir of that of Amiens; these last three buildings also have either double aisles or a double ambulatory.
The construction of the Cathedral begins with its apse, in the shape of a semicircle. It is therefore the oldest part of the sanctuary. It surrounds the apsidal chapels and corresponds to the apse of the interior of the building. In the 14th century, Jean Ravy replaced the old flying buttresses of the 13th century. He placed fourteen around the choir with a range of fifteen meters, including six for the bedside itself. As with the façades of the nave, their function allows rainwater to be evacuated far away. Panels depicting episodes from the life of the Virgin decorate the apse.
The stained glass windows of Notre-Dame, particularly the three rose windows, are among the most famous features of the cathedral. The west rose window, over the portals, was the first and smallest of the roses in Notre-Dame. It is 9.6 metres (32′) in diameter, and was made in about 1225, with the pieces of glass set in a thick circular stone frame. None of the original glass remains in this window; it was recreated in the 19th century.
The two transept windows are larger and contain a greater proportion of glass than the rose on the west façade, because the new system of buttresses made the nave walls thinner and stronger. The north rose was created in about 1250, and the south rose in about 1260. The south rose in the transept is particularly notable for its size and artistry. It is 12.9 metres (42′) in diameter; with the claire-voie surrounding it, a total of 19 metres (62′). It was given to the cathedral by King Louis IX of France, known as Saint Louis.
The south rose has 94 medallions, arranged in four circles, depicting scenes from the life of Christ and those who witnessed his time on earth. The inner circle has twelve medallions showing the twelve apostles. (During later restorations, some of these original medallions were moved to circles farther out). The next two circles depict celebrated martyrs and virgins. The fourth circle shows twenty angels, as well as saints important to Paris, notably Saint Denis, Margaret the Virgin with a dragon, and Saint Eustace. The third and fourth circles also have some depictions of Old Testament subjects. The third circle has some medallions with scenes from the New Testament Gospel of Matthew which date from the last quarter of the 12th century. These are the oldest glass in the window.
Additional scenes in the corners around the rose window include Jesus’ Descent into Hell, Adam and Eve, the Resurrection of Christ. Saint Peter and Saint Paul are at the bottom of the window, and Mary Magdalene and John the Apostle at the top. Above the rose was a window depicting Christ triumphant seated in the sky, surrounded by his Apostles. Below are sixteen windows with painted images of Prophets. These were not part of the original window; they were painted during the restoration in the 19th century by Alfred Gérenthe, under the direction of Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, based upon a similar window at Chartres Cathedral.
The south rose had a difficult history. In 1543 it was damaged by the settling of the masonry walls, and not restored until 1725–1727. It was seriously damaged in the French Revolution of 1830. Rioters burned the residence of the archbishop, next to the cathedral, and many of the panes were destroyed. The window was entirely rebuilt by Viollet-le-Duc in 1861. He rotated the window by fifteen degrees to give it a clear vertical and horizontal axis, and replaced the destroyed pieces of glass with new glass in the same style. The window today contains both medieval and 19th century glass.
In the 1960s, after three decades of debate, it was decided to replace many of the 19th-century grisaille windows in the nave designed by Viollet-le-Duc with new windows. The new windows, made by Jacques Le Chevallier, are without human figures and use abstract grisaille designs and colour to try to recreate the luminosity of the cathedral’s interior in the 13th century.
Towers and the spire
The two towers are 69 metres (226 ft) high, and were the tallest structures in Paris until the completion of the Eiffel Tower in 1889. The towers were the last major element of the cathedral to be constructed. The south tower was built first, between 1220 and 1240, and the north tower between 1235 and 1250. The newer north tower is slightly larger, as can be seen when they are viewed from directly in front of the church. The contrefort or buttress of the north tower is also larger.
The south tower was accessible to visitors by a stairway, whose entrance was on the south side of the tower. The stairway has 387 steps, and has a stop at the Gothic hall at the level of the rose window, where visitors could look over the parvis and see a collection of paintings and sculpture from earlier periods of the cathedral’s history. The fourteen bells of the cathedral are located in the north and south towers. A lead-roofed water reservoir between the two towers, behind the colonnade and the gallery and before the nave and the pignon (gable).
The cathedral’s flèche (or spire) was located over the transept. The original spire was constructed in the 13th century, probably between 1220 and 1230. It was battered, weakened and bent by the wind over five centuries, and finally was removed in 1786. During the 19th-century restoration, Eugène Viollet-le-Duc decided to recreate it, making a new version of oak covered with lead. The entire spire weighed 750 tonnes.
Following Viollet-le-Duc’s plans, the spire was surrounded by copper statues of the twelve Apostles—a group of three at each point of the compass. In front of each group is a symbol representing one of the four evangelists: a winged ox for Saint Luke, a lion for Saint Mark, an eagle for Saint John and an angel for Saint Matthew. Just days prior to the fire, the statues were removed for restoration. While in place, they had faced outwards towards Paris, except one: the statue of Saint Thomas, the patron saint of architects, faced the spire, and had the features of Viollet-le-Duc.
The rooster weathervane atop the spire contained three relics: a tiny piece from the Crown of Thorns in the cathedral treasury, and relics of Saint Denis and Saint Genevieve, patron saints of Paris. They were placed there in 1935 by Archbishop Jean Verdier, to protect the congregation from lightning or other harm. The rooster with relics intact was recovered in the rubble shortly after the fire.
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.
Roof and frame
The structure of Notre-Dame is among the oldest structures in Paris. Only after that of Saint-Pierre de Montmartre (1147) and some elements of that of Saint-Germain des Prés (1160-1170) precede it. Named “the forest” because of the number of beams, each one comes from a different oak tree. The dimensions are impressive: 100m long by 13m wide in the nave, 40m in the transept and 10m high. This framework was set ablaze during the 2019 fire leaving the entire roof gaping, open to the sky.
The installation of warheads is an architectural innovation of the Middle Ages. The architects imagine raising steeply pitched roofs. The inclination of those of Notre-Dame is 55°. At the time of its construction, clearing and urban development made heavy wood scarce. Woods with a smaller section are then used to raise the frames and accentuate the slopes.
A first framework was built in the choir of the cathedral with felled trees around 1160-1170. Some woods are already three hundred or four hundred years old at the time of construction, which corresponds to trees from the 8th or 9th century. The first frame has disappeared, but wood is reused in the second frame, put in place between 1220 and 1240.
A lead roof rests on the second framework, made up of 1326 tables 5 mm thick, weighing a total of 210 tonnes. In the 9th and 12th centuries, the roofs of churches were covered with flat tiles. As Paris does not have clay deposits, a lead cover is preferred. In 1196, Bishop Maurice de Sully bequeathed by will 5000 pounds for the purchase of lead.
The frameworks of the choir and the nave have survived the centuries. On the other hand, Viollet-le-Duc plans to restore those of the transepts and the spire in the middle of the 19th century. Made according to the principles in force in the 19th century, they differ from the frames of the choir and the nave because the dimensions of the beams are more imposing and spaced out than those of the Middle Ages.
The first spire was built above the transept crossing in the middle of the 13th century, around 1250. Such high constructions suffer from the wind which bends and weakens their structures: the spire was slowly deformed and the joists were distorted. In order to avoid any risk of collapse, it was dismantled between 1786 and 1792, after more than five centuries of existence. The cathedral remained without a spire until the restoration directed by Viollet-le-Duc and carried out by the Ateliers Monduit in the middle of the 19th century. This new arrow, made of oak covered with lead, weighed 750 tons; she collapsed onApril 15, 2019during the cathedral fire.
The spire was guarded by the statues of the Twelve Apostles and the Four Evangelists, made of repoussé copper. During the 2019 fire, the statues were no longer in place as they had been taken down a few days before, for restoration work. These statues are the work of Geoffroy-Dechaume and constitute a whole in harmony with the spirit of the 13th century. The apostles are all turned towards Paris, except for one of them, Saint Thomas, patron saint of architects, who turns towards the spire. This one has the features of Viollet-le-Duc, the architect of the spire turning around as if to contemplate his work one last time. The rooster at the top of the spire contained three relics: a small parcel of the Holy Crown, a relic of Saint Denis and one of Saint Geneviève. These relics were placed there in 1935, at the time of Jean Verdier.
Gargoyles and chimeras
Gargoyles are decorative elements. The gargoyles were put in place at the end of the gutters to evacuate rainwater from the roof and only designate the ends of the water drainage pipes. Their function is to protect the walls from the runoff of rainwater which alters the conservation of the stone. They designate the end of the gutters to evacuate the water coming from the roof far away. This is why they appear overhanging, leaning into the void, essentially located on the large flying buttresses of the choir.
They often take the form of fantastic, even frightening animals. They date from the Middle Ages. Gargoyles are found in particular at the level of the large buttresses of the choir. The drainage system of the roof of the apseends with a channel on the top of the flying buttresses then with long gargoyles.
The chimeras are these fantastic statues located at the top of the building, at the top of the facade: the Gallery of chimeras. All the angles of this balustrade serve as a support or a perch for demons, monsters and fantastic birds. These elements did not exist in the Middle Ages and were added by Viollet-le-Duc in a neo-Gothic style in the 19th century.
The interior of the cathedral is where the cathedra, the seat of the bishop, is located. It is in this church that on the most solemn days, the bishop presides over the liturgy.
The nave is made up of a kind of “avant-nave” or narthex of two bays located under and between the towers, followed by eight other bays. The central nave, 12 meters wide between the axes of the columns, is bordered by two collaterals with quadripartite vaults both to the north and to the south, making a total of five naves for only three portals, which is exceptional. Two rows of seven side chapels, built between the flying buttressesof the vessel open, from the fourth to the tenth span, on the external collaterals.
The elevation is at three levels. The first is made up of large arcades opening onto the interior side aisles. The second corresponds to a rostrum opening onto the nave by bays made up of three arcades, which rest on thin columns. Above these arcades, the tracery of these bays is full. The stands are lined with small roses. Finally, the third level is that of the high windows which have two lancets surmounted by an oculus.
The 14 side chapels are lit by windows with four lancets, grouped in pairs and surmounted by three polylobed oculi. On the one hand, the gallery being deep and the stained glass windows of its clerestory very dark, and on the other hand the windows of the collateral chapels being very far from the central nave, the lighting of the nave is essentially based on the high windows and is therefore quite low. The nave has several irregularities. The first span is narrower than the others; as a result, the gallery has only two arches while the high window is a baysimple. Moreover, it does not have a side chapel.
The last span has a four-level elevation, due to Viollet-le-Duc: the upper window is shorter, and in the space thus formed between the upper window and the level of the stands, a jagged oculus in the shape of a wheel has been introduced.. Such a structure is analogous to that of the neighboring transept. The choir, located due east, is very slightly offset to the left in relation to the central nave, which traditionally symbolizes the head of Christ slumped on the cross.
Another irregularity: the columns. Between the massive piers of the crossing and the imposing pillars which support the interior corner of the two towers, the central nave is bordered by two groups of seven columns. The original plan provided for completely cylindrical columns similar to those of the choir. This was done at the end of the twelfth century. century for the five pairs of eastern columns (closest to the transept).
On the other hand, the two pairs of western columns erected around 1220 deviate from this scheme. The architect of the time abandoned the cylindrical column, one of the fundamental characteristics of Notre-Dame, to approach the Chartrain model (linked to Chartres Cathedral). He avoided, however, that this difference seemed too brutal. Thus, he added to the second columns a single engaged column, to make a transition with the first columns which have four.
The reverse of the facade is occupied by an organ gallery which precedes the rose window and conceals its lower part. This one is consecrated to the Virgin, surrounded by the prophets, the vices and the virtues, the labors of the months and the signs of the zodiac. This rose was largely redone by Viollet-le-Duc in the 19th century. Until the 19th century, the nave was empty of pews, the laity wandering around during the liturgies. On the other hand, it is loaded with many altars and desks, statues, tombs and cenotaphs, paintings and tapestries covering the walls or hanging between the arcades.
In 1965, the high windows of the nave and the rose windows of the stands were finally furnished with colored stained glass replacing the gray and dull glass implanted by the priests in the 18th century. Non-figurative, they are the work of Jacques Le Chevallier who used the products and colors of the Middle Ages. The set is predominantly red and blue.
South side chapels
The first chapel (span 4) is the former chapel of the goldsmiths. Since 1964, it has been returned to them. There is the May of 1651: The Stoning of Saint Stephen by Charles Le Brun.
The second chapel houses the Martyrdom of Saint Andrew also by Charles Le Brun. It is the May of 1647. We also see the martyrdom of Saint Bartholomew there, the work of Lubin Baugin, a painter of the 17th century.
The third chapel contains the May of 1643, Crucifixion of Saint Peter, a work by Sébastien Bourdon, who took advantage of this exceptional commission to embark on a daring composition (complexity of the lines of force by a network of diagonals, creating an unprecedented Baroque dynamic in the artist’s work).
The fourth chapel contains Preaching of Saint Peter in Jerusalem (May 1642), painting by Charles Poerson.
The fifth chapel contains The Centurion Corneille at the Feet of Saint Peter, May 1639, the work of Aubin Vouet.
The sixth chapel contains the may of 1637, The conversion of Saint Paul by Laurent de La Hyre. There is also a Nativity of the Virgin by Le Nain.
The seventh chapel contains the may of 1635, Saint Peter curing the sick of his shadow by Laurent de La Hyre as well.
North side chapels
From west to east, from the façade towards the choir:
The first chapel contains the baptismal font made according to the plans of Viollet-le-Duc. There is also the may of 1634, The Descent of the Holy Spirit by Jacques Blanchard, as well as The Adoration of the Shepherds by Jérôme Francken, created in 1585.
Second chapel: you can see Saint Paul blinding the false prophet Barjesu, May 1650 by Nicolas Loir.
The third chapel or Chapel of the Holy Childhood (or Missionary Childhood), contains the reliquary of Saint Paul Tchen, martyr. The latter, a Chinese seminarian at the major seminary of Tsingay, in China, was beheaded for his faith in July 1861, along with three other Chinese Christians. These four martyrs were beatified in 1909 by Pope Pius X and canonized by John Paul II theOctober 1, 2000. The chapel also houses the May of 1655 depicting The Flagellation of Saint Paul and Saint Silas by Louis Testelin.
Fourth chapel: The may of 1670, a work by Gabriel Blanchard, depicts Saint Andrew quivering with joy at the sight of his ordeal. The chapel also contains the monument to Cardinal Amette created in 1923 by Hippolyte Lefèbvre.
The fifth chapel is dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico. It contains the may of 1687 representing the prophet Agabus predicting to Saint Paul his sufferings in Jerusalem, the work of Louis Chéron.
Sixth chapel: May of 1702, The sons of Sceva beaten by the demon by Mathieu Elias. The sons of Sceva were two Jewish exorcists. You can also see The Martyrdom of Saint Catherine, a painting by the painter-engraver Joseph-Marie Vien; dated 1752.
Finally, the seventh chapel contains the tombstone of Canon Étienne Yvert.
The choir of the cathedral is surrounded by a double ambulatory. It consists of five rectangular or straight bays surmounted by two sexpartite vaults. The apse is five-sided, corresponding to five radiating chapels. The elevation of the first bay is similar to that of the transept, that is to say has four levels: a small rose window is inserted between the level of the stands and that of the high windows. On the other hand, the other spans, including those of the apse, have a three-level elevation, similar to that of the nave.(large arcades, gallery and high windows). All around the choir, the gallery is lit by bays with two lancets, a structure that is found at the level of the high windows.
All the decoration of the choir had been redone by Robert de Cotte. During the restoration of the 19th century, Viollet -le-Duc, wishing to return to the essentially Gothic style of the building, removed some of the transformations carried out at that time by de Cotte, such as the covering of the Gothic arcades with classical marble columns. supporting semicircular arches. He also removed the high altar of de Cotte to return to an altar of the Middle Ages. From the choir of the 18th century, however, there are still stalls and sculptures that can be seen behind the high altar.
Current composition of the choir
To satisfy the new Catholic rite defined at the Second Vatican COUNCIL, the choir was somewhat enlarged, it now also occupies the eastern half of the crossing of the transept. A new altar was commissioned by Archbishop Jean-Marie Lustiger and occupies this new space, clearly visible both from the nave and from the two crosspieces of the transept. Located close to the center of the cathedral, the new altar, in bronze, was made by Jean Touret and Sébastien Touret, artists of sacred art, in 1989. You can see the four evangelists (Saint Matthew, Saint Luke,Saint Mark and Saint John), as well as the four major Old Testament prophets, namely Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Isaiah and Daniel. This altar is completely destroyed by the consequences of the fall of the rubble and the arrow during the fire of April 15, 2019.
To the east of the choir, not far from the apse, there is still the old high altar created by Viollet-le-Duc in the 19th century, with the superb statues installed in the early 18th century in the background. century by the architect Robert de Cotte and forming part of the wish of Louis XIII.
Nicolas Coustou ‘s pietà is placed behind the altar. On either side of it are the statues of the two kings, Louis XIII by Guillaume Coustou and Louis XIV sculpted by Antoine Coysevox. A series of six bronze angel statues surround the set and each carries an instrument of the Passion of Christ: a crown of thorns, the nails of the crucifixion, the sponge soaked in vinegar, the inscription which surmounted the cross, the reed with which Christ was whipped and the spear that pierced his heart. Since the 1990s, the pietà has been surmounted by the Cross and Glory ensemble produced byMarc Couturier. The Cross is a carved wooden structure covered with gold leaf. The Glory, a halo-object above the Cross, of an analogous constitution, suggests the shape of a fish, a Christian symbol. The work survives the fire of theApril 15, 2019.
The carved wooden stalls are installed on both sides of the choir. There were 114. There are 78 left, including 52 high and 26 low. They were made at the beginning of the 18th century by Jean Noël and Louis Marteau according to plans by René Charpentier and Jean Dugoulon. The high backs of the stalls are decorated with bas-reliefs and separated by overmantels decorated with foliage and instruments of the Passion. On each side, the stalls end in an archiepiscopal stall, surmounted by a canopywith groups of angels sculpted by Dugoulon. One of these two stalls is reserved for the archbishop, the other being intended for an important guest. The bas-relief in the stall on the right represents the martyrdom of Saint Denis, the one on the left the healing of Childebert I by Saint Germain, Bishop of Paris.
Chapels around the choir
Starting from the right of the choir, one encounters first, laterally to the right, the sacristy for masses, the back of which corresponds to the western arm of the cloister of the Chapter. The next chapel contains the tomb of Denys Affre who was killed in 1848, at the entrance to rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoine.
Follows the location of the entrance to the Sacristy of the Chapter which leads to the treasury of the cathedral. Then comes the Chapelle Sainte-Madeleine containing the burial of Marie Dominique Auguste Sibour.
The chapel of Saint-Guillaume is the first of the five radiating chapels of the apse of the cathedral. There is the mausoleum of Lieutenant-General Henri Claude d’Harcourt by Jean-Baptiste Pigalle, as well as the Visitation of the Virgin by Jean Jouvenet, dated 1716 and the monument of Jean Jouvenel des Ursins and his wife Michelle de Vitry (15th century). The theme of this composition (“the conjugal reunion”) was defined in the contract signed between the sculptor and the Countess on July 1, 1771.
In the next chapel, Saint-Georges chapel, are the tomb of Georges Darboy (shot in 1871 with 30 other priests taken hostage by the Communards), the work of Jean-Marie Bonnassieux, as well as a statue of Saint George. From 1379 to the Revolution, this chapel was that of the shoemakers. The third chapel or axial chapel of the cathedral, is the Chapel of the Virgin or of Notre-Dame-des-Sept-Douleurs where we find the statues of Albert de Gondi, Marshal of France who died in 1602, and of Pierre de Gondi, cardinal and bishop of Paris, died in 1616.
To one side of the chapel is a 14th -century fresco showing the virgin and other saints surrounding the soul of a bishop, Simon Matifas de Bucy. Opposite the entrance to this axial chapel, in the ambulatory, just behind the choir, is the recumbent statue of Bishop Simon Matifas de Bucy (died 1304).
The axial chapel has recently exhibited a red glass safe, containing Christ’s crown of thorns, a relic looted in 1250 in Constantinople by the Frankish crusaders (including Baudouin II de Courtenay), bought by Saint Louis and transferred from the Saint – Chapel at Notre-Dame in 1792.
The fourth chapel or Saint-Marcel chapel, contains the tombs of Jean-Baptiste de Belloy, cardinal, by Louis Pierre Deseine and of Hyacinthe-Louis de Quélen, the work of Adolphe-Victor Geoffroi-Dechaume.
The last of the apsidal chapels or Saint-Louis chapel houses the tomb of Cardinal de Noailles sculpted by Geoffroi-Dechaume. The last chapels surrounding the choir are the northern side chapels: in the Saint-Germain chapel, one can see the tomb of Antoine-Éléonor-Léon Leclerc de Juigné (died in 1809), executed according to the plans of Viollet-le -Duke. Finally, in the next chapel which precedes the Red Door, or Saint-Ferdinand chapel, there are the mausoleums of Christophe de Beaumont (died in 1781) and Marshal de Guébriant (died in 1643). You can also see the orant of Cardinal Morlot (died in 1862).
The transept is wider than the nave. It has no aisles, the stability of the whole being ensured by the external buttresses. The transept includes the crossing of the transept and two braces of three bays. The two bays closest to the crossing of the transept are covered with a sexpartite vault, the third with a quadripartite vault. In the first two bays, the elevation is at four levels, and not three like the nave. The large arcades open onto the side aisles of the nave. The second level is always made up of the stands. What changes is the addition of a third stage formed by oculilike wheels. Finally, the fourth level is that of the high windows. These are smaller than those of the nave, since the addition of the oculi reduced them by the corresponding height. In total, the top of the vault reaches the same height as that of the nave or the choir.
The wall of the third bay is solid at the level of the large arches. It is then topped by two levels of blind decorative arcades in the south transept, but only one level in the north transept. The eastern part of the crossing of the transept is occupied by the new high altar of the cathedral.
South crosspiece and its rose window
There is a painting by Antoine Nicolas, La Fontaine de la Sagesse, produced in 1648. Against the southeast pillar of the crossing of the transept is a statue of the Virgin and Child called Notre-Dame de Paris (the real statue holding this title is that of the trumeau of the door of the cloister). It is dated from the 14th century and comes from the Saint -Aignan chapel located in the former cloister of the priests of the Île de la Cité. It was transferred to Notre-Dame in 1818 and placed first in the trumeau of the Portal of the Virgin to replace the Virgin of the 13th century mutilated in 1793. In 1855, Viollet-le-Ducplaced it in its current location. Nearby is a plaque recalling that it was in Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral that the trial for the rehabilitation of Joan of Arc took place.
Almost opposite the statue of the Virgin Our Lady, on the southwest pillar of the window, is the memorial to the million dead of the British Empire who fell during the First World War, most of whom rest in France. Before the French Revolution, there was attached to the first eastern pillar, on the south side, a wooden equestrian statue of Philip IV the Fair erected as an ex-voto, facing the altar of the Virgin, the king having attributed his victory of Mons- en-Pévèle to the protection of Mary. One can also see in this cross a plaque indicating the place where Paul Claudel was in December 1886, when, aged 18 and suddenly touched by a religious illumination, he converted to Catholicism.
The enormous rose window, 13.1 meters in diameter, donated by Saint Louis and located at the top of the end wall of the transept, retains only part of its original stained glass windows, some of which were replaced during a restoration in 1737. The rose window suffered again during the revolution of 1830, following the fire of the nearby archdiocese. It then underwent a new restoration carried out by Viollet-le-Duc who rotated it by 15 degrees in order to give it a robust vertical axis to consolidate it. It is organized around Christ who occupies its center. All around are represented the wise virgins and the foolish virgins, men and women saints, angels, apostles.
North crosspiece and its rose window
One can see there against the northeast pillar of the crossing of the transept, a statue of Saint Denis, the work of Nicolas Coustou. The back wall of the north cross has three levels: a door, surmounted by a section of wall without ornament. The second level consists of a clerestory with nine arches of two lancets. Finally, a third floor consists of the rosette. Unlike the south rose window, the north rose window has retained its original 13th century stained glass almost intact. The center is occupied by the Virgin Mary. Around her gravitate the judges, the kings, the high priests of Israel and the prophets of the Old Testament.
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.
Burials and crypts
Unlike some other French cathedrals, Notre-Dame was originally constructed without a crypt. In the medieval period, burials were made directly into the floor of the church, or in above-ground sarcophagi, some with tomb effigies. High-ranking clergy and some royals were buried in the choir and apse, while many others, including lower-ranking clergy and lay people, were buried in the nave or chapels. There is no surviving complete record of all of the burials made at this time.
In 1699, many of the choir tombs were disturbed or covered over during a major renovation project. Remains which were exhumed were reburied in a common tomb beside the high altar. In 1711, a small crypt measuring about six meters by six meters (20′ x 20′) was dug out in the middle of the choir which was used as a burial vault for the archbishops, if they had not requested to be buried elsewhere. It was during this excavation that the 1st century Pillar of the Boatmen was discovered. In 1758, three more crypts were dug in the Chapel of Saint-Georges to be used for burials of priests of Notre-Dame. In 1765, a larger crypt was built under the nave to be used for burials of priests, beneficiaries, chaplains, cantors, and choirboys. Between 1771 and 1773, the cathedral floor was repaved with black and white marble tiles, which covered over most of the remaining tombs. This prevented many of these tombs from being disturbed during the Revolution.
In 1858, the choir crypt was expanded to stretch most of the length of the choir. During this project, many medieval tombs were rediscovered. Likewise the nave crypt was also rediscovered in 1863 when a larger vault was dug out to install a vault heater. Many other tombs are also located in the chapels.
Decorations and artworks
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.
The Notre-Dame de Paris spire fell on April 15, 2019, after a fire destroyed the centuries-old landmark. On the night of the fire, Macron said that the cathedral would be rebuilt, and launched an international fundraising campaign. The goal, according to French president Emmanuel Macron, is to have the church repaired before the city hosts the 2024 Summer Olympics, which is slated to begin on July 26, 2024.
It’s been three years since a fire ripped through Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris on April 15, 2019. Now that the 12th-century monument is secured, reconstruction efforts are underway. The current status of the restoration is posted regularly by the organisation the Friends of Notre-Dame de Paris.
Most of the wood/metal roof and the spire of the cathedral was destroyed, with about one third of the roof remaining. The remnants of the roof and spire fell atop the stone vault underneath, which forms the ceiling of the cathedral’s interior. Some sections of this vaulting collapsed in turn, allowing debris from the burning roof to fall to the marble floor below, but most sections remained intact due to the use of rib vaulting, greatly reducing damage to the cathedral’s interior and objects within.
The cathedral contained a large number of artworks, religious relics, and other irreplaceable treasures, including a crown of thorns said to be the one Jesus wore at his crucifixion, a purported piece of the cross on which Jesus was crucified, the Tunic of St. Louis, a much-rebuilt pipe organ by Aristide Cavaillé-Coll, and the 14th-century Virgin of Paris statue. Some artwork had been removed in preparation for the renovations, and most of the cathedral’s sacred relics were held in the adjoining sacristy, which the fire did not reach; all the cathedral’s relics survived.
Lead joints in some of the 19th-century stained-glass windows melted, but the three major rose windows, dating to the 13th century, were undamaged. One weakened window may need to be dismantled for safekeeping. Several pews were destroyed and the vaulted arches were blackened by smoke, though the church’s main cross and altar survived, along with the statues surrounding it.
Some paintings, apparently only smoke-damaged, are expected to be transported to the Louvre for restoration. A number of statues, including those of the twelve Apostles at the base of the spire, had been removed in preparation for renovations. The rooster-shaped reliquary atop the spire was found damaged but intact among the debris. The three pipe organs were not significantly damaged. The largest of the cathedral’s bells, the bourdon, was not damaged. The liturgical treasury of the cathedral and the “grands Mays” paintings were moved to safety.
On the day of the disaster, President Macron announced that the cathedral would be “rebuilt” and the following day, during a special televised address, he declared: “We will rebuild the cathedral even more beautiful, and I want that to be completed within five years”. The following day, Prime Minister Édouard Philippe announced that an international architectural competition was to be launched to “rebuild” the spire of the cathedral. Then General Jean-Louis Georgelin was appointed head of a special representation mission “to ensure the progress of the procedures and work that will be undertaken”. The government is also giving itself the possibility of creating a public establishment to carry out this restoration.
Following consultations, numerous reconstruction proposals were received. French society conducted a series of public interviews and debates on these plans in the media, and it was concluded that the desire of the French people was to restore the original appearance of the Notre-Dame. French President Emmanuel Macron approved plans to rebuild Notre-Dame in a historically accurate manner on July 9, 2020.
Receive updates regarding Notre-Dame after fire restoration progress. Notre Dame restorationOn July 9, 2020 the chief architects of Historical Monuments presented restoration plans for Notre-Dame Cathedral to the National Commission for Heritage and Architecture (CNPA), the advisory council that handles important restoration projects in France. The study presented plans to respect the previously existing structure of the cathedral and to restore the monument to its last complete, coherent and known state.
Receive updates regarding Notre-Dame after fire restoration progressThis includes rebuilding a spire identical to the one designed in the 19th Century by architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, returning the cathedral’s appearance to how it existed before the fire of April 15, 2019. Rebuilding efforts will also use original materials, like wood for the roofing. The report states that these restoration measures will ensure the authenticity, harmony and coherence of this masterpiece of Gothic architecture.
CNPA unanimously approved the architects’ recommendations that Notre-Dame Cathedral be restored to its prior state. The French President Emmanuel Macron also shared his approval for this decision. As of April 2021, 1,000 oak trees were cut from roughly 200 French forests to make the frame for the cathedral’s transept and spire.
Although technically sufficient to restore the original appearance, the restored Notre-Dame can only be guaranteed to be visually consistent, as some contemporary techniques will be used to replace outdated architectural techniques from the Middle Ages. There is not any incompatibility in bringing modernity to the reconstruction, today’s heritage is a superposition of eras, each century or so will have left its mark on the cathedral.
2021, France’s National Heritage and Architecture Commission approved plans for Notre-Dame’s interior renovations, according to Agence France-Presse. Those proposed changes include modern lighting effects like projecting Bible quotes onto the walls, as well as possibly adding art installations to the 19th-century confessionals from street artists like Ernest Pignon-Ernest and modern artists including Louise Bourgeois.
The first step for Notre-Dame’s roof and spire reconstruction was the safety phase, which started in the summer of 2019 and lasted until November 2020. After the raging fire was extinguished, it was immediately necessary to ensure the stability of the remaining main body of the building, and necessary strengthening measures were adopted to protect the cathedral from the danger of collapse. Burnt scaffolding and wood also need to be removed, and these unstable structures may lead to new collapses.
In order to rebuild with similar materials and techniques used when the rest of Notre-Dame was built in the 12th century, skilled artisans including quarrymen, carpenters, mortar makers, and master stonecutters would need to be hired. At present, there is a serious shortage of craftsmen who master these techniques. Another challenge is to building a replica of the church’s spire that was initially designed by 19th-century architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, made of more than 1,000 donated oak trees from public and private forests from all over France.
In the days following the fire, Macron set a five-year restoration deadline, in time for the 2024 Paris Olympics. According to experts familiar with medieval restoration work, it could take about 15 to 20 years to rebuild the roof, spire, and parts of stone vaulting that fell through to the main sanctuary. However, officials said they aim for Notre-Dame to be open for a “return to worship” by Macron’s 2024 deadline before the full restoration is complete.
Another challenge is that Notre Dame cannot be opened to the public during the restoration period, which means that at this stage, ticket revenue cannot be relied on to support restoration work, and all restoration funds rely on grants and donations.
Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris was not insured with an insurance company by the State, its owner, since it is its own insurer. The scope of the insurance taken out by the diocesan association, assignee of the cathedral, was being analyzed by its insurer a few days after the fire, but would only concern religious objects and works of art held or kept by her. The amount of any compensation for the companies involved in the early renovation operations, if their liability were held, would in any case be insufficient to cover the reconstruction work.
The cathedral fire had a worldwide impact. Stunned by this event still in progress, people immediately wanted to express their attachment to the monument through financial and in-kind donations that the State is trying to organize, so as to allow the renovation of Notre-Dame. As of 22 April 2019, donations of over €1 billion have been pledged for the cathedral’s reconstruction, at least €880 million of that in less than a day after Macron’s decidion.
While the stained-glass rose windows, rectangular towers, and priceless Christian relics all survived the blaze, the Gothic church remains closed to the public as reconstruction continues.
By November 2020, workers successfully removed all the scaffolding that had been in place around the spire for an earlier renovation project when the fire broke out. Scaffolding was built around the cathedral to restore the spire, tarp was installed above the vaults, gargoyles were wrapped, and the flying buttresses were reinforced. December 2020, workers removing more than 300 tons of burned scaffolding that surrounded the spire. All the burned timbers were removed.
In September 2021, the government agency overseeing the reconstruction of Notre-Dame announced that the temporary structures built to secure the cathedral’s iconic towers, vaults, and walls were complete. Now the cathedral is finally stable enough for reconstruction efforts to begin in earnest. According to the Associated Press, work to restore the organ and other parts of the cathedral are expected to begin in the winter.
Construction Resumes In 2020
On June 8, 2020 construction resumed on Notre-Dame Cathedral after a three-month pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The work is focused on continuing to remove the burned scaffolding that had surrounded the spire. In 2019, the spire was undergoing restoration and was destroyed during the fire on April 15. This cleanup effort should last until September but is subject to change as it is a delicate process to remove 30,000 tubes weighing 300 tons.
Key Reconstruction Projects Completed In 2021
Two projects are now complete that are key to the next phase of Notre-Dame Cathedral’s reconstruction. On November 24, all of the burned scaffolding surrounding Notre-Dame de Paris was removed. Now work can begin on the interior of the cathedral without the risk of the damaged scaffolding collapsing into the cathedral. Next, scaffolding will be built inside the cathedral to protect the vaults and provide support so they can undergo reconstruction. The scaffolding will help buttress the weight carried by the vaults, so construction can continue without risking the integrity of Notre-Dame Cathedral’s structure.
In early December, the Grand Organ was dismantled and removed, a project completed one month ahead of schedule. The Grand Organ’s pipes will now be taken for repair and extensive cleaning to remove lead dust that settled in the aftermath of the fire. The restoration work, organ reassembly and tuning are projected to finish by April 2024. At the beginning of November, Michel Picaud, President of Friends of Notre-Dame de Paris went inside Notre-Dame Cathedral to take a look at the work that was underway.
Reconstruction Progress in 2022
After the completion of the Safety Phase in 2021, 2022 marks an important step forward as we rebuild and restore Notre-Dame Cathedral. Preliminary operations are already underway, like the major campaign to clean the interior of the cathedral. Over the next few months, the Établissement Public, the public agency in charge of managing the restoration, will issue calls for tender to source companies with expertise in the restoration of historical monuments to participate in the restoration. Outside of Notre-Dame Cathedral’s walls, the restoration of the Grand Organ and the cathedral’s works of art continues.