Notre-Dame de Paris (Our Lady of Paris) Cathedral Paris, France
The fire that spread throughout the top of Notre-Dame Cathedral destroyed several parts of the church, however, many of the cathedrals most important treasures were spared including the Crown of Thorns, many pieces of religious artwork, and the church’s pipe organ. The bell towers and rose windows also remained intact after the fire. On April 11, 2019, cranes lifted more than a dozen religious statues off the top of the cathedral to be sent to southwestern France for restoration work. The statues made it down just four days before the church burst into flames! Aerial firefighting was not used because water dropped from heights could have done structural damage, and heated stone can crack if suddenly cooled. Helicopters were not used because of dangerous updrafts but drones were used for visual and thermal imaging, and robots for visual imaging and directing water streams. Molten lead falling from the roof posed a special hazard for firefighters
Some important facts about the history of Notre-Dame:
The cathedral was built between 1160 and 1345 and designed in Gothic style fashion.
Notre-Dame was completed in 1260, a hundred years after building first started. Although some argue it wasn’t technically finished until the flying buttresses were added in 1345.
The Notre-Dame Cathedral has hosted many royal weddings and coronations.
Mary, Queen of Scots married her first husband inside the Notre-Dame Cathedral in 1558.
Henry VI, The boy king of England was crowned King of France inside Notre-Dame in 1431.
Napoleon Bonaparte crowned himself emperor of France in the Notre-Dame Cathedral in 1804.
During World War II, it was feared that German soldiers might destroy elements of the cathedral. Therefore, the famous medieval stained glass windows, which include the three rose windows, were removed and reinstalled after the war had ended!
The liberation of Paris from the Nazi forces took place inside the Notre-Dame, in 1944, with the singing of the Magnificat.
Victor Hugo’s novel, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”, was written In 1831. This novel did extremely well in France and brought an unprecedented fame to the church. It led to a major reconstruction project between 1844 and 1864. During this restoration, the cathedral’s iconic spire was added. Unfortunately, the spire collapsed in the massive fire that engulfed sections of the cathedral in April of 2019.
The cathedral was severely damaged during the French Revolution (1789 – 1799). Many angry French citizens resented the religious authorities of 18th-century France, and sought to ruin any form of iconography that was associated with the French royals.
During the French Revolution, the Notre-Dame Cathedral was regarded as “a symbol of the power and aggression of church and monarchy”. The church was ransacked and many sculptures and statues were destroyed!
The cathedral was converted into a storage warehouse for food during the French Revolution!
Most of the bells from the cathedral were taken down and melted to make cannons for the French Revolution. New bells were not installed in the cathedral until the mid 19th-century.
In 1793, 28 statues of biblical kings on the facade of the cathedral were pulled down with ropes and decapitated by angry mobs. King Louis XVI had been guillotined earlier that year, and any symbolism tied to the monarchy was under attack!
In 1977, the heads of 21 of the 28 statues of the kings that had been decapitated were rediscovered. Today, they’re on display at a nearby museum in Paris, Musée de Cluny, which translates in English to the National Museum of the Middle Ages.
Towering at a height of 226 feet (69 meters), the Notre-Dame Cathedral, fully called Notre-Dame de Paris (Our Lady of Paris) in French, still remains today as one of the most important landmarks of Paris. Notre-Dame de Paris measures 127 meters (length) by 48 meters (width) and the main nave was 43 meter-high under the roof until the fire in 2019. With such dimensions, it may come as surprising that the roof structure was entirely made of wood, dating back from the 12th century. The wood-timber frame was made of more than 1,300 trees, each beam being made from one tree. That was approximately 52 acres of trees. For this reason, the lattice of historic woodwork was nicknamed "The Forest." due to its massive dimensions!
There are three portals on the western façade of Notre-Dame, each laden with sculpted saints and sacred scenes. One doesn't seem to fit, however—the Portal Sainte-Anne has a much earlier style than the rest. Its figures, such as the central Virgin and Child, look stiffer in their poses and less natural in their features compared to the other statues. That's because this tympanum, or semi-circular area of decoration, was recycled from a previous Romanesque church. A close examination in 1969 revealed that it was not originally made for this space, and had been adapted to fit the Gothic structure.
There are three portals. The larger one is the Portal of the Last Judgment at the center. To the left (North) is the Portal of the Virgin . To the right (South) is the Portal of St. Anne.
The Portal of the Virgin was sculpted between 1210 and 1220. The main scene shows the Coronation of the Virgin, where Mary is being crowned Queen of heaven by an angel, while she sits on the same throne as Jesus. In the lintel below is Mary on her death bed surrounded by Jesus and the twelve apostles, two angels are about to lift her to heaven. In the lower lintel the old testament prophets are holding scrolls prophesying Christ.
Portal of the Last Judgement is the middle portal.
Jesus judges the nations as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. (Matthew 25:31-46).
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. (Matthew 25:31-33)
If look above your head when you walk into the cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris, you will see the scene Jesus describes depicted in the stone archway that frames the portal. Jesus is seated on his throne surrounded by angels. Beside the angels, mere mortals – kings and commoners – kneel in homage. Behind Jesus’ head is a cross-shaped halo, the emblem of his glory. The holy city, the New Jerusalem, sits at his feet.
Among the saints, a few on the periphery look outward toward the onlooker. Their heads are tilted and their gaze intense, as if they are trying to see something. Perhaps they are trying to determine the fate of those entering the sacred portal.
Jesus lifts his hands in the air to display his wounded palms. One angel holds the nails that pierced his hands and feet and the spear that was thrust into his side. Another holds the cross on which the Lord offered himself for the world. Signs of mercy abound.
Yet another angels holds the scales of divine justice. Kneeling in the scales, a “little one” clasps his hands in prayer; on the other side of the balance, a tiny demon clings to the chains. The devil and his minions attempt to tip the scales in the direction of damnation, but the carving shows the scales tilted toward salvation.
To the king’s right, a line of saints wear the victor’s crown. On his left, a corresponding line of the damned is bound in chains. Even nobility are found among the condemned. The faces of the damned are downcast and turned away from their Lord as demons lead them away from the holy city. The saints, in contrast, lift up their heads in adoration toward their savior.
The portal of St Anne on the right of the western façade was built in 1200 and is the earliest of the three portals to be built. The tympanum is actually dated to about 1150 and was once part of the earlier cathedral of St Stephen whose western façade was once 40 meters to the west of the present cathedral.
Shortly after the sculpting of the tympanum of St. Stephen, Maurice de Sully, Bishop of Paris, decided to build a new cathedral for the growing population of Paris. The cathedral was to be built in the new Gothic style, it was to be bigger and taller than the old St. Stephen with a square to separate the secular from the sacred, and it was be dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
This reused tympanum has a Romanesque central piece of the Virgin and Child, Jesus hold the Book of the Law, and on either side are censing angels at the extremes are the Bishop of Paris and the king of France.
The upper lintel contains scenes from the birth of Jesus, the annunciation, nativity, and Epiphany.
The lower lintel contains scenes of the marriages of Anne and Joachim and Mary and Joseph.
There is such detail in the magnificent sculptures around the portals.
On the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) in Rio de Janeiro and of the preparation of World Youth Day in Rio in 2013, this replica Corcovao was offered to Notre-Dame de Paris.
Gallery of the kings. There are 28 in total depicting the Kings of Judah.
The exterior of the west rose window
Three statues are standing on pedestals in order to make them stand above the stone balustrade. These sculptures depict the Virgin with Child as the center statue. Two angels stand to each side. With its base, the Virgin with Child statue is over 4 meters tall. Three stone statues are perfectly aligned with the rose window on the west façade of the cathedral. The two outside statues are designed to represent guardian angels looking over the Virgin Mary with her child, Jesus.
Gothic architecture is famous for its use of gargoyles and chimeras. However, most of these elements found on the church today aren’t as old as you may think. In fact, none of them date back from the Middle Ages. They were added in the 19th-century, during the restoration of the cathedral that took place from 1844 to 1864. Although the Notre Dame is commonly known for its Gothic architecture, the building actually has multiple styles, including Naturalism and Renaissance!
Notre-Dame sits at the eastern end of the Île de la Cité and was actually built on top of the ruins of two other churches. The Île de la Cité was here long before the cathedral. After the Gauls were defeated by the Romans in the Battle of Lutetia (52 BC), the new Gallo-Roman city of Lutetia settled and developed on the Left-Bank and on the Île de la Cité. The common and popular neighborhoods were located on the Left Bank along current Rue Saint-Jacques.
Since the origins, the Île de la Cité was divided in two parts: the westernmost half was dedicated to the matters of the City and was home to the Palace were the rulers could reside during their visits in Lutetia; the easternmost half, on the other hand, was dedicated to worship.
This island division, with one half dedicated to justice and ruling and the other one dedicated to religion survived through times. During the Middle-Ages, the Roman Palace was replaced by the Royal Palace, which later became the Palace of Justice and the Conciergerie.
The cathedral may have been built right over remnants of a temple. Around 1710, pieces of a sculpted altar dedicated to Jupiter and other deities were found during an excavation under the choir (although it remains unclear if this is evidence of an ancient temple, or if the pieces were recycled there from another location). Additional architectural ruins found in the 1960's and 1970's, many dating back to this ancient era, lie in the archaeological crypt located beneath the square just in front of Notre-Dame. Notre-Dame was later built on the remains of these churches.
Besides being the most famous Gothic cathedral of the Middle Ages, it is most notable for its size and architectural style. Its beginnings took place more than 850 years ago, in the heart of a much smaller Paris. Construction began in 1163, during the reign of King Louis VII, and was completed in 1345. The Gothic cathedral reflects the prominent role of Paris as an economic and spiritual center in the 12th century, and its scars from the French Revolution are reminders of its long connection with the monarchy, a connection that almost resulted in its demolition.
In the 1790’s, during the French Revolution, Notre-Dame was damaged as well as neglected. This even inspired Victor Hugo’s “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame”, novel, telling us about the building’s deterioration. When Napoléon Bonaparte decided to have his 1804 coronation as emperor in Notre-Dame, the building was in bad shape. Centuries of decay as the city developed and changed around it, as well as the vandalism of the French Revolution, had left it on the verge of demolition. For years it had been used as little more than a warehouse. So when Napoléon declared its return to church use, and hosted his grand ceremony within his wall, an event in which he famously crowned himself, it brought Notre-Dame to new prominence.
Nevertheless, the coronation didn’t fix its structural deterioration. Then author Victor Hugo used the building as a personification of France itself in his 1831 novel Notre-Dame de Paris. (The book’s name is often translated as The Hunchback of Notre Dame, yet the hunchbacked bell ringer Quasimodo is not the main character; the central figure is Notre-Dame.) The book was a success, and the momentum led to a major restoration overseen by architects Jean-Baptiste-Antoine Lassus and Eugène Viollet-le-Duc.
Also. many interesting historical events have taken place at the cathedral. For one, Henry VI was crowned king of France inside the cathedral in 1431, and in 1801 Napoleon was crowned emperor. In 1909, Joan of Arc, who had helped France battle the English and was burned at the stake centuries earlier, was beatified in the cathedral by Pope Pius X.
The cathedral was also home to the crown of thorns and the tunic of Saint Louis, both of which made it safely out of the 2019 fire. It was first housed at the Ste. Chapelle in Ile de la Cité, but then moved to Notre-Dame. Notre-Dame is home to arguably one of the most important religious artifacts in Christianity: the “Holy Crown of Thorns” worn by Jesus Christ. Although this can’t be undoubtedly proven, some historians suggest that this is the authentic relic Jesus wore on his head when he was tortured. There’s also a piece of the cross and a nail which are thought to have been used in the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Before the fire in 2019, the Holy Relics could be admired every first Friday of the month during the dedicated worship ceremonies, as well as for Lent and Good Fridays. The spire of the cathedral that collapsed contained relics — teeth, bones or hair — of the patron saints of Paris, St. Denis and St. Geneviève. The relics were placed in the spire by an archbishop to protect the cathedral.
There are 10 bells of Notre Dame and they’re all named after Saints. They are called Marie, Emmanuel, Gabriel, Anne-Geneviève, Denis, Marcel, Etienne, Benoît-Joseph, Maurice, and Jean-Marie, for the main ones. The South tower is home to the Emmanuel bell, which is the largest bell, weighing 13-tons.
What is more interesting is the tumultuous lives of these bells. If Quasimodo, the famous hunchback created by Victor Hugo to ring the bells of the great cathedral was an invention, the two-to-three ton pieces of bronze have had a life on their own. The cathedral bells are no longer the ones installed upon completion of the cathedral, six-hundred years ago.
The kings weren’t the only part of Notre-Dame destroyed during the French Revolution. The cathedral, like other churches around France, was transformed in the late 18th century from a Christian space and rededicated to the new Cult of Reason. After the French Revolution, in 1791, all bells except the colossal 1681 bourdon called Emmanuel were taken down from Notre-Dame and melted to make cannon balls. New bells were only installed during the mid-19th century and contributed to a recognizable chime which sounded in the skies of Paris for 150 years. In 2013, to celebrate the 850th anniversary of Notre-Dame, the bells were replaced and the chimes renewed.
While the bells at Notre-Dame were replaced in the 19th century, the new instruments were not as finely made as the older versions, and made a more dissonant noise when clanging. Finally, in 2013, a new ensemble of bells restored the cathedral to its 17th-century sound, with the deeply resonant Emmanuel still joining in the toll on special occasions.
The towers of Notre-Dame are not twins. At first glance, Notre-Dame’s two towers appear like identical twins. Closer examination reveals that the north tower is in fact a bit bigger than the south. As with all the elements of the cathedral, they were built over time, and reflect how the cathedral is more of a collage of architectural trends and leadership than the culmination of one person’s vision.
The two towers are 226 feet (69 meters) 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 north tower was accessible to visitors by a stairway, whose entrance was on the north 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 ten bells of the cathedral are located in the south tower.
A lead-roofed water reservoir between the two towers—behind the colonnade and the gallery and before the nave and the pignon—provides water for firefighting.
The cathedral's flèche (or spire), which was destroyed in the April 2019 fire, 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 tons.
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 an animal symbolizing 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 weather vane 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 Geneviere, 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 2019 fire.
Lead roof sheathing
The cathedral was one of the earliest structures built with exterior flying buttresses. They were constructed around its nave in the 12th century to lend support to the thin walls, after the need for more light in the incredibly tall church required larger windows, and thus greater supports. The exposed flying buttresses became an iconic aspect of Gothic design, and although there's some debate over whether Notre-Dame was the first church to have them, they certainly set the trend in sacred architecture.
In architecture, the golden ratio is visible in any shape composed by a square and a rectangle whose combined dimensions roughly correspond to a 1:1.61 ratio. This ratio is known to be a dimension of perfection in art. In architecture, some of the most appreciated and acclaimed buildings follow this ratio, such as the Parthenon in Athens, or the Taj Mahal in Agra. The western façade of Notre-Dame is clearly composed according to this ratio. The height of the cathedral divided by its width roughly equals to 1.61, the total height is roughly 1.61 times the height of the first two floors, the total width(central section + two towers) is roughly 1.61 the width of one tower plus the central section.
Some of the most popular images of Notre-Dame are from the perspective of its gargoyles or chimera (the carved monsters that don’t act as waterspouts).
You can see the difference between a gargoyle and chimera.
Few visitors would guess that the fantastic creatures now on the cathedral weren't there until the 19th century; they were added between 1843 and 1864 during the radical restoration overseen by Eugène-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc.
The term gargoyle comes from the French, gargouille, which means throat or gullet. A gargoyle by definition is a carved or sculpted mythical figure designed with a spout to carry water away from a building, just like drain pipes in modern houses!
Hugo had described gargoyles extensively in Notre-Dame de Paris, and Viollet-le-Duc was inspired by this romantic vision of the past. A daguerreotype from before this overhaul shows a building more stark than the one we know today, with no beasts perched on its towers, its medieval gargoyles having long been removed. Unfortunately, many of the 19th-century gargoyles are now decaying; PVC pipes have taken the place of those that have been taken down for safety.
The gargoyles were far from the only fanciful addition by the architect Viollet-le-Duc. Among the 12 apostles he had installed around the new spire, he included himself as the face of Saint Thomas.
If you look at a photo of the cathedral from before the fire, you'll see a rooster on top of the spire (which sadly seems to have collapsed during the fire). This rooster was not a purely decorative bird. In 1935, three tiny relics,an alleged piece of the Crown of Thorns and some bits of Saint Denis and Saint Genevieve (the city's patron saints), were secured inside the metal bird’s body. The idea, the story goes, was to create a sort of spiritual lightning rod to protect the parishioners within.
Interior of nave showing rib vaulting; in walls are clerestory windows (top), arches to triforium (middle), and arches to side aisles (bottom).
A rib vault is an architectural feature used to cover a large interior space in a building, usually the nave of a church or cathedral, in which the surface of the vault is divided into webs by a framework of diagonal arched ribs. It is also called a "ribbed vault". It was a key feature of Gothic architecture. The thin stone ribs of the vault meet in a pointed, and carry the thrust of the weight of the roof outward and downwards to pillars on the ground floor, and to heavy flying buttresses outside the walls, rather than to the walls themselves. The use of rib vaults permitted the construction of much higher and thinner walls, and of stained glass windows of enormous size, which flooded the cathedrals with light.
A clerestory is a high section of wall that contains windows above eye level. The purpose is to admit light, fresh air, or both.
A triforium is an interior gallery, opening onto the tall central space of a building at an upper level. In a church, it opens onto the nave from above the side aisles; it may occur at the level of the clerestory windows, or it may be located as a separate level below the clerestory. Masonry triforia are generally vaulted and separated from the central space by arcades. Early triforia were often wide and spacious, but later ones tend to be shallow, within the thickness of an inner wall, and may be blind arcades not wide enough to walk along. The outer wall of the triforium may itself have windows (glazed or unglazed openings), or it may be solid stone. A narrow triforium may also be called a "blind-storey", and looks like a row of window frames.
Underside of rib vaulting, whose thrust outward onto the walls is countered by the inward thrust of the flying buttresses. Had the vaulting collapsed, during the 2019 fire, the walls could have collapsed into the nave.
Michael and I also attended mass.
Items found within the cathedral.
Chapel honoring Saint joseph
Virgin with Child
Joan of Arc or in French, Jeanne d'Arc. St. Joan of Arc is the patroness of soldiers and of France, a religious warrior and martyr.
There is the most famous story of the peasant girl, Joan of Arc, in the history books of France who was very brave and claimed that she had visions from God. This poor girl had spiritual and character richness even though she had no material goods. By being courageous, she helped France in the battles against the English troops. While using the wise military tactics of Joan of Arc, France won many fights against England. Joan also was a great supporter of the monarchy; she is indirectly the reason why Charles VII was crowned. However, Joan of Arc was captured by the Burundians’, accused of heresy and burned at the stake when she was about 19 years old. This was not the end of the brave girl. On July 7, 1456, Joan of Arc was declared innocent and a martyr. In 1909, she was beatified in the famous Notre- Dame Cathedral by Pope Pius X. She was canonized a saint in 1920.
Many of the stained glass windows inside the Notre-Dame Cathedral date back from the 13th-century, when the cathedral was constructed. They aren’t just for decoration, they symbolize the “Holy Trinity” and are meant to give a sense of a divine presence in the church.
Notre-Dame’s trio of large rose windows is arguably the façade’s most famous feature. On the front of the church is the west rose window. Initially built in about 1125, it is the oldest of the three—though, today, none of the original glass remains in the frame. On the right side of the building is the south rose window. Measuring about 42 feet, (12.9 meters) in diameter, this window is the largest in the church. Like the north rose window, which sits directly opposite, it was crafted in the middle of the 13th century. However, only the north rose window retains original glass.
Rose window is often used as a generic term applied to a circular window, but is especially used for those found in churches of the Gothic architectual style that are divided into segments by stone mullions and tracery. The term rose window was not used before the 17th century and according to the Oxford English Dictionary, among other authorities, comes from the English flower name rose.
The name "wheel window" is often applied to a window divided by simple spokes radiating from a central boss or opening, while the term "rose window" is reserved for those windows, sometimes of a highly complex design, which can be seen to bear similarity to a multi-petaled rose.
The rose windows of the cathedral have a diameter of 32-feet. Notre-Dame's trio of large rose windows is arguably the façade's most famous feature. On the front of the church is the west rose window. Initially built in about 1125, it is the oldest of the three—though, today, none of the original glass remains in the frame. Notre-Dame's north transept wall, consisting of a rose window surmounting 18 lancet windows, was built ca. 1250-1260 while Jean de Chelles was architect. That glass could pierce a wall supporting tons of stone is a quintessentially Gothic architectural feat accomplished by traversing apertures with visually delicate but structurally strong webs of stone that break the glass into smaller shapes in a symmetrical way, distributing weight equally across the perforated wall, creating the impression of a curtain of light. Notre Dame's north transept wall, consisting of a rose window surmounting 18 lancet windows, was built ca. 1250-1260 while Jean de Chelles was architect. Most of the original 13th C. glass work is still intact, filtering light into a rainbow of blues, reds, greens, browns and yellows. The wide of spectrum of colors achieved in Medieval France's stained glass windows was produced by varying both the proportion of metal added to molten glass and the temperature to which the mixture was heated. Impurities in the metals, bubbles in the cooled glass and variations in the thickness of the cut panes would ultimately contribute to the jewel-like quality of finished windows. Colored glass was cut to size by heating or with a diamond. Details (facial features, drapery, foliage, etc.) were painted on with a mix of cullet (scrap glass), copper and Greek sapphire dissolved in wine or urine. This 'glass painting' was baked again, stimulating further chemical reactions that yielded visually interesting results. In the center oculus of the north rose window is the image of Mary enthroned holding the Christ Child. Surrounding them are images of kings and prophets of the Old Testament.
The north rose window
The Notre-Dame organ involves almost 8,000 (some dating back to the 18th century) played with five keyboards, making it the biggest pipe organ in France (although some claim that Saint-Eustache has a larger one). While there are some slashes on the wood of the organ loft—damage from the French Revolution, when its fleur-de-lis symbols were carved off—it was restored in 2013 to mark the 850th anniversary of the cathedral.
On the Notre-Dame sacristy, adjacent to the cathedral, is a small hive of bees. It was installed in 2013, with Buckfast bees—a strain developed by a monk named Brother Adam and known for its gentleness—living in its hives. Their honey is made from the flowering plants in nearby gardens, including the Square Jean XXIII just behind the cathedral. According to reports, the honey is given away to the poor.