Notre-Dame de Paris
|Notre-Dame de Paris|
|Location||Parvis Notre-Dame – Place Jean-Paul-II, Paris|
|Status||Closed/Under renovation after the 2019 fire|
|Length||128 m (420 ft)|
|Width||48 m (157 ft)|
|Nave height||35 metres (115 ft)|
|Number of towers||2|
|Tower height||69 m (226 ft)|
|Number of spires||1|
|Spire height||91.44 m (300.0 ft) (formerly)|
|Bells||10 (20, counting spire and crossing peal)|
|Director of music||Sylvain Dieudonné|
|Criteria||i, ii, iii|
|Part of||Paris, Banks of the Seine|
|Official name||Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris|
Notre-Dame de Paris (French: [nɔtʁə dam də paʁi] (listen); meaning "Our Lady of Paris"), referred to simply as Notre-Dame,[a] is a medieval Catholic cathedral on the Île de la Cité in the 4th arrondissement of Paris. The cathedral was consecrated to the Virgin Mary and is considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture. Its pioneering use of the rib vault and flying buttress, its enormous and colourful rose windows, as well as the naturalism and abundance of its sculptural decoration set it apart from the earlier Romanesque style. Major musical components that make Notre Dame stand out include its three pipe organs, one of which is historic; and its immense church bells.
The cathedral's construction began in 1163 under Bishop Maurice de Sully and was largely complete by 1260, though it was modified frequently in the following centuries. In the 1790s, Notre-Dame suffered desecration during the French Revolution; much of its religious imagery was damaged or destroyed. In the 19th century, the cathedral was the site of the coronation of Napoleon I and the funerals of many presidents of the French Republic.
Popular interest in the cathedral blossomed soon after the 1831 publication of Victor Hugo's novel Notre-Dame de Paris (better known in English as The Hunchback of Notre-Dame). This led to a major restoration project between 1844 and 1864, supervised by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc. The Allied liberation of Paris in 1944 was celebrated within Notre-Dame with the singing of the Magnificat. Beginning in 1963, the cathedral's façade was cleaned of centuries of soot and grime. Another cleaning and restoration project was carried out between 1991 and 2000.
The cathedral is one of the most widely recognized symbols of the city of Paris and the French nation. As the cathedral of the Archdiocese of Paris, Notre-Dame contains the cathedra of the archbishop of Paris (Michel Aupetit). In 1805, Notre-Dame was given the honorary status of a minor basilica. Approximately 12 million people visit Notre-Dame annually, making it the most visited monument in Paris. The cathedral was renowned for its Lent sermons, founded by the Dominican Jean-Baptiste Henri Lacordaire in the 1830s. In recent years, an increasing number have been given by leading public figures and state-employed academics.
The cathedral has been progressively stripped of its original decoration and works of art. Several noteworthy examples of Gothic, Baroque, and 19th-century sculptures and a group of 17th- and early 18th-century altarpieces remain in the cathedral's collection. 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, are preserved at Notre-Dame.
While undergoing renovation and restoration, the roof of Notre-Dame caught fire on the evening of 15 April 2019. Burning for around 15 hours, the cathedral sustained serious damage, including the destruction of the flèche (the timber spirelet over the crossing) and most of the lead-covered wooden roof above the stone vaulted ceiling. Contamination of the site and the nearby environment resulted. Following the fire, many proposals were made for modernizing the cathedral's design. However, on 29 July 2019, the French National Assembly enacted a law requiring that the restoration must preserve the cathedral's 'historic, artistic and architectural interest'. Stabilizing the structure against possible collapse was completed in November 2020, and the reconstruction began in 2021. The government of France hopes the reconstruction can be completed by Spring 2024, in time for the opening of the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris. President Emmanuel Macron confirmed on 14 April 2021 that the cathedral site will be formally returned to the church on 15 April 2024, and the first mass will be held in the cathedral nave on that day, even if the reconstruction is not finished by then.
- 4th century – Cathedral of Saint Étienne, dedicated to Saint Stephen, built just west of present Cathedral.
- 1163 – Bishop Maurice de Sully begins construction of new cathedral.
- 1185 – Choir completed.
- c. 1200 – Construction of nave, with flying buttresses, completed; flying buttresses added to choir walls.
- c. 1210–1220 – Construction of towers begins.
- c. 1210–1220 – Two new traverses join towers with nave. West rose window complete in 1220.
- 1235–1245 – Chapels constructed between buttresses of nave and choir.
- 1250–1260 – North transept lengthened by Jean de Chelles to provide more light. North rose window constructed.
- 1270 – South transept and rose window completed by Pierre de Montreuil.
- 1699 – Beginning of major redecoration of interior in Louis XIV style by Hardouin Mansart and Robert de Cotte.
- 1725–1727 – South rose window, poorly built, is reconstructed. Later entirely rebuilt in 1854.
- 1790 – In the French Revolution the Revolutionary Paris Commune removes all bronze lead and precious metals from the cathedral to be melted down.
- 1793 – The cathedral is converted into a Temple of Reason and then Temple of the Supreme Being.
- 1801–1802 – With the Concordat of 1801, Napoleon I restores the use of the cathedral (though not ownership) to the Catholic Church.
- 1804 – On December 2, Napoleon Bonaparte crowns himself Emperor at Notre-Dame.
- 1844–1864 – Major restoration by Jean-Baptiste Lassus and Eugène Viollet-le-Duc with additions in the spirit of the original Gothic style.
- 1871 – In final days of the Paris Commune, Communards attempt unsuccessfully to burn the Cathedral.
- 1944 – On August 26, General Charles de Gaulle celebrates the Liberation of Paris with a special mass at Notre-Dame.
- 1963 – Culture Minister André Malraux orders the cleaning of the cathedral façade of centuries of grime and soot.
- 15 April 2019 – A fire destroys a large part of the roof and the spire. Reconstruction begins.
It is believed that before the arrival of Christianity in France, a Gallo-Roman temple dedicated to Jupiter stood on the site of Notre-Dame. Evidence for this includes the Pillar of the Boatmen, discovered beneath the cathedral in 1710. In the 4th or 5th century, a large early Christian church, the Cathedral of Saint Étienne, was built on the site, close to the royal palace. The entrance was situated about 40 metres (130 ft) west of the present west front of Notre-Dame, and the apse was located about where the west façade is today. It was roughly half the size of the later Notre-Dame, 70 metres (230 ft) long—and separated into nave and four aisles by marble columns, then decorated with mosaics.
The last church before the cathedral of Notre-Dame was a Romanesque remodeling of Saint-Étienne that, although enlarged and remodeled, was found to be unfit for the growing population of Paris.[b] A baptistery, the Church of Saint-John-le-Rond, built about 452, was located on the north side of the west front of Notre-Dame until the work of Jacques-Germain Soufflot in the 18th century.
In 1160, the Bishop of Paris, Maurice de Sully, decided to build a new and much larger church. He summarily demolished the earlier cathedral and chose to recycle its materials. Sully decided that the new church should be built in the Gothic style, which had been inaugurated at the royal abbey of Saint Denis in the late 1130s.
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 expected. Tallon thus concluded that flying buttresses were present from the outset. The first buttresses were replaced by larger and stronger ones in the 14th century; these had a reach of fifteen metres (50') between the walls and counter-supports.
Early six-part rib vaults of the nave. The ribs transferred the thrust of the weight of the roof downward and outwards to the pillars and the supporting buttresses.
Later flying buttresses of the apse of Notre-Dame (14th century) reached 15 metres (50') from the wall to the counter-supports.
John of Jandun recognized the cathedral as one of Paris's three most important buildings [prominent structures] in his 1323 Treatise on the Praises of Paris:
That most glorious church of the most glorious Virgin Mary, mother of God, deservedly shines out, like the sun among stars. And although some speakers, by their own free judgment, because [they are] able to see only a few things easily, may say that some other is more beautiful, I believe, however, respectfully, that, if they attend more diligently to the whole and the parts, they will quickly retract this opinion. Where indeed, I ask, would they find two towers of such magnificence and perfection, so high, so large, so strong, clothed round about with such multiple varieties of ornaments? Where, I ask, would they find such a multipartite arrangement of so many lateral vaults, above and below? Where, I ask, would they find such light-filled amenities as the many surrounding chapels? Furthermore, let them tell me in what church I may see such a large cross, of which one arm separates the choir from the nave. Finally, I would willingly learn where [there are] two such circles, situated opposite each other in a straight line, which on account of their appearance are given the name of the fourth vowel [O]; among which smaller orbs and circles, with wondrous artifice, so that some arranged circularly, others angularly, surround windows ruddy with precious colours and beautiful with the most subtle figures of the pictures. In fact, I believe that this church offers the carefully discerning such cause for admiration that its inspection can scarcely sate the soul.— Jean de Jandun, Tractatus de laudibus Parisius
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.
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.
Thirteen of the grands mays remain in Nôtre Dame:
- La Descente du Saint Esprit by Jacques Blanchard, 1634
- Saint Pierre guérissant les malades de son ombre by Laurent de la Hyre, 1635
- La Conversion de saint Paul by Laurent de la Hyre, 1637
- Le Centenier Corneille aux pieds de saint Pierre by Aubin Vouet, 1639
- La Prédication de saint Pierre à Jérusalem by Charles Poerson, 1642
- Le Crucifiement de saint Pierre by Sébastien Bourdon, 1643
- Le Crucifiement de saint André by Charles Le Brun, 1647
- Saint Paul rend aveugle le faux prophète Barjesu et convertit le proconsul Sergius by Nicolas Loir, 1650
- La Lapidation de saint Étienne by Charles Le Brun, 1651
- La Flagellation de Saint Paul et Silas by Louis Testelin, 1655
- Saint André tressaille de joie à la vue de son supplice par by Gabriel Blanchard, 1670
- Le Prophète Agabus prédisant à saint Paul ses souffrances à Jérusalem by Louis Chéron, 1687
- Les fils de Sceva battus par le démon by Mathieu Elyas, 1702
These paintings suffered water damage during the fire of 2019 and were removed for conservation.
An altarpiece depicting the Visitation, painted by Jean Jouvenet in 1707, was also located in the cathedral.
The canon Antoine de La Porte commissioned for Louis XIV six paintings depicting the life of the Virgin Mary for the choir. At this same time, Charles de La Fosse painted his Adoration of the Magi, now in the Louvre. Louis Antoine de Noailles, archbishop of Paris, extensively modified the roof of Notre-Dame in 1726, renovating its framing and removing the gargoyles with lead gutters. Noailles also strengthened the buttresses, galleries, terraces, and vaults. In 1756, the cathedral's canons decided that its interior was too dark. The medieval stained glass windows, except the rosettes, were removed and replaced with plain, white glass panes. Finally, Jacques-Germain Soufflot was tasked with the modification of the portals at the front of the cathedral to allow processions to more easily enter it.
French Revolution and Napoleon
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 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. Victor Hugo, who admired the cathedral, wrote the novel Notre-Dame de Paris (published in English as The Hunchback of Notre-Dame) in 1831 to save Notre-Dame. The book was an enormous success, raising awareness of the cathedral's decaying state. The same year as Hugo's novel was published, however, anti-Legitimists plundered Notre-Dame's sacristy. In 1844 King Louis Philippe ordered that the church be restored.
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.
During the liberation of Paris in August 1944, the cathedral suffered some minor damage from stray bullets. Some of the medieval glass was damaged, and was replaced by glass with modern abstract designs. On 26 August, a special mass was held in the cathedral to celebrate the liberation of Paris from the Germans; it was attended by General Charles De Gaulle and General Philippe Leclerc.
In 1963, on the initiative of culture minister André Malraux and to mark the 800th anniversary of the cathedral, the façade was cleaned of the centuries of soot and grime, restoring it to its original off-white colour.
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.
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 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. During that anniversary year, on 21 May 2013, Dominique Venner, a historian and white nationalist, placed a letter on the church altar and shot himself, dying instantly. Around 1,500 visitors were evacuated from the cathedral.
French police arrested two people on 8 September 2016 after a car containing seven gas canisters was found near Notre-Dame.
On 10 February 2017, French police arrested four persons in Montpellier already known by authorities to have ties to radical Islamist organizations on charges of plotting to travel to Paris and attack the cathedral. Later that year, on 6 June, visitors were shut inside Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris after a man with a hammer attacked a police officer outside.
On 15 April 2019 the cathedral caught fire, destroying the spire and the "forest" of oak roof beams supporting the lead roof. It was speculated that the fire was linked to ongoing renovation work.
According to later studies, the fire broke out in the attic of the cathedral at 18:18. The smoke detectors immediately signaled the fire to a cathedral employee, who did not summon the fire brigade but instead sent a cathedral guard to investigate. Instead of going to the correct attic, the guard was sent to the wrong location, to the attic of the adjoining sacristy, and reported there was no fire. The guard telephoned his supervisor, who did not immediately answer. About fifteen minutes later the error was discovered, whereupon the guard's supervisor told him to go to the correct location. The fire brigade was still not notified. By the time the guard had climbed the three hundred steps to the cathedral attic the fire was well advanced. The alarm system was not designed to automatically notify the fire brigade, which was finally summoned at 18:51 after the guard had returned from the attic and reported a now-raging fire, and more than half an hour after the fire alarm had begun sounding. Firefighters arrived in less than ten minutes.
The spire of the cathedral collapsed at 19:50, bringing down some 750 tonnes of stone and lead. The firefighters inside were ordered back down. By this time the fire had spread to the north tower, where the eight bells were located. The firefighters concentrated their efforts in the tower. They feared that, if the bells fell, they could wreck the tower, and endanger the structure of the other tower and the whole cathedral. They had to ascend a stairway threatened by fire, and to contend with low water pressure for their hoses. As other firefighters watered the stairway and the roof, a team of twenty climbed up the narrow stairway of the south tower, crossed to the north tower, lowered hoses to be connected to fire engines outside the cathedral, and sprayed water on the fire beneath the bells. By 21:45, they were finally able to bring the fire under control. The main structure was intact; firefighters saved the façade, towers, walls, buttresses, and stained glass windows. The Great Organ, which has over 8,000 pipes and was built by François Thierry in the 18th century was also saved but sustained water damage. Because of the ongoing renovation, the copper statues on the spire had been removed before the fire. The stone vaulting that forms the ceiling of the cathedral had several holes but was otherwise intact.
Since 1905, France's cathedrals (including Notre-Dame) have been owned by the state, which is self-insured. Some costs might be recovered through insurance coverage if the fire is found to have been caused by contractors working on the site. The French insurer AXA provided insurance coverage for two of the contracting firms working on Notre-Dame's restoration before the blaze. AXA also provided insurance coverage for some of the relics and artworks in the cathedral.
An ornate tapestry woven in the early 1800s is going on public display for only the third time in recent decades. The decoration was rescued from Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral after the fire.
For the first time in more than 200 years, the Christmas mass was not hosted at the cathedral on 25 December 2019, due to the ongoing restoration work after the fire.
Eight members of the cathedral choir, a number limited by COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, performed inside the building for the first time since the fire in December 2020. A video of the event aired later, just before midnight on 24 December 2020.
Stabilization of building and reconstruction
Immediately after the fire, President Macron promised that Notre-Dame would be restored, and called for the work to be completed within five years. An international architectural competition was also announced to redesign the spire and roof. The hasty spire competition announcement drew immediate criticism in the international press from heritage academics and professionals who faulted the French government for being too narrowly focused on quickly building a new spire, and neglecting to frame its response more holistically as an inclusive social process encompassing the whole building and its long-term users. A new law was immediately drafted to make Notre Dame exempt from existing heritage laws and procedures, which prompted an open letter to President Macron signed by over 1,170 heritage experts urging respect for existing regulations. The law, which passed on 11 May 2019, was hotly debated in the French National Assembly, with opponents accusing Macron's administration of using Notre-Dame self-servingly for political grandstanding, and defenders arguing the need for expediency and tax breaks to encourage philanthropic giving.
President Macron suggested he was open to a "contemporary architectural gesture". Even before the competition rules were announced, architects around the world offered suggestions: the proposals included a 100-meter (300') spire made of carbon fibre, covered with gold leaf; a roof built of stained glass; a greenhouse; a garden with trees, open to the sky; and a column of light pointed upwards. A poll published in the French newspaper Le Figaro on 8 May 2019 showed that 55% of French respondents wanted a spire identical to the original. French culture minister Franck Riester promised that the restoration "will not be hasty." On 29 July 2019, the French National Assembly enacted a law requiring that the restoration must "preserve the historic, artistic and architectural interest of the monument".
In October 2019, the French government announced that the first stage of reconstruction, the stabilising of the structure against collapse, would take until the end of 2020. Reconstruction could not begin before early 2021. President Macron announced that he hoped the reconstructed Cathedral could be finished by Spring 2024, in time for the opening of the 2024 Summer Olympics. In December 2019, Monseigneur Patrick Chauvet, the rector of the cathedral, said there was still a 50% chance that Notre-Dame cannot be saved due to the risk of the remaining scaffolding falling onto the three damaged vaults.
The first task of the restoration was the removal of 250–300 tonnes of melted metal tubes, the remains of the scaffolding, which remained on the top after the fire and could have fallen onto the vaults and caused further structural damage. This stage began in February 2020 and continued through April 2020. A large crane, eighty-four metres (275') high, was put in place next to the cathedral to help remove the scaffolding. Later, wooden support beams were added to stabilise the flying buttresses and other structures.
On 10 April 2020, the archbishop of Paris, Michel Aupetit, and a handful of participants, all in protective clothing, performed a Good Friday service inside the cathedral. Music was provided by the violinist Renaud Capuçon; the lectors were the actors Philippe Torreton and Judith Chemla. Chemla gave an a cappella rendition of Ave Maria.
A new phase of the restoration commenced on 8 June 2020. Two teams of workers began descending into the roof to remove the tangle of tubes of the old scaffolding melted by the fire. The workers used saws to cut up the forty thousand pieces of scaffolding, weighing altogether two hundred tons, which was carefully lifted out of the roof by an eighty-meter (300') tall crane. The phase was completed in November 2020.
In February 2021, the selection of oak trees to replace the spire and roof timbers destroyed by the fire began. As many as a thousand mature trees will be chosen from the forests of France, each of a diameter of 50 to 90 centimetres (20" to 36") and a height of eight to fourteen meters (26' to 45'), and an age of several hundred years. Once cut, the trees must dry for twelve to eighteen months. The trees will be replaced by new plantings.
Two years after the fire, a great deal of work had been completed but a news report stated that: "there is still a hole on top of the church. They’re also building a replica of the church’s spire". More oak trees needed to be shipped to Paris where they would need to be dried before use; they will be essential in completing the restoration.
On September 18, 2021, the public agency overseeing the Cathedral stated that the safety work was completed and the cathedral was now fully secured, and that reconstruction would begin within a few months.
Towers and the spire
The 19th-century spire
The rooster reliquary atop the spire. It was found lightly damaged in the rubble after the 2019 fire.
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. (see Bells below)
A lead-roofed water reservoir between the two towers – behind the colonnade and the gallery and before the nave and the pignon (gable) – provides water for firefighting.
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.
Iconography – the "poor people's book"
Illustration of the Last Judgment, central portal of west façade
The martyr Saint Denis, holding his head, over the Portal of the Virgin
The serpent tempts Adam and Eve; part of the Last Judgment on the central portal of west façade
A strix on the west façade
Gargoyles were the rainspouts of the Cathedral
Chimera on the façade
Allegory of alchemy, central portal
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.
Stained glass – rose windows
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.
The massive fire left the three great medieval rose windows essentially intact, but with some damage. The rector of the Cathedral noted that one rose window would have to be dismantled, as it was unstable and at risk. Most of the other damaged windows were of much less historical value.
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 (French: gisant). 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 canons of Notre-Dame. In 1765, a larger crypt was built under the nave to be used for burials of canons, 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.
1856 illustration from Dictionnaire raisonné de l’architecture française du XIe au XVIe siècle by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc showing the choir during the medieval period. Several tombs are visible around the high altar.
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 1904, Charles Mutin modified and added several stops upon the suggestions of titular organist Louis Vierne; in 1924, an electric blower was installed, which was financed by Rolls-Royce CEO, Claude Johnson. An extensive restoration and cleaning was carried out by Joseph Beuchet in 1932 which mostly included changes to the Récit. Between 1959 and 1963, the mechanical action with Barker levers was replaced with an electric action by Jean Hermann, and a new organ console was installed.
During the following years, the stoplist was gradually modified by Robert Boisseau (who added three chamade stops: 8′, 4′, and 2′/16′ - now 8' in 1968) and Jean-Loup Boisseau after 1975, respectively - all upon the orders of Pierre Cochereau. In autumn 1983, the electric combination system was disconnected due to short-circuit risk.
Between 1990 and 1992, Jean-Loup Boisseau, Bertrand Cattiaux, Philippe Émeriau, Michel Giroud, and the Société Synaptel revised and augmented the instrument throughout. A new frame for the Jean Hermann console was created. Between 2012 and 2014, Bertrand Cattiaux and Pascal Quoirin restored, cleaned, and modified the organ. The stop and key action was upgraded, a new frame for selected components of the Hermann-Boisseau-Cattiaux console was created, a new enclosed division ("Résonnance expressive", using pipework from the former "Petite Pédale" by Boisseau, which can now be used as a floating division), the organ case and the façade pipes were restored, and a general tuning was carried out. The current organ has 115 stops (156 ranks) on five manuals and pedal, and more than 8,000 pipes.
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.
It was reported that the great organ itself suffered very little damage (mostly to one Principal 32' pipe and loads of dust) in the fire of April 2019, but will need cleaning.
C–f1(keys go to g1, but f#1 and g1 silent)
Cornet V 8
(pulls out stops with asterisks)
Couplers: II/I, III/I, IV/I, V/I; III/II, IV/II, V/II; IV/III, V/III; V/IV, Octave grave général, inversion Positif/Grand-orgue, Tirasses (Grand-orgue, Positif, Récit, Solo, Grand-Chœur en 8; Grand-Orgue en 4, Positif en 4, Récit en 4, Solo en 4, Grand-Chœur en 4), Sub and Super octave couplers and Unison Off for all manuals (Octaves graves, octaves aiguës, annulation 8′). Octaves aiguës Pédalier.
Additional features: Coupure Pédalier. Coupure Chamade. Appel Résonnance. Sostenuto for all manuals and the pedal. Cancel buttons for each division. 50,000 combinations (5,000 groups each). Replay system.
The position of titular organist ("head" or "chief" organist; French: titulaires des grandes orgues) of the great organ of Notre-Dame is considered one of the most prestigious organist posts in France, along with the post of titular organist of Saint Sulpice in Paris, Cavaillé-Coll's largest instrument.
After the death of Pierre Cochereau, the cathedral authorities controversially decided to go back to the Clicquot practice of having several titulaires, and also to guarantee that no one organist would have so much influence over the organ.
- Guillaume Maingot (1600–1609)
- Jacques Petitjean (1609–1610)
- Charles Thibault (1610–1616)
- Charles Racquet (1618–1643)
- Jean Racquet (c. 1643 – 1689)
- Médéric Corneille (1689–1730)
- Guillaume-Antoine Calvière (1730–1755)
- René Drouart de Bousset (1755–1760)
- Charles-Alexandre Jollage (1755–1761)
- Louis-Claude Daquin (1755–1772)
- Armand-Louis Couperin (1755–1789)
- Claude Balbastre (1760–1793)
- Pierre-Claude Foucquet (1761–1772)
- Nicolas Séjan (1772–1793)
- Claude-Étienne Luce (1772–1783)
- Jean-Jacques Beauvarlet Charpentier (1783–1793)
- Antoine Desprez (1802–1806)
- François Lacodre dit Blin (1806–1834)
- Joseph Pollet (1834–1840)
- Félix Danjou (1840–1847)
- Eugène Sergent (1847–1900)
- Louis Vierne (1900–1937)
- Léonce de Saint-Martin (1937–1954)
- Pierre Cochereau (1955–1984)
- Yves Devernay (1985–1990)
- Jean-Pierre Leguay (1985–2015)
- Philippe Lefebvre (since 1985)
- Olivier Latry (since 1985)
- Vincent Dubois (since 2016)
Notre-Dame currently has ten bells. The two largest bells, or bourdons, Emmanuel and Marie, are mounted in the south tower. The eight others, Gabriel, Anne Geneviève, Denis, Marcel, Étienne, Benoît-Joseph, Maurice, and Jean-Marie, are mounted in the north tower. In addition to accompanying regular activities at the cathedral, the bells have also rung to commemorate events of national and international significance, such as the armistice of 11 November 1918, the liberation of Paris, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the September 11 attacks.
The bells are made with bronze for its resonance and resistance to corrosion. During the medieval period, they were often founded on the grounds of the cathedral so they would not need to be transported long distances. According to tradition, the bishop of Paris held a ceremony in which he blessed and baptized the bells, and a godparent formally bestowed a name on the bell. Most of the cathedral's early bells were named after the person who donated them, but they were also named after biblical figures, saints, bishops, and others.
After the baptism, the bells were hoisted into the towers through circular openings in the vaulted ceilings and mounted to headstocks to allow the bells to swing. Notre-Dame's bells swing on a straight swinging axis, meaning the axis of rotation is just above the crown of the bell. This style of ringing produces a clearer tone, as the clapper strikes the bell on the upswing, called a flying clapper. But it also causes great horizontal forces, which can be up to one and a half times the weight of the bell. For this reason the bells are mounted within wooden belfries which are recessed from the towers' stone walls. These absorb the horizontal forces and prevent the bells from damaging the relatively brittle stonework. The current belfries date to the 19th century restoration.
Before the Revolution, it was common for the bells to break, and they were often removed for repairs or to be entirely recast, and sometimes renamed. The bell Guillaume, for example, was renamed three times and recast no less than five times between 1230 and 1770.
The practice of bell-ringing at Notre-Dame is recorded as early as 1198. By the end of the 14th century the bells were marking the civil hours, and in 1472 they began to call to prayer for the Angelus three times a day, both practices which continue today. During the Revolution, most of the cathedral's bells were removed and melted down. While many of them bore the names of the medieval bells, most were relatively recent recastings made from most of the same metal. During the 19th century restoration, four new bells were made for the north tower. These were replaced in 2012 with nine as part of the cathedral's 850th anniversary celebration.
In addition to the main bells, the cathedral has also had smaller secondary bells. These included a carillon in the medieval spire, three clock bells on the north transept in the 18th century, and six bells added in the 19th century – three in the reconstructed spire and three within the roof to be heard in the sanctuary. These were destroyed during the 2019 fire.
Circular utility door (right of center) in the ceiling below the north tower made for raising and lowering bells
The bourdon Emmanuel, Notre-Dame's largest and oldest bell, cast in 1686
1854 illustration by Pégard showing the 1850 belfry which is present today
The first clocks used at Notre-Dame were clepsydras. These were used to tell the hours, which were marked by striking bells. In the 14th century Notre-Dame had two clepsydras running simultaneously, one in the cloister and one in the church itself. A lay chamberlain was responsible to keep the clocks filled with water and to notify a churchwarden when it was time to strike the bells for the hour.
In 1766, Guillot de Montjoye and Jean-Bernard de Vienne, canons and stewards of the church fabric, donated a mechanical clock to the cathedral. The movement was installed in a glass cabinet in the gallery beneath the north rose window and rang three bells placed outside above the north portal. Between 1812 and 1813, the clock and bells were moved to the north tower. A 1.34 metres (4 ft 5 in) clock face was installed inside the church below the organ platform.
During Viollet-le-Duc's restoration in the 19th century, a new clock was made. The 1867 Collin-Wagner movement, measuring two meters (6.5 feet) across, was located in the forest underneath the central spire within a glass-enclosed room. This controlled four dormer clock faces visible on the transept roofs, two on each side. This clock was taken down by the fire. Shortly after the fire, French clockmaker Jean-Baptiste Vior discovered an almost identical 1867 Collin-Wagner movement in storage at Sainte-Trinité Church in northern Paris. Olivier Chandez, who had been responsible for the upkeep of Notre-Dame's clock, described the find as "almost a miracle." While the clock cannot simply be installed in Notre-Dame itself, it is hoped that the clock can be used to create a new clock for Notre-Dame to the same specifications as the one which was destroyed.
Until the French Revolution, Notre-Dame was the property of the archbishop of Paris and therefore the Roman Catholic Church. It was nationalized on 2 November 1789 and since then has been the property of the French state. Under the Concordat of 1801, use of the cathedral was returned to the Church, but not ownership. Legislation from 1833 and 1838 clarified that cathedrals were maintained at the expense of the French government. This was reaffirmed in the 1905 law on the separation of Church and State, designating the Catholic Church as having the exclusive right to use it for religious purposes in perpetuity. Notre-Dame is one of seventy historic churches in France with this status. The archdiocese is responsible for paying the employees, for security, heating and cleaning, and for ensuring that the cathedral is open free to visitors. The archdiocese does not receive subsidies from the French state.
A 2010 view of Notre-Dame from Tour Montparnasse
Virgin of Paris, 14th century. The Statue of Virgin and Child inside Notre-Dame de Paris
South rose window of Notre-Dame de Paris
Flying buttresses of Notre-Dame
- Archbishop's Palace of Paris, destroyed 1831
- Architecture of Paris
- Gothic cathedrals and churches
- List of destroyed heritage
- List of Gothic cathedrals in Europe
- List of tallest buildings and structures in the Paris region
- Musée de Notre Dame de Paris
- Roman Catholic Marian churches
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- "Monument historique – PA00086250". Mérimée database of Monuments Historiques (in French). France: Ministère de la Culture. 1993. Retrieved 17 July 2011.
- Official website of Notre-Dame de Paris (in English) also (in French)
- Official website of Friends of Notre-Dame de Paris
- List of Facts about Notre-Dame de Paris
- Notre-Dame de Paris's Singers
- Official site of Music at Notre-Dame de Paris
- Panoramic view
- Further information on the Organ with specifications of the Grandes Orgues and the Orgue de Choeur
- Photos: Notre-Dame de Paris – The Gothic Cathedral, Flickr
- Notre Dame Cathedral Facts
- Tridentine Mass celebrated in Notre-Dame in 2017