Notre-Dame de Paris

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Notre-Dame de Paris
Cathédrale Basilique Notre Dame de Paris or Cathedral Basilica Notre Dame of Paris
Our Lady of Paris
Notre Dame de Paris DSC 0846w.jpg North rose window of Notre-Dame de Paris, Aug 2010.jpg
Nave of Notre-Dame de Paris, 22 June 2014 002.jpg Saints in Portal, Notre-Dame, Paris (3605120325).jpg
Notredame Paris.JPG
|250px|Different images of Notre-Dame de Paris, before the fire in 2019 | link=File:
Notre Dame de Paris DSC 0846w.jpg North rose window of Notre-Dame de Paris, Aug 2010.jpg
Nave of Notre-Dame de Paris, 22 June 2014 002.jpg Saints in Portal, Notre-Dame, Paris (3605120325).jpg
Notredame Paris.JPG
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Different images of Notre-Dame de Paris, before the fire in 2019
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Location Parvis Notre-Dame – place Jean-Paul-II, Paris, France
Denomination Roman Catholic
Membership 525,600
Status Damaged by fire, not active; repair work planned
Style French Gothic
Years built 1163–1345
Groundbreaking 1163 (1163)
Completed 1345
Length 128 m (420 ft)
Width 48 m (157 ft)
Number of towers 2
Tower height 69 m (226 ft)
Number of spires 1 (destroyed by fire)
Spire height 91.44 metres (300.0 ft) (formerly)[1]
Bells 10
Archdiocese Paris
Archbishop Michel Aupetit
Rector Patrick Jacquin
Dean Patrick Chauvet
Director of music Sylvain Dieudonné[2]
Criteria i, ii, iii
Designated 1991
Part of Paris, Banks of the Seine
Reference no. 600
Official name: Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris
Type Cathédrale
Designated 1862[3]
Reference no. PA00086250

Notre-Dame de Paris (/ˌnɒtrə ˈdɑːm, ˌntrə ˈdm, ˌntrə ˈdɑːm/;[4][5][6] French: [nɔtʁə dam də paʁi]; meaning "Our Lady of Paris"), often referred to simply as Notre-Dame,[lower-alpha 1] is a medieval Catholic cathedral on the Île de la Cité in the 4th arrondissement of Paris, France. The cathedral is consecrated to the Virgin Mary and considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture. Its innovative use of the rib vault and flying buttress, its enormous and colourful rose windows, and the naturalism and abundance of its sculptural decoration set it apart from the earlier Romanesque style.[7]

The cathedral's construction was begun in 1160 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, the baptism of Henri, Count of Chambord, and the funerals of several presidents of the Third French Republic.

Popular interest in the cathedral blossomed soon after the publication, in 1831, 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 liberation of Paris was celebrated within Notre-Dame in 1944 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.[8]

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.[9]

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 spire over the crossing) and most of the lead-covered wooden roof above the stone vaulted ceiling.[1]


It is believed that before the period of Christianity in France, a Gallo-Roman temple dedicated to Jupiter stood on the site of Notre-Dame. Evidence for this is the Pillar of the Boatmen, discovered in 1710. This building was replaced with an Early Christian basilica. It is unknown whether this church, dedicated to Saint Stephen, was constructed in the late 4th century and remodeled later, or if it was built in the 7th century from an older church, possibly the cathedral of Childebert I.[lower-alpha 2] The basilica, later cathedral, of Saint-Étienne (fr) was situated about 40 metres (130 ft) west of Notre-Dame's location and was wider and lower and roughly half its size. For its time, it was very large—70 metres (230 ft) long—and separated into nave and four aisles by marble columns, then decorated with mosaics.[8][10]

Four churches succeeded the Roman temple before Notre-Dame. The first was the 4th century basilica of Saint-Étienne, then the Merovingian renovation of that church which was in turn remodeled in 857 under the Carolingians into a cathedral.[11] The last church before the cathedral of Notre-Dame was a Romanesque remodeling of the prior structures that, although enlarged and remodeled, was found to be unfit for the growing population of Paris.[12][lower-alpha 3] A baptistery, the Church of John the Baptist (fr), built before 452, was located on the north side of the church of Saint-Étienne until the work of Jacques-Germain Soufflot in the 18th century.[14]

In 1160, the Bishop of Paris, Maurice de Sully,[14] decided to build a new and much larger church. He summarily demolished the Romanesque cathedral and chose to recycle its materials.[12] Sully decided that the new church should be built in the Gothic style; two other Gothic cathedrals were already under construction at Sens and Senlis, and the Basilica of Saint Denis had been redone in the new style.[10]


The chronicler Jean de Saint-Victor (fr) 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.[15][16] 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.

Cross-section of the double supporting arches and buttresses of the nave, drawn by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc as they would have appeared from 1220 to 1230.[17]

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.[18] 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.[8] Heraclius of Caesarea called for the Third Crusade in 1185 from the still-incomplete cathedral.

The Crown of Thorns was placed in the cathedral in 1231 by King Louis IX, during the construction of the Sainte-Chapelle.

The decision was made to add a transepts at the choir, where the altar was located, in order to bring more light into the center 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.[19]

Another significant change came in the mid-13th century, when the transepts were remodeled 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 St 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.[20][19] Master builders Pierre de Chelles, Jean Ravy (fr), Jean le Bouteiller, and Raymond du Temple (fr) 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.

Philip the Fair opened the first Estates General in the cathedral in 1302.

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,"[21] whereas if they were added later some movement from prior to their addition would be expected. Tallon thus concluded that "flying buttresses were there from the get-go."[21] The first buttresses were replaced by larger and stronger ones in the 14th century; these had a reach of fifteen meters between the walls and counter-supports.[8]

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:

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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 colors 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[22]
Henry VI of England's coronation as King of France, aged ten, during the Hundred Years' War.

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.[23]

During the Renaissance, the Gothic style fell out of style, and the internal pillars and walls of Notre-Dame were covered with tapestries.[24]


In 1548, rioting Huguenots damaged some of the statues of Notre-Dame, considering them idolatrous.[25]

The fountain (fr) in Notre-Dame's parvise was added in 1625 to provide nearby Parisians with running water.[26]

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 XIII kneeling before a Pietà. In 1709, 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.[27] 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.[28] 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.[24]

The cathedral was rededicated in 1793 to the Cult of Reason, and then to the Cult of the Supreme Being. 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.[29] 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.[30] 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.[8] The cathedral came to be used as a warehouse for the storage of food and other non-religious purposes.[25]


The Cathedral at the beginning of the restoration work, photo from 1847 by Hippolyte Bayard

In July 1801, the new ruler, Napoleon Bonaparte, signed an agreement to restore the cathedral to the Church. It was formally transferred on 18 April 1802. On 2 December 1804 Napoleon and his wife Joséphine, with Pope Pius VII officiating, were crowned Emperor and Empress of France. The cathedral was also the site of Napoleon's marriage to Marie-Louise of Austria in 1810.

The cathedral was functioning in the early 19th century, but was half-ruined inside and battered throughout. In 1831, the novel Notre-Dame de Paris by Victor Hugo, published in English as The Hunchback of Notre-Dame had an enormous success, and brought the cathedral new attention. In 1844 King Louis Philippe ordered that the church be restored. The commission for the restoration was won by two architects, Jean-Baptiste-Antoine Lassus and Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, who was then just 31 years old. They supervised a large team of sculptors, glass makers and other craftsmen who remade, working from drawings or engravings, the original decoration, or, if they did not have a model, adding new elements they felt were in the spirit of the original style. They made a taller and more ornate reconstruction of the original spire (including a statue of Saint Thomas that resembles Viollet-le-Duc), as well as adding the sculpture of mythical creatures on the Galerie des Chimères. The restoration took twenty five years.[25]

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 color.[31]

Artwork, relics, and other antiques stored at the cathedral include the supposed crown of thorns which Jesus wore prior to his crucifixion and a piece of the cross on which he was crucified, a 13th-century organ, stained-glass windows, and bronze statues of the 12 apostles.[32]

East façade of Notre-Dame in the 1860s.

Modern renovations

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 discolored the stone. By the late 1980s, several gargoyles and turrets had also fallen off or become too loose to remain in place.[33] A decade-long renovation program 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.[33][34] A discreet system of electrical wires, not visible from below, was also installed on the roof to deter pigeons.[35] The cathedral's pipe organ was upgraded with a computerized system to control the mechanical connections to the pipes.[36] The west face was cleaned and restored in time for millennium celebrations in December 1999.[37]

Notre-Dame in May 2012

Medievalist Claude Gauvard claimed that not enough money had been spent on maintenance, saying: "The ongoing works finally got started – and it was high time, and perhaps even a little late. I went up to the foot of the spire (before the renovations began) and some of the brickwork was disjointed, held in place by a grate to prevent it falling."[38]

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.[39][40] 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.[41][42] The entire renovation was estimated to cost 100 million euros, which the Archbishop of Paris planned to raise through funds from the national government and private donations.[43] 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.[44][45]

2019 fire

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Incendie Notre Dame de Paris.jpg

On 15 April 2019 at 18:30 local time,[1] the cathedral caught fire, causing the collapse of the spire and the oak frame and lead roof.[1][46][47] Both towers escaped damage. The extent of the damage was initially unknown, as was the cause of the fire, though it was speculated that it was linked to ongoing renovation work.[46][47] According to French authorities, the cathedral barely escaped complete destruction, having been only "15 to 30 minutes" away from structural damage so severe it would likely have caused the building's collapse.[48]

Firefighters were able to save the façade, towers, walls, buttresses, pipe organ, and stained glass windows. Statues on the spire had been removed for cleaning and relics were rescued during the fire, but sections of the stone ceiling collapsed. First investigations indicated that the structure remained essentially sound. French President Emmanuel Macron vowed that Notre-Dame would be restored, and called for the work to be completed within five years.[49][50][51][52]

Since 1905, France's cathedrals (including Notre-Dame de Paris) have been owned by the state. According to a representative of the Aon’s French business, the assets owned by the state are self-insured by the state. The costs are therefore an issue for governmental officials, but not for the insurance market, although costs might be recovered through insurance coverage if the fire is found to have been caused by contractors working on the site.[53] The French insurer AXA provided insurance coverage for two of the contracting firms working on Notre-Dame’s restoration before the blaze which devastated the cathedral. AXA also provided insurance coverage for some of the relics and artworks in the cathedral.[54]

President Emmanuel Macron said approximately 500 firefighters helped to battle the fire. One firefighter was seriously injured and two police officers were hurt during the blaze.[55]

Many artifacts were saved before the fire spread to other parts of the cathedral. Because of the ongoing renovation, the copper statues that were normally on the now collapsed spire had been removed from the building a week prior.[56] The stone vaulting that forms the ceiling of the cathedral had three holes, but otherwise remained largely intact, preventing the burning timbers falling into the building below.[57]

An international architectural competition will also be launched to redesign the roof and spire.[58]

Towers and the spire

The two towers are sixty-nine 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.[59]

The north tower is accessible to visitors by a stairway, whose entrance is 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 can 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. (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​​provides water for firefighting.[citation needed]

The cathedral's flèche (or spire), which was destroyed in the April 2019 fire,[60] was located over the transept and altar. 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. Each group is preceded[further explanation needed] by an animal symbolising one of the four evangelists: a steer 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.[61] While in place, they had faced outwards towards Paris, except one; the statue of Saint Thomas, the patron saint of architects, which faced the spire, and had the features of Viollet-le-Duc.

The rooster atop the spire contained three relics: a tiny piece from the Crown of Thorns in the Cathedral treasury, and relics of Denis and Saint Genevieve, patron saints of Paris. They were placed there in 1935 by the Archibishop Jean Verdier, to protect the congregation from lightning or other harm.

Iconography — the "poor people's book"

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The Gothic cathedral was a liber pauperum, a "poor people's book", covered with sculpture 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.[62] 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.[63]

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.[64] 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.[65]

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.[62]

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 scepter 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.[65]

Many of the statues, particularly the grotesques, were removed from façade in the 17th and 18th century, 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 meters 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.[66]

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 meters in diameter; with the claire-voie surrounding it, a total of 19 meters. It was given to the Cathedral by King Louis IX of France, known as Saint Louis.[67]

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.[67]

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.[67]

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.[67]

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 color to try to recreate the luminosity of the Cathedral's interior in the 13th century.

The 2019 fire left the three great medieval rose windows essentially intact, but with some damage.[68] The rector of the Cathedral noted that one rose window would have to be dismantled, as it was unstable and at risk.[69] Most of the other damaged windows were of much less historical value.[69]


The Archaeological Crypt of Notre-Dame de Paris

The Archaeological Crypt (Crypte archéologique de l'île de la Cité) was created in 1965 to protect a range of historical ruins discovered during construction work and spanning from the earliest settlement in Paris to the modern day. The crypt is managed by the Musée Carnavalet, and contains a large exhibit, detailed models of the architecture of different time periods, and how they can be viewed within the ruins. The main feature still visible is the under-floor heating installed during the Roman occupation.[70]


The organ of Notre-Dame de Paris

One of the earliest organs at Notre-Dame, built in 1403 by Friedrich Schambantz, was replaced between 1730 and 1738 by François Thierry. During the restoration of the cathedral by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, Aristide Cavaillé-Coll built a new organ, using pipe work from the former instruments. The organ was dedicated in 1868.

In 1904, Charles Mutin modified and added several stops; in 1924, an electric blower was installed. An extensive restoration and cleaning was carried out by Joseph Beuchet in 1932. 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′ in 1968) and Jean-Loup Boisseau after 1975, respectively. 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 console was installed, using the stop knobs, pedal and manual keyboards, foot pistons and balance pedals from the Jean Hermann console. Between 2012 and 2014, Bertrand Cattiaux and Pascal Quoirin restored, cleaned, and modified the organ. The stop and key action was upgraded, a new console was built, (again using the stop keys, pedal board, foot pistons and balance pedals of the 1992 console), 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.

I. Grand-Orgue
II. Positif
III. Récit
IV. Solo
V. Grand-Chœur
Résonnance expressive

Violon Basse 16
Bourdon 16
Montre 8
Viole de Gambe 8
Flûte harmonique 8
Bourdon 8
Prestant 4
Octave 4
Doublette 2
Fourniture harmonique II-V
Cymbale harmonique II-V
Bombarde 16
Trompette 8
Clairon 4

Chamade 8
Chamade 4

Chamade REC 8
Cornet REC

Montre 16
Bourdon 16
Salicional 8
Flûte harmonique 8
Bourdon 8
Unda maris 8
Prestant 4
Flûte douce 4
Nazard ​2 23
Doublette 2
Tierce ​1 35
Fourniture V
Cymbale V
Clarinet basse 16
Clarinet 8
Clarinet aiguë 4

Récit expressif:
Quintaton 16
Diapason 8
Flûte traversière 8
Viole de Gambe 8
Bourdon céleste 8
Voix céleste 8
Octave 4
Flûte Octaviante 4
Quinte ​2 23
Octavin 2
Bombarde 16
Trompette 8
Basson Hautbois 8
Clarinet 8
Voix humaine 8
Clairon 4

Récit classique:
Cornet V
Hautbois 8

Basse Chamade 8
Dessus Chamade 8
Chamade 4
Chamade Régale 8

Basse Chamade GO 8
Dessus Chamade GO 8
Chamade GO 4


Bourdon 32
Principal 16
Montre 8
Flûte harmonique 8
Quinte ​5 13
Prestant 4
Tierce ​3 15
Nazard ​2 23
Septième ​2 27
Doublette 2
Cornet II-V
Grande Fourniture II
Fourniture V
Cymbale V
Cromorne 8

Chamade GO 8
Chamade GO 4

Cornet REC
Hautbois REC 8

Principal 8
Bourdon 8 *
Prestant 4 *
Quinte ​2 23 *
Doublette 2 *
Tierce ​1 35 *
Larigot ​1 13
Septième ​1 17
Piccolo 1
Plein jeu III-V
Cornet V (= *)
Tuba magna 16
Trompette 8
Clairon 4

Principal 32
Contrebasse 16
Soubasse 16
Quinte ​10 23
Flûte 8
Violoncelle 8
Tierce ​6 25
Quinte ​5 13
Septième ​4 47
Octave 4
Contre Bombarde 32
Bombarde 16
Basson 16
Trompette 8
Basson 8
Clairon 4

Chamade GO 8
Chamade GO 4
Chamade Régale 8
Chamade REC 8
Chamade REC 4

Bourdon 16
Principal 8
Bourdon 8
Prestant 4
Flûte 4
Neuvième ​3 59
Tierce ​3 15
Onzième ​2 1011
Nazard ​2 23
Flûte 2
Tierce ​1 35
Larigot ​1 13
Flageolet 1
Fourniture III
Cymbale III
Basson 16
Basson 8
Voix humaine 8


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- und 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 grands orgues) at 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.

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The new bell, Marie, ringing in the nave
The nine bells of Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral on public display in the nave in February 2013 (From left to right) Jean-Marie, Maurice, Benoît-Joseph, Étienne, Marcel, Denis, Anne-Geneviève, Gabriel and Bourdon Marie

The cathedral has 10 bells, the bourdon called Emmanuel, which is tuned to F sharp, has been an accompaniment to some of the most major events in the history of France ever since it was first cast, such as for the Te Deum for the coronation of French kings along with major events like the visit of the Pope, and others to mark the end of conflicts including World War I and World War II. It also rings in times of sorrow and drama to unite believers at the Notre-Dame Cathedral, like for the funerals of the French heads of state, tragedies such as the terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001 and it is reserved for the Cathedral's special occasions like Christmas, Easter, and Ascension. This particular bell was the masterpiece of the whole group of bells that weighs in at 13 tons, and fortunately, it was saved from the devastation that arose during the French Revolution. According to bell ringers and musicians, it is still one of the most beautiful sound vessels and one of the most remarkable in Europe. The bell dates from the 15th century and was recast in 1681 upon the request of King Louis XIV who named it the Emmanuel Bell.

There were also four bells that replaced those destroyed in the French Revolution. Placed at the top of the North Tower in 1856, these ring daily for basic services, the Angelus and the chiming of the hours. The first of these bells, named Angélique-Françoise, weighs in at 1,915 kg and is tuned to C sharp; the next bell is named Antoinette-Charlotte, weighing in at 1,335 kg and tuned to D sharp. Then there is the bell named Jacinthe-Jeanne weighing in at 925 kg tuned to F and the fourth bell named Denise-David weighs 767 kg and just like the Grand Bell Emmanuel, it is tuned to F sharp. A few years later, in 1867, a carillon of three bells in the spire with two chimes that linked to the monumental clock were put in place and another three bells were positioned in the actual structure of the Notre-Dame Cathedral itself, so that they could be heard inside. However, unfortunately, these are at present mute, although a project is currently being looked at, and hopefully will be put into place, in order to restore the Carillon to its former glory. The four bells that were put in place in 1856 are now stored, as of February 2012.

Bourdon Emmanuel

About a year later, a new set of eight bells for the North Tower of Notre-Dame Cathedral was being produced, along with a Grand Bell for the South Tower, just as there were originally before most were destroyed during the French Revolution. The construction of bells is one of accuracy and precision to obtain the desired sound and the work has been entrusted to two separate companies, one in France for the eight bells and one in Belgium for the Grand Bell. Each of the new bells is named with names that have been chosen to pay tribute to saints and others who have shaped the life of Paris and the Notre-Dame Cathedral.

Emmanuel is accompanied by another large bell in the south tower called Marie. At six tonnes and playing a G Sharp, Marie is the second largest bell in the cathedral. Marie is also called a Little Bourdon (petite bourdon) or a drone bell because it is located alongside Emmanuel in the south tower. Built in a foundry in The Netherlands, it has engravings as a very distinctive feature, something which is different compared to the other bells. The phrases “Je vous salue Marie,” in French, and “Via viatores quaerit,” in Latin, which mean ”Hail Mary” (where the bell gets its name from the Virgin Mary) and ”The way is looking for travellers”. Below the phrase appears an image of the Baby Jesus and his parents surrounded by stars and a relief with the Adoration of the Magi. It is in charge of the Small Solennel, which is similar to the Great Solennel except that the ringing peal starts with the bourdon and the eight bells in the north tower. This ring is heard on only 1 January (New Year's Day) at the stroke of midnight and it replaces Emmanuel for international events. Like Emmanuel, the bells are used to mark specific moments such as the arrival at the Cathedral of the body of the deceased Archbishop of Paris.

In the North Tower, there are eight bells varying in size from largest to smallest. Gabriel is the largest bell there; it weighs four tons and plays an A sharp. It is named after the Archangel Gabriel, who announced the birth of Jesus to the Virgin Mary. Built in a bell foundry outside Paris in 2013, it also chimes the hour through the day. Like Emmanuel and Marie, Gabriel is used to mark specific events. It is used mainly for masses on Sundays in ordinary times and some solemnities falling during the week in the Plenum North. It shows 40 circular lines representing the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert and the 40 years of Moses' crossing the Sinai.

Anne-Geneviève is the second largest bell in the North Tower and the fourth largest bell in the cathedral. Named after two saints: St. Anne, Mary's mother, and St. Geneviève the patron saint of Paris, it plays a B and it weighs three tons. It has three circular lines that represent the Holy Trinity and three theological virtues. Like Emmanuel, Marie and Gabriel, Anne-Genevieve is used to mark specific moments such as the opening of the doors to the Palm Sunday mass or the body of the deceased Archbishop of Paris. Also it is the only bell that does not participate in a chime called the Angelus Domini, which happens in the summer at 8am, noon and 8pm (or 9am, noon and 9pm).

Denis is the third largest bell in the North Tower and fifth largest bell in the cathedral. It is named after St. Denis, the martyr who was also the first bishop of Paris around the year 250; it weighs 2 tons and plays a C sharp. This bell includes the third phrase of the Angelus, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord”. There are also seven circular lines representing the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the seven Sacraments.

Marcel is the fourth largest bell in the North Tower and sixth largest bell in the cathedral. It is named after the 9th bishop of Paris (fr). It plays a D sharp and weighs 1.9 tons. It is named after Saint Marcel, the ninth bishop of Paris, known for his tireless service to the poor and sick in the fifth century. The bell that bears his name as a tribute has engraved upon it the fourth sentence of the Angelus, “Be it done unto me according to Thy word”.

Étienne is the fifth largest bell in the North Tower and seventh largest bell in the cathedral. It is named after St. Étienne (English St. Stephen), the first Christian martyr. It plays an E sharp and weighs 1.5 tons with its most prominent feature being its gold stripe slightly above the nameplate.

Benoît-Joseph is the sixth largest bell in the North Tower and eighth largest bell in the cathedral. The bell is named in honor of Pope Benedict XVI, using the French version of his pontifical name combined with his given name (Joseph). It plays an F and weighs 1.3 tons. It has two silver stripes above the skirt and one silver stripe above the nameplate. This bell is used for weddings and sometimes chimes the hour replacing Gabriel, most likely on a chime called the Ave Maria.

Maurice is the seventh largest bell in the North Tower and second smallest in the cathedral. It is named after Maurice de Sully, the bishop of Paris who laid the first stone for the construction of the Cathedral. It includes the inscription, “Pray for us, Holy Mother of God". It plays a G sharp and weighs one ton. It has two gray stripes below the nameplate. This bell is used for weddings.

Jean Marie is the smallest bell of the cathedral. Unlike Benoît-Joseph and Anne-Geneviève which have two names, it is named after Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, Paris' bishop from 1981 until 2005, and on it is engraved the eighth and last sentence of the Angelus: “that we might be made worthy of the promises of Christ”. It plays an A sharp and weighs 0.780 tons. It has a small gray stripe above the skirt. This bell is also used for weddings.


Under the 1905 law on the separation of Church and State, Notre-Dame de Paris is one of 70 churches in Paris built before that year which are owned by the French state. While the building itself is owned by the state, the Catholic Church is the designated beneficiary, having the exclusive right to use it for religious purposes in perpetuity. 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.[71]

Events in the cathedral

The cathedral is renowned for its Lent sermons founded by the famous Dominican Jean-Baptiste Henri Lacordaire in the 1860s. In recent years, an increasing number have been given by leading public figures and state employed academics.


See also



  1. The name Notre Dame, meaning "Our Lady" is frequently used in names of churches including the cathedrals of Chartres, Rheims and Rouen.
  2. Excavations have failed to accurately determine the architectural history of the Île de la Cité. It appears that Bishop Sully entirely dug out the foundations of the early Christian basilica so as to found Notre-Dame on the bedrock under the island.
  3. The growth of the population of Paris and other French cities was characteristic of Western Europe during the Renaissance of the 12th century. It is thought that the population of Paris grew from 25,000 in 1180 to 50,000 in 1220, making it the largest European city outside of Italy.[13]


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External links