Notre Dame de Paris in Paris
Notre Dame de Paris (; French for Our Lady of Paris), also known as Notre Dame Cathedral, is a Gothic, Roman Catholic cathedral on the eastern half of the Île de la Cité in the fourth arrondissement of Paris, France. It is the cathedral of the Catholic Archdiocese of Paris: that is, it is the church that contains the cathedra (official chair) of the Archbishop of Paris, currently André Vingt-Trois. The cathedral treasury houses a reliquary with the purported Crown of Thorns.
Notre Dame de Paris is widely considered one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture in France and in Europe, and the naturalism of its sculptures and stained glass are in contrast with earlier Romanesque architecture. The first period of construction from 1163 into 1240s coincided with the musical experiments of the Notre Dame school.
Jean de Jandun recognized the cathedral as one of Paris's three most important buildings in his 1323 "Treatise on the Praises of Paris":
The cathedral suffered desecration during the radical phase of the French Revolution in the 1790s, when much of its religious imagery was damaged or destroyed. An extensive restoration supervised by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc removed remaining decoration, returning the cathedral to an 'original' gothic state.
Notre Dame de Paris was among the first buildings in the world to use the flying buttress (arched exterior supports). The building was not originally designed to include the flying buttresses around the choir and nave. After the construction began and the thinner walls (popularized in the Gothic style) grew ever higher, stress fractures began to occur as the walls pushed outward. In response, the cathedral's architects built supports around the outside walls, and later additions continued the pattern. The cathedral was essentially complete by 1345.
In 1160, because the church in Paris had become the "Parisian church of the kings of Europe", Bishop Maurice de Sully deemed the previous Paris cathedral, Saint-Étienne (St Stephen's), which had been founded in the 4th century, unworthy of its lofty role, and had it demolished shortly after he assumed the title of Bishop of Paris. As with most foundation myths, this account needs to be taken with a grain of salt; archeological excavations in the 20th century suggested that the Merovingian Cathedral replaced by Sully was itself a massive structure, with a five-aisled nave and a facade some 36m across. It seems likely therefore that the faults with the previous structure were exaggerated by the Bishop to help justify the rebuilding in a newer style. According to legend, Sully had a vision of a glorious new cathedral for Paris, and sketched it on the ground outside the original church.
To begin the construction, the bishop had several houses demolished and had a new road built in order to transport materials for the rest of the cathedral. Construction began in 1163, during the reign of Louis VII, and opinion differs as to whether Sully or Pope Alexander III laid the foundation stone of the cathedral. However, both were at the ceremony in question. Bishop de Sully went on to devote most of his life and wealth to the cathedral's construction. Construction of the choir took from 1163 until around 1177 and the new High Altar was consecrated in 1182 (it was normal practice for the eastern end of a new church to be completed first, so that a temporary wall could be erected at the west of the choir, allowing the chapter to use it without interruption while the rest of the building slowly took shape). After Bishop Maurice de Sully's death in 1196, his successor, Eudes de Sully (no relation) oversaw the completion of the transepts and pressed ahead with the nave, which was nearing completion at the time of his own death in 1208. By this stage, the western facade had also been laid out, though it was not completed until around the mid 1240s.
Over the construction period, numerous architects worked on the site, as is evidenced by the differing styles at different heights of the west front and towers. Between 1210 and 1220, the fourth architect oversaw the construction of the level with the rose window and the great halls beneath the towers.
The most significant change in design 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 afterwards (from 1258) Pierre de Montreuil executed a similar scheme on the South 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.
Timeline of construction
- 1160 Maurice de Sully (named Bishop of Paris), orders the original cathedral demolished.
- 1163 Cornerstone laid for Notre Dame de Paris—construction begins.
- 1182 Apse and choir completed.
- 1196 Bishop Maurice de Sully dies.
- c.1200 Work begins on western facade.
- 1208 Bishop Eudes de Sully dies. Nave vaults nearing completion.
- 1225 Western facade completed.
- 1250 Western towers and north rose window completed.
- c.1245–1260s Transepts remodelled in the Rayonnant style by Jean de Chelles then Pierre de Montreuil
- 1250–1345 Remaining elements completed
Alterations, vandalism and restorations
In 1548, rioting Huguenots damaged features of the cathedral, considering them idolatrous. During the reigns of Louis XIV and Louis XV, the cathedral underwent major alterations as part of an ongoing attempt to modernize cathedrals throughout Europe. A colossal statue of St Christopher, standing against a pillar near the western entrance and dating from 1413, was destroyed in 1786. Tombs and stained glass windows were destroyed. The north and south rose windows were spared this fate, however.
In 1793, during the French Revolution, the cathedral was rededicated 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 statues of biblical kings of Judah (erroneously thought to be kings of France) 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, Lady Liberty replaced the Virgin Mary on several altars. The cathedral's great bells managed to avoid being melted down. The cathedral came to be used as a warehouse for the storage of food.
A controversial restoration program was initiated in 1845, overseen by architects Jean-Baptiste-Antoine Lassus and Eugène Viollet-le-Duc. The restoration lasted twenty five years and included the construction of a flèche (a type of spire) as well as the addition of the chimeras on the Galerie des Chimères. Viollet le Duc always signed his work with a bat, the wing structure of which most resembles the Gothic vault (see Château de Roquetaillade).
In 1991, a major program of maintenance and restoration was initiated, which was intended to last ten years, but is still in progress as of 2009, the cleaning and restoration of old sculptures being an exceedingly delicate matter.
Though several organs were installed in the cathedral over time, the earliest ones were inadequate for the building. The first noteworthy organ was finished in the 18th century by the noted builder François-Henri Clicquot. Some of Clicquot's original pipework in the pedal division continues to sound from the organ today. The organ was almost completely rebuilt and expanded in the 19th century by Aristide Cavaillé-Coll.
The position of titular organist ("head" or "chief" organist) 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.
The organ has 7,800 pipes, with 900 classified as historical. It has 111 stops, five 56-key manuals and a 32-key pedalboard. In December 1992, a two year restoration of the organ was completed that fully computerized the organ under three LANs (Local Area Networks). The restoration also included a number of additions, notably two further horizontal reed stops en chamade in the Cavaille-Coll style. The Notre Dame organ is therefore unique in France in having five fully independent reed stops en chamade.
Among the best-known organists at Notre Dame was Louis Vierne, who held this position from 1900 to 1937. Under his tenure, the Cavaillé-Coll organ was modified in its tonal character, notably in 1902 and 1932.
Léonce de Saint-Martin held the post between 1932 and 1954.
Pierre Cochereau initiated further alterations (many of which were already planned by Louis Vierne), including the electrification of the action between 1959 and 1963. The original Cavaillé-Coll console, (which is now located near the organ loft), was replaced by a new console in Anglo-American style and the addition of further stops between 1965 and 1972, notably in the pedal division, the recomposition of the mixture stops, a 32' plenum in the Neo-Baroque style on the Solo manual, and finally the adding of three horizontal reed stops "en chamade" in the Spanish style.
After Cochereau's sudden death in 1984, four new titular organists were appointed at Notre Dame in 1985: Jean-Pierre Leguay Olivier Latry, Yves Devernay (who died in 1990), and Philippe Lefebvre This was reminiscent of the 18th-century practice of the cathedral having four titular organists, each one playing for three months of the year. Since 2010 the organ is also played by Thijs Sandman, a former student of Olivier Latry.
There are five bells at Notre Dame. The great bourdon bell, Emmanuel, is located in the South Tower, weighs just over 13 tons, and is tolled to mark the hours of the day and for various occasions and services. There are four additional bells on wheels in the North Tower, which are swing chimed. These bells are rung for various services and festivals. The bells were once rung manually, but are currently rung by electric motors. When it was discovered that the size of the bells could cause the entire building to vibrate, threatening its structural integrity, they were taken out of use. The bells also have external hammers for tune playing from a small clavier.
In the night of 24 August 1944, as the Île de la Cité was taken by an advance column of French and Allied armoured troops and elements of the Resistance, it was the tolling of the Emmanuel that announced to the city that its liberation was under way.
- 1185: Heraclius of Caesarea calls for the Third Crusade from the still-incomplete cathedral.
- 1239: The Crown of Thorns is placed in the cathedral by St. Louis during the construction of the Sainte-Chapelle.
- 1302: Philip the Fair opens the first States-General.
- 16 December 1431: Henry VI of England is crowned King of France.
- 1450: Wolves of Paris are trapped and killed on the parvis of the Cathedral.
- 7 November 1455: Isabelle Romée, the mother of Joan of Arc, petitions a papal delegation to overturn her daughter's conviction for heresy.
- 1 January 1537:James V of Scotland, is married to Madeleine of France
- 24 April 1558: Mary, Queen of Scots, is married to the Dauphin Francis (later Francis II of France), son of Henry II of France.
- 18 August 1572: Henry of Navarre (later Henry IV of France) marries Margaret of Valois. The marriage takes place not in the cathedral but on the parvis of the cathedral, as Henry IV is Protestant.
- 10 September 1573: The Cathedral was the site of a vow made by Henry of Valois following the interregnum of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth that he would both respect traditional liberties and the recently passed religious freedom law.
- 2 December 1804: the coronation ceremony of Napoleon I and his wife Joséphine, with Pope Pius VII officiating.
- 1831: The Hunchback of Notre-Dame book published by Victor Hugo
- 18 April 1909: Joan of Arc is beatified.
- 16 May 1920: Joan of Arc is canonized.
- 1900: Louis Vierne is appointed organist of Notre-Dame de Paris after a heavy competition (with judges including Charles-Marie Widor) against the 500 most talented organ players of the era. On 2 June 1937 Louis Vierne dies at the cathedral organ (as was his life-long wish) near the end of his 1750th concert.
- 26 August 1944: The Te Deum Mass takes place in the cathedral to celebrate the liberation of Paris. (According to some accounts the Mass was interrupted by sniper fire from both the internal and external galleries.)
- 12 November 1970: The Requiem Mass of General Charles de Gaulle is held.
- 6 June 1971: Philippe Petit surreptitiously strings a wire between the two towers of Notre Dame and tight-rope walks across it. Petit later performed a similar act between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center.
- 31 May 1980: After the Magnificat of this day, Pope John Paul II celebrates Mass on the parvis of the cathedral.
- January 1996: The Requiem Mass of François Mitterrand is held.
- 10 August 2007: The Requiem Mass of Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, former Archbishop of Paris, is held.
The cathedral is renowned for its Lent sermons founded by the famous Dominican Jean-Baptiste Henri Lacordaire in the 1860s. In recent years, however, an increasing number have been given by leading public figures and state employed academics.
Because of its beauty, history, and global fame, Notre-Dame has featured prominently in the arts, across multiple genres.
- Victor Hugo used it as the primary setting of his legendary novel, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, as it is used in all films based on the novel.
- The American film Sergeant York mentions the cathedral in narration provided by the titular character, derived from the real Alvin York's letters home to his family during WWI, in one of which he mentions, "They have a church here you could plant a crop of corn in."
- The 2008 action film Taken, starring Liam Neeson features Neeson's character standing atop one of the belltowers while he makes a phone call.
- Maîtrise Notre Dame de Paris
- Musée de Notre Dame de Paris
- List of tallest buildings and structures in the Paris region
- Roman Catholic Marian churches
- Jacobs, Jay, ed. The Horizon Book of Great Cathedrals. New York, New York: American Heritage Publishing, 1968.
- Janson, H.W. History of Art. 3rd Edition. New York, New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1986.
- Myers, Bernard S. Art and Civilization. New York, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1957.
- Michelin Travel Publications. The Green Guide Paris. Hertfordshire, UK: Michelin Travel Publications, 2003.
- Tonazzi, Pascal. Florilège de Notre-Dame de Paris (anthologie), Editions Arléa, Paris, 2007,
- Official site of 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