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Notre Dame Church In Paris France

Notre Dame de Paris Facts

Notre Dame de Paris, is often known simply as Notre Dame and is a Gothic cathedral on the eastern half of the Ile de la Cite in Paris, France, with its main entrance to the west and is widely considered one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture.

It was restored and saved from destruction by Viollet-le-Duc, one of France's most famous architects, and even today it is still used as a Roman Catholic cathedral and is the seat of the Archbishop of Paris.

Notre Dame Cathedral

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Notre Dame de Paris in France

Notre Dame translates as "Our Lady" from French.

Notre Dame de Paris was one of the first Gothic cathedrals, and its construction spanned the Gothic period.  Its sculptures and stained glass show the heavy influence of naturalism and give them a much more secular look that was severely lacking from earlier Romanesque architecture.

And the Notre Dame de Paris was among the first buildings in the world to use the flying buttress even though the building was not originally designed to include the flying buttresses around the choir and nave, but after the construction began and the thinner walls grew ever higher, stress fractures began to occur as the walls started to pushed outward, which is why this type of design was decided on.

Unfortunately at the end of the 18th century, during the French Revolution, many of the treasures of the cathedral were either destroyed or plundered and the statues of biblical kings of Judea were beheaded.  Yet in a nearby excavation conducted in 1977 many of the heads were found and are now on display at the Musee de Cluny.

It was only the great bells that avoided being melted down, and the cathedral interior was used as a warehouse for the storage of forage and food, but even today you can actually pay to go up to the bell tower, which provides a fantastic view along with the close ups of the gargoyles and the architecture that you can see on the tower visit.

Construction of the Notre Dame

In 1160, Bishop Maurice de Sully deemed the current Parisian cathedral unworthy of its lofty role, and had it demolished shortly after he assumed the title of Bishop of Paris.

According to legend, Bishop Maurice de Sully had a vision of a glorious new cathedral for Paris, and sketched it in the dirt outside the original church.   But in order to begin the construction, the bishop had to have several houses demolished and had a new road built in order to transport all the materials for the new church.

Construction began in 1163, during the reign of King Louis VII, and opinion differs as to whether Bishop Maurice de Sully or Pope Alexander III laid the very first foundation stone of the cathedral, however, they were both at the ceremony.  Bishop de Sully went on to devote most of his life and wealth to the cathedral's construction prior to his death in 1196.

By the time of his death, the apse and the choir had been completed and the year Bishop de Sully died the Nave was also completed.

It was in the year 1200 that work began on the western facade, and over the construction period, numerous architects worked on the site, as is evident by the different 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 towers were completed around 1245, and the whole cathedral was completed around 1345.

Damage and Restoration of the Notre Dame Cathedral

In 1548, rioting Huguenots damaged some of the features of the cathedral following the Council of Trent. 

During the reign of King Louis XIV and King Louis XV, at the end of the 17th century, the cathedral underwent major alterations as part of an ongoing attempt to modernize cathedrals throughout Europe.  Stained glass windows and even tombs were destroyed, however, the north and south rose windows of the Notre Dame were spared this fate. The beautiful rose window still has its original medieval stained glass for all to view today and when it was built was largest window of its kind in the world.

It was at the start of the 1800's that Napoleon decided to save the Notre Dame Cathedral from destruction, which is where he was crowned emperor in 1804 and in 1845 a restoration program was initiated that was overseen by two architects named Jean-Baptiste-Antoine Lassus and Eugene Viollet-le-Duc. The restoration lasted 25 years and included the construction of a fleche, which is a type of spire. 

During the Paris Commune in 1871, the cathedral was nearly burned by the Communards and there are some accounts that suggest a huge mound of chairs were set on fire in its interior, but the Notre Dame survived the Commune essentially unscathed.

Following the start of World War II, it was feared that German bombers could destroy the stained glass windows and as a result, on 11 September 1939, they were removed and restored at the end of the war.

And then in 1991, another major program of maintenance and restoration was initiated, which was intended to last only 10 years, but the cleaning and restoration of old sculptures is such a delicate procedure that it has taken far longer than previously predicted, but is essential for this glorious monument to survive for us to all benefit for years to come and continue as a place of worship with mass and other services still being held.

There is so much more that you can find out about the history of Notre Dame with a visit to the Musee de Notre Dame de Paris that is located only a very short walk away from the cathedral, plus it even has one of the old organs on display along with music from the famous pianist Louis Vierne.


Notre Dame de Paris



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