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Notre Dame de Paris

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Title: Notre Dame de Paris  
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Subject: Île de la Cité, Architecture of cathedrals and great churches, Crown of thorns, Culture of Paris, Eugène Viollet-le-Duc
Collection: 1160S Architecture, 12Th-Century Roman Catholic Church Buildings, 1340S Architecture, 14Th-Century Roman Catholic Church Buildings, Basilica Churches in France, Buildings That Took Over a Century to Complete, Burial Sites of the Pippinids, Cathedrals in France, Gothic Architecture in France, Individual Pipe Organs, Landmarks in France, Notre Dame De Paris, Pope Alexander III, Religious Buildings Completed in 1345, Roman Catholic Cathedrals in France, Roman Catholic Churches in Paris, Roman Catholic Churches in the 4Th Arrondissement of Paris, Victor Hugo
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Notre Dame de Paris

Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris
The southern facade of Notre-Dame de Paris
Basic information
Location 6 Parvis Notre-Dame, Place Jean-Paul II, 75004 Paris, France
Geographic coordinates
Affiliation Catholic Church
Rite Roman Rite
Region Île-de-France
State France
Province Archdiocese of Paris
Ecclesiastical or organizational status Cathedral
Status Active
Heritage designation 1862
Leadership André Vingt-Trois
Website .fr.notredamedepariswww
Architectural description
Architectural type Church
Architectural style French Gothic
Direction of façade West
Groundbreaking 1163 (1163)
Completed 1345 (1345)
Length 128 metres (420 ft)
Width 69 metres (226 ft)
Height (max) 69 metres (226 ft) (2 towers)
Spire(s) one
Spire height 90 metres (300 ft)
Official name: Cathédrale Notre-Dame
Designated: 1862
Reference No. PA00086250[1]
Denomination: Église

Notre-Dame de Paris (IPA: ; French for "Our Lady of Paris"), also known as Notre-Dame Cathedral or simply Notre-Dame, is a historic Catholic cathedral on the eastern half of the Île de la Cité in the fourth arrondissement of Paris, France.[2] The cathedral is widely considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture, and it is among the largest and most well-known church buildings in the world. The naturalism of its sculptures and stained glass are in contrast with earlier Romanesque architecture.

As the cathedral of the Archdiocese of Paris, Notre-Dame is the parish that contains the cathedra, or official chair, of the archbishop of Paris, currently Cardinal André Vingt-Trois.[3] The cathedral treasury is notable for its reliquary which houses some of Catholicism's most important first-class relics including the purported Crown of Thorns, a fragment of the True Cross, and one of the Holy Nails.

In the 1790s, Notre-Dame suffered desecration during the radical phase of the French Revolution when much of its religious imagery was damaged or destroyed. An extensive restoration supervised by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc began in 1845. A project of further restoration and maintenance began in 1991.


  • Architecture 1
  • Contemporary critical reception 2
  • Construction history 3
    • Timeline of construction 3.1
  • Crypts beneath Notre-Dame de Paris 4
  • Alterations, vandalism, and restorations 5
  • Organ 6
  • Organists 7
  • Bells 8
  • Ownership 9
  • Significant events 10
  • Gallery 11
  • See also 12
  • References 13
  • Bibliography 14
  • External links 15


The western facade illuminated at night
The spire and east side of the cathedral

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 but after the construction began, the thinner walls (popularized in the Gothic style) grew ever higher and 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.

Many small individually crafted statues were placed around the outside to serve as column supports and water spouts. Among these are the famous gargoyles, designed for water run-off, and chimeras. The statues were originally colored as was most of the exterior. The paint has worn off, but the gray stone was once covered with vivid colors. The cathedral was essentially complete by 1345. The cathedral has a narrow climb of 387 steps at the top of several spiral staircases; along the climb it is possible to view its most famous bell and its gargoyles in close quarters, as well as having a spectacular view across Paris when reaching the top. The design of St. Peter's Anglican Cathedral in Adelaide, Australia was inspired by Notre-Dame de paris

Contemporary critical reception

John of Jandun recognized the cathedral as one of Paris's three most important buildings in his 1323 "Treatise on the Praises of Paris":

Construction history

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.[5] 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 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.[6]

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.

Crypts beneath Notre-Dame de Paris

The Archaeological Crypt of Notre-Dame de Paris

The Archaeological Crypt of the Paris Notre-Dame 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 crypts are managed by the Musée Carnavalet and contain a large exhibit, combining 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.[7]

Alterations, vandalism, and restorations

In 1548, rioting Huguenots damaged features of Notre-Dame, considering them idolatrous.[8] 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.

An 1853 photo by Charles Nègre of Henri Le Secq next to Le Stryge

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 13th century spire was torn down[9] and the statues of the biblical kings of Judah (erroneously thought to be kings of France), located on a ledge on the facade of the cathedral, were beheaded.[8] 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.[8]

A controversial restoration program was initiated in 1845, overseen by architects Jean-Baptiste-Antoine Lassus and Eugène Viollet-le-Duc. Viollet Le Duc was responsible for the restorations of several dozen castles, palaces and cathedrals across France. The restoration lasted twenty five years[8] and included a taller and more ornate reconstruction of the flèche (a type of spire).[10] 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).

The Second World War caused more damage. Several of the stained glass windows on the lower tier were hit by stray bullets. These were remade after the war, but now sport a modern geometrical pattern, not the old scenes of the Bible.

In 1991, a major program of maintenance and restoration was initiated, which was intended to last ten years, but was still in progress as of 2010,[8] the cleaning and restoration of old sculptures being an exceedingly delicate matter. Circa 2014, much of the lighting was upgraded to LED lighting.[11]


The organ of Notre-Dame de Paris

Though several 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 7,374 pipes, with ca 900 classified as historical. It has 110 real 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 de Paris was en chamade" in the Iberian 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.


The new bell, Marie, ringing in the nave
The new bells of Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral on public display in the nave in February 2013

The cathedral has 10 bells. The largest, Emmanuel, original to 1681, is located in the south tower and weighs just over 13 tons and is tolled to mark the hours of the day and for various occasions and services. This bell is always rung first, at least 5 seconds before the rest. Until recently, there were four additional 19th-century bells on wheels in the north tower, which were swing chimed. These bells were meant to replace nine which were removed from the cathedral during the Revolution and were rung for various services and festivals. The bells were once rung by hand before electric motors allowed them to be rung without manual labor. 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 had external hammers for tune playing from a small clavier.

On 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.

In early 2012, as part of a €2 million project, the four old bells in the north tower were deemed unsatisfactory and removed. The plan originally was to melt them down and recast new bells from the material. However, a legal challenge resulted in the bells being saved in extremis at the foundry.[12] As of early 2013, they are still merely set aside until their fate is decided. A set of 8 new bells was cast by the same foundry in Normandy that had cast the four in 1856. At the same time, a much larger bell called Marie was cast in the Netherlands—it now hangs with Emmanuel in the south tower. The 9 new bells, which were delivered to the cathedral at the same time (31 January 2013),[13] are designed to replicate the quality and tone of the cathedral's original bells.

Bells of Notre Dame de Paris[14]
Name Mass Diameter Note
Emmanuel 13271 kg 261 cm E♭2
Marie 6023 kg 206.5 cm G2
Gabriel 4162 kg 182.8 cm A2
Anne Geneviève 3477 kg 172.5 cm B2
Denis 2502 kg 153.6 cm C3
Marcel 1925 kg 139.3 cm D3
Étienne 1494 kg 126.7 cm E3
Benoît-Joseph 1309 kg 120.7 cm F3
Maurice 1011 kg 109.7 cm G3
Jean-Marie 782 kg 99.7 cm A3


Under a 1905 law, the seventy churches in Paris built before that year, including Notre Dame de Paris, 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 purpose, in perpetuity. The Church is responsible for paying the employees, security, heating and cleaning, and assuring that the Cathedral is open for free to visitors. The Church does not receive subsidies from the French State.[15]

Significant events

The coronation of Napoleon I on 2 December 1804 at Notre-Dame in an 1807 painting by Jacques-Louis David

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.


See also


  1. ^ Mérimée database 1993
  2. ^ Notre Dame, meaning "Our Lady" in French, is frequently used in the names of churches including the cathedrals of Chartres, Rheims and Rouen.
  3. ^ "". Retrieved 31 May 2011. 
  4. ^ Erik Inglis, "Gothic Architecture and a Scholastic: Jean de Jandun's Tractatus de laudibus Parisius (1323)," Gesta, XLII/1 (2003), 63–85.
  5. ^ Caroline Bruzelius, The Construction of Notre-Dame in Paris, in The Art Bulletin, Vol. 69, No. 69 (Dec., 1987), pp. 540–569.
  6. ^ Paul Williamson (10 April 1995). Gothic Sculpture, 1140–1300. Yale University Press.  
  7. ^ Crypte archéologique du parvis Notre-Dame website. Accessed 15 June 2012.
  8. ^ a b c d e Jason Chavis. "Facts on the Notre Dame Cathedral in France". USA Today. Retrieved 2013-08-03. 
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ Metcalfe, John. "Notre Dame Cathedral Just Got an LED Makeover." The Atlantic Cities. The Atlantic Monthly Group, 11 March 2014. Retrieved 11 March 2014.
  12. ^ "Le Figaro article from 9 November 2012 (in French)". Retrieved 3 March 2013. 
  13. ^ "L’Express article from 31 January 2012 (in French)". Retrieved 3 March 2013. 
  14. ^ Sonnerie des nouvelles cloches de Notre-Dame de Paris (
  15. ^ Communique of the Press and Communication Service of the Cathedral of Notre-Dame-de-Paris, November 2014.
  16. ^ , ed. Cédric Giraud, Turnhout : Brepols, 2013, p. 319-363.Notre-Dame de Paris 1163-2013Jean-Baptiste Lebigue, "L'ordo du sacre d'Henri VI à Notre-Dame de Paris (16 décembre 1431)",
  17. ^ Hiatt, Charles, Notre Dame de Paris: a short history & description of the cathedral, (George Bell & Sons, 1902), 12.
  18. ^ (English) Daniel Stone (2001). The Polish–Lithuanian State, 1386–1795. Warsaw: University of Washington Press. p. 119.  
  19. ^ "Notre-Dame Cathedral evacuated after man commits suicide". Fox News. 21 May 2013. Retrieved 21 May 2013. 
  20. ^ Frémont, Anne-Laure. "Un historien d'extrême droite se suicide à Notre-Dame" (in French). Le Figaro. Retrieved 21 May 2013. 


  • 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, ISBN 2-86959-795-9
  • "Monument historique — PA00086250".  

External links

  • Official site of Notre Dame de Paris
  • List of Facts about the Notre Dame Cathedral in 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
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