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Notre Dame de Paris

For the Victor Hugo novel, see The Hunchback of

For other uses, see Notre Dame (disambiguation) and
Notre Dame de Paris (disambiguation).
Notre-Dame de Paris (IPA: [nt dam d pai]; 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 le de la Cit in the
fourth arrondissement of Paris, France.[2] The cathedral
is widely considered to be one of the nest 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, NotreDame is the parish that contains the cathedra, or ocial chair, of the archbishop of Paris, currently Cardinal
Andr Vingt-Trois.[3] The cathedral treasury is notable
for its reliquary which houses some of Catholicisms most
important rst-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 suered desecration during
the radical phase of the French Revolution when much of
its religious imagery was damaged or destroyed. An extensive restoration supervised by Eugne Viollet-le-Duc
began in 1845. A project of further restoration and maintenance began in 1991.

The western facade illuminated at night

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. Peters Anglican
Cathedral in Adelaide, Australia was inspired by NotreDame de paris


Notre-Dame de Paris was among the rst buildings in the

world to use the ying buttress (arched exterior supports).
The building was not originally designed to include the 2 Contemporary critical reception
ying 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 be- John of Jandun recognized the cathedral as one of Pariss
gan to occur as the walls pushed outward. In response, three most important buildings in his 1323 Treatise on
the cathedrals architects built supports around the out- the Praises of Paris":
side walls, and later additions continued the pattern.
Many small individually crafted statues were placed
around the outside to serve as column supports and water 3 Construction history
spouts. Among these are the famous gargoyles, designed
for water run-o, and chimeras. The statues were origi- In 1160, because the church in Paris had become the
nally colored as was most of the exterior. The paint has Parisian church of the kings of Europe, Bishop Maurice
worn o, but the gray stone was once covered with vivid de Sully deemed the previous Paris cathedral, Saint1


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 diering styles at dierent
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
The most signicant 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 o
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 inuential statue of the Virgin and Child in the

The spire and east side of the cathedral

tienne (St Stephens), 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 ve-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.

3.1 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.

To begin the construction, the bishop had several houses
1250 Western towers and north rose window comdemolished 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
c.12451260s Transepts remodelled in the
diers as to whether Sully or Pope Alexander III laid the
Rayonnant style by Jean de Chelles then Pierre de
foundation stone of the cathedral. However, both were
at the ceremony in question. Bishop de Sully went on to
12501345 Remaining elements completed.
devote most of his life and wealth to the cathedrals 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 4 Crypts beneath Notre-Dame de
new church to be completed rst, 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 The Archaeological Crypt of the Paris Notre-Dame was
de Sullys death in 1196, his successor, Eudes de Sully created in 1965 to protect a range of historical ruins, dis(no relation) oversaw the completion of the transepts and covered during construction work and spanning from the

The Archaeological Crypt of Notre-Dame de Paris

earliest settlement in Paris to the modern day. The crypts

are managed by the Muse Carnavalet and contain a large
exhibit, combining detailed models of the architecture of
dierent time periods, and how they can be viewed within
the ruins. The main feature still visible is the under-oor
heating installed during the Roman occupation.[7]




In 1548, rioting Huguenots damaged features of NotreDame, 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.
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 Muse de Cluny. For a time, Lady Liberty replaced
the Virgin Mary on several altars. The cathedrals 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 Eugne Viollet-le-Duc. Viollet Le Duc was responsible for the restorations of several dozen castles,
palaces and cathedrals across France. The restoration
lasted twenty ve years[8] and included a taller and more
ornate reconstruction of the che (a type of spire).[10]

An 1853 photo by Charles Ngre of Henri Le Secq next to Le


As well as the addition of the chimeras on the Galerie

des Chimres. Viollet le Duc always signed his work with
a bat, the wing structure of which most resembles the
Gothic vault (see Chteau 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]

6 Organ and organists

Though several organs were installed in the cathedral over
time, the earliest ones were inadequate for the building.
The rst more noted organ was nished in the 18th century by the noted builder Franois-Henri Clicquot. Some
of Clicquots original pipework in the pedal division con-


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 nally the adding of three horizontal reed stops "en
chamade" in the Iberian style.
After Cochereaus sudden death in 1984, four new titular
organists were appointed at Notre-Dame in 1985: JeanPierre 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.

7 Bells

The organ of Notre-Dame de Paris

tinues to sound from the organ today. The organ was almost completely rebuilt and expanded in the 19th century
by Aristide Cavaill-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, Cavaill-Colls
largest instrument.
The organ has 7,374 pipes, with ca 900 classied as
historical. It has 110 real stops, ve 56-key manuals
and a 32-key pedalboard. In December 1992, a twoyear 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 ve fully independent reed stops en chamade.
Among the best-known organists at Notre-Dame de Paris
was Louis Vierne, who held this position from 1900 to
1937. Under his tenure, the Cavaill-Coll organ was
modied in its tonal character, notably in 1902 and 1932.
Lonce 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 electrication of the action between 1959
and 1963. The original Cavaill-Coll console, (which is

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 rst, 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 le de la Cit 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 Netherlandsit 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 cathedrals original bells.


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 beneciary, 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

Signicant events

1450: Wolves of Paris are trapped and killed on the

parvis of the cathedral.
7 November 1455: Isabelle Rome, the mother of
Joan of Arc, petitions a papal delegation to overturn
her daughters 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.[17]
10 September 1573: The Cathedral was the site
of a vow made by Henry of Valois following the
interregnum of the PolishLithuanian Commonwealth that he would both respect traditional liberties and the recently passed religious freedom
10 November 1793: the Festival of Reason.
2 December 1804: the coronation ceremony of
Napoleon I and his wife Josphine, with Pope Pius
VII ociating.
1831: The novel The Hunchback of Notre-Dame was
published by French author Victor Hugo.
18 April 1909: Joan of Arc is beatied.
16 May 1920: Joan of Arc is canonized.
1900: Louis Vierne is appointed organist of NotreDame 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 lifelong wish) near the end of his 1750th
11 February 1931: Antonieta Rivas Mercado shot
herself at the altar with a pistol property of her lover
Jose Vasconcelos. She died instantly.

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

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
1302: Philip the Fair opens the rst States-General.
16 December 1431: Henry VI of England is
crowned King of France.[16]

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 re 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 Magnicat of this day,
Pope John Paul II celebrates Mass on the parvis of
the cathedral.
January 1996: The Requiem Mass of Franois
Mitterrand is held.
10 August 2007: The Requiem Mass of Cardinal
Jean-Marie Lustiger, former Archbishop of Paris
and famous Jewish convert to Catholicism, is held.
12 December 2012:The Notre-Dame Cathedral begins a year long celebration of the 850th anniversary of the laying of the rst building block for the
21 May 2013: Around 1,500 visitors were evacuated from Notre-Dame Cathedral after Dominique
Venner, a historian, placed a letter on the Church
altar and shot himself. He died immediately.[20][21]

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 gures and
state employed academics.



The north transept rose

Emmanuel, the great bourdon bell, at the NotreDame de Paris
A wide angle view of Notre-Dames western facade
Notre-Dames facade showing the Portal of the
Virgin, Portal of the Last Judgment, and Portal of
A view of Notre-Dame from Montparnasse Tower


11 See also
List of tallest buildings and structures in the Paris
Matrise Notre Dame de Paris
Muse de Notre Dame de Paris
Roman Catholic Marian churches

12 References
[1] Mrime 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 Janduns Tractatus de laudibus Parisius (1323), Gesta,
XLII/1 (2003), 6385.
[5] Caroline Bruzelius, The Construction of Notre-Dame in
Paris, in The Art Bulletin, Vol. 69, No. 69 (Dec., 1987),
pp. 540569.
[6] Paul Williamson (10 April 1995). Gothic Sculpture, 1140
1300. Yale University Press. ISBN 978-030006-338-7.
[7] Crypte archologique du parvis Notre-Dame website. Accessed 15 June 2012.
[8] Jason Chavis. Facts on the Notre Dame Cathedral in
France. USA Today. Retrieved 2013-08-03.
[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.

A wide angle view of Notre-Dames western facade

[12] Le Figaro article from 9 November 2012 (in French)". Retrieved 3 March 2013.

The Statue of Virgin and Child inside Notre-Dame

de Paris

[13] LExpress article from 31 January 2012 (in French)". Retrieved 3 March 2013.

Notre-Dames high altar with the kneeling statues of

Louis XIII and Louis XIV

[14] Sonnerie des nouvelles cloches de Notre-Dame de Paris


One of Notre-Dames well known chimera statues

[15] Communique of the Press and Communication Service of

the Cathedral of Notre-Dame-de-Paris, November 2014.

South rose window of Notre-Dame de Paris

Notre-Dame at the end of the 19th century
Flying buttresses of Notre-Dame
Memorial tablet to the British Empire dead of the
First World War

[16] Jean-Baptiste Lebigue, L'ordo du sacre d'Henri VI

Notre-Dame de Paris (16 dcembre 1431)", Notre-Dame
de Paris 1163-2013, ed. Cdric Giraud, Turnhout : Brepols, 2013, p. 319-363.
[17] Hiatt, Charles, Notre Dame de Paris: a short history &
description of the cathedral, (George Bell & Sons, 1902),

[18] (English) Daniel Stone (2001). The PolishLithuanian

State, 13861795. Warsaw: University of Washington
Press. p. 119. ISBN 0-295-98093-1. Retrieved 23 July

List of Facts about the Notre Dame Cathedral in


[19] Pariss Notre Dame cathedral celebrates 850 years. GIE

ATOUT FRANCE. Retrieved 2015-01-07.

Ocial site of Music at Notre-Dame de Paris

[20] Notre-Dame Cathedral evacuated after man commits

suicide. Fox News. 21 May 2013. Retrieved 21 May
[21] Frmont, Anne-Laure. Un historien d'extrme droite se
suicide Notre-Dame (in French). Le Figaro. Retrieved
21 May 2013.



Bruzelius, Caroline. The Construction of NotreDame in Paris. Art Bulletin (1987): 540-569 in JSTOR.
Davis, Michael T. Splendor and Peril: The Cathedral of Paris, 12901350. The Art Bulletin (1998)
80#1 pp: 34-66.
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
Temko, Allan. Notre-Dame of Paris (Viking Press,
Tonazzi, Pascal. Florilge de Notre-Dame de Paris
(anthologie), Editions Arla, Paris, 2007, ISBN 286959-795-9
Wright, Craig. Music and ceremony at Notre Dame
of Paris, 500-1550 (Cambridge University Press,


External links

Monument historique PA00086250. Mrime

database of Monuments Historiques (in French).
France: Ministre de la Culture. 1993. Retrieved
17 July 2011.
Ocial site of Notre Dame de Paris

Notre-Dame de Pariss Singers

Panoramic view
Further information on the Organ with specications
of the Grandes Orgues and the Orgue de Choeur




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