Notre Dame Cathedral Paris France Historic Buildings

This is with no doubt is the most famous of Paris's many beautiful churches and stands on the bigger of the two islands in the Seine, the Ile-de-la-Cite. The cathedral is dedicated to Notre Dame, French for Our Lady, meaning the Virgin Mary. It is one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture in Europe and renowned for its incredibly wonderful stained glass windows.

A view from the river


More detail about Notre Dame

Unsurprisingly, the cathedral stands on the site of two earlier churches, a temple to Jupiter, the supreme god in the Roman religion and the Cathedral of St. Etienne, founded in 528 by Chidebert, one of the sons of Frankish King, Clovis I. In the middle of XIIth Century, the bishop of Paris, Maurice de Sully decided that a new cathedral was needed as Paris was rapidly expanding. Principal construction started in 1163 and ended in 1250, but there were many additions, such as chapels and transept crossings, extending building work until 1345.

I dont know why these trees havent been managed properly but still magnificent!

When thinking about the present stained glass windows, they began as small clerestory windows and then were enlarged during the middle of the XIIIth Century. This caused the cathedral to become a three-story church instead of a regular four-story thus giving large expanses of space and being one of the many breaks with architectural tradition. There are three main rose windows, one in the west, north and south respectively. Sadly, the XVIIIth saw some of the glass windows destroyed and replaced with normal glass, as they did not meet the artistic standards of the day. A few artists must have turned in their graves that day!

The onset of the French Revolution heralded a period of decay as the cathedral was plundered and almost destroyed, as it was perceived to represent the monarchy; an example of which was the removal of many saints' statues as they were mistaken for kings. Only the bells survived and the church became either a cult to Reason or a warehouse for storing food.

As the XIXth Century progressed, Romanticism began to hold sway in France with Hugo and Chateaubriand leading the way and demanding that something be done to restore the cathedral to its former glory. Beginning in 1845, Eugene Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc, a renowned architect of the day, was commissioned to renovate the cathedral and decided to add something new to it as well, namely the spire and sacristy. The Paris Commune interrupted his work in 1871 and tried to burn down the whole cathedral. Thankfully, they failed. Much of what you see today is thanks to his work. A new set of renovations began in 1991 and lasted for 10 years.

Everything about this historic building in Paris is monumental, deliberately so. The vault is over 30 metres high and is broken into six parts. There are 28 life size statues representing the kings of Israel and Judea on the west front. It can hold up to 6000 people. The three portals depict the Last Judgement, the Madonna and Child, and St. Anne, the Virgin's Mother. The 13-ton bell is in the south tower and it takes over 380 steps to climb one of the towers.

A picture of Notre Dame Catherdral from the front

The building has been immortalized in books, The Hunchback of Notre Dame in 1834 and Les Miserables in 1862, in film and in theatre. It has led the way in ecclesiastical architecture as it was one of the first buildings to have flying buttresses or arched exterior supports that strengthen the walls. When thinking of Notre Dame, it is the one that always springs to mind first and led to way for other churches to be named similarly, such as those in Amiens, Chartres, and Reims.

People have come here to mark important events, such as the Crusaders coming to pray prior to leaving, the marriage of the Catholic Marguerite de Valois to the Protestant Henri de Navarre in 1572, the crowning of Napoleon as Emperor in 1804 and de Gaulle to pray after the liberation of Paris in 1944.

At the front of the cathedral, there is a crypt that contains some of Paris' history from Gallo-Roman times to the XIXth Century. It helps one understand what made and nearly unmade the Notre Dame Cathedral into what it is today.

Warning to the wise, dress respectfully, else entry is denied!!

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