History and Architecture of Notre-dame


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Around the year 1160 in Paris France a priest Maruice de Sully had wanted a previously standing cathedral to be demolished to make room for a new cathedral to be built. That cathedral being the Notre-Dame de Paris which Maruice de Sully was devoted to have built. Even after his death it was still undergoing construction. After months of work the cathedral was finishing up in the year 1345.

In 1792 there was a revelation that had caused destruction to pieces of art in the cathedral. Around the year 1845 two architects Antonie Lassus and Eugene Viollet-le-Duc lead a restoration program that would fix up what was broken in the revelation. It would take 25 years of work to get all the pieces of art fixed.

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The structure and design of the cathedral was based off of French gothic designs. The way the exterior was built gave the building outside support. This would be the first building to ever use what was called Flying buttresses. Statues were individually built around the Cathedral acting as supports and water spouts. Some of the statues helped build up that french gothic feeling, such as the water spout gargoyles.

There were three rosettes built on Notre-dame cathedral that held christan symbolism. As in the center was the Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus with kings and other nobles surrounding them. An arch way was built with the intention of telling a sort of story. Each figure that was carved into the walls helped tell the story.

When Notre-dame was built there was a tall spire that was also a bell tower which rose towards the heavens, but was taken for reasons left unknown. A new one was built during the restoration period when the pieces of art were being remade.

Gothic Style

The gothic style originated in the mid 12th century. It started as a way to help with medieval ceilings as they had terrible support. The design of vaulted barrel arches were the start and the design that is still being used to this day. One factor of gothic design is that they had high vaulted ceilings and thin walls for large windows. Flying buttresses were built as arches on the outside wall that were half a normal arch that connected with a freestanding pier.

Gothic structural style started to occur more in France in cathedrals. The style first started in Île-de-France soon starting to be noticed elsewhere years after. A key thing about gothic structure is that with the vaults having ribs and piers it allowed wide windows and other large window like things. Interiors of gothic style buildings would usually have four horizontal tiers/stories, the ground floor, the top floors and finishing off with the upper story which was known as the windowed story as it would hold most if not all large paned windows.

The Interior

Notre-Dame’s interior reflects renaissance age style also. The most notable thing that can be seen both inside and out of the cathedral are its large paned windows that measured 19 feet. The south facade holds one of the more complex windows as it held eighty-four panels which were spread across four different circles in the window. On some of the panels of glass are portraits of biblical. The center held the Virgin Mary holding Jesus. The outer panes held other biblical figures, while the corners of wall that were on the edge of circular panes held depictions of the resurrection of Christ.

Organs are well known to be in cathedrals and churches as they held some significance to the heavens. There are three organs in Notre-dame with the Great Organ being the most famous in France with 8000 pipes and five keyboards. They were most commonly played during weddings that were held within. Most if not all of these weddings were royal weddings, some of which were of Mary Queen of Scots who married her first husband Francis. As well as the wedding of King Charles I.

One thing about Notre-Dame many don’t know about is that it holds bells. These bells rang during major times. Such times include: coronations of Kings, when wars had ended, during the time theTwin towers in New York were struck and of most recent times when Notre-Dame caught fire. The bells weight over 3000 kilograms as they were melted down from bronze alloys as they were made using medieval methods of creation. The bigger of the bells is well known among historical bells as it was named Emmanuel as it was named after old King Louis XIV.

Not many know that Notre-Dame was built between River Seine. Over time the marshy land, that was most likely created due to the Seine, was cleaned up and made into an expansive platform for the foundation to be built for the new cathedral. During restoration it was said “Particular attention is also devoted to the building’s abundant sculpture, especially the moving of remnants of the twelfth and thirteenth-century programs now preserved in the Musee de Cluny” (Erlande-Brandenburg, 5). Musee de Cluny being a renaissance historical museum that holds some restored pieces that were wished to be preserved.

Around the 1140’s advanced building techniques that changed the interior were starting to advance, it started at Saint-Denis and Sens. After work on them were finished other cathedrals and churches looked out of date. Which sparked the adaption of this new technique all around Paris France. But it seemed that the bishops of Notre-Dame didn’t seem to want this change, but there is no full proof of this to be true. But as of recent times it seems that the techniques were used after amounts of damage were done to the cathedral during revolutions.

With the first introduction of gothic design it was unsettling to cities religious area. Maurice de Sully wanted to include the addition of a sculpture on the west facade. When the facade of Notre-dame was being built it would follow along something similar to Royal Portal at Chartres which seem to contribute to the overall feeling and the look of the cathedral . The size of Notre-Dame is quite imposing to those who are seeing it for their first time. Some have said that it gives off the feeling of solemn and serene.

Famous Events

It was said that the coronation of Henry the VI around the year 1431 was held in Notre-Dame. Around 1787 when the French Revolution happened some citizens ransacked the cathedral as they saw it as a connection to the monarchy. During the time that Napoleon Bonaparte ruled France, he decided to be coronated in Notre-Dame and would have the repairs done right away for his upcoming day.

In 1909 during another renovation the statue of Joan of Arc would be beatified, which was a sort of ceremony which would allow a person to be allowed into heaven, in Notre-Dame by a Pope who saw her deeds as heaven worthy.

Usage in Art

In later years Notre-dame was used in literature and or other medias. Such as the novel “The Hunchback of Notre-dame” written by Victor Hugo. This novel was about a romance and commented on society itself. The novel itself also helped spark interest in the cathedral since around the time interest was low. There are also numerous amounts of books written about the history and construction of this widely known church.

French painters Maximilien Luce and Picoso have painted their own interpretations of Notre-Dame into their style of art. Maximilien Luce has painted the Notre-Dame Cathedral with oil paints and seemed to have been hit with inspiration as he painted 10 other pieces of the building. Paintings were not the only inspiration Notre-Dame has given, it also inspired a musical style that revolves around and inside the cathedral.

In the year 1971 Philippe Petit had done a tight wire walk between the two 226ft tall towers. His daring walk was a way of practicing for a much higher walk, but this would be a well known act to have happened in between these towers.

Archaelogical Crypt

An archaeological crypt lies below the streets of france, most notably being under Notre-Dame Cathedral. Within this crypt lies over 2,000 years of historical artifacts, items of older time periods and other items of historical interest. One of the more notable things found beneath Notre-Dame is remains of a romanian temple, along with pieces of sculptures and other pieces of art.

It is believed that the pieces found were of an alter that was dedicated to deities and other higher gods. As of most recent time upon closer inspection it is thought that some of the pieces of the temple found could have been from other temples and or locations. Some of these pieces can be seen in the crypt below.

The Bombing Attack of 2016

On the 4th of September 2016 there was an attempted bombing attack on the Notre-Dame by five women. It was believed that the ones responsible for this attack were part of ISIS. There is no word of the true reason why these women wanted to bomb the cathedral, there is speculation that they aimed for this building as it holds large significance in French history as well as being a well known tourist spot where lots of people may see the destruction unflod.

The Fire of 2019

As of 2019 a fire had broken out in the attic of the cathedral. It had burned the roof, spire and some rib vaulting. It took roughly 9 hours for the fire to be put out and lots of fire fighters to douse the flames that raged on in the cathedral. The fire is sometimes compared to the destruction caused by the revolution of 1787. Many onlookers were in tears as they watched the fire spread, devastated to see a well known and well loved building burn to ash. The cause of the fire is unknown but there have been many thoughts on what it could be. With some investigation it seems the fire was not on purpose and or an act of arson.

There has been word of donations being given to help the renovation of Notre-Dame. Companies, schools and other places are giving what they can to help rebuild such an ancient building. Thankfully some items survived the fire since they hold historical value and it would have been devastating if they were destroyed. Some of what was saved includes the stained glass windows, the two tall towers and some relics and pieces of art.

The future of the cathedral are still being discussed. One point that was brought up is the addition of more support as some fear the possibility of the cathedral collapsing, so they want to minimise such a possibility. Even though there has been talk about rebuilding and fixing the damage. It is the government who gives the final say if this work goes underway or not. Almost half of the french government agreed to have the cathedral be rebuilt and fixed up, they want this historical sight to stand taller and stronger for generations to witness what history has happened within.

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