Notre Dame Cathedral – a Catholic church in the center of Paris, the cathedral of the Archdiocese of Paris, located in the eastern part of the City Island on the site of the first Christian church – St. Stephen’s Basilica. The place where the cathedral was built was considered sacred since the time the first settlers appeared here.
Notre-Dame de Paris is the most famous architectural monument in the world, celebrated in art. Every year 13-14 million tourists come to look at the gothic silhouette of the cathedral, which is adorned with picturesque stained-glass windows.
Table of Contents
Notre-Dame de Paris through the centuries
Notre Dame Cathedral, founded in 1163 by the Bishop of Paris, Maurice de Sully, was erected for 180 years, until 1345 . The project was supervised by dozens of architects, which did not prevent the erection of a wonderful organic ensemble. The main creators of the cathedral are architects Pierre de Montreuil and Jean de Chelles.
During the reign of Louis VII, when the foundations of the building were laid, the mixture of the then popular Gothic and Romanesque styles created a unique appearance of the cathedral, inextricably linked with the history of France. Here the knights offered prayers to God, setting off on the Crusades, here the rulers of France were crowned and married, and here they celebrated the victory over Hitler.
During the French Revolution, the Jacobins almost destroyed the cathedral, they were preparing to burn it down, but for some reason the warehouse suddenly ran out of gunpowder. Then the revolutionaries, having plundered valuable utensils, abandoned the building.
The cathedral, turned into a food warehouse, was protected from complete destruction by Victor Hugo’s novel Notre Dame Cathedral. The love story of the ugly hunchback Quasimodo for the beautiful gypsy woman Esmeralda, unfolding against the backdrop of mysterious spiers, attracted the attention of the public to the value of the ancient building.
The cathedral was reconstructed according to all the rules of ancient technologies. For 25 years of restoration, the facades and interior decoration have been restored, a spire with a height of 95 meters was installed on the roof. Since then, the Parisians treated the shrine with reverence, so that the temple was practically not damaged during the two World Wars. Another restoration, carried out at the end of the XX century, cleared the building of city dust, sandstone, from which the facade is composed, gave the original golden hue.
Symphony in stone
Victor Hugo called the cathedral “a frozen stone symphony”, all the roads of France lead to it. It is considered a crime to visit the country not to visit Notre Dame Cathedral: here you can study the contents of the Bible from the interior frescoes. Scenes from the life of Christ and his execution are made so realistically that they inspire even hardened atheists to prayer.
External appearance of the cathedral
Notre Dame Cathedral is a majestic building -130 meters long, 48 meters wide and 35 meters high. The height of the bell tower exceeds the cathedral – 69 meters.
Pointed cross vaults, beautiful stained-glass windows and rose windows adorn the façade, which is divided into three parts both vertically and horizontally. In the lower part there are three portals (monumental entrances), each of which is named in its own way:
- portal of the Mother of God;
- Doomsday portal;
- St. Anne’s portal.
In accordance with the name on the vaults of the portals, there are sculptural compositions. The arches of the central portal raise 7 statues on each side. The bends of the vault are filled with images of angels, patriarchs, prophets, and martyrs. In the center of the Doomsday portal is the figure of Christ. Below him are the dead, rising from the graves, awakened by the call of the angelic trumpets. On the left hand of Christ are sinners, carried away by the Devil to Hell, on the right are the righteous, going to Paradise.
The portal of St. Anne is decorated with the image of the Blessed Virgin with the Child. The portal of the Virgin tells about the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, her ascension to paradise and her coronation as the Queen of Heaven. The huge doors are decorated with wrought-iron reliefs. The skill of intricate patterns intertwined into a magical composition is striking. The entrance to the cathedral is through an arched portal on the main facade.
Roof with spire and statues
The roof of the cathedral is made of 5 mm thick lead tiles, laid with an overlapping weight of 210 tons. On the upper part of the cathedral there are gargoyles, protruding ends of beams, decorated with statues of fantastic creatures. The stone demonic creatures on the roof are not only decoration, they are also indispensable from a practical point of view.
The complex design does not allow the accumulated sediments to flow down freely. To prevent the stone from crumbling from dampness, they arranged original gutters, which were installed according to the project of the restorer Viollet-le-Duc.
If you climb 387 steps of a narrow staircase , you can get a close look at the chimeras. These are fantastic statues that personify human sins and vices and at the same time guard the cathedral. The sacred abode of Christianity and the evil spirits on its bell towers exist here independently of each other in “frozen music”.
The spire design gives light airiness to the monolithic building. An oak, lead-covered 96-meter spire at the base is adorned with four groups of bronze statues of the apostles. In front of each group is the tetraform of the evangelist: the lion is the symbol of Mark, the calf is Luke, the eagle is John, the angel is Matthew. All the statues are facing the capital, Thomas examines the spire.
Above the portals there is a gallery of kings , represented by 28 statues of Old Testament rulers, above them – a rose window. On the side of the western facade there are two bell towers with subtle asymmetry: the left tower is slightly more massive than the right one.
All bells in the bell tower of Notre Dame have their own names: Angeline-Françoise weighing 1765 kg. Antoinette-Charlotte – 1158 kg. Hyacinth-Jeanne – 813 kg. The largest bell Emmanuel weighs 13 tons, the tongue weighs 500 kg. It is incredibly difficult to rock it, so it rarely rings, only during the main holidays. The rest are regularly announced in Paris at 8 o’clock in the morning and at 7 in the evening.
The peculiarity of the internal structure of Notre Dame Cathedral – the internal supporting walls are replaced by multifaceted columns with arches.
There are no paintings and icons on the walls of the temple, but it is full of light penetrating through huge windows decorated with stained glass windows with biblical scenes. The only source of light in the cathedral is the numerous stained-glass windows of large tall lancet windows, of which there are 110 in the temple.
Medieval glass, massive and uneven, with air bubbles and occasional splashes. The stained glass windows of the temple skillfully used “defects” for reflection, sparkle, shadows and reflections, flickering and varying shades and flashes of light.
The whimsical play of light on the vaults of the central nave visually increases its volume, although a 10-storey building can easily fit here. It is not surprising, because according to the idea of the creators, the cathedral was supposed to accommodate the entire population of Paris, which at that time numbered 10,000 people.
A sophisticated lighting system, in which the altar, located in the middle of the central nave, is illuminated brighter, creates a special, mystical atmosphere here. On both sides of it there is an altar barrier, on which scenes from the Gospel are depicted in sculptural performance. The altar barrier covers 14 scenes from the Bible, telling about the birth and life of Jesus Christ.
The storyline – the immaculate Virgin Mary meets the righteous Elizabeth, then the Nativity of Christ and the good news to the shepherds follow, the Magi offer their gifts. Further – the killing of innocent babies and flight to Egypt.
The following scenes were chosen: the meeting of the Child Jesus with the wise old man Simeon in the temple of Jerusalem, the Baptism and the wedding in Cannes, the Lord’s entry into Jerusalem, the Last Supper and the washing of the disciples’ feet.
On the sides of the main altar are the figures of four biblical prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezikiliya, Daniel. In front are the figures of 4 Evangelists: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, symbolizing the connection between the Old and New Testaments.
Pietta is a statue of a grieving mother
Behind the altar there is a sculptural composition, a statue of the grieving mother “Pietta”: the Virgin Mary, holding in her arms a dead son who has just been taken from the cross. The gaze of the Mother of God is directed to heaven, in it is at the same time sorrow for the son and the hope for the resurrection of Christ, promised to her from above.
On both sides of the Virgin Mary there are statues of two monarchs: Louis XIII and Louis XIV. The unusual ensemble is surrounded by six bronze angels holding the symbols of the Passion of Christ: a crown of thorns and nails, a sponge with vinegar, a whip and a pike, a tablet with the inscription: “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.”
Chapel of the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher
In the center of the cathedral is the Chapel of the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher. Here, in a modern red glass reliquary, lies a treasure – the crown of thorns of Christ wrapped in a purple robe. The sacred crown is a bunch of woven thorny branches without thorns, which in ancient times were disassembled in temples and monasteries, with branches of the aromatic plant ziziphus woven into it. The crown is enclosed in a crystal ring with a gold setting.
In 1238, King Louis IX bought the crown from the Roman emperor for 135,000 livres, an amount equal to half the kingdom’s annual budget. Louis personally greeted the shrine. Barefoot, in a shirt underwear, without royal regalia, he personally carried the crown to Paris for 40 kilometers. To store the relics, a chapel was built, where the crown was kept for 500 years.
For worship of believers, the crown is solemnly brought out every Friday during Great Lent and on the first Friday of every month at 15:00. The relic is solemnly demonstrated: a procession of knights of the Order of the Holy Sepulcher, ladies from this order, priests and guardians of the shrine passes through the cathedral. The crown is carried on a stretcher upholstered in velvet. There is also a statue of Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows, who holds in her hands nails and a crown, which have wounded the legs, arms and head of her son.
Chapel of the Holy Gifts
Next to the chapel of the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher is the Chapel of the Holy Gifts, dedicated to the Mother of Jesus Christ. On the altar of the chapel, which is crowned with a statue of the Virgin Mary, are the Holy Gifts: bread, which became the Body of Christ, symbolizing the presence of God himself. People come here to silently contemplate God, just be in front of him, mentally talk to him in peace and quiet, detached from the daily hustle and bustle.
The Temple Treasury is located in a small annex building. There is a collection of old gold and silver items, church utensils and clothes of priests, ancient manuscripts. Of particular value are the crown of thorns of Jesus Christ and the Reliquary Cross, where under the glass in the lower part there is a nail, and in the upper part there are 7 particles of the Life-giving Cross.
The collection of relics of Notre Dame Cathedral has been collected since its inception, and by the end of the 18th century, the treasury was considered the most magnificent in Europe.
Notre dame statue
To the right of the main altar, in the depths of the temple, is the statue of the Virgin Mary with the Child in her arms, created in the XIV century – the Parisian Mother of God. This is one of 37 images of the Virgin Mary displayed in the cathedral. The ceiling windows are decorated with stained-glass windows that illustrate biblical scenes.
A bluish light emanates from the sculpture. A huge bouquet of royal lilies, constantly renewing at the foot, exudes a delicate amazing aroma. Everything is arranged as a sign of the deepest worship of the Mother of God.
The transept is a transverse nave in the temple dedicated to the patron saints of France: Jeanne de Arc and Saint Gerda, patroness of the baby Jesus. Here the famous trial took place, at which Jeanne de Arc was fully acquitted, unfortunately, after her death.
The rosette windows in the form of a circle with rays of marble are impressive. On the south facade of the nave there is a huge stained glass window in the shape of a rose with a diameter of 13 meters with the image in the center of Jesus Christ surrounded by the apostles and saints and martyrs revered in France. 20 angels are holding wreaths, candles and censers.
On the left side of the altar there is a stained – glass rose window , located at a height of 21 meters with a diameter of 13 meters. In the center is the Virgin Mary with the newborn Jesus in her arms, around are judges, prophets, kings and high priests. In a rose window 10 meters in diameter, thanks to the play of light, images of the Mother of God, scenes from peasant life, images of the sins and dignity of people are visible.
The organ is the largest in France
Notre Dame Cathedral has the largest organ in France. Since the construction of the cathedral over the past centuries, the instrument has been tuned many times. In the XX century, the cable was replaced and the control was computerized. The position of organist of Notre Dame Cathedral is the most prestigious in France. The cathedral is an active Catholic church in which services are constantly held.
With the help of special effects, prayers in English and French are projected onto a huge screen. Believers raise their prayers to God to the sounds of the largest organ in France, with 110 registers and 7400 trumpets.
Visit to Notre Dame
Every day 30-50 thousand people cross the threshold of Notre Dame. On Fridays of Great Lent and the first days of each month, the treasures of the cathedral are brought out for public viewing free of charge. The entrance to the cathedral is free. There is a fee for the entrance to the bell tower and treasury.
At the service of visitors – an audio guide in English, German, French and Portuguese, Spanish and Chinese, Japanese for 5 euros. In front of the facade there is an equestrian sculpture of Charlemagne, behind the cathedral there is a fountain of the Virgin and a public garden.
Here water quietly murmurs in a fountain, flower beds are fragrant, passers-by rest in the shade of trees. Crowning the silence and tranquility of Notre Dame Cathedral – a place of incredible power. This is what the Parisian guides call him during excursions.
Tragedy of France – fire
On the evening of April 15, 2019, a fire broke out in the attic of the temple, which was called the tragedy of the whole of France. The fire quickly destroyed the old wooden roof. The spire, 96 meters high, collapsed, damaging the central nave in three places. Fire brigades of 400 people fought the fire.
The Parisians, on their knees, prayed for a successful outcome. On the morning of April 16, the fire was extinguished. The timber frame of the roof burned down, and the interior was also damaged. Firefighters rescued both bell towers. The flames did not affect the main shrines either.
The President of France, who arrived at the scene of the fire with his wife, promised to completely restore the relic: the cathedral has been thoroughly studied and ancient drawings have been preserved. The damage will cost hundreds of millions of euros, and it will take 10 years to restore the building .
For the reconstruction of the cathedral, the owner of the football club “Rennes” Francois Pinault allocated funds, promising to donate 100 million euros.