Notre Dame de Paris

Notre-Dame de Paris is a Gothic cathedral on the eastern half of the Ile de la Cité in Paris. It is still used as a Roman Catholic cathedral (archbishop of Paris). Notre-Dame de Paris is widely considered one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture. Notre-Dame de Paris is 130 m (427 ft) long.

Construction

Notre-Dame's first version was a "magnificent church" built by Childebert I, the king of the Franks in 528, and was already the cathedral of the city of Paris in the 10th century. It constitutes the style of Gothic Architecture. In 1160, having become the "parish church of the kings of Europe", Bishop Maurice de Sully deemed the current Parisian cathedral unworthy of its lofty role, and had it demolished shortly after he assumed the title of Bishop of Paris. According to legend, de Sully had a vision of a glorious new cathedral for Paris, and sketched it in the dirt outside of the original church. Construction began in 1163, during the reign of Louis VII. Bishop de Sully went on to devote most of his life and wealth to the cathedral's construction. 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 towers were completed around 1245, and the cathedral was completed around 1345.

History

During the reign of Louis XIV and Louis XV, at the end of the 17th century, the cathedral underwent major alterations as part of an ongoing attempt to modernise cathedrals throughout Europe. Tombs and stained glass windows were destroyed. The North and South Rose Windows were spared this fate, however. In 1548, rioting Huguenots damaged features of the cathedral following the Council of Trent. In 1793 during the French Revolution, the cathedral was turned into a "Temple to Reason" and many of its treasures were destroyed or stolen. A restoration program was initiated in 1845, overseen by architects Jean-Baptiste-Antoine Lassus and Eugéne Viollet-le-Duc. The restoration lasted 23 years and included the construction of a fléche (a type of spire) as well as the addition of the chimeras on the “Galerie des Chiméres”. In 1991, a major program of maintenance and restoration was initiated, which was intended to last 10 years but is still in progress, the cleaning and restoration of old sculptures being an exceedingly delicate matter.

Architecture

Notre-Dame de Paris was one of the first Gothic cathedrals, and its construction spanned the Gothic period. Its sculptures and stained glass show the heavy influence of naturalism, giving them a more secular look that was lacking from earlier Romanesque designs. Notre-Dame de Paris was among the first buildings in the world to use the flying buttress. The building was not originally designed to include the flying buttresses around the choir and nave. However, after the construction began and the thinner walls (popularized in the Gothic) grew ever higher, stress fractures began to occur as the walls pushed outward. The buttresses were added to prevent further deterioration. For many years, the buttresses were reviled as it was said they looked "like scaffolding" someone had forgotten to remove and gave the cathedral an "unfinished" look.

Visiting the Cathedral

The Western Façade of the cathedral is the single most well-known feature. It is divided into three distinct levels, a holdover from Romanesque architecture. The image to the right indicates some of the west front's most significant features. The two transept windows of Notre-Dame were built between 1250 and 1260, and were designed in the style of the High Gothic period. This is evident by how they sit flush with the wall rather than being recessed, unlike the rose window on the Western Façade which was built during the Early Gothic period. The rose window on the South wall depicts the "Triumph of Christ" along with scenes from the New Testament. These rose windows are notable for being one of the few stained glass windows in the cathedral, and indeed in all of Europe, that still have their original glasswork. The cathedral displays a sculpture of the Virgin Mary which is known as the Virgin of Paris. Commissioned during a time of great wealth by local merchants who saw the cathedral as a source of civic pride and a symbol of new economic freedom, the sculpture is noted for its decadent display and lavishly expensive decoration. While not heretical in subject, some observers have felt that the sculpture is more a symbol of arrogant wealth than piety.

Significant events and rumours

Many significant events happened at Notre-Dame : in 1185, Heraclius of Caesarea called for the Third Crusade from the still-incomplete cathedral; Henry VI of England was crowned King of France in 1431; Henry of Navarre (later Henry IV of France) married Marguerite de Valois on August 18, 1572; Napoléon Bonaparte, who had declared the Empire on May 28, 1804, was crowned Emperor here on December 2, 1804; Joan of Arc was beatified in 1909; The Te Deum Mass took place in the cathedral to celebrate the liberation of Paris in August 26, 1944; The Requiem Mass of General Charles de Gaulle took place in the cathedral on November 12, 1970. Generally, French Catholic religious events of national significance take place in Notre-Dame.
There have been several rumours about strange sightings inside the cathedral itself. Several British and Japanese tourists who visited Notre-Dame in the years 1997, 1998 and 1999 have claimed to have seen apparitions of nuns floating at the ceilings of the cathedral. Furthermore, some mystics have claimed that Notre-Dame was built to quarantine many demons that had existed.
LINK : Site of Notre dame de Paris