The History of the Notre Dame

Yesterday evening, on Monday, April 16th, Parisians, tourists and frankly the whole world was struck with shock and awe as they watched, listened to or researched the blazing Notre Dame.

In order to truly show the devastation of the matter, Parsons Paris is here, presenting a timeline of history and innovation in architecture towards the over 850 year old historical monument.

Notre Dame Cathedral

The Notre Dame saw its first days of construction in 1163 under the order and reign of King Louis VII, with its preliminary stones being placed on Île de la Cité, an island in the middle of the Seine and heart of Paris. The beautifully crafted gothic cathedral was finally completed in 1345. For years, it stood as a vision of architectural beauty until the French Revolution of the 1790s, where the cathedral saw iconoclasm, the rejection or destruction of religious images, seen through the defacing of the church as a whole, and the beheading of the kings lining the facade of the cathedral. These heads were ultimately buried in Paris, and considered lost until found and recovered along with 350 other fragments from the church in 1977.

After the destruction of the church, Victor Hugo, a French poet, novelist, and dramatist of the Romantic movement, published a French book titled “Notre-Dame de Paris,” and later translated to the English version, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” ultimately encouraged the general public to look more into the history of the Notre Dame.  Hugo’s book even encouraged other art historians, architects and believers to bring their attention back to the cathedral, evident from 1844-1864, when architects Jean-Baptiste-Antoine Lassus, a French architect and expert in restoration, and Eugène-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc, a French architect and author towards historic monuments, redid the spire, the centre tower behind the two facade towers, and flying buttresses, the arches surrounding the outside of the cathedral.

The cathedral saw the beginnings of “full” restoration in July of 1845, when a law was passed through the government of Paris.  This restoration saw the recreation of the, then lost, kings heads, the cleaning and recreation of stained glass, and overall the strengthening of the structure.  Hugo even got a statue of himself commissioned and installed on the very top of the cathedral, just before the spire.

Throughout the cathedral were prime examples of stained glass, painting, sculpture, iron and stone work, highlighting the innovation of French craftsmanship and creativity. The entire outside of the cathedral is covered in sculptures, and most commonly, of gargoyles and chimeras.  The inside is equip with several stain glassed windows, outlined with rock traceries.  Overall, the architecture of the cathedral itself is what makes it so artistic.  Its design in its entirety reflects creativity.

Notre Dame Cathedral, Dame du Coeur 2018

The present day Notre Dame now holds more than just an area of prayer, but a museum of relics and reliquaries.  Within this small space, visitors can see the Crown of Thorns, and the tunic of Saint Louis, along with many other priceless artefacts.  The cathedral also held many masses and even some shows, like the Dame de Coeur, where large projections overtook the front of the cathedral with an accompanied narrative, adding to the beauty of the historic monument.

While there are still years and years of history that have not been mentioned in this text, it is clear the historical timeline of the Notre Dame, and Paris were affected by yesterdays events.  We can only hope to see continuous restoration of the most well known gothic cathedral on the planet.