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History of Cathedral de Notre Dame in Paris

Updated on October 24, 2009
The front facade of Cathedral de Notre Dame
The front facade of Cathedral de Notre Dame
Gargoyles are used to ward away evil
Gargoyles are used to ward away evil
The Rose Window was actually taken down and buried for safety during World War II
The Rose Window was actually taken down and buried for safety during World War II

History of Cathedral de Notre Dame in Paris

Site of religious worship for over 2,000 years.

The Cathedral de Notre Dame was commissioned by Archbishop de Sulley and started in 1163. Finished 182 yrs later in 1345. Notre Dame in french means 'our Lady', of course referring to Mary.

Looks like one man’s vision but is the life’s work of nine architects.

Before the architectural style of Gothic Architecture the roof of a building had to be supported by the walls. When the Gothic Architecture style came along the walls job was now shared with buttresses and the use of arches now freeing up space in the walls for huge stained glass windows and Notre Dame has some of the best.

Built by the common people, working (unpaid) out of religious fervour alone.

Gothic architecture at it’s finest, especially the “flying buttresses”, designed to spread the weight of the leaden roof outwards so that the walls could be thinned to increase the interior capacity to 6,500 and put in more windows to increase the amount of light inside.

The buttresses span 15m and also act as an ingenious drainage system, propelling rainwater off the roof through the gargoyles’ mouths and away from the foundations of the building.

The huge rose windows are magnificent when viewed from inside, and span 10m in diameter. They took 5 yrs to install having been removed, numbered and sandbagged to prevent damage during WWII.

Along the facade, the King’s Gallery above the doorways depict the 28 Kings of Judea. During the Revolution these were mistaken as representing the hated Bourbon monarchs, and were torn down and believed smashed to pieces. Amazingly some of the original heads were unearthed intact in 1991 and are now kept in the Musee de Cluny.

The entrances themselves are of differing heights and designs, reflecting the belief of the time that even in the eyes of god, grace was determined by social position. Thus the higher the pinnacle of the doorway, the more well-off those who wished to enter god’s house via them needed to be.

In the North tower, 387 steps lead to the viewing gallery where the ancient bell “Emmanuelle” is housed. Believed to have been smelted from the jewellery of rich Parisienne women paying penance during the plague, the bell weighs 13 tonnes, and provided the hiding place for Victor Hugo’s Quasimodo in the Hunchback of Notre Dame and also the reason for his deafness. The attention created by the book sparked 23 years of much needed repairs to the Cathedral.

The cathedral was desecrated during the Revolution and re-named the “Temple of Reason”.

In 800 AD Charlemagne was crowned Emperor on this site.

In 1422 Henri IV of Navarre was crowned in Notre Dame and later married Margaret de Medici while standing outside on the steps of the Cathedral since he was still a Protestant.

In 1804 Napoleon took the Holy Roman Crown from the hands of the Pope and crowned himself Emperor.

In 1970 a requiem mass was held for Charles de Gaulle.

My name is Robee Kann, for four years I was a tour guide throughout Europe. I loved my job and I would love to hear from you. You are most welcome to message me to say hello or request a hub about a European subject. Please look at my other hubs and leave a comment for me.

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