Notre Dame Cathedral is a Catholic church on the Île de la Cité in Paris. It is widely considered to be one the finest examples of French Gothic architecture. It is among the most well-known church buildings in the world.
Notre Dame Cathedral is a Catholic church on the Île de la Cité in Paris. It is widely considered to be one the finest examples of French Gothic architecture. It is among the most well-known church buildings in the world. It was started in 1163 and finished in 1345. It is devoted to Virgin Mary and it is one of the most popular monuments in Paris. The cathedral underwent many changes and restorations throughout time.
The location of this cathedral has a long history of religious cult. The Celts celebrated rituals there before the Romans erected a temple devoted to Jupiter. It was also the place were the first Christian church, Saint Étienne, was built. It was founded by Childeberto I in 528 AD. In 1160 the church was deemed and in 1163 the construction of the cathedral started. Opinions differ as to whether Sully or Pope Alexander III laid the foundation stones of the cathedral. Several architects took part in the construction, so differences in style are clearly seen.
The construction was substantially altered at the end of the XVII century, during the reign of Louis XIV, especially in the west part were tombs and stained-glass windows were destroyed in order to replace them with more Baroque elements. In 1793 , during French Revolution, elements in the cathedral were destroyed and treasures stolen. In fact, the cathedral was used as a food store. Napoleon crowned himself as emperor in the cathedral. In 1871, a period of social turbulence, the cathedral was again threatened. In 1965 excavations under it revealed the existence of catacombs of Roman and Medieval times. In 1991 restoration works were carried out, although they took longer than expected.
During the Romantic Period Victor Hugo wrote The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, a story set in the Late Middle Ages. This story by Victor Hugo made his contemporaries more aware of the value of Gothic architecture. This explains the large descriptive sections of the book.
The plant of the cathedral is demarcated by the Roman cross oriented to the West, increased longitudinal axis, not visible from the outside. The cross is embedded in the building, surrounded by a double ambulatory, which circulates in the choir at the top and runs parallel to the ship. The cathedral has a facade that shows three horizontal levels. It is divided in three vertical areas by means of buttresses. Above the door in the facade we can see the Kings Gallery that shows 28 statues representing Judea and Israel kings. During French Revolution these statues were removed because they were thought to be statues of French kings. The statues that we can see today are replicas of the original ones (part of them are on display in the Cluny Museum). The towers in the facade reach a maximum height of 69 metres. The South Tower has the famous bell Emmanuel. This bell can be visited.
The interior of the cathedral is full of light thanks to the big windows. The spaces within the ship are separated by round pillars designed as massive columns. The vaults show simple designs, like other works at the beginning of the Gothic period. The sculptural decoration is also simple and shows vegetation motifs.
Behind the choir altar in the cathedral we find the famous sculpture by Nicolas Coustou ‘Descent from the Cross’ (XVIII century). The statue is surrounded by statues of King Louis XIII (Guillaume Coustou) and Luis XIV (Antoine Coysevox). Both kings are kneeling and are surrounded by angels carrying the Arma Christi. The choir preserves part of the original wood from the XVIII century. The decoration is Baroque in style. Part of the windows were replaced during restorations in the XIX century.
The main organ in the cathedral was made by Aristide Cavaillé-Coll. The position of titular organist (head or chief organist) at Notre-Dame is considered one of the most prestigious organist posts in France.