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Notre-Dame De Paris

Notre-Dame de Paris

 

Notre-Dame inside

 

Fire Notre-Dame

On April 15, 2019, the world watched in horror as flames ripped through Notre-Dame de Paris.  The fire broke out in the cathedral’s attic and the massive blaze destroyed most of the roof, some of the rib vaulting and caused the majestic spire to crash to the ground.  

Notre-Dame has a history of resilience and amazingly, the bell towers, the three iconic rose windows and its centuries-old organ survived the blaze. 

In just two days in an outpouring of support, nearly one billion dollars was raised to help restore the historic cathedral.  So, what is it about this incredible building that has captivated hearts around the world? 

Notre-Dame de Paris means “Our Lady of Paris” and this medieval Catholic cathedral on the Île de la Cité, an island in the middle of Paris, is regarded as one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture.  It is the physical and spiritual heart of France with all distances to and from Paris measured from in front of the cathedral. 

Built on the site of a Roman temple, its life began in 1160, nearly 860 years ago, when the bishop of Paris decided to build a cathedral using the ruins of two earlier churches as the foundation.  The first stone was laid by Pope Alexander III and by 1260, the majority of the building was complete, although it has been modified and added to many times over the years.  

During the 16th century, the cathedral deteriorated significantly, with tombs and stained-glass windows destroyed for “modernisation” and external features removed or vandalised due to claims of idolatry. A renovation project in the 1600’s was conducted and the famous organ boasting 8,000 pipes was added. 

Once again in the 1790’s, it fell into disrepair. During the French Revolution, it became a food and wine store and much of its religious imagery was damaged or destroyed. Many of its statues were attacked with hammers and the severed heads were thought to be lost until they were discovered in 1977.  They can be seen today at the Musée de Cluny. 

By the turn of the 19th century, the cathedral was on its last legs. Luckily Napoleon saved it from ruin, and he was crowned emperor there in 1804. However, more years of neglect followed.  It was saved from demolition by a petition following Victor Hugo’s 1829 novel Notre-Dame de Paris (The Hunchback of Notre-Dame) which was set in the cathedral. Much-needed restoration was then conducted between 1845 and 1870. 

Over the coming years, modifications continued frequently.  The central spire was added during restoration in the mid-19th century, replacing the original, which had been removed because of instability. 

Thankfully, neither of the World Wars brought significant damage to Notre-Dame, though various artworks were removed for fear of Nazi vandalism or looting. More cautious modernisation followed in the second half of the 20th century, including the mechanisation of the 13-ton Emmanuel bell and the extensive cleaning of the facades and sculptures. 

Artwork, relics, and other antiques stored at the cathedral include the supposed Crown of Thorns which Jesus wore at his crucifixion and a piece of the crucifixion cross. 

 So, how big and impressive is it?  The interior of the cathedral is 130m by 48m and the roof is 35m high while the two towers are 68m high. 

As a result of a French law passed in 1905, the cathedral became the property of the French State but the Roman Catholic church retains the exclusive rights. The cathedral is one of the most widely recognized symbols of the city of Paris and of France.  Approximately 12 million people visit Notre-Dame annually, making it the most visited monument in Paris.  

On April 15th, 2019, the roof of Notre-Dame caught fire while undergoing renovation and restoration.  Burning for around 15 hours, the cathedral sustained serious damage.  

Notre-Dame de Paris has had a long and eventful history and has always changed and adapted with the times.  It has been neglected and rebuilt, damaged and repaired.  We can take comfort knowing that over many centuries, Notre-Dame has always evolved and will soon be rebuilt to become even more majestic.  Notre-Dame de Paris will once again take pride of place as the focal point on the Île de la Cité.