Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral - Construction and History

In 2013, Notre Dame de Paris celebrated its 850 years. Well rooted on the Île de la Cité for more than eight centuries, the cathedral is one of the most famous monuments of the capital and a privileged witness of thehistory of France. Her construction lasted nearly a century, not to mention the modifications that followed, including the controversial work of Viollet-le-Duc in the 19th century. It was the most visited historical monument in France until a terrible and spectacular fire the ravage April 15, 2019, causing shock all over the world.

Notre Dame de Paris: a construction launched during the reign of Louis VII

The date of the laying of the first stone is 1163. We are then under the reign of Louis VII, said the Younger, a Crusader king since he was of the Second Crusade (1146-1149), a bitter failure. Louis VII is also famous for having been the first husband of Eleanor of Aquitaine, before he repudiated her in 1152, and that she remarried with Henri II Plantagenet, future king of England (and with whom she will have Richard Cœur de Lion comme fils), first act in a long series of wars between France and England. Finally, he is above all the father of his successor in 1180, Philippe Auguste.

In 1163, Louis VII was forty-three years old and he was present during the laying of the first stone of the cathedral, together with Pope Alexander III. The latter has just excommunicated Frédéric Barberousse, and is on the run in France. The context of the construction of Notre-Dame is therefore relatively troubled.

The great initiator of the construction of the cathedral, however, remains Bishop Maurice de Sully. Of humble origins, he was educated at the Abbey of Fleury and did part of his studies in Paris, where he met the future king. He baptized his son Philippe (Auguste). In 1160, Maurice de Sully was elected bishop of Paris, and only waited three years before launching his great project.

Notre Dame de Paris, history of a Gothic cathedral ...

The bishop of Paris wants to replace the Saint-Etienne cathedral by a new building dedicated to the Virgin Mary, taking inspiration from the new churches, called much later (and pejoratively) "Gothic", that were the abbey church of Saint-Denis and the cathedrals of Noyon, Senlis, Laon and Sens. At the time, the bishopric of Paris also depended on the archbishopric of Sens. Maurice de Sully believes that Paris should have a cathedral on a par with other large episcopal cities. He took advantage of the king's support to carry out his project.

... completed under Saint Louis

Building such a building is no small feat. The site is gigantic, and it lasts nearly a century, seeing several rulers pass: Louis VII therefore, Philippe Auguste, Louis VIII, and finally Louis IX, called Saint Louis.

Construction took place in four stages: between 1162 and 1182, the choir and the double ambulatory; between 1182 and 1190, the last three bays of the nave, the aisles and the galleries; between 1190 and 1225, the foundations of the facade and the first two bays of the nave, plus the connection of the two bays to the elevated facade as far as the gallery of the kings. Finally, from 1225 to 1250, the upper gallery and the two facade towers and various arrangements of the upper windows and side chapels.

At this time, the cathedral is considered finished, but it underwent other modifications until the middle of the 14th century. Then comes the modern era, when Gothic art is no longer in fashion ...

Notre-Dame, between turmoil and renovation

In the 17th century, the cathedral underwent some minor modifications, except for the stained glass windows: those from the Middle Ages were replaced by white windows by the Le Vieil brothers ...

During the revolutionary period, Notre-Dame obviously experienced the same setbacks as many religious buildings: the 13th century spire was dismantled and the statues in the gallery of kings were all destroyed, like those of the portals (with the exception of the Virgin). It also serves as a warehouse.

At the beginning of the 19th century, all in his reconciliation with the Church, Napoleon Bonaparte returned the cathedral to Catholic worship and crowned emperor there in 1804. However, the building remained in a sorry state, including when it inspired Victor Hugo for his novel Notre Dame de Paris (1831). It was the beginning of the renaissance for the cathedral: in 1844, the government of Louis-Philippe decided to restore it.

The main architect in charge of the project is Eugene Viollet-le-Duc. His work ended in 1864, and remains in part controversial for certain liberties he took, notably the chimeras (or gargoyles) at the top of the facade, straight out of his imagination. The square, meanwhile, is cleared by the work of baron haussmann.

The existence of Notre-Dame in the 20th century is quieter. She passed the two world wars without incident, and will witness many historical events, from the Te Deum given at the Liberation to the funeral of François Mitterrand. The main renovation event is the renewal of the stained-glass windows in the 1960s. In the 21st century, Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral is quite simply the most visited monument in France, in front of the Eiffel Tower or the Louvre, with nearly fifteen million visitors (pilgrims and tourists) per year.

Notre-Dame de Paris fire in 2019

The April 15, 2019 around 6:50 p.m., a gigantic fire ravages the cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris while renovations were underway in the attic. It causes immense emotion in France and in the world. The damage is considerable. The framework is destroyed, the spire of the cathedral has collapsed and many treasures and works of art have gone up in smoke. Its reconstruction will undoubtedly take several decades, and is already mobilizing more than 250 researchers, historians, curators, archaeologists, anthropologists and chemists.

Video: Reporters granted a rare look at restoration of Pariss Notre-Dame Cathedral (January 2022).