Notre Dame Part 1

LINKS to other pages in the 'Christmas in Paris' site and to the Travelling Days series:

1 : Welcome to Paris
2 : Les Halles
3 : St Eustache Church
4 : Louvre
5 : River Journey
6 : Notre Dame
7 : Paris Market
8 : Paris by Night


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The site of the Notre Dame is 'the cradle of Paris' and has always been the religious center of the city. The Celts had their sacred ground here and on it the Romans built a temple or worship to Jupiter.

A Christian basilica was built in the 6th century and later a Romanesque church.

Notre Dame de Paris is a Gothic cathedral siuated on the eastern half of the Île de la Cité with its main entrance to the west. It is still used as a Roman Catholic cathedral and is the seat of the Archbishop of Paris. Notre Dame de Paris is widely considered one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture. It was restored, and so saved from destruction by Viollet-le-Duc, one of France's most famous architects.

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The construction spanned the Gothic period. Its sculptures and stained glass show the influence of 'naturalism', giving them a more secular appearance that was lacking in earlier Romanesque architecture.

Notre Dame de Paris was among the first buildings in the world to use the flying buttress. The building was not originally designed to include the buttresses but after the construction began and the thin walls grew ever higher, stress fractures began to occur when the walls tended to push outward.

At the end of the 18th century, during the French Revolution, many of the treasures of the cathedral were either destroyed or plundered. The statues of biblical kings of Judea (erroneously thought to be kings of France) were beheaded. Many of the heads were found during the nearby 1977 excavation and these are on display at the Musée de Cluny.

Only the great bells avoided being melted down, and the cathedral was dedicated first to the Cult of Reason, and then to the Cult of the Supreme Being. The church interior was used as a warehouse for the storage of forage and food.

After falling into disrepair, a restoration program, overseen by Jean-Baptiste-Antoine Lassus (who died 1857) and Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, was carried out in 1845. This programme lasted 23 years and included the construction of the spire (see the picture above) and the sacristy.

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