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Construction of the Notre Dame Cathedral

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Anthropology
Wordcount: 3336 words Published: 30th Apr 2018

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To start with, it is very known that Notre Dame Cathedral that is found in Paris is one of the world’s first ever to be made, Gothic Cathedral. Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris is found near the Ile de la Cite on its eastern half, having to the west its main entrance. Many thought that the Cathedral of Notre Dame was one of the best when it comes to Gothic French architecture. One of the most well known architects in France named Viollet le Duc is the one behind saving and restoring Notre Dame Cathedral from destruction. The meaning of the name, Notre Dame Cathedral is because when this Gothic Cathedral was built it was the centre of beauty in Paris and they decided to name it by “Our Lady”. The Gothic period was very bewildered by the amazing construction of Notre Dame Cathedral. Gothic architecture was very much influenced by naturalism and that was seen through the stained glass and sculptures found in Notre Dame Cathedral, which in the early Romanesque architecture this was the opposite. The flying buttress which is arched exterior supports were first seen in the Notre Dame in Paris. When the Cathedral was first built it did not include the flying buttresses in its design but later on it was found surrounding the nave and choir. After many numbers of constructions to Notre Dame in Paris, the thinner walls that were very popular at that time of Gothic style grew to be extremely high which resulted in a lot of stress factors and the walls seems to start pushing outwards. Due to that the architects that were constructing the cathedral decided to build a lot of support surrounding the walls on the outside and then they continued to add them like that on the outside. In the 1970s during the drastic French Revolution a lot of ruin and violation was happening to the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris causing many of the religious images to be destroyed and damaged. In the 19th century though the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris went through very severe restoration plans and when that was done the Cathedral actually went back to the way it was before.

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Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris was known for its dominance on the Seine and the Ile de la Cite in addition to the history of Paris. The Romans decided to built right next to the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, a temple for Jupiter and then later on another building was added by the Christian Basilica, last but not least in the end they built Cathedral of St. Etienne which is established in 528 by Childebert (Romanesque church). Bishop of Paris named Maurice de Sully decided to expand the population and built a new cathedral which was devoted for the Virgin Mary. The construction in 1163 was started but it wasn’t really completed until around 1345 which is like 180 years later on. The Cathedral tells a lot of stories in the Bible when it comes to its portals and stained glass and paintings, maybe because it was finished and constructed in the illiterate age. The choir was finished around 1183 and later on a lot of work started being done on the nave and it was finished around 1208, the west front and towers finished in 1225 – 1250 approximately right after the nave. Around 1235 – 1250 many never chapels were followed and added to the nave and later during the 1296 – 1330 some were also added to the apse, (Pierre de Chelles and Jean Ravy). In 1250 – 1267 transept crossings were established by Pierre de Montreuil which is the architect for the Sainte Chapelle and Jean de Chelles. You can tell the design was very early Gothic because of the slim elements that articulate the wall and the sic part rib vaults. The Interior was very changed and reconstructed in the middle 13th century because of the enlargement downward of the clerestory windows that are exactly from the early Gothic style causing it to be filled with very High Gothic tracery. The triforium was removed because of all the enlargements. Usually you can find four story elevation in the Interior which is normal when it comes to early Gothic churches, in addition to that the triforiun was very different because it had large opening that are round instead of arcades that are very normal. If you look at the buildings youd realize that they are very High Gothic and that’s how they look from the exterior. The features are very noticeable and include tracery screen and profusion of colonnettes, it also had vertical and horizontal orders of the facades, the gracefulness of the flying buttresses and the striking the size of the rose windows. The Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris had a very flourishing history for centuries. Before crusaders would go to their holy war, they used to always pray there. In addition to that, many polyphonic music was being established inside the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. During the French Revolution a lot of catastrophes occurred. Notre Dame Cathedral ion Paris was very badly damaged, not to mention many other cathedrals located all around France. You can very clearly see that a lot of saints were beheaded at the Cathedrale St Etienne in Bourges. Many citizens though did not understand those statues and they thought the statues of saints found over the portals located on the west front was a kind of representation of their kings and specially in the middle of their passion for the revolution, they were taken down. Those statues were found in the year of 1970, around approximately two hundred years afterwards also in the Latin Quarter. A lot of these cathedrals treasures were badly damaged or severely destroyed and the only thing that stayed fine was the great bells that avoided being melted down. Thanks to the revolution a lot of the cathedrals were dedicated to the cult of Reason and afterwards they also became dedicated to the cult of Supreme being instead. The Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris was found to be a warehouse to store food in the interior. Napoleon decided to crown himself as an emperor thinking that he would emphasize the important and primacy of the state over the church, later own Josephine was also crowned, and his empress was his Martinique born wife. Pope Pius the VII raised no objections because any way the job would have been done by an archbishop. A writer called Victor Hugo and another artist like Ingres called a lot of attention to the fact that the state was in dangerous and it was in disrepair where the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris fell which raised a lot of awareness when it comes to the value of art. The creations of the Middle Ages in the 18th century were being ignored by the neoclassicists, the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris stained galas was being replaced by normal glass. In the 19th century many romantics realized how remote the period was with the greater appreciation and the new eyes.


When the church found in Paris became the “Parisian church of the kinds of Europe” in 1160, Maurica de Sully who is the Bishop he decided to consider the old Cathedral in Paris (Saint Etienne/St Stephens), it was built in the 14th century, but it was later on demolished after he assumed the name or title of Bishop of Paris, due to its lofty role and unworthiness. There were many myths when it comes to foundations, this has to be taken into account with a grain of salt, in the 20th century archeological excavations were suggested saying that the Merovingian Cathedral should be Replaced by Sully who was itself a very massive structure having a façade of 36m across and a five aisled nave. In order for the Bishop to justify the rebuilding of the newer style he used the excuse which was the fact that there were many faults of the old structure being exaggerated. It is said that Sully had a very glorious vision about the Cathedral that was rebuilt in Paris and then it is said that he also sketched it on the ground where the actual church was found. In order for them to start the construction the bishop made more than one house become demolished or ruined and he built a new road for the material to be transported through to finish what is left of the Cathedral in Paris. While Louis VII was in reign in 1163 the construction started. There were many conflicts whether it was Pope Alexander the III or Sullt who built and laid out the stone foundation of the Cathedral in Paris but still it wasn’t a big deal because they were present in the ceremony question. Most of Bishop de Sully and his life was devoted and dedicated to the construction of the Cathedral in Paris.from 1163 till approximately around 1177 the choir construction started to take place. In addition to that the construction of the new High Altar was set apart in around 1182, that seemed to be a normal thing to have the new church’s eastern end to be finished first in order for the temporary wall would be put up on the west of the choir letting the chapter be used without any interruptions while the shape of the building was slowly being established. Bishop Maurice de Sully died in year 1196 and after that happened, Eudes de Sully was his successor saw the finishing of the transepts and continued with the nave which almost was finished before the time he died which was in the year 1208. (Bishop Maurice de sully and Eudes de Sully are not related). When this was the time, the façade on the west was also being set up even though it was not finished fully until approximately around the middle of the 1240s.More than one architect were working on the site while the construction or building was still taking place, that information was obvious and made sure of due to the difference in heights found on the towers and the west front, and the different styles. The fourth architect saw the difference in the construction when it comes to the great halls beneath the towers and the level with the rose window. In the latest Rayonnant style the transepts were changes and remodeled, that was the most noticeable and significant change in the design in the middle of the 13th century. Jean de Chelles included to the north transept a gabled portal and he ended it with a very marvelous rose window, that all happened in the 1240s. Pierre de Montreuil a bit after the year 1258 he made a very close scheme that is found on the transept on the South. Transept portals were both very full of embellished sculptures. On the portal to the south you find features that show scenes of the lives of St Stephen many other local saints, on the other hand you can find on the north portal features of the infancy Christ and the story of Theophilus that is in the tympanum, there was also a very influencing statue of Virgin Mary and the Child in the Trumeau. The Notre Dame Cathedral was really and officially finished around the year of 1345.

Notre Dame bells

In the Palace of Notre Dame in France there are five very popular bells. One is known as the Bourdon bell, this bell weighs more than thirteen tons and it was placed in the South Tower, it mainly was used for announcing the day hours for services and occasions. The other four bells were placed in the North Tower and they are as well used for many festivals, services and various occasions. Those bells worked manually before, for them to be rung someone had to go and do that, but now it is different and they re rung by electric motors as it was later discovered that when those bells were rung it could put the whole building in danger and making it all vibrate which was considered a threat to the bells reliability. Furthermore, those bells had hammers appointed externally that worked for tune playing that comes from a clavier

Piano or the Organ

Over the time many things were being added to the Cathedral from which were the several organs that have been installed, but the first several ones were sufficient for the building and did not fit perfectly. Francois Henri Clicquot was responsible for building the first organ to be known that was finished by the 18th century. Today if you visit the Notre Dame Palace in France you can find that Francois Henri Clicquot’s original pipe work still sounds the same and it comes from the organ found in the pedal division. In the 19th century Aristide Cavaille Coll rebuilt the organ and finished expanding it. The position for the head or chief organist at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in France has been considered marvelous and one of the most extravagant and prestigious posts in France in addition to the post of Saint Sulpice in France which was the largest instrument built by Aristide Cavaille Coll. There are 7800 pipes found inside the organ and 900 of them are considered historical. It also has 110 stops, 32 key pedal board and 56 key manuals. The organ was computerized and controlled by three Local Area Networks (LANs) and it was fully finished by December of the year 1992.

Quotes said by people

“We must remind ourselves that these monumental structures, although they remain intensely alive, are merely the skeletons of the cathedrals of medieval times. Compared with what it was when first created, the cathedral, as we see it now, is like a venerable old lady whose noble carriage barely suggests the striking belle she must have been in her youth. We should not only recall the past splendor of the cathedral, most of whose external adornment is now lost, but also attempt to understand what the cathedral was during the progress of its own creation; the role it played at the heart of the city that saw its birth among the people whose stubborn or enthusiastic will alone caused its skyward thrust.”

-Zoe Oldenbourg, ‘With Stone and Faith’

“Gothic architecture had a magnificent opportunity of development in the construction of the great cathedrals, which, in France, were all built at the end of the twelfth and beginning of the thirteenth centuries. These were civil as well as ecclesiastical buildings; in fact, the distinction between the two provinces was a thing unknown at the time, and is wholly a modern idea, which we never probably would have had except for the differences in religious belief which arose among us at the Reformation. The state is merely the community acting in combination for those purposes in which combined action is more convenient than individual. With us these are now almost confined to justice, police, war, and possibly education. But when religious belief was uniform, as in the Middle Ages, state action included religion. The bishops and abbots were feudal barons, with civil jurisdiction; and, on the other hand, all state action had some religious character and sanction. The cathedrals were the great meeting-places of the city, used for secular purposes, such as the administration of justice, and even for histrionic performances (which, again, were religious in character), as well as formass.”

-John J. Stevenson, Gothic Architecture;
Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, 1876

“And the cathedral was not only company for him, it was the universe; nay, more, it was Nature itself. He never dreamed that there were other hedgerows than the stained-glass windows in perpetual bloom; other shade than that of the stone foliage always budding, loaded with birds in the thickets of Saxon capitals; other mountains than the colossal towers of the church; or other oceans than Paris roaring at their feet.”

-Victor Hugo, Notre Dame de Paris, 1831

Historic Timeline

1160 – The Cathedral is ordered to be destroyed by Maurice de Sully.

1163 – The Construction of Notre Dame Palace in France is started.

1196 – The death of Bishop Maurice de Sully.

1200 – The Western Façade work starts being established.

1208 – The Nave vaults are almost finished/ the death of Bishop Eudes de Sully.

1225 – The completion of the Western Façade.

1250 – Completion of the North rose window and Western Towers.

1245/1260 – Jean de Chelles then Pierre de Montreuil remodeled the transept into the Rayonnant style.

1250/1345 – Everything else is finished.


1) Clavier: it is the bank of keys found on the piano keyboard or a musical instrument.

2) Transept: the wings of the church, it is a church that has a cross shaped portion that goes in a right angle through the long central side of the nave.

3) Crypt: an underground chamber for burial or a vault or a cellar, usually found under a church.

4) Nave: the centre part or area of a church.

5) Rayonnant style: it is the period where the French Gothic architecture was developed in the 1240 and 1350 century. The Rayonnant style is known by taking the focus away from big scale and spatial rationalism when it comes to buildings, it takes us to a more of a two dimentional style on the surface having decoration that are repetitive with different sizes.


1) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Notre_Dame_de_Paris

2) http://www.discoverfrance.net/France/Cathedrals/Paris/Notre-Dame.shtml

3) http://www.sacred-destinations.com/france/paris-notre-dame-cathedral

4) http://elore.com/Gothic/History/Overview/paris.htm

5) http://www.greatbuildings.com/buildings/Notre_Dame_Cathedral.html

6) http://www.notredamedeparis.fr/The-west-facade

7) http://www.wallpaper-z.com/images/thumbnails/notre-dame-paris-402.jpg

8) http://elore.com/Gothic/History/Overview/paris.htm

9) http://artcolima31.blogspot.com/2009/09/notre-dame-cathedral-alejandra-velasco.html

10) http://www.notredamedeparis.fr/The-Crown-of-Light

11) http://yeinjee.com/travel/2005/cathedrale-notre-dame-de-paris/

12) http://www.shafe.co.uk/art/Chapels_and_Chapel_Decoration.asp

13) http://www.zimbio.com/Jimmy+Clausen/articles/321/Gargoyles+Notre+Dame+cathedral+Paris+Photos

14) http://vooltour.com/world/?p=167

15) http://www.saulgallery.com/chronicle/stephenson_vaults.html

16) http://www.cca.qc.ca/en/collection/406-laszlo-moholy-nagy-notre-dame-de-paris

17) http://www.mcah.columbia.edu/ha/html/medieval.html

18) http://cterfile.ed.uiuc.edu/mahara/view/view.php?id=79&new=1


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