Construction history

Before the current Cathedral Notre Dame

Paris, the former Lutetiahas been evangelized from the 3rd century. There were around 250 enough Christians to get Pope Fabien send there as Bishop first, Dyonisius, our Saint Denis became patron saint of Paris. Christians being persecuted so in Gaul as in all the Christian Empire, the Bishop Denis had to worship secretly without doubt in a single room of a Gallo-Roman villa. Denis also was martyred a few years later with his assistants on the Mount mercurycalled since Mount Martyrum (Montmartre). His successors lived in hiding until the peace of the Church by Emperor Constantine in 313.

It then became possible to build a first Christian buildingprobably on the left bank, and perhaps, according to some stories, on the side of the current Val-de-Grace. In fact, we know nothing definite on this first cathedral or the following. Excavations were conducted at different periods in the eastern part of the island of the city, there where now stands the Cathedral Notre Dame. They think that there is in its location at the beginning of our era a pagan templereplaced later by a large Christian basilica with five navesprobably quite similar to the ancient basilicas of Rome and Ravenna. But we do not know if this Cathedral,. dedicated to saint Stephenhad been raised in the fourth century and would have been revised subsequently or if it is believed to date from the seventh century with older items in reinvestment. A certainty, however: This St. Stephen Cathedral was very large. Its façade Western, located 40 metres further West than the current façade of Notre Dame, had a width barely lower, as the total length of the building, it represented a little more than half of the current. Inside, the ships were separated by columns of marble and the walls were covered with mosaics. According to the liturgical use, it was completed on its North by side a baptistery, known as St. John the round.

St. Stephen's Cathedral seems to have been regularly maintained and repaired, enough in any case to resist the wars and the ravages of time. However, in the middle of the 12th century under the reign of Louis VII,. the Bishop Maurice de Sully and the chapter have taken an extremely important decision: build a new Cathedral in place of St. Stephenmuch longer and higher that the former, as permitted new architectural techniques that began to be used, the style ogival, commonly called Gothic nowadays.


Birth of the Notre Dame Cathedral

October 12, 1160, Maurice of Sully is elected Bishop of Paris.

Parisin a context of strong population growth and economic dynamism, affirms the significance of his role in the Kingdom of France as:
political capital of the Capetian kings including 1 Philippe (1060-1108), Louis VI the FAT (1108-1137) and Louis VII the young (1137-1180);
economic centre with the development on the right bank of the Seine to a city of craftsmen and merchants around the market Hall.
a place of intellectual training : international radiation the cathedral school.

Maurice of Sully is Bishop of Paris from 1160 to 1196. Since his election, he offers a theological, spiritual and pastoral response to the transformation of his diocese by the reconstruction of a Cathedral church dedicated to the Virgin Mary (Notre Dame) and consolidating the functions of the Church the Bishop, Church of the canons and Baptistery. This project is at the center ofa huge urban project :

demolition the former Saint-etienne and building of our Lady;
-development of a Parvis intended as an intermediate space between the secular world and the world of faith: place of catechesis sculpted by teaching to the portals ;
construction of the new-Notre-Dame Street : full path of 6 meters wide allowing easy access to the Cathedral for a large population; It will serve as a framework for the course of the centuries in large processions;
-reconstruction of the episcopal Palace and the Hôtel-Dieu.



1163 is the date traditionally used for the laying of the first stone of Notre Dame in the presence of Pope Alexander III.

The new building is part of the momentum of the new art that will be called Gothic (or ogival art). Sites already preceded him in this movement:

-in 1140 with the consecration of the Abbey of Saint-Denis built by the Abbot Suger ;
-1150: Noyon;
-1153: Senlis;
-1160: Laon, sense.

The first prime contractor anonymous takes advantage of a plan double aisle and transept salient (choices that belonged to the previous St. Stephen's Cathedral), rising to four storeys supported by the forumslarge sexpartite vaults at 32 metres 50, predominance of the horizontal line, original solution for the vaulting of the rotating part of the ambulatory, alternation of batteries 'strong '. and batteries 'weak '. between the first and the second aisle.


12th - early 13th century
Four major campaigns of work marked this period under the leadership of four contractors:

1163-1182 : construction of the Choir and his double ambulatory. The high altar of the chorus is dedicated May 19, 1182 by Henri de Château-Marçay, papal legate, assisted by the Bishop Maurice de Sully. (1 prime contractor).

1182-1190 : construction of last three spans of the nave, the aisles and forums. (2nd prime contractor).

1190-1225 : building the Foundation of the façade and first two bays of the navefitting of the two bays to the front up to the Gallery of Kings. (3rd contractor).

1225-1250 : High Gallery and the two towers on the façade, modification and expansion of high windows and development of side chapels of the nave between the abutments of the flying buttresses (4th contractor).


The work of the contractors in the late 13th - early 14th century

The names of the contractors are known: Jean de Chelles, Pierre Montreuil, Pierre de Chelles, Jean Ravy, the Blue Jean

Enlargement of the arms of the transepts: brace North)Portal of the cloister and North rose) and South brace)Portal Saint-etienne and South rose).

Development of the chapels the choir and the nightstand between the foothills.

Implementation of large flying buttresses the choir and the bedside of 15-meter fly.

Erection of the jube and a stone fence painted around the choir and sanctuary.


The changes of the 17th and 18th centuries.

Redevelopment under the direction of Robert de Cotte of the sanctuary and the choir to perform the Vow of Louis XIII.

-Restoration of the Rose Sud.

Replacement of stained glass windows of the 12th and the 13th century by white windows in the middle of the 18th century by the brothers of the old.

Work of the architect Soufflot:
-new sacristy;
-Redevelopment of the Central portal.

During the revolutionary period:
-Disassembly of the arrow from the 13th century;
-Destruction of the 28 statues of Kings of the Gallery of Kings ;
-Destruction of all statues of gates with the exception of the Virgin of the pier of the Portal of the cloister.


The revival of the 19th century.

In the early 19th century, the context is new: a new concordat was signed in July 1801, and Notre Dame went to Roman Catholic worship on April 18, 1802. In 1831, Victor Hugo published his novel Notre Dame de Paris, which will be a huge success. In 1844, the Government of King Louis-Philippe 1st decreed the restoration of the Cathedral of Paris and the construction of a sacristy.

The restoration project is entrusted to two architects: Eugène Viollet-le-Duc and Jean-Baptiste Lassus. In 1857, the death of Lassus leaves Viollet-le-Duc, one contractor.

Restore a building, is not maintaining it, fix it, or do it again, is to restore a full State that may have never existed at any given time. (Viollet-le-Duc)

This is how began this great campaign of restoration, Assistant sometimes changes of the general architecture, the main areas are:
-reconstruction of the arrow ;
-the return of the sculptures (15 sculptors, including Adolphe Geoffroy-Dechaume, will occur);
-rise of the new sacristy;
-back in place of a new glass by appealing to a large master glassmakers (Alfred Gérente, Louis Steinhel, Antoine Husson, Marshal of Metz, Didron groin);
-to the central portal restoration of the State prior to the work of Soufflot;
-reconstruction of a part Treasury and furniture;
-wall paintings in the side chapels;
-complete renovation of the big organ.

On May 31, 1864, will be the dedication of the Cathedral by Bishop Darboy, Archbishop of Paris.


Contemporary period

Fortunately, two world conflicts will save the Cathedral.

1965 will see the culmination of 30 years of intense debates on the renewal of the stained glass windows of the nave in lieu of the grisailles of the nineteenth. It is ultimately the master glassmaker Jacques the Chevallier who was chosen to achieve these canopies on the principle of grisailles figurative and lively colours, which corresponded to a State and a bright atmosphere as they had been in the 13th century.

From 1990 to 1992. the big organbecame probably in the 20th century the most famous of the world, was the subject ofa large-scale restoration carried out by a group of french organ factors.

It is also worth noting the great clean-up campaign of the Western façade which lasted more than a decade and which, thanks to the talents of the restorers of the services of Historical Monuments and the techniques used, allows us since the year 2000 again admire the jewels of medieval architecture in all its splendour.

To meet the directives of the second Vatican Council, the clergy will be to redevelop several times the liturgical plateau. The last changes, in 2004, under the episcopate of the Cardinal-Archbishop Jean-Marie Lustigerwill allow others to find the area of movement between the two transepts and, due to the new arrangement of places. associate fully the choir and the nave are now more than one during liturgical celebrations.

More rooted in our time and far from being a Museum, the Cathedral will be, as since its origins, the House of God and the remains of men, show these developments of all kinds signs of a still existing coverage.

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