The Crown of Light






Like the gilded bronze lustres in the nave, the great Crown of Light has two levels topped with copper turrets. It was made by goldsmith Poussielgue-Rusand (1824-1889) following Viollet-le-Duc’s designs [1]. These works were created during the major restoration campaign of 1845, during which Viollet-le-Duc strived to reconstitute the gothic furniture. At the time, it hung at the crossroads of the transepts, and today the cathedral’s crown of light is being restored in the north deambulatory.

The lampesier or lampier was a circular lustre (in silver, copper, iron or wood) often very wide in diameter, bearing small oil cups with wicks, hanging from one or several chains, most often three.

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La couronne de lumière telle qu’elle était pendue à la croisée des transepts.

Cliché de E. Mas dans "Notre-Dame de Paris - Architecture et Sculpture" de Marcel Aubert aux éditions Morancé, 1928. Coll. part. © NDP

When these lampiers supported a large number of cups, or sometimes wax candles, they were called crowns of light or wheels. They were entirely lit up for solemn festivals. Large churches maintained them thanks to set allocations and often considerable donations.

More ornate than simple lampiers, these Crowns were made of gilded copper and enriched with enamel, crystal balls, lacework cut-outs, and pendants designed to bring out the light’s sparkle. The medieval goldsmiths made them dazzle. Apart from the Crown of Light’s utility and its brilliance that coincides with light coming in from the Gothic windows, it expresses the mystical nature of light, giving worshipers an image of Heavenly Jerusalem and of Christ, this light shining on the world, symbolised by the orb-like circle.




[1One of the greatest French religious goldsmiths of the 19th century, who made several objects for Notre-Dame: reliquaries (including the Crown of Thorns reliquary), tabernacles (including the Piéta altar tabernacle), crucifixes, chandeliers, and more. The most important objects are kept in the cathedral Treasury.

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