Cathedral for art and history

The great history of Notre-Dame de Paris

Notre-Dame de Paris is very old, over 800 years old! Appointed bishop of Paris in 1160, Maurice de Sully decided to give the capital a cathedral worthy of France’s largest city. He wanted to build it in the style of the day, now known as the gothic style. King Louis VII, one of his classmates, encouraged the project. The Church, notable residents of the city, and the entire population participated in construction: some offered money, others offered their labour, while others offered their knowledge. Construction began in 1163, and Notre-Dame would be completed some 100 years later, in 1272. During this time, many craftsmen’s guilds (tailors, sculptors, carpenters, joiners, masons, and glassblowers) worked relentlessly under the supervision of seasoned architects. They all made an equal contribution to God and to Mary. Mary, Mother of God, to whom Maurice wanted to dedicated the entire cathedral, it was dedicated to her, Notre-Dame de Paris, Our Lady of Paris! At the cathedral, there are no fewer than 37 representations of the Virgin (sculptures, paintings, stained glass, and more). Since it was built, the cathedral has been one of the main symbols of Paris and of France. It has been stage to major religious and political events, which is why the historian Michelet said that Notre-Dame is a history book in its own right. We could not list all the major events here. We would need pages and pages! We will still mention the following facts: when the cathedral wasn’t even completed, in the late 13th century, the Parisians watched over the body of the King, Saint Louis, who died in Tunis; it is here that King Philip the Fair opened the first Estates General of the Kingdom of France in 1302; in 1572, it was here that King Henry IV married Marguerite de Valois, and where he converted to Catholicism in 1594; it is where Pope Pius VII crowned Napoleon I Emperor of the French in 1804; it was also at Notre-Dame that the Te Deum was sung at the end of the First and Second World Wars; Pope John Paul II came to the cathedral twice: in 1980 and in 1997 for World Youth Day. More recently, in 2005, tens of thousands of believers and followers came to Notre-Dame to pray when Pope John Paul II died and to wait for the nomination of the new head of the Church, Pope Benedict XVI.

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