The Christian Faith recognises Jesus as the Light of the World. This is why the builders decided to build Notre-Dame de Paris as a large, East-facing vessel, oriented towards the rising sun. The cathedral is in the shape of a cross, serving as a reminder that Christ is the saviour and unifier of men.
Notre-Dame measures 130 metres long, 48 metres wide, 35 metres high and can hold more than 6000 people!
Appointed bishop of Paris in 1160, Maurice de Sully decided to give the capital a cathedral worthy of France’s largest city. King Louis VII, 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. The first stone was laid in 1163.
Maurice de Sully opened Rue Neuve so that material, including stones and beams, could be brought in. A total of 21 hectares of oak were necessary for Notre-Dame’s structure, which is why it is called the forest. The roof was made using 1,320 lead plates weighing over 210,000 kilograms!
Many people were active on the worksite, including labourers, chore men, apprentices, hundreds of specialised workers and volunteers. They were all supervised by the master workers in charge of construction, the Masons, the Carpenters, the Glassworkers… But the workers behind this immense structure were not all men! Many women, with impressive levels of strength and talent, helped build Notre-Dame de Paris. Some of them made mortar, others made plaster, and yet others were in charge of decoration…
These large constructions encouraged new inventions and technical feats. The walls had to be built very high and be strong enough to support the heavy roof and the immense windows that let light into the building. As construction progressed, the builders found more and more solutions to these challenges. They made it so that all the construction’s weight was supported by pillars instead of the walls, which now featured tall, wide windows. The ogival vaults inside and the flying buttresses outside made it possible to distribute weight from the stone and the roof out to all the cathedral’s pillars. This worksite is where the wheelbarrow was invented to make it easier to carry equipment around! The workers also used cranes, winches and steeple jacks—a type of human hamster wheel—to raise material up for construction.
All this effort was combined to erect the raise the arches 33 metres, the holes 69 and the spire 90 metres!