The façade of the Cathedral
The West façade is the first treasure of the Cathedral. Its proportions, its elevation, all its sculptures make it a veritable monumental masterpiece.
Three large portals entirely decorated with statues each have two very heavy wooden doors, leaves, which give access to the Interior of the Cathedral.
In the middle ages, a very large part of the façade was painted, especially all the statues. These narrate the Bible and the history of Christians: so those who could not read could learn and understand the Holy history and the life of the Saints.
On this façade, 28 statues represent the Kings of Judah and Israel, the ancestors of Christ. Above these characters, on both sides of the façade, we find the statues of Adam and Eve. In the Center, a large rose, whose diameter measures almost 10 meters, forms an aureole to the statue of the Virgin Mary which is framed by two angels and presents us her child, Jesus, the son of God.
The Portal of the Virgin
The portal of the Virgin is the one that is left on the façade. It recognizes the prophets who have announced its glorious destiny and the Kings from which it descends. Above, the Virgin Mary is depicted in her last sleep: in the course of her Dormition, in the presence of Christ and the Apostles, she was taken to heaven. The church celebrates its ascent to heaven on August 15, the day of the assumption. Above again, an Angel crowns Mary while Christ, sitting on the same throne as his mother, hands him a scepter: Mary is Queen of heaven.
We can also see Saint Denis, evangelizer of the Gaules and first bishop of Paris, who was beheaded around 250. To recall his martyrdom, Saint Denis is depicted carrying his head in his hands, as if death could not reach him.
In front of him, the patron saint of Paris Sainte Geneviève, holds a candle that a little demon seeks to extinguish. In 451, by his prayers and exhortations – "children of God, do not be afraid"-Geneviève protected Lutèce from the armies of the Huns and their King Attila, called "the scourge of God".
Foliage, flowers and fruits evoke the celestial courtyard filled with angels, Patriarchs, Kings, prophets.
This portal expresses the faith and hope of the baptised.
The Portal of Judgement
The portal of the last judgement is the one located in the center of the façade. Jesus is represented as the one who welcomes us while Mary and St. John pray for men. At the bottom is the resurrection, while in the Middle we witness the weighing of souls: the elect are taken to Heaven by angels, the others, who did not want to love God and their neighbour, are taken to hell by demons.
On either side, the larger statues represent the twelve apostles who frame Christ placed between the two doors on a central pillar called the trumeau.
The Sainte-Anne Portal
The portal of the Virgin is the one that is right on the façade. It was built in honor of Mary's mother: St. Anne. The Virgin Mary presents the child Jesus. It is surrounded by angels carrying censers, a bishop and a King. Perhaps these last two are Maurice de Sully and Louis VII, they were the ones who wanted to dedicate the Cathedral to the mother of God, our Lady.
The sculptures tell of episodes of the life of the Virgin – the Annunciation, the visitation, the Nativity, the adoration of the Magi – and we can also see the representation of the grandparents of Jesus, St. Anne and St. Joachim.
The Saint Stephen Portal
King Saint Louis made this portal stand on the South side of the Cathedral in homage to Saint Stephen, stoned for preaching the Gospel. One can there episodes of his life and especially his martyr and his burial. At the top of the ensemble, Jesus is present, he blessed Saint Stephen and will welcome him to paradise.
On both sides, medallions carved in the middle ages tell scenes of the life of students and professors of the University of Paris founded by the Church.
The cloister Portal
This portal was built in the North, circa 1250, by an architect named Jean de Chelles. The large rose which is above measures 13 meters in diameter. The sculptures of this portal show the role of Mary from the childhood of Jesus. Here the artist wanted to show the humility of the crèche, the offering to the Temple of Jerusalem after the birth of Jesus, the persecution of children by King Herod, the escape to Egypt of Joseph and Mary to protect the child Jesus.
It also carved the legend of Théophile which was played on the square of a cathedral in the middle ages: Théophile, a deacon, had sold his soul to the devil to take the place of his bishop. But Théophile regrets this Covenant with Satan and wants to apologize. He asks the Virgin Mary to help her in order to be in the peace of God. Mary presents the cross of Christ to the devil who is defeated. Théophile regains his freedom. He asks his Bishop for forgiveness, and everyone is very happy! This legend evokes the sacrament of penitence and reconciliation by which God, in his immense love, forgives us our sins.