The Treasure

The treasure of our Lady, like the other treasures of religious buildings, preserves the objects destined for the liturgy of the Catholic Church. Sacred vases, ornaments and liturgical books are used for the celebration of the mass, other offices and the administration of the sacraments.

Before the revolution:
The treasure of Notre-Dame is traditionally placed under the responsibility of the chapter, a College of canons entrusted with the exercise of worship. The first inventories date back to 1343 and 1416. Favorable periods and times of crisis follow each other: pieces were sent to cast iron or sold. Nevertheless, this treasure counted among the richest in France until the revolution of 1789, when it was brutally annihilated. No object of the old treasure survives.

The recovery of the treasure:
The surrender to Notre-Dame in 1804 of several Holy relics of the passion, preserved before the revolution at the Sainte-Chapelle, marks the beginning of the reconstitution of the treasure. Orders from the chapter and donations, often of illustrious personalities or ecclesiastical, come to enrich it. Ravaged again during the riots of 1830 and the bag of the Archdiocese in 1831, the treasure knows a new development with the restoration of the Cathedral and the reconstruction of the sacristy from 1849 by the architect Eugène Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc who strives to give him a coherent aspect by adopting the neo-Gothic style for architecture, landscaping and Goldsmith.


On the occasion of the 850th anniversary of the Cathedral in 2013, the trésor enjoys a new museography, respecting the framework and furniture desired in the nineteenth century by its directors.
Selection of the exhibited works, signage, development and explanation of the historical dimension, dressing, lighting, everything contributes to making intelligible to the public the meaning, function and artistic value of the exhibits presented, respecting the Viollet-le-Duc and which, at this particular place, have all legitimacy.
The Treasury renovation work took place from January 9 to February 10, 2012. The new museography has been available to the public since 11 February 2012.



In France, more than two hundred and fifty churches offer a treasure to visit. The criteria for assigning objects to a treasure have changed little over the centuries, even though the intentions that are the President of their preservation have evolved. The first is to preserve the precious objects of worship and their sanctity.

Any object which is in contact with the body of Christ in the form of the consecrated host and wine is of a sacred character and, for this reason, was up to a recent time made in a precious material or at least covered with precious material. This category contains the Chalices who receive the precious blood, the ciboriums in which the consecrated hosts are located, the custodes which serve to transport the hosts, the ostenevenings used to present the host to the worship of the faithful.

Many other objects used to celebrate the mass : burettes and their plateau, Ewer and basin, or the administration of the sacraments: Christian (or Christianity) containing the Saint Chrême for baptism and ordinations and the oil for the sacrament of the sick were made of precious metals and with great research.

We also find in the treasures the attributes peculiar to the Bishops : mitres, sticks and rings, as well as procession cross and many Crucifix.
The liturgical garments: blades, chasubles, dalmatic, chapes, stoles, as the old and illuminated books to be exposed to light and ask for great care.

Beside the objects used for the celebration of the cult, and in greater number than these, one finds Reliquaries. In various forms: crosses, shawls, medallions, monstrances, custodes, statuettes, busts etc., they close the remains of Saints that the Church honors with a particular devotion. Notre-Dame de Paris has relics of many saints but above all it houses the Very Holy relics of the passion of Christ acquired by Saint Louis and kept at the Holy Chapel until the revolution.



The value of all these objects holds first, it is obvious, to the rarity of the materials used: gold, Vermeil, gemstones. It is also the talent of the artists and artisans who performed them.

Since its construction Notre-Dame has received over the centuries the often sumptuous gifts by which sovereigns and great people manifested their attachment to the Church at the same time as their patronage. Their value can also take into account the historical circumstances surrounding their origins: memories of the coming of a Supreme Pontiff as the chasuble worn by John Paul II during the world youth day in 1997 or, in a more tragic way, objects used by the three archbishops of Paris who died of violent death in the nineteenth century.

Until the revolution, the Treasury was openly considered a possible money reserve for crisis times : epidemics, famines, foreign wars and civil wars. Either at the express request of the King or himself, the chapter of our Lady has, at all times, sent to the melting of precious objects to make change. Thus disappeared the reliquary of Saint Simeon and Saint André donated by Philippe-Auguste, the statuette of Saint Denis adorned with sapphires and pearls to the arms of Isabeau of Bavaria sold from 1429, the bust of gold of Saint Agnes adorned with a rich Sapphire surrounded of eight precious stones and carrying a golden branch.

During the civil war between Armagnac brandy and Burgundians in the early fifteenth century, then during the wars of religion new sales and typefaces took place in 1562 and 1577: the gold reliquary of the head of Saint Philip, covered with gems offered by the Duke of Berry in 1414 was sent to the cast in 1562.

In the middle of the eighteenth century, in December 1759, during the seven years ' war, at the request of Louis XV, ten silver candlesticks – four of which were offered by the last Bishop of Paris Henri de Gondi in 1607 (Paris was erected in Archdiocese at his death) – six candlesticks of vermeil donated fifty years earlier by the Cardinal de Noailles, a great cowl, a lamppost, an important XVIIth Chapel and a large silver lamp given by Anne of Austria in 1636 were brought to the Mint to be melted there.

The revolution, after nationalizing church property (November 2, 1789), ordered the confiscation and melting of the objects useless to worship (March 3, 1791), then the objects of worship themselves (September 10, 1792). The Treasury disappeared completely and the objects before this period that are now there are later entered: none comes from Notre-Dame. After the Concordat, the Treasury was re-created, in part thanks to the donations of Napoleon. Then came the restoration where the close Covenant of the throne and the altar brought important enrichment. The riots of 1830 and especially that of February 1831 led to numerous disappearances. No serious catastrophe has reached the Treasury since that time despite a few flights. Since the law of separation of Church and State (1905), it is the State that owns the objects entered before the inventories that were then made.



It is usually in the form of donations that objects have entered the Treasury. Under the old regime, all Kings and many members of their families made a few gifts to Notre Dame.

In 1789, the Treasury still possessed the Golden picture, said San Sebastian, donated by the Duke of Berry in 1406. This tradition was perpetuated in the nineteenth century, sovereigns ordering to renowned craftsmen on the occasion of a happy event of their reign : Te Deum following a victory (ostensoir said of Louis XVIII), princely baptism (ornaments offered by Napoleon III in 1856 on the occasion of the baptism of the Imperial Prince), marriage or Sacre (important donations of Napoleon in 1804).

Several Popes friends of the Church of Paris also enriched the Treasury (chalices of Leo XIII, John XXIII) as well as the visiting sovereigns (Cross offered by the Emperor of Ethiopia).
Prelates and chanoins left to the Treasury the chalices, ciboriums, chapels that had been offered to them by their families or the faithful during their Ministry.



The place du trésor of Notre-Dame de Paris has changed little over the centuries and it has always been kept in a building perpendicular to the Cathedral at the level of the chapels of the South ambulatory. The old buildings also housed the sacristy halls for the use of the Church's servants as is still the case.

In the eighteenth century these ancillary constructions threatened ruin and the architect Soufflot (1714-1781) was asked to draw up plans for a new sacristy whose first stone was laid on Thursday, August 12, 1755. This great sacristy built in two years claimed to mix the Greek and Gothic styles and did not fit the whole of the Cathedral. At the bottom, there was a staircase with two ramps to a vaulted, spherical room, where in carved cabinets were the shawks and relics; the ornaments were deposited on the upper floor. This building, built to the test of time, did not even have a century. The riots of July 1830 and February 1831 raved the Archdiocese and the sacristy so much so that we had to give up restoring them.

Only the sacristy was to be rebuilt between 1845 and 1850 by Lassus and The Duke around a small square cloister with two arms giving access to the Cathedral. The closest part of the transept is used for worship, the other part is home to the Treasury. The stained glass windows of the cloister, executed by Gérente, tell the life of Saint Geneviève. In the Treasury room, stained glass Windows are the work of Marshal of MetzThey represent the bishops and archbishops of Paris. The furnishings, furniture and stained glass windows of the treasure were executed under the direction of Viollet-le-Duc. Savage and Milon realized the masonry; Lechesne, the ornamental sculpture; Baker, locksmith; Mirgon, the furniture.



The great Restorer architect of the Cathedral, inspired by the religious art of the 13th century, Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, is also, with his predecessor Lassus, the creator of the new sacristy (1845-1850).

Viollet-le-Duc strives to reconstruct a whole of medieval-style goldsmiths. But, beyond the copying or adaptation of medieval forms, he also realizes true creations like the Paschal candlestick or the reliquary of the Crown of thorns. He also personally designed the large cabinets and chapiers of the Treasury room. Goldsmiths Bachelet, dusted-Rusand and Chertier have executed its projects.

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