Notre-Dame de Paris
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
"Before Goya you have to go back to the medieval chaps who did the gargoyles and chimeras on Notre Dame and Mont Saint-Michel. They believed all sorts of things -- and maybe they saw all sorts of things too…"-- "Pickman's Model" (1926) by H.P. Lovecraft
Notre Dame de Paris, often known simply as Notre Dame in English, is a Gothic cathedral on the eastern half of the Île de la Cité in Paris, France, with its main entrance to the west. It is still used as a Roman Catholic cathedral and is the seat of the Archbishop of Paris. Notre Dame de Paris is widely considered one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture. It was restored and saved from destruction by Viollet-le-Duc, one of France's most famous architects. Notre Dame translates as "Our Lady" from French.
During the early 19th century, the cathedral was in a state of disrepair, and city planners began to contemplate tearing it down. French novelist Victor Hugo, an admirer of the cathedral, wrote his novel The Hunchback of Notre-Dame (titled in French Notre Dame de Paris) in part to raise awareness of the cathedral's heritage, which sparked renewed interest in the cathedral's fate. A campaign to collect funds to save the cathedral followed, culminating in the 1845 restorations.
Alterations, vandalism and restorations
In 1548, rioting Huguenots damaged features of the cathedral, considering them idolatrous. During the reigns of Louis XIV and Louis XV, the cathedral underwent major alterations as part of an ongoing attempt to modernize cathedrals throughout Europe. A colossal statue of St Christopher, standing against a pillar near the western entrance and dating from 1413, was destroyed in 1786. Tombs and stained glass windows were destroyed. The north and south rose windows were spared this fate, however.
In 1793, during the French Revolution, the cathedral was rededicated to the Cult of Reason, and then to the Cult of the Supreme Being. During this time, many of the treasures of the cathedral were either destroyed or plundered. The statues of biblical kings of Judah (erroneously thought to be kings of France), located on a ledge on the facade of the cathedral were beheaded. Many of the heads were found during a 1977 excavation nearby and are on display at the Musée de Cluny. For a time, Lady Liberty replaced the Virgin Mary on several altars. The cathedral's great bells managed to avoid being melted down. The cathedral came to be used as a warehouse for the storage of food.
A controversial restoration program was initiated in 1845, overseen by architects Jean-Baptiste-Antoine Lassus and Eugène Viollet-le-Duc. Viollet Le Duc was responsible for the restorations of several dozen castles, palaces and cathedrals across France. The restoration lasted twenty five years and included the construction of a flèche (a type of spire) as well as the addition of the chimeras on the Galerie des Chimères. Viollet le Duc always signed his work with a bat, the wing structure of which most resembles the Gothic vault (see Château de Roquetaillade).
The Second World War caused more damage. Several of the stained glass windows on the lower tier were hit by stray bullets. These were remade after the war, but now sport a modern geometrical pattern, not the old scenes of the Bible.
In 1991, a major program of maintenance and restoration was initiated, which was intended to last ten years, but was still in progress as of 2009, the cleaning and restoration of old sculptures being an exceedingly delicate matter.
Notre Dame de Paris in the media
- During the early 19th century, the cathedral was in a state of disrepair, and city planners began to contemplate tearing it down. French novelist Victor Hugo, an admirer of the cathedral, wrote his novel The Hunchback of Notre-Dame (titled in French Notre Dame de Paris) in part to raise awareness of the cathedral's heritage, which sparked renewed interest in the cathedral's fate. A campaign to collect funds to save the cathedral followed, culminating in the 1845 restorations.
- The cathedral was featured in the film Amélie.
- The cathedral was featured in the Disney animated film The Hunchback of Notre Dame, loosely based on Victor Hugo's book.