A place of "incredible power" - this is what the Parisian guides call the cathedral, who introduce people to its history and architecture. Notre Dame is visited annually by over 14 million tourists.
After the fire in 2019, the cathedral is closed to visitors. You can approach the cathedral from the embankment of the left bank, from the streets on the Isle of Cite, from bridges Saint Michel or bridge Changed. The closest metro stations to the cathedral are Cité (line 4), Saint-Michel (line 4 or RER B, RER C).
Fire in Notre Dame de Paris
The tragedy of all of France. As a result of the 2019 fire, the spire, clock and roof of the building collapsed. Firefighters managed to save both bell towers of the cathedral, the flames did not touch the main shrines: the crown of thorns, the tunic of St. Louis; several paintings were saved. According to the firefighters, the source of ignition was the scaffolding erected in the attic of the cathedral. Recall that restoration work began in the spring of this year, it was planned to complete the work by 2022. The fire started at 18:50 local time on April 15, as of April 16, the fire was extinguished. One firefighter was injured during the rescue operation.
Cause of fire
The forensic examination established the cause of the fire, which is associated with an electrical malfunction. The source of fire occurred on the spire, where restoration work was carried out. A fire of this magnitude could have been avoided if the fire department had arrived immediately after the start of the fire. Time (about 20 minutes) was wasted in an attempt to extinguish the fire with their own efforts.
As a result of the fire, the spire, clock and roof of the building collapsed. Firefighters managed to save both bell towers of the cathedral, the flames did not touch the main shrines: the crown of thorns, the tunic of St. Louis; several paintings were saved.
The fire melted about 300 tons of lead in the spire and roof, which is still causing damage. In May 2021, the area near the cathedral was closed indefinitely due to an increased concentration of lead to clean up the area and search for a source of pollution. The first jump occurred on April 26, and already on May 10-11, the dosage was twice as high as the permissible one.
Reconstruction of the cathedral
French President E. Macron has promised that the Cathedral of Notre Dame will be opened for the 2024 Olympics in Paris. However, construction projects never go according to plan, the delay in opening is associated with an epidemic, bad weather, and lead pollution. Perhaps, in the summer of 2024, the cathedral will be opened for tourists, but the date for the completion of the reconstruction is currently open. According to preliminary calculations, restoration work in full will take at least ten years.
To restore the cathedral in its original form, oak wood was required. Although Macron suggested creating a more modern spire, experts insisted that the cathedral retain its appearance from the reconstruction, which began in 1843 under the leadership of the architect, restorer and art critic Eugene Viollet-le-Duc. With the direct participation of the Minister of Agriculture and Food of France Julien Denormandy and the Minister of Culture Roslin Bachelot, centenary oak trees were selected from the former royal forest of Bers. About 2000 trees were cut down for the construction of the spire, which caused outrage among conservationists and ecologists.
We offer you to watch a short reportage (6 minutes with subtitles in English) about the restoration work, two years after the fire. The material was prepared by the international public radio station Radio France International (RFI).
Immediately after the fire, representatives of large companies and small investors promised to allocate about 1 billion euros for restoration. As of May 2021, 833 million euros have been allocated.
There is a boutique with souvenirs at the cathedral, it works as an online store. All the proceeds received are sent to the donation fund. You can view the products on the official Notre Dame website in the Boutique section.
Filming a documentary
At the moment, filming is underway for a documentary multi-budget drama about the events of April 15, 2019. The premiere of the film Notre Dame Brûle (Notre Dame on Fire) by French director Jean-Jacques Annaud was scheduled for April 13, 2022.
Most of the crowd scenes were filmed in other French Gothic churches, such as the Hotel de Saens and the Basilica of Saint-Denis, which were built in the same time period and have very similar architectural details. The fire scenes are filmed on a film set north of Paris, purpose-built to simulate the towers, spire and interior of the church.
- Notre Dame is built on the site where four different churches stood in ancient times: the Christian Parish, the Merovingian Basilica, the Carolingian Temple and the Romanesque Cathedral. By the way, it was the ruins of the last cathedral that served as the foundation for the current one.
- Construction lasted 182 years (1163-1345). After 19 years of construction work, the main altar appeared, which was immediately consecrated, after another 14 years, the construction of the nave was completed. Then the construction continued on the territory of the central (western) facade, which is richly decorated with sculptures and bas-reliefs.
- The western façade and two towers took 45 years to build (1200-1245). The different heights of the towers are explained by the fact that many architects worked on the construction, who mixed two styles - Romanesque and Gothic.
- In the summer of 1239, King Louis IX brought into the temple the main shrine and relic - the Crown of Thorns.
- Gargoyles at the top of Notre Dame Cathedral used to be used as drainpipes - now they are one of the decorations of the building.
- Instead of the usual wall paintings depicting saints, there are tall stained-glass windows, which are both a decoration of the cathedral and a source of light. Stained-glass windows were used to separate the premises, since at the end of the construction, not a single wall was provided in the cathedral. Instead of walls, there were columns and arches.
- After the completion of the construction, the cathedral was the main spiritual hearth of France - royal weddings, coronations, funerals and other important events on a national scale were held here. Despite the important role of the cathedral in the life of the country, its walls also accepted the commoners who received assistance.
- The rich trusted the walls of the cathedral and brought all their treasures for safekeeping. This is how the treasury was formed within the walls of the temple.
- During the French Revolution, the Jacobins wanted to destroy the cathedral, but the residents managed to save it - they collected money in support of the rebels and transferred it to the new government. Despite the agreement, the revolutionaries did not fully keep their promise - the bells were melted down into cannons, the tombstones into bullets, the sculptures of the Jewish kings were beheaded. The building of the cathedral was used as a wine warehouse - it was during this period that Notre Dame lost its significance. The Catholic church was returned to the clergy only in 1802.
- Thanks to the famous novel by Victor Hugo "Notre Dame de Paris" (1831), where the writer set out to awaken the love of French architecture among the people, in 1841 the restoration of the cathedral began. The famous gallery of chimeras appeared on the upper platform in front of the towers. The sculptors created images of mythical creatures that embodied the character of a person and the diversity of his mood. The restoration lasted 23 years, during which restorers were able to replace all broken sculptures, erect a high spire, and restore stained glass windows. The buildings that adjoined the cathedral were removed, due to which a square appeared in front of the main entrance.
- In 2013, in honor of the 850th anniversary of the cathedral, new bells were cast, in the amount of 9 units. The largest church organ in France, which appeared here at the beginning of the 15th century, was also reconstructed. Now the instrument is fully computerized, while the body is made in the style of Louis XVI.
- Today, Notre Dame de Paris is a functioning church: worship services are constantly held here, during which modern video effects are used. Every day at 8:00 and at 19:00 you can hear the ringing of bells.
- Along with the believers, tourists are also admitted to the cathedral. All visitors have a unique opportunity to view sacred relics, as well as valuable things that have accumulated in the cathedral over its long history.
Sights of Paris
Here you will find more detailed information about the objects of the cathedral. This information will be useful for general information.
From the Promenade de Tournelle you can see the apse (Chevet) with its retaining arches and gray-green vault. It is located in the eastern part, symbolizing the sunrise of the Resurrection.
Traditionally, the apse side serves to collect internal rhythmic currents and the highest divine energy of the cosmos.
Thanks to the special design, the impression of the presence of God among people is created. After the restoration of the cathedral, the arches were replaced by the project of Jean Ravi. Today the size of the arches reaches 15 meters.
From the south side you can see what the cathedral looked like in the 19th century. Previously, here was the palace of the archbishop, which was demolished along with the treasury and sacristy during the riots of 1831. The palace was decided not to be restored.
Chapel of the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher
In the heart of the cathedral is the Chapelle des Chevaliers du Saint-Sépulcre, which was officially opened on March 6, 2009. The ceremony was presided over by Monsignor Toile, Patriarch of Latin from Jerusalem. The restoration of the chapel was carried out in accordance with the wishes of Cardinal Lustiger and his successor, Cardinal Ven-Trois.
Within these walls, in a modern red glass reliquary, lies the most precious treasure - the crown of thorns of Christ wrapped in a purple robe. The sacred crown is a bunch of intertwined thorny branches without thorns, which in ancient times were disassembled in various temples and monasteries, with additionally woven into it several branches of the aromatic plant ziziphus.
It is enclosed in a crystal ring with a gold frame. It is impossible to say with certainty that the crown of Christ is genuine, but the first mention of it is documented in the 4th century.
Most of the time, the holy crown is kept in a special depository and is not displayed. For the worship of believers, it is solemnly carried out every Friday during Great Lent and on Good Friday. The ceremony is attended by the knights of the Holy Sepulcher.
Behind the reliquary, on the altar, is a statue of Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows, who holds in her hands the nails and a crown that wounded the legs, arms and head of her son.
Chapel of the Holy Gifts
Next to the Chapel of the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher, in the axis of the nave, there is another unusual chapel. It is called the Chapel of the Holy Gifts (Chapelle du Saint-Sacrement) and is dedicated to the mother of Jesus Christ, which is often found in churches of the era of Michelangelo.
Its construction began in 1296 at the initiative of the Bishop of Paris Simon Matthias de Boucher. This chapel is also known as Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows. It serves for meditation and sacred prayers of the sacred ordinance.
On the right wall, you can see an old fresco from the 14th century, which depicts a girl receiving her soul in the presence of Saint Denis and Saint Nicaise, who is the patron saint of the chapel.
On the altar of the chapel, crowned with a statue of the Virgin Mary, the Holy Gifts are exhibited throughout the day, that is, bread that has become the body of Christ, symbolizing the presence of God himself. Adoration or worship of the Holy Gifts is widespread in the traditions of the Catholic Church. People come here singly or in groups in order to silently contemplate God, just stay in front of him, mentally talk to him in peace and quiet, detached from the daily hustle and bustle.
In the depths of the temple, in the most prominent place of the central nave, there is an altar. Behind it, at a short distance, appears the famous Pietà, a sculptural composition by Nicolas Custu. At its foot is a carved plinth by François Girardon.
The Virgin Mary is depicted in the center, holding in her arms her dead son, who has just been taken down from the cross. The gaze of the Mother of God is directed not to the lifeless body of Jesus, but to heaven. Her face expresses sorrow and, at the same time, the hope for the resurrection of Christ, promised to her from above. On the sides of the Virgin Mary there are statues of two monarchs: the right one - Louis XIII (sculptor Nicolas Couste) and the left one - Louis XIV (sculptor Antoine Kuazevox).
At the same time, King Louis XIII, as it were, offers the mother of Christ his crown and scepter, and his son Louis XIV bowed in prayer. This unusual ensemble is surrounded by six bronze angels holding in their hands the symbols of the Passion of Christ: a crown of thorns, nails, a sponge with vinegar, a whip, a pike and an INRI tablet (Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews).
The background to the appearance of the statues is also noteworthy. Longing for the long-awaited birth of his future heir, Louis XIII vowed to embellish the altar and Pieta if the Lord would send him a son. His dream came true in 1638 with the birth of Louis XIV, but 5 years later the king died without fully fulfilling his promise. His successor managed to realize his father's will only 60 years later, when, as a result of a large-scale reconstruction, the Gothic style was replaced by the Baroque.
In ecclesiastical terminology, "ambulance" refers to a semicircular walk along the altar apse, which is the end of the central nave. It looks like a continuation of the side naves, smoothly merging into each other.
In Notre Dame Cathedral, the double dispensary (Déambulatoire) is divided by a colonnade and has access to the outer apse chapels (chapels). There are five of them, and they radiate around the altar ledge, forming a "crown of chapels". All of them are dedicated to various saints and are decorated with beautiful statues and stained-glass windows, which are real works of art. They also contain mausoleums, tombs and tombstones of many prominent religious figures and other famous personalities.
For example, near the eastern wall of the initial apse chapel, dedicated to Saint Guillaume (William), is the mausoleum of Count Henri Claude d'Arcourt (1704-1769), who served as a lieutenant general in the royal army. The sculptural composition depicts the deceased count who, hearing the cries of his kneeling wife at his coffin, rises and, freed from the shroud, stretches out his hands to his devoted wife.
But behind the back of the deceased is Death itself with an hourglass in hand, showing the countess that her hour has come. The entire image of the Countess expresses a passionate desire to immediately reunite with her beloved spouse.
This architectural ensemble was built in the late 13th - early 14th centuries. During a full-scale restoration, which in the 19th century was led by the famous Parisian architect Eugène Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc, the entire space of the ambulatory was decorated using the original wall paintings, recreated with amazing historical accuracy. That is why, an unusually inspired and enthusiastic atmosphere reigns here.
In the middle of the central nave is an unusual medieval altar (Choeur). On both sides of it are carved scenes, imprinted in stone, called the altar barrier. It appeared in the cathedral in the 14th century, when the master, presumably Jean Ravi, carved an elegant partition from stone, isolating the choir (choirs) from the nave. Scenes from the gospel in sculptural performance are successively depicted on the barrier. All paintings are made in polychrome colors. In the middle of the 19th century, restoration work was also carried out here under the leadership of Viollet-le-Duc, then the color scheme was updated.
Behind the altar, on a considerable elevation, there are long lancet windows lined with colored stained-glass windows of the 19th century, replacing the original lost mosaics of the 13th century.
The reconstruction of the choir was conceived even during the reign of Louis XIII, as a tribute to the Virgin Mary, who gave France the long-awaited heir to Louis XIV in 1638. Since this period, every year on August 15 on the Assumption - the main church holiday dedicated to Mary - the procession solemnly floats through the streets of Paris, as a reminder of the "royal vow". Five years after the birth of his son, Louis XIII, on his deathbed, bequeathed to his successor to complete all the renovations of the altar.
The restoration work was completed in 1723. This took three quarters of a century. The upper rows were then crowned with wooden sculptures that depicted scenes from the life of the Virgin Mary.
Northern part of the barrier
The Altar Barrier (Clôture du choeur nord), created at the end of the 13th century, covers 14 scenes from the Bible, vividly telling about the birth and life of Jesus Christ, with the exception of the tragic events that happened after the Last Supper - imprisonment, trial, scourging and crucifixion Christ. Biblical scenes are depicted sequentially.
The storyline begins with the immaculate Virgin Mary meeting righteous Elizabeth, then the Nativity of Christ and the good news to the shepherds follow, the Magi offer their gifts. The following is a picture of the killing of babies and the flight to Egypt.
Scenes from the life of Christ are selected, such as the meeting of the infant Jesus with the wise elder Simeon in the temple of Jerusalem, the stories of how the young Jesus was in the temple among the wise men and among the Jewish teachers, Baptism and wedding in Cana of Galilee. The final episodes are the entry of the Lord into Jerusalem, the Last Supper and the washing of the feet of the disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Three masters worked on these sculptural compositions for half a century - Pierre de Chelle, Jean Ravi and Jean Le Buteiler. Most of the scenes have a reliable temporal sequence verified by the four gospels. The color scheme of the altar barrier was updated during the restoration of the 19th century.
South part of the barrier
The altar screen (Clôture du choeur sud) dates from the early 14th century. It is composed of nine biblical scenes describing the appearance of Jesus Christ after the Resurrection from the dead. Each biblical story on the south side is clearly separated from the next by a vertical line.
- Meeting of Christ and Mary Magdalene.
- The Appearance of Christ to Myrrh-Bearing Wives.
- Meeting of Christ with the Apostles John and Peter.
- Meeting of Christ with the disciples on the road to Emmaus.
- The appearance of Christ to the eleven apostles at the evening.
- The Appearance of Christ to the Apostle Thomas.
- Meeting of Christ with the disciples at Lake Tiberias.
- The appearance of Christ to the eleven apostles on a mountain in Galilee.
- The meeting of Christ with the apostles in Jerusalem is the last phenomenon, culminating in the ascension of Christ to heaven.
From 1300 to 1350, Pierre de Chelles, Jean Ravi and Jean Le Bouteuiler worked on the creation of this unique sculptural group. The color painting was subsequently updated by Viollet-le-Duc's restorers in the 19th century.
The Temple Treasury (Trésor) is located in a small building - an extension. Here is an interesting collection of ancient gold and silver items, church utensils, priests' clothes, ancient manuscripts and other sacred relics from the 13th to the 21st centuries. But of particular value are the crown of thorns of Jesus Christ and the Palatine cross-reliquary, where a nail is stored under glass in the lower part, and seven particles of the Life-giving Cross in the upper part. A golden tablet in Greek says that these relics originally belonged to the 12th century Byzantine emperor Michael Komnenos.
Some of the treasures are brought out to the public on the first Friday of every month, every Friday of Great Lent, and on Holy Week.
The collection of relics of Notre Dame Cathedral began to be collected from its very inception, and by the end of the 18th century, the temple treasury was considered one of the most magnificent in Europe. During the French Revolution, part of the treasure was looted, but with the dawn of the Concordat, the collection was restored again and replenished with relics from the Sainte-Chapelle treasury.
Once again, the vault was damaged during the riots of 1830 and 1831, and was restored already in the middle of the 19th century according to the project of Viollet-le-Duc. But, despite all the difficulties, the treasury retained its original purpose for storing valuable items used in the liturgy.
This modest doorway on the north side of the choir is called the "Red Door" (Porte Rouge), due to the bright color of its wings. It was erected under the direction of the architect Pierre de Montreuil in the second half of the 13th century and was used as a direct passage between the monastery and the cathedral. The red door connected the monastery, where the canons and choristers lived, with Notre Dame de Paris. In 2012, these gates were restored at the initiative of the Île-de-France Society for the Preservation of Historical Monuments.
On the tympanum above the door is a scene of Christ blessing the Virgin Mary, while an angel places the royal crown on her head. The upper part depicts Saint-Marcel, Bishop of Paris in the 5th century. His remains are considered one of the most precious shrines of the cathedral and rest on top of the cathedral choirs in full view of all parishioners.
On the left, above the doorway, there is a sculptural panel about how the bishop conducts the ceremony of baptism and holy communion - two of the most important sacraments for Christians of all denominations. On the right side, he sits in the pulpit, preaching. His face expresses spiritual triumph over the devil.
Notre dame statue
At the southeast pillar of the transept or transverse nave, to the right of the main altar, one can see a statue of the Virgin Mary with a baby in her arms. She is called Notre Dame de Paris (Vierge à l'Enfant "Notre Dame de Paris"). The statue was brought in the 19th century from the chapel of Saint-Aignan on the Ile de la Cité.
This is the most famous and revered sculpture of the Virgin Mary of the 27 similar statues presented at Notre Dame. The period of its creation dates back to the 14th century. Installed in 1855 instead of the ancient sculpture of the miraculous Black Virgin, which disappeared without a trace during the years of the revolution.
A bluish light emanates from the sculpture, and a large number of white lilies, with which the Virgin Mary is adorned, exude an amazing aroma. All this is arranged as a sign of the deepest worship.
In church architecture, a "transept" is a transverse nave in churches built in the form of a cross or basilica, which intersects the central longitudinal nave at right angles. The extreme borders of the transept (Transept) form apses that protrude beyond the main part of the building, the transept protrudes 2 meters. They coincide in height with the main nave, but the transept differs in that it consists of four tiers.
The transept was completed by 1258. Significant sights are located here, such as the south and north stained glass rose window, the statue of Notre Dame and Child, the portal of St. Stephen and the Red Gate portal, as well as the main altar. In one of the branches of the transept, you can admire two female figures of the patron saints of France - Saint Joan of Arc and Saint Teresa - the patroness of the baby Jesus, as well as the statue of Saint Dionysius by Nicolas Coust. Many statues were recreated already in the 19th century.
Near the statue of the Virgin Mary, a tablet is installed, which informs that the famous trial took place in this cathedral, which acquitted Joan of Arc. A small bronze plate in the floor informs that the famous poet Paul Claudel adopted the Catholic faith here in 1886.
On the south facade of the transept there is a huge stained-glass window in the form of a rose (Rose sud), the diameter of which is 13 meters. It was originally installed in the 13th century. Some part of the stained-glass window has survived to this day in its original form, the rest of the parts were replaced during the restoration work carried out in the 18th and 19th centuries.
The rosette itself consists of 84 stained-glass fragments, which are laid out in the form of four circles: 24 medallions, 12 medallions, 4-lobed and 3-lobed panels. It is known that during the reconstruction, which took place in the 19th century, Viollet-le-Duc turned the southern rosette by 15 degrees in order to fix it on a strong vertical axis. For this reason, many fragments are not in their original places, and now it is not easy to determine which part of the window was originally occupied by a particular scene.
The stained-glass rose depicts Jesus Christ surrounded by the apostles and other saints, martyrs and wise virgins revered in France.
In the fourth circle, on different fragments, twenty angels are depicted holding wreaths, candles and censers in their hands, and events from the New and Old Testaments are also depicted.
The third circle invites us to get acquainted with nine scenes from the life of St. Matthew, which date back to the last quarter of the 12th century and have been perfectly preserved to this day.
In the central medallion, the original stained glass fragment has not survived, so Viollet-le-Duc replaced it with an image of the second coming of Christ: a sword is put in the mouth of the Savior, symbolizing the Word of God, which is intended to separate truth from falsehood. At the feet of Christ lies the Book of Life, and around it the symbols of the four evangelists: an angel, an eagle, a lion, a calf.
The two lower corner elements tell about the descent into Hell and the resurrection of Christ.
The rose rests on a kind of belt of 16 lancet stained-glass windows, together with which the total height of the stained-glass window reaches 19 meters. These narrow plates depict prophets. It was created in 1861 by the artist Alfred Gerent under the direction of Viollet-le-Duc.
Saint Stephen's portal
On the south side of the transept, facing the embankment of the Seine towards the Latin Quarter, there is a portal that was consecrated in the name of the martyr Saint Stephen (Portail Saint-Etienne). It was built in the 13th century by the architects Jean de Chelle and Pierre de Montreil. In the past, this passage led to the residence of the bishop, the successor of the holy martyr Denis.
The main decoration of the portal is the tympanum, which depicts episodes of the life and martyrdom of Saint Stephen in stone, as well as scenes from the life of students of the University of Paris. Saint Stephen was the patron saint of the first Parisian cathedral.
Examining the sculptural composition from right to left and upward, one can see how Saint Stephen preached before the Jewish authorities and the people, and later appeared before the court, was stoned, buried and blessed by Christ. Notable is the scene in which two clergymen carry a prayer book and consecrated water after the traditional service. This serves as proof that the same holy traditions have been observed over time.
On the left side of the main altar, on the northern facade of the transept, there is an amazingly beautiful stained glass rose window (Rose nord). It can be called a true masterpiece of High Gothic of the 13th century. Unlike the southern rosette, this stained-glass window has been preserved almost intact, since 85% of the mosaic is an original work of art by medieval masters.
The northern rose window is located at a height of 21 meters, and its diameter is 13 meters. The subject composition depicts the Virgin and Child surrounded by characters from the Old Testament. In the central part of the stained-glass rosette there is the Virgin Mary with the newborn Jesus in her arms, and around her are medallions with images of judges, prophets, kings and high priests.
The predominance of lilac and violet shades in the color palette of mosaic elements symbolizes a long, anxious night in anticipation of the birth of the Messiah.
The composition of the northern rosette is in a peculiar movement: the fragments of the stained-glass window are not arranged along strict vertical and horizontal lines, thus creating the image of a rotating wheel. Illuminated by the sun's rays, the rose window of the north transept brightens up the dark walls of the nave, filling the interior of the temple with divine light.
The portal on the north side of the transept is called the Red Gate (Portail du Cloître). Previously, it served as a gateway to the cloister located next to Notre Dame Cathedral.
The central pillar of the portal depicts the Virgin Mother - a genuine statue of the 13th century. She was here initially from the moment of her creation, but the baby, unfortunately, was destroyed. Reminiscent of the famous statue of Notre Dame of the 14th century, installed inside the cathedral, the Virgin of the portal is yet more regal and majestic.
On the tympanum above the gate is a sculptural scene about the coronation of Mary in the presence of King Louis IX of the Saint and Queen Margaret of Provence. Above are scenes from the childhood of Jesus Christ: Christmas, his appearance in the temple, the killing of babies and flight to Egypt.
The archivolts show episodes of miracles that happened to Saints Theophilos and Marseilles. In one of the scenes, Saint Marcel extracts the devil in the form of a dragon from the body of a dead sinner. Another shows the divine power of Mary, contained in her son-savior. An impressive story is how Theophilus, having sold his soul to the devil, in order to secure the place of the bishop's successor, later repented and began to pray to the Virgin. And she broke this contract, saving Theophilus from the devil's embrace. In the uppermost part above the portal, there is a bishop telling a story for the edification of believers.
Separate parts of the original statues that adorned these gates - the figures of the Magi and the Virtues - are exhibited in the Cluny Museum.
At the entrance to the choir, there is a raised liturgical platform with a modern bronze altar placed on it by the French sculptors Jean and Sebastian Touré. Its consecration took place in 1989.
Modeled on the cathedral in Chartres, on the sides of the main altar (Autel principal) are the figures of the four biblical prophets - Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel.
In front are four evangelists - Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. As conceived by the creators, this sculptural group symbolizes the connection between the Old and New Testaments.
Since the Second Council in the Vatican, Mass has been held near the entrance to the choir, with the priest facing the parishioners, as the Pope always did at St. Peter's in Rome.
Notre Dame Cathedral, in the architectural sense, is a basilica with galleries and double side naves (Bas-côtés), which are divided in half by longitudinal rows of giant columns. Such additional rows of pillars turn a three-aisled basilica into a five-aisled one. This feature makes the cathedral a much more valuable architectural monument. In the Middle Ages, Gothic cathedrals with double side naves were not built often; tapestries were simply hung in the openings of the arcades.
On the sides of the naves there are seven chapels, going from the fourth to the tenth aisles. These chapels contain paintings and sculptures on religious themes, which were created to order by the best masters of France. They are presented as a gift to the cathedral every year on the first day of May, following the centuries-old tradition associated with Parisian jewelers. And in one of the chapels, you can see a historical model that clearly demonstrates the construction progress of Notre Dame Cathedral.
The central nave (Nef) is an elongated space of ten spans, bounded on both longitudinal sides by a row of columns separating it from the side naves. The vaults of the nave are 33 meters high and 12 meters wide.
The height of the nave of Notre Dame Cathedral has three levels:
- In the lower tier there are round, polished columns with capitals in the form of elaborate wreaths of acanthus leaves.
- In the second tier, there are arched openings, separated from each other by thin columns.
- On both sides of the third tier, rows of elongated lancet windows were lined up, necessary for the penetration of daylight.
Thanks to this, the ceiling, built in the form of a six-petal stone vault, is clearly visible.
The interior of the nave appears to be much larger than in an ordinary parish church. The creators of the cathedral, thus, tried to recreate the image of the heavenly Jerusalem, which is described in detail in the Bible. The architectural elements of the Gothic style add sophistication and grace to the interior, creating a sense of touching the heavens, which was not always inherent in the Romanesque architecture of the earlier period.
On both sides of the nave in the choir stalls, carved wooden benches from the early 18th century are preserved, which depict scenes from the life of the Virgin Mary. They were made specially, as a tribute, in the name of the royal vow of Louis XIII.
A large number of parishioners gather here every day for services. A mysterious twilight reigns inside the cathedral. In the course of a large-scale restoration, for better illumination, new windows were additionally made in the side walls of the nave.
The famous organ of Notre Dame Cathedral (Grand orgue) is installed under the western rose window. It is not only the largest organ in France, but also one of the largest musical instruments in the world. Today the organ consists of 109 registers and about 7800 pipes.
The organ was first installed in the cathedral in 1402. A new Gothic-style building was specially designed for it. Since this instrument could not completely fill the entire vast space of the cathedral, in 1730 François-Henri Clicquot completed its completion. At the same time, the organ acquired its present body in the style of Louis XVI.
In the 1860s, the famous 19th-century French organ builder Aristide Cavaillé-Colle made a complete reconstruction of it, and the baroque instrument received an unusual romantic sound. In the future, the large organ was subjected to various restructurings and replacements several times, but in 1992 the control of the instrument was computerized, and a fiber optic cable was connected to it.
Many famous names have accompanied this organ over the centuries, among them Perotina, the inventor of polyphonic music in the 13th century, Campra, Daquin, Armand-Louis Couperin, César Franck, Camille Saint-Saëns and, more recently, Louis Vierna and Pierre Cochereau. The position of titular organist of Notre Dame Cathedral is considered one of the most prestigious in France.
You can listen to the sound of a large organ completely free of charge every week during Sunday mass.
Rose West Window
The Rose ouest is the central stained glass window in Notre Dame de Paris. It was created in 1220 and is the oldest rosette in the cathedral. The stained glass rose looks huge, but its diameter is only 9,6 meters, making this mosaic the smallest of the cathedral's three rosettes.
Harmoniously located in the center of the western façade, it consists of three circles around a central medallion depicting the Mother of God and the baby Jesus. In the first belt from the center there are twelve "minor" prophets, followed by 12 agricultural works by seasons, which correspond to 12 signs of the zodiac.
In the upper circle, on the medallions, it is shown how the twelve virtues in the form of warriors armed with spears oppose the twelve vices.
To this day, most of the original mosaic fragments of the west window have not survived, and the stained glass window itself was almost completely changed by Viollet-le-Duc in the 19th century. It is also impossible to fully consider the rosette on the window, since it is partially covered by a large organ.
The construction of the western façade (Façade occidentale) began under Bishop Edé de Sully in 1200 as the third architect to build the cathedral. This work was continued by his successors, in particular, Guillaume d'Auvergne, and after 1220 the construction was continued by the fourth architect. The North Tower was completed in 1240 and the South Tower in 1250.
The western façade is the epitome of grandeur, simplicity and harmony. Its strength and power is based on the relationship between vertical and horizontal lines. Four powerful buttresses rush to the tops of the towers, lifting them up to heaven. Their symbolic meaning is that this temple is dedicated to God. And two wide horizontal stripes seem to bring the building back to our mortal land, proving that this cathedral belongs to people as well.
The dimensions of the western facade are also impressive: 41 meters wide, 43 meters up to the base of the towers, 63 meters up to the top of the towers.
In the center, next to the Gallery of the Virgin, there is a large rose with a diameter of 9,6 meters, created in 1225, which forms a halo above the head of the statue of the Virgin and Child, which is surrounded by two angels. On both sides of the stone rose are statues of Adam and Eve, which remind us of original sin. They were placed here at the initiative of Viollet-le-Duc in the 19th century.
Below the balustrade is a wide horizontal frieze called the Gallery of the Kings. Shown here are 28 figures of Jewish kings, the forefathers of Christ. The height of each figure is more than three meters. This sculptural composition indicates that Mary was a mortal woman, representative of the human race, and gave birth to Jesus, who was both man and God.
During the revolution of 1793, the stone figures were beheaded, so the restorers of the 19th century had to restore them. Most of the original surviving heads of the kings are now on display in the medieval Cluny Museum.
At the lower level of the facade there are three large portals, which differ significantly from each other. The central portal is known as the Doomsday Portal and is taller and wider than the others. To the right of it is the Portal of St. Anne, and to the left is the Portal of the Holy Virgin. The gate wings are decorated with an amazing wrought iron pattern, and the front part of the portals is decorated with the image of many characters. There are 4 statues on the buttresses: on the south side - the figure of the deacon St. Stephen, on the north side - the Bishop of Saint-Denis, and on the sides of the central portal there are two allegories - a synagogue and a church.
Saint Anne's portal
The south aisle on the right side of the west facade is called the Portal of Saint Anne (Portail Sainte-Anne), she was the mother of the Virgin Mary. It belongs to the 13th century and is the earliest among other portals.
On the tympanum, in the upper part of it, the Madonna Maesta is depicted, seated on a throne under a canopy. On different sides of it were the angels and the builders of the temple - Bishop Maurice de Sully and the kneeling king Louis VII. These statues were created for the Church of St. Mary, which was previously located on the site of the cathedral, and then they were transferred to the portal. The lower part of the tympanum depicts scenes from the lives of Joachim and Anna.
On the central pillar of the portal between the doors is a statue of Saint Marcel, bishop of Paris in the 5th century. Saint Marcel was the forerunner of Saint Genevieve. These two figures before the revolution were very revered among the faithful Parisians. They became famous for their bold, inventive and effective works aimed at charity. In addition, like all true fighters for justice, they were highly spiritual personalities, sacredly observing all the sacraments and prayers.
This portal (Portail du Jugement) was built in 1220-1230. It is located in the center of the western façade, striking with its magnificent sculptural design. The Last Judgment is presented here as it is described in the Gospel of Matthew.
In the center of the tympanum, Christ is depicted seated on a throne in glory, on both sides of him are angels with the instruments of the Passion and kneeling figures of John the Baptist and the Virgin Mary, who pray for sinners. The city of heaven - New Jerusalem is depicted under the figure of Christ. To the right of it are the figures of the righteous, headed by the Archangel Michael with weights for human souls in their hands. On the other side - devils take sinners to Hell. The scene of the Resurrection is shown at the very bottom of the tympanum.
The archivolts depict various saints, women and men, who make up the hierarchy of the Heavenly Forces. On the side pilasters near the gates there are figurines of virgins, five on each side, personifying the "Parable of the Ten Virgins".
There is another statue of Christ on the pilaster dividing the portal into two gates. He is surrounded by twelve apostles, six on each side. At their foot, on the plinth of the portal, virtues and vices are represented in small medallions.
Many of the statues that adorned the Doomsday Portal were destroyed during the revolution and subsequently recreated by Viollet-le-Duc, who returned the western facade to its original appearance.
Portal of the Holy Virgin
The northern portal on the left side of the western facade of Notre Dame Cathedral is called the Portal of the Holy Virgin (Portail de la Vierge). It is decorated with statues from the 12th and 13th centuries.
On the central pilaster there is a figure of the Madonna and Child. The tympanum depicts scenes of the Assumption and Coronation of the Virgin Mary.
On one of the sculptural compositions, you can see how the completion of Mary's life on earth took place. The term "dormition" in the Christian dictionary means death. The dead will fall asleep, but on the Last Day Christ will awaken them for the general resurrection, just as the Lord resurrected him on Easter morning. Symbolizing the connection with the Old Testament, the twelve apostles sat at the deathbed of Mary, who laid the Ark of the Covenant, where the tablets of the Covenant are located, which serve as a type of the Holy Virgin, in whom the word became flesh.
Another storyline depicts the scene of the coronation of the Virgin after her resurrection to heaven. She solemnly sits on the royal throne, and the son Jesus blesses her, while the angel puts the crown on Mary's head.
Allegorical figures of twelve months are placed on the side pilasters, and various saints and angels are located on the archivolts.
Legends about Notre-Dame de Paris
For many, Notre Dame is a universal reference book of esotericism. And there is nothing surprising in the fact that the majestic structure, which has a long history, like a shroud, is wrapped in countless legends.
About the blacksmith
The legends of the famous cathedral are greeted by Parisians and thousands of tourists right at the gate. The expression "to sell the soul to the devil" is used not in a figurative, but in the literal sense of the word, when it comes to the master who forged the gates for the cathedral.
Thousands of years later, people admire with joyful admiration the magic of intricate designs on the gates. It is hard to believe that such a perfect, incomprehensible beauty could have been created by a man.
At the beginning of the 2nd millennium, Bishop Maurice de Sully decided to build a grandiose cathedral, which was supposed to outshine everything that had existed before with beauty and grandeur.
The future cathedral was assigned an honorable role: to become the spiritual stronghold of the nation and to contain the population of an entire city. An important mission was entrusted to the blacksmith - to create a gate that would match the beauty and craftsmanship of the greatness of the building being erected.
Birskone fell into anxious doubts. The task that stood before him seemed to him so responsible, and his own skill so insufficient, that he called on supernatural forces for help.
The canon of the cathedral, coming in the morning to believe how the work was progressing, found the blacksmith unconscious. But in the smithy there was a gate of incredible beauty. Whimsical twisted patterns and ornaments of filigree work intertwined on them into a single, unprecedentedly magical composition.
It was not even clear how the master managed to create this masterpiece: whether he used forging or casting to create such complex openwork patterns. But the master himself could not answer.
When he came to, he was gloomy, thoughtful and not talkative. When the gates were installed and locks were fixed on them, it turned out that no one, including the blacksmith, could open them. Suspecting something was wrong, the castles were sprinkled with holy water, and only after that the gates were admitted into the temple of the amazed ministers.
The brilliant master himself soon lost the power of speech and quickly descended into the grave. So they did not have time to extort from him the secret of creating the gate. Some logically assumed that the master simply did not want to reveal the secrets of professional skill.
But rumors and legends reported that there was a deal with the devil. It was on such a deal that the blacksmith was forced to make: to sell his soul in exchange for talent.
Be that as it may, but the incomprehensible beauty of the main gate of the temple can really raise doubts that they were created without any intervention of extraterrestrial forces.
On the nails of the holy cross
Of the four cross nails that were used at the crucifixion of Christ, two are kept in France. One of the nails is in Notre Dame itself. The other is in the church of Saint Siffredia, which is located in the city of Carpentras. It is to this nail that all sorts of miracles are attributed.
The miraculous nail was found in Jerusalem by the mother of the Byzantine emperor Constantine and transported to Rome. Helen, the mother of the emperor, is not in vain revered by Orthodox Christians around the world: she saved and preserved many holy relics associated with the life and death of Jesus and the Mother of God. In particular, with her help, the cross was found, on which the Lord was executed.
Believing in the miraculous power of the cross's nail, Elena ordered to build a bit out of it for her son's horse. She believed that the power contained in the nail would save the emperor on the battlefield. In 313, Constantine, having won a victory over Lucinius, put an end to the persecution of Christians and himself converted to Christianity.
Centuries later, the bit ended up in the Cathedral of Carpentras. A nail from this cathedral was a mystical symbol and a talisman of the city during the plague invasion.
The sick and the crippled were healed by touching it, the nail helped to expel demons from the possessed. Cases of medically unexplained miraculous healings were officially recognized by the Vatican.
The nail, despite its centuries-old age, does not oxidize or rust. Even attempts to gild it did not lead to anything: the gilding lagged behind the nail.
All these miracles, however, do not apply to the nail stored in Notre Dame. This nail has long been covered with rust. However, the authenticity of the French relic from Carpentres is still disputed by the Roman Church.
After the destruction of the Jerusalem temple by Nebuchadnezzar 1, the trace of the most revered relic of the Jews, the Ark of the Covenant, was lost. The Ark of the Covenant was shaped like a chest and was made of pure gold. It allegedly kept divine revelations that shed light on the laws of the universe.
Among other things, the casket contained the secret of the "golden ratio". "Golden number" 1, 618 in proportion to 1 was ideal for the construction of architectural structures, when creating sculptures and paintings. The "Golden Number" was the key that revealed the divine secret of the harmony of all things.
According to some versions, the Order of the Knights Templar was considered involved in the discovery of the golden casket. When the first French Templars went to the East to protect pilgrims going to the Holy Land, they did not stop at this task.
Their mission also included the search for the treasured chest. The rumor that the casket was either found by them, or given to the Templars by the secret keepers of the relic, spread throughout France.
In any case, after their return to their homeland, the construction of the Chartres Cathedral began. It was destined to become the most magnificent and mysterious cathedral in the world.
The altar - the "holy place" is located between the second and third columns of the cathedral. If you count down 37 meters from this place, you can find the ancient well of the Druids (the lowest point). And at the same distance from the altar is the highest point of the cathedral - the spire of the main column.
This place with dots located symmetrically at the same distance from the main shrine has some kind of magical power. Those who have been there will have an indelible impression. The cathedral seems to transmit double energy to the person.
The energy of the Earth rises from the bottom of the temple. The energy of the heavens descends from above. A person receives such a portion of concentrated pure energy that he is instantly transformed, both physically and spiritually.
About the Symbol of Heaven
For a resident of the Middle Ages, everything that he saw was only a reflection of the upper world, invisible to the human eye. Therefore, the entire architecture of the Middle Ages was encrypted into symbols. It is not easy to figure out all this symbolism of geometry, symmetry, mathematics, astrological symbols hidden in the architecture of Notre Dame.
On its central round stained-glass window (rosette) the zodiac signs are depicted and zodiac symbols are carved from stone next to the figure of the Virgin Mary. This composition is interpreted as a symbol of the annual zodiac cycle.
But the zodiacal cycle begins with the sign of Taurus, while on the stained glass it starts with the sign of Pisces. And this corresponds not to Western, but to Hindu astrology.
The sign of Pisces corresponds to Venus, if we proceed from Greek traditions. But the fish was also a symbol of Jesus Christ. The Greek word "ichthus" (fish) in its first letters contained the phrase: "Jesus Christ, the son of God."
The gallery of 28 Jewish kings reproduces the lunar cycle. But - again, the mystery of Notre Dame: there were only 18 kings, while the lunar cycle consists of 28 days.
About the bell
The bells on the towers of the cathedral have their own names and voices. The oldest of them is named Belle. And the largest, Emmanuelle, weighs 13 tons.
All bells, with the exception of the last one, ring daily in the morning and evening. Emmanuel, due to his gravity, is not so easy to swing. Therefore, they are used only in the most solemn occasions.
But, if you believe the legends, then the cathedral once served as a haven for a person who could single-handedly swing this gigantic structure. His name was Quasimodo, he was the bell ringer of Notre Dame.
There is also a beautiful legend related to the creation of this bell. When at one time they wanted to cast it from bronze, Parisian women in love with Notre Dame threw their gold and silver jewelry into the molten bronze. That is why the voice of the bell had no equal in beauty and purity of sound.
About the philosopher's stone
Esotericists consider Notre Dame to be a kind of body of occult knowledge. The architecture and symbolism of the cathedral have been trying to decipher various researchers of the occult since the beginning of the 17th century.
It is said that ancient alchemists helped the famous architects of the cathedral with their knowledge. And somewhere in the geometry of the building is the secret of the Philosopher's Stone. Anyone who can figure it out in countless sculptural moldings will be able to turn any other substance into gold.
And if you can decipher the ancient teaching, which, according to the followers of occultism, is encoded in frescoes, then you can comprehend all the secrets of the universe and get unlimited power over the world.
Address: 6 Parvis Notre-Dame - Pl. Jean-Paul II, Paris 75004
Phone: + 33 1 42 34 56 10
RER train: Saint-Michel Notre-Dame
Opening hours: 8:00 - 18:45