This past week one of the worlds most recognised icons of religion, French history and architecture went up in flames. The stunning Notre Dame of Paris, which has stood for over 800 years caught fire on Monday evening (local time) causing the collapse of the famous spire. We, along with the crowds of locals watched in devastation as the structure burned from across the world. For us, what makes this event so tragic is that it is a loss for so many people and for so many different aspects of life and history.
The cathedral fire represents the loss of history for Paris, Catholicism and for the history of humanity as a whole. The events that occurred in the walls of the church often impacted the path of history dramatically. It held relics of some of the most sacred events in Catholic belief, and it featured in memories of millions of Parisians and tourists alike. While many people are sharing their grieve worldwide, others are failing to realise the significance of the event. While there is always serious problems happening in the world, it is important to take a second to reflect and express the lessons that are learnt from such brutal and often shocking events.
As a gesture of our respect to The Lady if Paris, today we will take a look back at the rich and beautiful history that surrounds its construction and inhabitance.
Notre Dame de Paris
In 1163 in the 4th arrondissement of Paris, the Notre-Dam de Paris begun its construction. Believed to have been built over a large number of holy predecessors, the cathedral was designed in the Gothic style of architecture. The first stone was laid in the presence of Pope Alexander III and King Louis VII, although it took many years and stages for the structure to be completed. In fact, construction lasted right up to 1345. Below is a summarised timeline for ease:
- 1163, the first corner stone is laid;
- Phase one of construction included the choir and two ambulatories, with the choir being completed in 1177;
- On the 19 May 1182, the high alter was consecrated by Cardinal Herni de Chateau-Marcay;
- Phase two of the construction included the four sections of the nave behind the choir, as well as the aisles. This happened from 1182 to 1990;
- 1190 saw the beginning of the erection of the bases of the famous facade. Traverses were also completed;
- The Third Crusades were called for by Heraclius of Caesarea in the incomplete cathedral in 1185;
- In 1196, the completion of the transepts was overseen, as well as the continuation of the nave. The nave was completed in 1208;
- King Louis IX placed the Crown of Thorns in the cathedral in 1231;
- The western facade was completed approximately in the mid 1240’s with the upper gallery of the nave being built between 1225 and 1250;
- It was during this time that the two towers of the western facade were also built;
- In the mid 13th Century the transept was remodelled in the Rayonnant style;
- The famous rose window was created in the late 1240’s when a gabled portal was added to the north transept;
- The same scheme was used on the southern transept, with the construction beginning from 1258;
- With time the iconic flying buttresses of the choir were installed. This is a major moment in structural development. With the buttresses installed, the weight of the of the roof was carried by the ribs of the vault entry outside of the structure, rather than out and down on the walls;
- The buttresses were replaced for stronger and larger alternatives in the 14th century;
Following this core construction period, the building has been named as one of Paris’ three most important buildings (1323).
History of Events
While the construction alone is noteworthy, key events also occurred in the structure which shaped history and humanity, as well as the culture of Paris. Some of our favourites are listed below:
- 1455 – Joan of Arc’s mother petitions a papal delegation to overturn her daughters conviction;
- 1558 – Mary Queen of Scots marries the Dauphin Francis, who would later become Francis II of France;
- 1573 – A vow was made by Herny of Valois that he would respect the recently passed religious freedom law;
- 1831 – The novel the Hunchback of Notre-Dame is published by Victor Hugo;
- 1944 – A Te Deum Mass is held at the cathedral to celebrate the Liberation of Paris;
While we only scratched the surface of a history that runs deep and long, we hope it expresses the importance of architecture and its link to physical and written history. It is important to remember that history, while often unfair and brutal, helps us to learn, improve and grow. Tomorrow is based off of yesterday. And while today the Lady of Paris is hurting, tomorrow she will be rebuilt and she will continue to be a focal site in history books to come.
For more blogs on historical building’s throughout the world, click here.