18th Apr, 2019
A massive fire consumed Notre-Dame Cathedral, gutting the roof of the Paris’ landmark and stunning France and the world, but fire-fighters managed to save the shell of the stone structure and its two main bell towers from collapse.
What is Notre-Dame Cathedral?
- It is a French Gothic cathedral whose construction began at the end of the 12th century— generally ascribed the date 1163—and lasted more than two centuries to 1345. The iconic cathedral has been deeply enmeshed in Paris’s history since construction.
- It sits on the Ile de la Cite, an island in the River Seine and marks the very centre of Paris.
- It is a UNESCO World Heritage site that attracts millions of tourists every year.
Why is it a Paris landmark?
- It was in Notre-Dame that Napoleon Bonaparte crowned himself emperor of France.
- Its massive tenor bell announced the liberation of the city from Nazi control on August 24, 1944, ending the dark years under German rule in World War II.
- Twenty-six years later it hosted the funeral of Charles de Gaulle, a rare honour for the leader who steered France’s resistance during the war.
- For French Catholics it has particular resonance, as the resting place of the crown of thorns believed to have been placed on Jesus’ head before his crucifixion.
What are its cultural specialties?
- Holy Crown of Thorns: It contained some of the most sacred relics of the Christian faith, including the Holy Crown of Thorns (Cathedral’s most precious item), believed to have been worn by Jesus at his crucifixion. It also contained other relics from the crucifixion of Jesus-a piece of the cross on which he was nailed and one of the nails.
- The Great Organ: Of the cathedral’s three organs, the most impressive is the Great Organ with five key-boards, 109 stops and closes to 8000 pipes. It was built in 15th century and progressively added over the centuries to become one of the largest in France.
- 37 figures of Virgin Mary: A mid-14th century statue of the Virgin with child, placed in the sanctuary is the most famous of the 37 images of the Virgin Mary contained in the Cathedral.
- In 1831, Hugo brought the cathedral alive with ‘Notre-Dame de Paris’, giving it a personality on par with the novel’s heroes, the hunchback Quasimodo and the gypsy beauty Esmeralda.
- A spire originally installed toward the year 1250 was taken down five centuries later. At the end of the 19th century the architect Eugene Viollet-le-Duc, a tireless defender of France’s medieval monuments, rebuilt the spire.