Located on the eastern end of the Ile-de-la-Cité, an island on the Seine River, the site was a Christian church
A religious district
The current cathedral, dedicated to Our Lady, or the Virgin Mary, replaced an earlier cathedral that was built during the
Other church officials likely also had a role in this rebuilding as the
Reconstruction of the cathedral was part of a larger redesign of the eastern part of the Ile-de-la-Cité. This neighborhood housed the church officials, masters, clerics, servants and others who worked to run the diocese of Paris and the cathedral school.
Maurice’s other projects at the time included construction of a new street, the rue Neuve Notre-Dame, which ran from the cathedral to the west — now replaced by the square in front of the cathedral. He also built a new palace for the bishop and a new charitable hospital.
How structures were added
Construction proceeded under a series of master builders.
The first part of the cathedral to be built was the eastern part, or choir. This was to serve as the religious heart of the structure where the main altar would be located. Construction then generally
The design, however, was continuously revised during the course of construction. For example, in the 1220s the upper wall of the cathedral, which had already been constructed, was demolished and rebuilt to allow for larger windows.
The new cathedral was largely completed by around 1245, although,
In my assessment, these many remodels during the Middle Ages demonstrated the vitality of the cathedral in medieval life and the creativity of the builders, as they adapted the building to changing architectural fashions and social practices. The change to a three-story structure, that had
My forthcoming book shows how cathedrals, including Notre Dame of Paris, were connected to the daily life in the city. There were
Why Notre Dame is special
Notre Dame was the most colossal church of its generation — wider and taller than other European churches of the mid-12th century.
There were several technological breakthroughs made in its construction. For example, it was a
It was the first French Gothic cathedral to receive a line of chapels along its exterior. These were added to the building between the projecting buttress piers after 1228. Many other cathedrals
The chapels appended to the choir on the eastern end of the cathedral were the only ones from 1300-1350
Paris Cathedral played an important role in religious and secular life.
As the seat of the bishop, Notre Dame was the most significant religious building in the city. Its size and luxury symbolized the power of the church and the authority of the bishop. It was also the site of
Consequently, it was one of the many churches that were attacked during the French Revolution in the 1790s. This violence resulted in significant losses of medieval sculpture and stained glass and damage to the building itself.
By the 19th century, the cathedral was in a state of disrepair.
A major restoration effort began in 1843 under the
Many of the building’s iconic features date to the 19th-century restorations. These include the crossing spire that collapsed in the recent fire. It also includes the many
The 19th century also saw the construction of the parvis, or square in front of the cathedral, which significantly altered how one encounters the structure. Visitors to the cathedral now have a much larger area from which to view the front of the building which facilitates spectacular views of the cathedral’s twin towers.
It will survive
The roof of the cathedral was largely
Details are still emerging about its
The cathedral has stood for 800 years and withstood damage on many previous occasions. I am confident that it will survive this fire as well.
Although the 2019 fire may appear to many as a cataclysmic destruction, the cathedral is
While some parts of the cathedral might be irreplaceable, I believe many future generations continue to admire and learn from this magnificent building, as well as its rich history.