Notre-Dame de Paris

Notre-Dame de Paris nôˈtrə-däm də pärēˈ [key] [Fr.,=Our Lady of Paris], cathedral church of Paris, a noble achievement of early Gothic architecture in France. It stands upon the Île de la Cité, a small island in the Seine. The cornerstone was laid in 1163 by Pope Alexander III. The high altar was consecrated 20 years later, and the nave was completed except for the roofing in 1196. However, in 1230 the nave was reconstructed and the present flying buttresses were added. Soon after, chapels were installed between the buttresses, which radically altered not only the plan but the entire aesthetic of the building. The towers were finished c.1245, but the building was not completed until the beginning of the 14th cent. Among the master builders are the names Jehan de Chelles, Pierre de Montreuil, Pierre de Chelles, and Jehan Rave.

The plan consists of a wide central nave rising 110 ft (34 m) high and flanked by double aisles, with a transept of slight projection from the main body. The aisles continue around the east end, which, with the projecting chapels, forms a chevet. Three sculptured portals are deeply recessed in the majestic west front. Above them a row of sculptures in niches extends across the facade, and over this, in the center, is the huge traceried rose window.

In the French Revolution rioters converted the cathedral into a “Temple of Reason” and destroyed the sculptures of the west facade. Skillful restorations taking 25 years were begun in 1845 by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc and Jean-Baptiste Lassus, and a new central spire was constructed. Fire in 2019 destroyed the roof and spire and damaged other parts of the cathedral.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2024, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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