|Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris, East Side
Part of my June release, Refiner’s Fire, is set in Paris, so I thought I’d take a closer look at this iconic building and also offer a giveaway. We’re starting today with the history of the cathedral’s construction, and next month Part 2 will delve into some of the marvelous details and treasures Notre Dame contains.
|Nave of Notre Dame
It’s thought that a pre-Christian Gallo-Roman temple dedicated to Jupiter originally occupied the site. It was succeeded by four earlier churches, and then in 1160 the Bishop of Paris, Maurice de Sully, decided to build a cathedral in the new Gothic style. He had the Romanesque church on the site demolished and used its materials for his cathedral. Actual construction began between March 24 and April 25, 1163, with King Louis VII and Pope Alexander III present for the laying of the cornerstone.
|North Rose Window
|Cross section of buttresses
by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc
An important innovation in the 13th century was the use of a structure called a flying buttress. A series of these were built on the outside of the choir during this period as well. Before these were developed the entire weight of the roof pressed down and outward on the walls and the abutments that supported them. Flying buttress distributed the weight from the vault’s ribs evenly to a series of counter-supports topped with stone pinnacles outside the building to give them greater strength and stability. This allowed the walls to be built higher and thinner with larger windows so that the interior felt light and airy, like a vision of heaven. It isn’t known for certain whether the first flying buttresses were used before the 13th century, but detailed laser scans of the structure seem to indicate that the buttresses were part of the original 12th century design. The cathedral’s first buttresses were replaced by larger and stronger ones in the 14th century as additions and alterations continued.
Many more alterations were made to the cathedral during the Renaissance, when the Gothic style lost popularity. The interior pillars and walls were covered with tapestries, then in 1548 some of the statues were damaged in riots by Huguenots, who considered them idolatrous. The 17th and 18th centuries brought many more changes during the reigns of Louis XIV and Louis XV in line with the period’s more classical style. The sanctuary was rearranged and the choir largely rebuilt in marble. Many of the stained-glass windows that dated to the 12th and 13th centuries were taken out and replaced with white glass windows for more light. Can you imagine? What were they thinking? And in the second half of the 18th century, the spire was damaged by wind, so it was simply removed.
|The Cult of Reason is celebrated at Notre-Dame
during the French Revolution, 1793
Efforts at Restoration
|The Cathedral at the Beginning of Restoration 1847
by Hippolyte Bayard
Much of Notre Dame remained in ruins, however, until 1831, when Victor Hugo’s novel Notre-Dame de Paris, published in English as The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, became such a success that it restored public interest in the cathedral. In 1844 King Louis Philippe started a movement to restore it. A large team of architects and craftsmen worked from historical drawings and engravings to replace the original decorations or, where these were missing, to add embellishments consistent with the original style. They also replaced the original spire with one that was taller and more ornate. This restoration took twenty five years.
|Cathedral Notre Dame de Paris, West View
For the building’s 850th anniversary in 2013, the four 19th-century bells from the northern towers were melted down and recast in bronze to simulate the sound of the cathedral’s 17th century bells. But after more than eight centuries, the building was showing signs of deterioration consistent with its age, which led to the most recent renovation. A €6 million renovation of the spire began in late 2018, during which the copper statues on its roof and other decorative elements had to be temporarily removed. By luck or providence, that happened just days before the fire broke out.
With the release of Book 6 of my American Patriot Series, Refiner’s Fire, I’m giving away a copy of Daughter of Liberty, or any volume of the series if the winner already has it —except Refiner’s Fire, which I’ll be giving away in June after its release. If the winner has all the books in the series so far, I’m happy to offer a copy of either Northkill or The Return from the Northkill Amish series. To enter, please leave a comment on this post answering the question below before the end of the day.
Notre Dame is a work of art in and of itself. What features of the cathedral do you find the most impressive and/or beautiful?
Be sure to include your email address in your comment so I can contact you if you win. I’ll announce the winner first thing tomorrow morning.
~~~J. M. Hochstetler is the daughter of Mennonite farmers and a lifelong student of history. She is also an author, editor, and publisher. Her American Patriot Series is the only comprehensive historical fiction series on the American Revolution. Book 6, Refiner’s Fire, releases in April 2019. Northkill, Book 1 of the Northkill Amish Series coauthored with Bob Hostetler, won Foreword Magazine’s 2014 Indie Book of the Year Bronze Award for historical fiction. Book 2, The Return, received the 2017 Interviews and Reviews Silver Award for Historical Fiction and was named one of Shelf Unbound’s 2018 Notable Indie Books. One Holy Night, a contemporary retelling of the Christmas story, was the Christian Small Publishers 2009 Book of the Year and a finalist in the Carol Award.
1. Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris: East side. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Commons:GNU_Free_Documentation_License,_version_1.2
2.Nave of Notre-Dame de Paris, 22 June, 2014. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Commons:GNU_Free_Documentation_License,_version_1.2
3. North Rose Window. Photo by Julie Anne Workman. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0
4. Cross-section of the double supporting arches and buttresses of the nave, drawn by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc as they would have appeared from 1220 to 1230. Public domain.
5. Cathedral Notre Dame de Paris, West view, Paris, France. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Commons:GNU_Free_Documentation_License,_version_1.2