Considered to be one of the greatest examples of French Gothic architecture, Notre-Dame Cathedral - along with the Eiffel Tower - is one of Paris's most famous landmarks. Located on the Ile de la Cite, an island in the River Seine, the cathedral was commissioned by Maurice de Sully shortly after becoming Bishop of Paris in 1160, and built over two centuries, from 1163 to 1345, although much of it was completed before his death in 1196. The cathedral is renowned for the naturalism of its gothic sculpture as well as its sublime stained glass art, typifying the improvements made over the previous era of Romanesque Architecture and Romanesque sculpture (c.1000-1200). Significant damage was caused to the cathedral during the radical phase of the French Revolution (1790s), which was followed in the mid-1840s by an extensive program of renovation, overseen by the restoration specialist Eugene Viollet-le-Duc. In 1991, Notre-Dame Cathedral was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List of culturally important sites. For two other important examples of Gothic design, see Chartres Cathedral (1194-1250) and Cologne Cathedral (1248-1880).
Construction began in 1163 after Pope Alexander III laid the cornerstone for the new cathedral. By the time of Bishop Maurice de Sully's death in 1196, the apse, choir and the new High Altar were all finished, while the nave itself was nearing completion. In 1200, work began on the western facade, including the west rose window and the towers, all of which were completed around 1250, along with a new north rose window. Also during the 1250s, the transepts were remodeled in the latest style of Rayonnant Gothic architecture by architects Jean de Chelles and Pierre de Montreuil, and the clerestory windows were enlarged. The last remaining elements were gradually completed during the following century. (See also Flamboyant Gothic architecture: 1375-1500.)
Architecture of Notre-Dame Cathedral
The cathedral is roughly 128 metres (420 ft) in length, and 12 metres (39 ft) wide in the nave. Its cruciform plan, elevated nave, transept and tower were borrowed from 11th-century Romanesque architecture, but its pointed arches and rib vaulting were strictly Gothic. Indeed, it was one of the first Gothic cathedrals to have arched exterior supports known as "flying buttresses". These were not incorporated into the initial architecture of the building, but were included when stress fractures began to appear in the thin upper walls as they cracked under the weight of the vault. In addition to the flying buttresses, over a dozen supporting piers were constructed to support the exterior walls and counteract the lateral thrust of the nave vaulting. Notre-Dame is also famous for its external statues and gargoyles arranged around the outside to serve as extra column supports and drainage pipes. As Gothic building designers hoped, the additional reinforcement provided by the buttresses, piers and other stone supports enabled the main walls of the cathedral to become non-structural, and thus a greater wall area was available for stained glass, in order to inspire worshippers and illuminate the cathedral's interior. Indeed, Notre-Dame Cathedral exemplifies the main contributions of Gothic art to Christian architecture: churches soared higher and were more awe-inspiring, while their stained glass windows let in more light and provided additional Biblical art for the congregation. Thus the clerestory windows of Notre-Dame's original nave were enlarged in the 13th century, filling the interior with light, thanks to the improvements achieved in structural support.
Notre-Dame's stern facade is decorated with a mass of stone sculpture, notably around the central portal, which is flanked by statues depicting The Last Judgment. The facade design balances the verticality of the twin towers (69 metres in height) with the horizontal banding of the decorated galleries. This produces a simple but powerful western elevation, which dominates the square in front.
The cathedral's transept portals are also richly decorated with architectural relief sculpture; the south door features scenes from the lives of Saint Stephen along with other local saints, while the decorations around the north door depict the infancy of Christ and the tale of Theophilus.
Gothic Cathedral Builders
With the aid of only elementary drawings and templates, master stone masons meticulously directed the construction of the great medieval cathedrals of Europe. The practices of intuitive calculation, largely based on simple mathematical ratios and structural precedent, were closely guarded and passed between successive generations of masons. Specific site conditions and the insatiable demand by church authorities for higher and lighter buildings provided the impetus for continual development.
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Medieval Sculpture (c.300-1000) From Late Antiquity to Romanesque.
Medieval Artists (c.1100-1450).
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German Gothic Sculpture (1150-1400).
The Notre Dame Cathedral Paris or Notre Dame de Paris (Meaning 'Our Lady of Paris' in French) is a Gothic cathedral located in the fourth arrondissement of Paris, France, It has its main entrance to the west. The island is on the eastern half of the Île de la Cité.
The Notre Dame Cathedral with its sculptures and stained glass windows show the heavy influence of naturalism, unlike that of earlier Romanesque architecture. It was one of the very first Gothic cathedrals, and its construction took place throughout the Gothic period.
Building work began on the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris way back in the 12th century, it was not until some 300 years later construction finally came to an end. It is now one of the most prominent cathedrals in France and one of the oldest ones too. The length of time it took to build is evident through the various styles of architecture that run through the building. Although it is predominantly French Gothic ,there are areas that demonstrate the Renaissance and the Naturalism era of construction. These varying styles add to the outstanding yet quirky beauty of the building .
The Notre Dame Cathedral Paris didn't originally have flying buttresses included in its design. But after the construction of the cathedral began, the thinner walls (popularized in the Gothic style) grew ever higher and stress fractures began to occur as the walls pushed outward. The cathedral's architects, in an effort to fix the problem, built supports around the outside walls, and later additions continued the pattern. The was among the first buildings in the world to use the flying buttress (arched exterior supports).
Over its vast history the Cathedral has suffered considerable damage, not least during the French Revolution in 1786. Fortunately it was sympathetically restored and continued to attract attention from around the world. The Cathedral has played host to many religious ceremonies and historical events and despite their own religious beliefs people of all different faiths and nationalities still marvel at it's unique grandeur.
In 1909 Joan of Arc was famously beatified in the Notre Dame Cathedral by Pope Pius X. The brave young girl who told all she had experienced visions from God, went on to assist the French in conflicts with English soldiers. The French trusted her word and ultimately won many battles against England. As a big fan of the royals she also played a part in the crowning of Charles Vll. However not everyone was convinced by her religious visions and beliefs and she was later killed by Burundians' who accused her of heresy and burned her at the stake. It was not until 1456 that her name was cleared and she became known as an innocent martyr
The Notre Dame Cathedral is widely considered one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture in the world.. The name Notre Dame means "Our Lady" in French, and is frequently used in the names of Catholic church buildings in Francophone countries.The Notre Dame Cathedral is the actual cathedral of the Catholic archdiocese of Paris: which is to say, it is the church which contains the official chair ("cathedra") of the Archbishop of Paris, Andre Cardinal Vingt-Trois.
Within the Cathedral of Notre Dame there are vast displays of artwork, furniture and many valuable items that mirror the Nio-Gothic design. Tourists are welcomed into the cathedral to view and enjoy these pieces for a small entrance fee. They are also able to attend Mass, which is held three times a day and a popular attraction for Christian visitors.
Surrounding the Cathedral there are a number of stunning Parisian Hotels which are fortunate enough to enjoy magnificent views of the cathedral in it's entirety.
The Cathedral of Notre Dame is probably best known for its relation to the story of the Hunchback of Notre Dame, made famous by the numerous cartoons and movies inspired by it. But it is the French Gothic Architecture that remains the biggest draw for visitors from around the world, an unrivaled, perfect example to this day.