10 Facts About the Notre-Dame Cathedral’s History You Should Know
Notre-Dame Cathedral suffered a tragic loss as much of its historical excellence was lost in a recent fire. We feel for the people of Paris who had to witness such a catastrophe, as they watched the spire of this great cathedral fall. Certain artifacts were saved from destruction like the iconic rose windows and the crown of thorns, but others were destroyed.
You may or may not have heard of the cathedral prior to this incident, but it is important either way to know its history in order to grasp why it has such a profound historical significance to the community. Keep reading to learn ten facts about Notre-Dame Cathedral’s history!
IT WAS BUILT IN THE MIDDLE AGES AROUND 1160
The fact that it was built in the Middle Ages speaks to its long-standing history and why it is so impressive it was still in such great shape before the fire. The Cathedral is around 856-years-old and it has stood the test of time as it has survived war after war. It is slightly ironic the fire happened now, in a time of peace, when the French Revolution and both World Wars left it unscathed. It became a staple piece during this time in the art of gothic architecture, with its tall spire and vaulted ceilings.
HENRY VI WAS CROWNED HERE IN 1431
King Henry VI of England was crowned in the cathedral after being declared King of France by the Treaty of Troyes. This treaty came about after Henry VI’s father completed a successful military venture within the border of France. The treaty arranged for Henry V and the King of France’s daughter to marry. Unfortunately, both the King of England and France died shortly after Henry VI’s birth, and he was crowned King of both large nations as an infant, but the treaty was undermined as the French King’s disinherited son decided to claim a sector of France as his own.
IT WAS BUILT ON THE RUINS OF TWO OTHER CHURCHES
The Bishop of the time commissioned the building of this cathedral on top of the ruins of two former churches, located on top of an island in Paris. The two churches were a pagan temple and a Romanesque church, both of which the Bishop wanted to be removed. Paris, at the time, was an up and coming city, so the Bishop wanted something created to make it great. He knew creating a statement in the newly founded gothic architecture movement would bring Paris the popularity it needed to continue its grab for power.
THE FOUNDATION STONE WAS PLACED BY POPE ALEXANDER III
Pope Alexander III laid the foundation stone of this monstrosity, claiming it as a relic of the Catholic Church. It may have come as surprising, but with France becoming the center of economic advancement, he saw it as a diplomatic venture. Pope Alexander III fled to France after his papacy was challenged by a minority group in his homeland of Italy. He struggled to bring the government and church authorities together as they both fought to control the lives of their constituents and laying the stone showcased the Pope’s power and influence.
THE CENTRAL SPIRE WAS REPLACED IN THE 19TH CENTURY
The spire we watched burn to a crisp on national television was not the original spire from the middle ages. The original was removed in the 18th century after it was deemed unstable and a danger to the community. It remained spireless until the 19th century when they finally decided to design a new one. The current spire is now gone after the tragic events, but France is holding an international contest for the creation of a new one. They want it to reflect a blend of the old and new era, as they involve those who cared about it most in its new renovation.
NAPOLEON CROWNED HIMSELF EMPEROR OF THE ESTABLISHMENT IN 1804
Napoleon Bonaparte crowned himself Emperor of the cathedral in 1804, but it saved it from being destroyed during the Frech Revolution. The rebels had ransacked it before Napoleon had arrived, destroying anything they related to the monarchy as they chopped statues of Kings to pieces. Napoleon journeyed back from Egypt to save his own country of France from falling further into ruin. He rescued the cathedral from eternal destruction, as he ordered the restoration of the incredible piece of history before him.
THE RESTORATIONS INSPIRED BY VICTOR HUGO’S HISTORICAL BOOK, NOTRE-DAM DE PARIS
Disney fans have probably seen the movie based off of this book, called The Hunchback of Notre Dame, but never realized the cathedral he lived in was the same as the one in France. Victor Hugo crafted this book with the cathedral in mind, but it led to a shift in France’s view of the ancient building. They followed Hugo’s example and decided to rebuild the crumbling structure as its popularity grew. He inspired a movement to save a historical monument by putting words to paper to create a magical story.
THE STAIN GLASS WAS REMOVED DURING WW II FOR FEAR OF THE GERMANS DESTROYING IT
The rose windows are iconic and a staple of the cathedrals artifacts. They were built in the thirteenth century and miraculously survived war after war. Hitler had marked the cathedral to be destroyed during World War II and the cathedral had the windows removed for safekeeping in case he decided to go through with his plan. Luckily, he never destroyed the cathedral and the windows were put back in place shortly after the end of the war. It is believed the windows survived the recent fire, their turn in living history not yet complete.
JOAN OF ARC WAS BEATIFIED HERE BY THE POPE
Joan of Arc was a leader of the French military in the Hundred Years War, defeating the English through divine inspiration. She declared she had visions that she was to be France’s savior and convinced the King of it as well. He let her go to battle, where she disguised herself as a man and won. Later, the King gave her to the church and had her put on trial for heresy, which she lost despite her pious nature throughout the proceedings. They burned her at the stake for her transgressions, despite all of her incredible actions. She was beatified in Notre-Dame, which was the first step in the process to her becoming a saint, as it was symbolic of her roots.
IT BECAME PROPERTY OF THE FRENCH STATE IN 1905
The French state officially gained ownership of the cathedral after a law passed which declared any religious building built before 1905 their property. France allows the church to use it free of charge and France is personally responsible for any restorations that need to be done. This creates a problem with the recent fire, as the state has to pull the money from somewhere to restore this historical building. A few billionaires have pledged millions of Euros to have it restored, but it will take a lot of coin and effort to get this cathedral back up and running again.