Architecture of Notre Dame de Paris


Notre Dame de Paris with the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower is a compulsory for visiting in Paris triad. This territory is always surrounded by a noisy crowd. Respectable audience is entertained by street musicians and jugglers. A lot of people want to go inside, climb to the top and feel like Quasimodo . Notre Dame is still the focus of Parisian life.

Location Description.

Notre Dame de Paris is a Christian cathedral in the heart of Paris. It is a geographical and spiritual "heart" of the French capital. It is located in the eastern part. It is built in a period from 1163 to 1345.
The architecture of the cathedral shows the duality of stylistic influences: on the one hand, there are echoes of the Romanesque style of Normandy, with its powerful and dense unity, and on the other, innovative architectural achievements of the Gothic style are used. Such achievements give the building a light and impression of simplicity and vertical design.


Construction of Notre Dame de Paris was begun in 1163 under ruling period of Louis VII.  Historians have different opinions who laid the first stone of the Cathedral. It can be either Bishop Maurice de Sully or Pope Alexander III. The main altar of the cathedral was built in May, 1182. The construction was almost finished in 1196, but work continued on the main facade. By 1250 the construction of the cathedral had been completed, and in 1315 the interior was finished. Two architects are considered to be the main creators of Notre Dame. The first one is Jean de Chelles, who worked from 1250 to 1265, and Pierre de Montreuil creator of the Holy Chapel. He worked from 1250 to 1267.  

Construction of the western gable with its distinctive two towers began around 1200.
During construction period of the Cathedral many different architects attended and advised on design. That is why, it is possible to see different styles and different heights, especially on the west side of the tower. The towers were completed in 1245, and the whole church was finished in 1345. In the time of Louis XIV, in the late XVII century, the cathedral survived the major changes: tombs and stained glass windows were destroyed.

French Revolution.

During the French Revolution, at the end of XVIII century, one of the first decrees of Robespierre was announced at this place. This decree announced that only revolutions can change the world. The cathedral was declared as a Temple of Reason. In July 1793 the convention declared that "all logos of kingdoms should be wiped off the face of the earth". Robespierre personally ordered the beheading "stone of kings adorning the church." Famous revolution that drenched the country in blood and destroyed in fighting with the legacy of the accursed past many castles, palaces and monasteries. First illiterate rebels decided that the statues on the facade - Old Testament kings - kings of France represent the hated and cast them to the ground. Then they went to destroy the rest of the sculptures. Bells and church plate were destroyed, the altar was desecrated and looted, and then dedicated to the goddess of Reason, invented by the leaders of the revolution. For many years, the cathedral was looted and dilapidated, while in 1831 there was not a famous novel by Victor Hugo, which marked a revival of interest in historical heritage and Gothic art in particular, and attracted the attention of a deplorable state of the great monuments of architecture. Recovering had been entrusted to a young architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc. His name was connected with a tremendous progress in the restoration of French monuments. Viollet-le-Duc also originated the idea of the gallery of chimeras on the facade of the cathedral. Statues of chimeras are installed on the top of the foot of the towers. In the same year buildings attached to the Basilica were demolished, bringing together they formed the facade of the present area.

Since then, a constant concern of the authorities appeared to preserve the cathedral in its original form. For example, just last few years a large-scale restoration took place and cleaning of the facade was done in order to return the primeval color of stones. 

The Original Idea of the Cathedral.

Though the temple was built many years ago, the original idea is observed even now. The facade is characterized by symmetry and harmony, balance and peace of mind, the rigor and clarity. It is clearly divided into three sections both vertically and horizontally.  It turns to be the original modular grid, a kind of proportional grid (Tonazzi, 2007).

General description of the structure.

Powerful and majestic facade is divided vertically into three parts by pilasters and it is divided horizontally into three tiers galleries as well. The lowest tier has three deep portals: the portal of Judgment (middle), the portal of the Virgin (left) and the portal of St. Anne (right). Above them there is arcade (Gallery of the Kings) with twenty-eight statues representing the kings of Ancient Judea. These are the 28 figures of the kings of Judah, the ancestors of Christ, which they submitted to the ground rebellious mob. It separates the lower level where the windows are located. Round stained glass diameter of almost 10 meters is a symbol of the divine infinity. It is enclosed in a square and it is a symbol of the earthly world. This combination was designed to make devoted audience remember the mystery of God making process. On the balustrade in front of window-rose statue of the Madonna is posted. It is supported by two angels. At exactly the same level over the side portals there are pictures of Adam (left) and Eve (right). This composition was intended to recall the original sin of ancestors, and Jesus Christ’s atonement.
In addition to the famous rose-window on the second floor, attention is drawn to double arched windows which are encircled by lancet thrust.

A small round windows of the second tier is located above the arched windows and connected with central window outlets. Such forms of rhythmic coordination binds together all the elements of the facade.
Additional evidence elongated openings double towers, and corresponds with the second tier of windows, doors and portals. But this is the third tier elements, on the road to which the eye encounters yet another strong horizontal - a high pass-through architecture.

Cathedral with its magnificent interior decoration for many centuries served as a venue for royal weddings, coronations and imperial national funeral. In 1302, it was the first place to assemble for the States-General. It was the first French parliament.  As in other Gothic churches, there is a painting wall, and the only source of color is numerous stained glass with lancet windows.

Mixture of Styles.

Gothic art, especially architecture, features a large stylistic unity. However, every European country has a tendency to see some similar features in the architecture of the cathedral. It has got influences from different styles.

Gothic Style of the Cathedral.

Specific feature of the gothic styles in the cathedral will be described in comparison with typical a gothic structure. Before comparing, it is necessary to  give a short analysis of this style. All arches are striving to the sky. Composition and structures are vertical. Gothic cathedrals are based on complicated framework structure. They usually have supporting stands and ribbings. They are characterized by tracery. On roofs there are curves crossing each other in the middle. It is characterized by airy ornaments outside and wooden decorations inside. Skeleton of the construction is clearly highlighted (Inglis, 1323).

Looking at the cathedral it is possible to say that all previously discussed elements are represented in the picture. One specific feature of this cathedral is connected with the origin of the style. The theory of origin of the Gothic style is based on the assumption that the Germans were not able to cut down trees. That is why, they constructed their branches, so that pointed arches are striving to the sky. In the picture it is shown the episode 1.

In the episode 3 curving frames are crossing each other in the center. The basic principle of the construction is that the whole construction does not rely on the wall, as in the Roman buildings, now the pressure is transmitted to arches and ribs on the columns. Cross arch was used to support pillars, columns and  buttresses.  Gothic buttress is a technical development and further improvement of the Romanesque buttress.
The height and width of arches were relatively small and the pier can be put directly at the outer pillar. In such cases Gothic architects used special canted arch of stones, the so-called flying buttresses. One end of the arch is thrown over the side naves, fixed between the spandrel and the pier. The place of fixing on the buttresses strengthens tower. This place is the so called Pinnacle. Pinnacle is a tower of completed pointed spires. They could be just decorative elements.
The cathedral is constructed of two storey of flying buttresses. First, the top tier was designed to support the roof. I was steeper and more difficult to fix this tier. The second tier of the flying buttress resisted wind pressing on the roof. This innovation allowed greatly facilitated the design through redistribution of loads. Walls were turned into simple light construction. It made possible to do a lot of windows and murals, because the absence of walls, decorated by stained glass and sculpture. Arches are becoming more elongated and pointed. The design of any Gothic church, as we see it from the cathedral, includes a system of ribs, buttresses and flying buttresses. More than that, chimeras and demons are influences of gothic style. The most striking that pictures about God and evil are going together. That is why, such masterpieces provoke really strong feelings over centuries and centuries.

Ñhimeras as a Main Unique Feature of the Cathedral.

Masons and sculptors of famous Parisian school made such decorations as very prominent animals, birds and human beings, as well as statues of chimeras in two western towers of the cathedral.  Chimeras are features of Greek and Gothic style where different forms of life are combined together.

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