Some Lesser-Known Facts about Notre Dame Cathedral

Notre Dame de Paris is a historic cathedral church in the capital of France. It is a famous architectural structure of the times and remains a huge attraction for travelers. Notre Dame Cathedral attracts about 12-14 million visitors every year from all over the world who enjoy the taste and flavor of the magical Gothic architecture.  The distinguished building stands tall due to its size and antiquity, built on the ruins of two earlier churches and located at the eastern end of Ile de la Cite. In 1160, Maurice de Sully, bishop of Paris, hit upon the idea of converting the two dilapidated churches into a single building, and Pope Alexander III laid the foundation in 1163. The consecration of the high altar took place ice in 1169. The cathedral survived the possible destruction by Napoleon in 1804 and underwent major restoration during the mid-nineteenth century.

The Growing Popularity of the Cathedral of Notre Dame

The Notre Dame cathedral gained widespread popularity during the nineteenth century because of Victor Hugo’s eponymous historical novel published in 1831. The novel was set in the cathedral and supposedly inspired the renovations. One of France’s most visited historical monuments houses numerous significant historical and religious artifacts. One such artifact is the Crown of Thorns, supposedly worn by Jesus during his crucifixion. The architectural marvel is a famous tourist attraction, as evidenced by the relentless flow of visitors throughout the year.

Numerous facts about the cathedral are available in the public domain. But many unknown or lesser-known facts discussed here can enhance the attraction of the monument. The cathedral is under reconstruction after a devastating fire destroyed a part of the structure five years ago.

The Cathedral Was Once a Wine Cellar

The cathedral has gone through tumultuous times on several occasions, which threatened its existence. But luckily, the cathedral survived all of these. During the French Revolution of the 1790s, the cathedral was seized and declared public property. Anti-clerical radicals targeted the façade and the attacks aimed at destroying the religious figures, such as biblical statues, which were decapitated in the cathedral’s square. The acts reminded people of the guillotining of King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette. Until Napoleon became the Emperor in 1804, the cathedral remained a public property used for many purposes. During this time, the cathedral served as a cellar as the Revolutionary Army used the cathedral to store barrels of wine.

Modern Additions

The age of the Cathedral of Notre Dame might make people think that every aspect of architecture belongs to ancient times, but this is not true. Constant upgrades and additions have happened to the cathedral’s architecture over the centuries, and some statutes and figurines are relatively new. The guardian demons in the upper gallery of the cathedral’s twin towers and the winged creature with a horn clasping his head in his hands weren’t there many years ago. However, the leering gargoyles that spout rain water from their open mouths have been there from the beginning. On the other hand, Viollet-le-Duc’s invention is evident in the purely decorative chimeras.

A Novel Resurrected the Cathedral

A historical novel, ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame,’ published in 1831, not only gained huge popularity but played a stellar role in drawing people’s attention to the need for restoring the heritage of the Gothic structure of medieval times. The novel moved the Parisians so much and created such an emotional connection with the cathedral, which was in very bad shape due to years of neglect, that it paved the way for major restoration. Architect Viollet-le Duc undertook a major restoration work between 1844 and 1865 that created new looks and added the spire that stood in place until it was destroyed by a fire in 2019.

Sacrificial Oaks

One of the major losses from the fire in 2019 was the destruction of the ‘forest, ‘ the medieval beamed roof that dates back to early 1200. To rebuild the spire and roof, the government ordered the felling of 2,000 oak trees. After cutting down the trees, the timber was left in the open for drying, which took 12 to 19 months before being used to reconstruct the roof.

The Spire Inspired Protestors

The 96-meter-tall spire has been in the headlines many times. In 1968, during the Vietnam War, Communist activists managed to sabotage the staircase and climb atop the spire to hoist a North Vietnamese flag. In October 1972, separatists from Brittany in northwestern France hoisted a flag on the spire.

After the fire of 2019, the rebuilding of the Notre Dame Cathedral is underway, but the flow of visitors remains unabated.