A massive fire broke out in Notre-Dame Cathedral in central Paris on Monday that brought its towering spire and roof crashing to the ground, wiping centuries of priceless historical heritage central to French culture. The Notre Dame Cathedral is more than just a religious symbol.
Notre Dame cathedral’s construction began in 1163 and was completed in 1345. It was neglected and damaged during the French Revolution, in the 1790s. On that note, here are 12 lesser-known interesting facts about the cathedral that you might want to know.
1. Notre Dame Cathedral is believed to have been built over remnants of a temple.
The cathedral’s construction was completed in 1345 and it was built on the Île de la Cité (City Island), which was once a Gallo-Roman city known as Lutetia. It is believed to have been built over remnants of a temple.
2. Some sculptures and statues were added later to fit the Gothic structure of the cathedral.
Some sculptures and statues have been recycled from a previous Romanesque church. In 1969, it was revealed that these statues had been tweaked to fit the Gothic structure of the Cathedral.
3. The cathedral had a forest in its roof.
The cathedral has a literal forest in its roof that contains one of the oldest surviving wood-timber frames in Paris and each beam of this cathedral is made from an individual tree.
4. This was one of the first structures built with flying buttresses.
The buttresses were constructed during the 12th century to provide support to the thin walls, since more light was required in this incredibly tall church, which in turn, required larger windows, and thus greater support. The exposed flying buttress of the cathedral has now become an iconic aspect of Gothic design.
5. Statue heads of 21 kings were re-discovered during repair work in the cathedral.
Statues of 28 beheaded biblical kings, located at the west facade were mistaken for statues of French kings. Out of the 28, 21 heads were re-discovered during repair work and now they are on display at the Musée de Cluny.
6. 20 bells from the cathedral were removed and melted down to make cannons, during the 18th century.
The cathedral was transformed from a Christian space to the new Cult of Reason, during the 18th century. During that time, 20 of its bells, except the Emmanuel, were removed and melted down to make cannons. Later in 2013, a new ensemble of bells that restored the cathedral’s good old glory days were put up.
7. The cathedral’s south tower is smaller than the north tower.
Both the towers were constructed at different times. The south tower was built between 1220 and 1240 and the north tower was built between 1235 and 1250. The north tower is slightly taller than the south tower.
8. During the 18th century, the cathedral was used as a warehouse.
It was used as a warehouse where wine barrels were kept for the troops of the Revolutionary Army.
9. Napoleon and Victor Hugo are hugely responsible for the revival of the cathedral.
During the 18th century, Napoléon Bonaparte decided to start renovation works. Later in 1831, Victor Hugo’s historical novel Notre-Dame de Paris invoked awareness in the minds of the people to understand the true value of this Cathedral.
10. The chimeras and gargoyles represent modern-style architecture and not the medieval style.
Almost the entirety of gargoyles of the Cathedral have been replaced during the Middle-Ages. Most have to be replaced every century or 150 years. Even the chimeras have been replaced. The Galerie des Chimères on the towers have in fact, been added during the renovations performed by Viollet-le-Duc in the mid-19th century.
11. The spire of the cathedral was surrounded by copper statues of the twelve Apostles.
All of the 12 statues were removed, just days prior to its collapse and they all faced outwards towards Paris except one; the statue of Saint Thomas that faced the spire and had features that resembled the architect.
12. The cathedral is one of the most visited monuments in Paris.
About 12 million visitors come here every year and about 30,000 visitors visit the cathedral daily, according to their official website.
Reading these facts makes one realize that Notre Dame Cathedral is truly a symbol of French culture, architecture and history.
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