Notre Dame de Paris

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Notre Dame is probably the most famous cathedral in France. It is the church dedicated to Virgin Mary. The site where it stands had been the sacred place since the Celts. Throughout the history, cathedral was closely related to French state; it is the place, where all dramatic national and religious events have been celebrated.

It is huge monument, its length is 130 metres, two front towers are 69 metres high and the back spire has 90 metres. The Notre Dame has several large rose windows, the northern, 13th century one, is considered to be the most impressive. It is 21 meters high. The spectacular eastern buttresses are 15 metres wide. The west side features 3 wide portals, the gallery of Kings and the famous gargoyles.

The first stone was laid in 1163 by Bishop Maurice de Sully. It was supposed to reflect Paris’ status as the capital of French Kingdom. The name of the first architect is not known. The first to be known is Jean de Chelles. He enlarged the north transept. After his death, Pierre de Montreuil completed the south transept. Then Pierre de Chelles, altered the chevet into its present state, and Jean Ravy completed the choir screen. The cathedral was finished in 1345.

During the 17th and 18th century the original gothic style was no longer appreciated, the stained glass was replaced by clear glass, tombs were destroyed and the choir was redecorated in baroque style (at the order of Louis XIV). However, the cathedral is still the typical construction of French gothic.

During the French Revolution, the cathedral was closed, paintings and statues were taken away and metal objects were melted down. The full-length statues from either side of the doorways and those of the Kings of Judah were broken into pieces. After the Revolution, the Cathedral was dedicated first to the cult of Reason, and to the cult of the Supreme Being. The church interior was used as a warehouse for the storage of forage and food.

The cathedral was completely reconstructed in the 19th century by Jean Baptiste Lassus and Viollet-le-Duc, who added the back spire and the sacristy. The last reconstruction was in 1991 – 2001.
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