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The history of the cathedral of Notre Dame, Paris.
Paris, the splendid capital of France, advantageously situated at the confluence of the rivers Seine and Marne, was, under the name of Lutetia, one of the Roman stations of Gaul. In the modern division of the country, that part of the Isle of France, formerly one of the central provinces towards the northern part of the kingdom, and in which Paris stands, is now the department of the Seine, comprehending also the towns of St. Denys and Sceaux, in its municipal government.
The city in its primeval state was confined to an island in the midst of the Seine, whence the first inhabitants derived a constant supply of pure water. Julius Caesar, who completed the conquest of Gaul about forty-eight years before the birth of Christ, fortified Lutetia, which name the city is supposed to have received from Lutum, clay, the peculiar soil of the neighbourhoods 1).
Several Roman emperors, after Caesar, made it the place of their occasional residence; and the philosopher Julian was here proclaimed Augustus, on a tribunal before the gates of the city, A. D. 350. 2)
Previous to this event, a Christian church is said to have been erected on the site of the present Cathedral of Notre Dame, and on the ruins of a Roman temple, by the merchants of Paris, in the reign of Tiberius the church was; named after St. Denys, the tutelar saint of France, who is reported to have suffered martyrdom on Mont Martre 3). It was rebuilt on a grand scale in 555, by King Childebert, at the instigation of St. Germain, one of the early bishops of Paris and grand almoner to that king, who caused it to be dedicated to the Virgin Mary, and so powerful was the influence of her name that it soon prevailed over all the others, and the church of Notre Dame became the Cathedral of a diocese of Paris 4); but subject to the archbishopric of Sens.
1) The primitive name of Lutetia was, conformably to the practice of the fourth century, changed to the territorial appellation of Parisii.
2) The residence of Julian in Lutetia was most probably the palace of the Baths, of which a solid and lofty hall still exists in the Rue de la Harpe. —Gibbon’s History, chap. 22. There are two Roman antiquities yet in Paris, besides various remains that have been discovered at dif. ferent periods. One is called the Palais des Thermes, and consists of a large room sixty-two feet long, sixty feet wide, and about forty-two feet high it is built of small stones and bricks, and; vaulted with a groined arch. The other is an aqueduct which brought a supply of water from beyond Arcueil to Lutetia, and as far as the subterraneous part is concerned is now in perfect preservation.
3) It is also stated that the first Christian church in Paris was built about the year 375, under the reign of the Emperor Valentinian, and was dedicated to St. Stephen, the first martyr. The origin of the church of Notre Dame is enveloped in deep obscurity; no point in the history of Paris presents more difficulties, or has given rise to more conflicting opinions amongst the writers upon its antiquities, who are not agreed on the name, the origin, or even the position of the first church of the Parisians.
4) St. Germain, bishop of Paris, is reported to have given the design for a church which Childebert founded near this city, in honour of St. Vincent, and he was also sent to Angers, the ancient capital of Anjou, by the same monarch, to construct a church there, dedicated to St. Germain, bishop of Auxerre. He afterwards erected a monastery near Mons, and other buildings of the same nature in different places. – Felibien.
Fortunatus, bishop of Poitiers, a contemporary Latin poet, has drawn an ingenious comparison between the temple of Solomon and the church of Notre Dame. In his description the size of the windows and the number of the marble columns, which he fixes at thirty, are the chief objects of his admiration. From this poem the church appears to have been a considerable structure but, after the extensive destruction which the Normans brought upon France in the ninth and tenth centuries, it became necessary for the succeeding princes and prelates to restore the ruined fabrics of religion, upon the rei’ival of which, their own dignity and the public devotion so much depended.
The present celebrated Cathedral of Notre Dame, the work of several architects, was principally erected by the prelates who lived at the close of the twelfth and during the thirteenth century. It was founded by Maurice de Sully, bishop of Paris, during the reign of Louis the Young, and was commenced about the year 1161. He had completed the choir in 1185. Heraclius, the patriarch of Jerusalem, who had come to Paris to preach the crusade, celebrated high mass in the choir of this Cathedral on January 17th, of the same year, in the presence of the bishop and his clergy.
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It was in this church that one of our English noblemen, Geoffrey Plantagenet, duke of Brittany, or Bretagne, who was unfortunately killed in a tournament at Paris, was buried before the high altar in 1186. He was son of King Henry II. of England, earl of Anjou and Poitiers, and in right of his wife Constance, duke of Brittany, and earl of Richmond, in Yorkshire. In 1189 Queen Elizabeth of Hainault, first wife of Philip Augustus, was also buried at Notre Dame. These circumstances prove the building to have been in a state of forwardness.
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Bishop Maurice de Sully did not live to complete the edifice he had founded, but, at his death in 1196, left one hundred livres towards the expense of covering it with lead. His successor in the diocese, Eudes de Sully, being related to Philip Augustus, king of France, and to Henry II., king of England, possessed great influence; he continued the work of the Cathedral with the same zeal, and contributed large sums towards its progress.
He also reformed his clergy, regulated the order of the church, arranged the religious ceremonies, and made the canons live in community. After his death in 1208, Pierre de Nemours, and the bishops his successors, terminated the erection of this grand ecclesiastical edifice, one of the earliest examples of the pointed style of architecture.
The twelfth century, it has been remarked, produced three several revolutions in the architecture of France 5). At first all was Lombardic, which style of building became intermixed with, or was in fact superseded by, the sharply-pointed arch, and at the close of the twelfth century the ecclesiastical architecture was in France expanded, and in several instances ornamented, to a degree of perfection, not even attempted in England before another century had elapsed. The highly decorated and florid style of architecture originated and reached perfection in France and Germany, according to the same authority, many years before England possessed any similar demonstration of the change. In those countries the golden age of this florid style continued from the middle of the thirteenth to the latter end of the fourteenth century.
5) Dallaway’s Discourses upon Architecture.
Mr. Hallam, in his erudite disquisition on the state of society during the middle ages, is not so decisive as to the origin and progress of architecture he seems to consider it a question of no small difficulty whether the pointed style originated in France or Germany, Italy or England, since it was almost simultaneous in all these countries. He says, whatever may be thought of the origin of the pointed arch, for which there is more than one mode of accounting, it is easy to perceive a very oriental character in that profusion of ornament, especially on the exterior surface, which is as distinguishing a mark of Gothic buildings as their arches, and contributes in an eminent degree, both to their beauties and defects later, than the earlier stage of architecture, and rather to Continental than English churches.
The nave of the Cathedral of Notre Dame, the construction of which is very evidently later than that of the choir, was built towards the commencement of the thirteenth century, and its western front is presumed to have been raised during the reign of Philip Augustus, the style of architecture entirely corresponding with that which prevailed in France at the particular period assigned to the erection of this front.
In the year 1218 an ancient church, dedicated to St. Stephen the martyr, which stood on the southern side of the Cathedral of Notre Dame, was pulled down, in order to increase the effect which the new structure was intended to produce. In 1257, during the reign of Louis IX., the golden age of religious communities, Régnault de Corbeil, bishop of Paris, commenced building a porch on the front of the southern transept, towards the archbishop’s palace, and partly on the site of the old church of St. Stephen. Jean de Chelles was the architect employed on this part of the work, and an inscription recording the circumstance yet remains on the basement of the porch.
Anno Domini MCCLVII. mense Febniario Idus Secundo,
Hoc fuit inceptum Christiste genitricis honore
Kallensi Lathomo vivente Johanne Magistro.
It was from the hands of Bishop Régnault de Corbeil, the founder of this porch, that Saint Louis, when he undertook his expedition to the Holy Land, received with great pomp in the church of Notre Dame the pilgrim’s staff and scarf.
The northern porch was not erected till fifty years after that on the south, and the chapels which surround the choir were chiefly built in the fourteenth century. Jean Ravi, an architect and sculptor, was employed at Paris for the space of twenty-six years in the church of Notre Dame, and finished his work in 1351 6).
A porch on the northern side of the church known by the name of Porte Rouge, was not built until between the years 1404 and 1419, and it even appears that part of the edifice remained to be finished in the tumultuous reign of Charles VII. which king granted in 1447 his right to the regale, the revenue of vacant bishoprics, for the express purpose of building the church of Notre Dame.
The proximity of the river Seine, for a long time caused a belief that this church was built upon piles, a tradition refuted by M. Boulland, the architect of the chapter, in 1774 7), when it was found that this imposing edifice, erected with due care and much perseverance, rests firmly on a solid foundation. It still retains the bold outline of its original form, but with a venerable appearance, whilst all other ancient structures in this capital have materially changed.
The church of Notre Dame being the metropolitan church, the bishop of Paris became the chief, and only curate to the king, in whatever place he might be. The bishop had also a seat and a deliberative voice in the parliament, and was styled Monsieur de Paris.
6) Felibien Vie des Architects.
7) An excavation was then made to the depth of twenty-four feet, two feet below the foundation, which was found to rest on a bed of solid gravel. The foundation is composed of large rough stones, cemented together with mortar and sand; four layers of hewn stone placed upon these bring the foundation to the level of the ground. A brass tablet, formerly placed against one of the pillars of the church, and inscribed with the dimensions of the church in rhyme, repeated the assertion that it was founded on piles.
When the power of the church was at its height, the bishop of Paris, at his installation, made a solemn and pompous entry into Notre Dame, carried by four lords, auditors of the church; the king, as Seigneur de Corbeil, one of the bishop’s vassals, was subject to this duty. Both Philip Augustus and Saint Louis appointed knights to represent them in this ceremony; and afterwards four barons were deputed to perform this feudal service of royalty to the church.
A great change was made under King Louis XIII. in the state of the clergy of Paris, who, from the first establishment of Christianity, had been presided by a bishop, dependent on the archbishop of Sens. Political events had given Paris a great superiority over the city of Sens, and the episcopal see of the capital of France had long been filled by priests, ambitious to be freed from their dependence on the prelates of another city, and to be invested with the power of an archbishopric 8). A concurrence of circumstances now proved favourable to this aspiring project. The archbishop of Sens died in the year 1622, and Cardinal Henry de Gondy, bishop of Paris, survived him only a few months. Advantage was taken of the two vacancies to create Paris the see of an archbishop and the bishoprics of Chartres, Meaux, and Orleans, were separated from Sens, and given to Paris as suffragans.
Jean Francis de Gondy, successor to his brother the cardinal, was chosen the first archbishop, and Louis XIII. added to his dignity by making him commander of his orders.
In the chapter of Notre Dame were formerly eight dignitaries, the dean, a chanter, an archdeacon of Paris, an archdeacon of Josas, an archdeacon of Brie, a sub-chanter, a chancellor, who was also chancellor of the university, and a penitentiary.
Besides these superior officers of the church there were fifty canons 9), two canons and two perpetual vicars of St, Aignan, six grand vicars, one of St. Victor, the second of St. Martin des Champs, the third of St. Denys de la Chartre, the fourth of Saint Maur des Fossés, the fifth of St. Germain I’Auxerrois, the sixth of Saint Marcel ten canons of St. Denys du Pas, eight canons of St. Jean le Rond; no less than one hundred and twenty; chaplains, besides choristers and other officers.
8) King Charles the Wise had made the same request to Pope Gregory II., who would not consent while the church of Notre Dame was, in his opinion, so poorly endowed.
9 Amongst the canons of Notre Dame were two distinguished Englishmen, Cardinal de Curzon, so famous about the time of King John, one of the same family whence Lord Searsdale of Kedleston, in Derbyshire, derives his descent; and Cardinal Stephen Langton, archbishop of Canterbury, in the reign of Henry III. Curzon, so famous about the time of King John, one of the same family whence Lord Scarsdale of Kedleston, in Derhyshire, derives his descent; and Cardinal Stephen Langton, archbishop of Canterbury, in the reign of Henry III.
There were also several feudal dignities and prerogatives annexed to the archbishopric of Paris. The abbey of Saint Maur des Fosses, the priories of St. Floy near the palace, and of St. Magliore in the faubourg St. Jaques together vdth the temporal lordship of the town of Saint Cloud, which in favour of the archbishop was erected by Louis XIV. into a duchy. The chapter had, besides considerable property, several lordships, privileges, and donations.
By the constitution of the year 1791, after the Revolution, Bishop Gobel was installed at Notre Dame; this priest appeared at the bar of the national convention in 1793, and abjured the Christian religion. The church of Notre Dame was in the course of the next year decreed to bear thenceforward the name of the Temple of Reason, which was sculptured on the porch. Respect for the church was at length restored, and on the 18th of April, 1801, the Consulate celebrated in the Cathedral of Notre Dame the reestablisliment of the clergy in France, and Cardinal de Belloy was then appointed archbishop of Paris.
A very solemn annual procession is made to the church of Notre Dame after vespers on the feast of the Assumption of the Virgin, the 15th of August. This ceremony was instituted by King Louis XIII. in 1638, in all the churches of the kingdom, in thanksgiving for the pregnancy of the queen. Tire king, who made the vow in the church of the Minims, at Abbeville, at the same time placed himself and his whole kingdom under the protection of the Virgin. The archbishop of Paris and all his clergy, the Parlement, the Chambre des Comptes, the Cour des Aides, the governor of Paris, and the corporation, formerly attended at this procession.
The chapter of Notre Dame made another annual procession on the 22d of March, instituted by Henry IV., in 1594, in thanksgiving for the prosperity of his army, and in memory of the capital of his kingdom having submitted to his authority, was called the procession of the Reduction of Paris. The clergy, accompanied by the Corps de Ville, proceeded to the church of the Grand Augustins; and on the same day the clergy of all the parish churches; in Paris went in procession to Notre Dame.
On the first Friday after Easter the municipal council attended mass annually at Notre Dame, in the chapel of the Virgin, and afterwards a Te Deum in music was performed, for the deliverance of the city of Paris, in 1437, from the dominion of the English.
Another remarkable custom, of very high antiquity was the procession of the Rogation 10). On this occasion the clergy of Notre Dame carried a large dragon made of osier, to represent the furious dragon from whose violence St. Marcel is said to have delivered Paris delight in throwing fruit and cakes into his enormous open jaws.
One of the most animated descriptions ever given of a church is in Victor Hugo’s celebrated “Notre Dame de Paris;” in that interesting work the author has brought his antiquarian learning to bear with extraordinary effect, giving at the same time unity to the whole, by making the movement of the tale concentrate itself round the venerable towers of Notre Dame. In his hands an actual presence is given by the imagination to this Cathedral; its sculpture is a living thing, and the dim purple of the lofty aisles becomes instinct with spiritual existence.
Paris, one of the largest, richest, and most renowned cities of Europe, is composed of three very distinct parts: the town, which is the largest division, is situated on the northern side of the river Seine. The city, much the least, but the most ancient, consists of three islands in the middle of the Seine; and the university occupies the southern side of the river.
The island of the city, shaped like a ship in the channel of the Seine, appeared to be moored to the banks of the river by its several bridges. It was from this circumstance, according to Favine and Pasquier, learned heralds, that the ship blazoned in the arms of Paris owes its origin 11).
That part of the river Seine comprehended within the enclosure of the city anciently contained five islands, now reduced to three, the Isle de Palais, Isle St. Louis, and Isle Louviere.
10) Two dissertations on this subject are printed in the Transactions of the Celtic, now the Antiquarian Society of Paris.
11) The ancient Gauls, it is presumed, bore a ship for their device, as Tacitus notices that ensign in modum liburnicae sculptured on their Temples, and some of their coins are stated to have a galley on one side. A ship has from the earliest time been considered as the arms of the city of Paris, but it was not borne in an heraldic form before the reign of Philip Augustus, who was contemporary with King Henry II. of England. That king, it is said, granted to the city for arras a galley argent, in a field gules. In more modern times was added to the ancient coat, a chief azure, semée of fleurs de lis.
Paris displayed more picturesque grandeur in the reign of Francis I., although less regularly disposed, than does the present gay metropolis of France. In the front of the magnificent Cathedral of Notre Dame three streets opened upon the Parvis, a wide space surrounded by houses, built in that style which painters best know how to appreciate. On the southern side of this handsome square was the Hotel Dieu, one of those houses of the church, which at a remote period was always erected in the vicinity of a Cathedral, for the reception of the poor and sick. North and south of the Parvis were the steeples of twenty-one churches, of all dates of architecture, from the low Roman campanile to the slender spire said to be of German origin.
Beyond Notre Dame towards the north, the cloisters of the convent spread with their galleries, and on the south rose the semi Roman palace of the bishop, composed of several corps d’hotels, constructed at different periods by different persons. The chapel, the most ancient part, was erected and consecrated by Bishop Maurice de Sully, in the twelfth century 12). Eastward of Notre Dame, an open area, called the Terrain, the glebe of the church, declined to
the Seine. The view of the Cathedral in this direction is still beautiful, and exhibits its vast dimensions to very great advantage, as well as the whole eastern extremity of the Isle du Palais, or de la Cite, on which it stands.
Northward of the holy chapel, La Saint Chapelle, founded by St. Louis, and more towards the west, stood the ancient Palace of Justice, on the hank of the river. The origin of this palace is quite unknown, but the earliest accounts describe it as the constant residence of Hugh Capet, the founder of the third race of the kings of France; even after Philip Augustus had rebuilt the great tower of the Louvre, his successors St. Louis, Philippe le Hardi, and Philippe le Bel, dwelt at this palace; and when Charles V. left the cite to live at the Hotel St. Paul, which he had erected, the Palace of Justice was an assemblage of large towers communicating with each other by galleries, and affording an extensive view of Issy, Meudon, and St. Cloud.
12) In the court of the bishop’s palace the duels ordered by the tribunals of the church used to take place, a privilege obtained by the canons of Notre Dame of Louis VI., in 1109. The monks of St. Denys were the first in the vicinity of the capital who solicited for their manors the establishment of trial by battle, and King Robert, by a decree in the year 1008, granted them without hesitation this prerogative. The monks of St. Germain des Prés were afterwards put in possession of this privilege, and the champ clos of that abbey was a celebrated spot for trials by battle, particularly as it was not confined to persons within the jurisdiction of the abbey, but was open to all who would pay for the use of it. All classes of society were at length subjected to this atrocious jurisprudence, termed jugement de Dieu. The ecclesiastics themselves did not hesitate to enter the lists, and several are recorded to have been distinguished by their courage or strength.
The plantations of the king’s gardens, which covered the western front of the city, occupied all the ground on which are now the Cour de Harlay and the Cour de Lamoignon. This garden was separated by an arm of the river from two small islands, which were afterwards joined to the Cite, and on which the Place Dauphine was formed in 1608, receiving its name in honour of the birth of the dauphin, afterwards King Louis XIII 13).
Louis XII. built the bridge of Notre Dame, the most ancient and the very first of stone, erected in Paris; it connects the city with the town. Le Petit Pont, on the opposite side of the Cathedral, w’as the earliest communication between the Isle de la Cite and the southern bank of the Seine, but was rebuilt in 1803. The view from the river towards the Pont Neuf and Notre Dame, greatly altered since the time of Francis I., yet presents a noble scene scarcely equalled by any other in Paris owing to the great improvement of the capital by the Emperor Napoleon, made under the joint direction of Messieurs Percier and Fontaine 14).
The Cathedral of Notre Dame, one of the most ancient edifices in Paris, had been preserved with great care previous to the Revolution in 1789 the; injuries it then sustained required many years to repair its completion; interrupted by the events of the years 1814 and 1815, was at length effected by M. Godde, the architect. In the restoration of the church a species of mastic was adopted, the composition of M. Dhil, which appears to answer all the purposes intended.
The principal points of distinction between the Cathedrals of France and England, and which present themselves on the first view, are in the architecture of the grand or western front, and in some instances in the fronts of the transept; the porch, or great door of entrance; the chevet, having a semi-circular or octangular end, with an hemispherical roof; the extreme height of the vaultings of the nave the vast expanse of the circularorrose; windows and the numerous chapels by which the choir and aisles are surrounded. Of the western fronts of our English Cathedrals, two only, those of Peterborough and Wells, have any analogy to many in France with respect to their composition or architectural ornaments, but the great porches with receding arches are not seen in England in any instance of importances 15).
13) In the centre of the Place Dauphine, a monumental fountain was erected in 1802, from designs by Percier, in memory of General Desaix, who fell at the battle of Marengo.
14) Monsieur Percier is the first architect in Paris in point of taste and knowledge of design, and probably the first in Europe he is not an admirer of the pointed style of architecture, but; prefers that of the south of France to that of the north. — Woods.
15) Dallaway on the Ecclesiastical Architecture of France, p. 89.
Mr. Woods, who has but slightly noticed the Cathedral of Notre Dame, says, the front is heavy, but not so heavy as usually represented in engravings, an appearance which arises in part from the square solidity of the towers, and in part from the horizontal lines being marked too strongly, a. circumstance which always produces a bad effect in the pointed style of architecture. That it was intended to crown the western towers with spires, is an opinion offered rather from analogy than from direct proof. There were twenty-nine statues of kings in the arches over the western porch, thirteen of the first race of kings,
nine of the second, and seven of the Capetian of arches. The upper arcade is a gallery, not intended for statues, the middle part of Avhich is open on both sides. The arches of the lower range have trefoil heads, and appear from below to be entirely composed of models of architecture 16).
The western front, which is remarkably lofty, and distinguished by an appearance of vast solidity, is at the same time of such bold proportions, that it produces a very imposing effect; while the details of the architectural ornaments carried to a great degree of nicety, are beautiful and interesting specimens of the art of sculpture at a very early period.
That the western towers were intended to be surmounted with spires is the opinion of M. Le Grand, the author of an “Essay on the Ancient and Modern Styles of Architecture,” and his observations afford very good proof that such was the original intention. He considers the horizontal bands formed by the galleries as purposely intended by the architect to give that air of solidity which a very considerable elevation would require for the basement. In the other fronts of the same edifice, where no such intention is manifested, the architectural forms partake of that aspiring character which belongs so peculiarly to the pointed style 17).
The interiors of the upper part of the towers of Notre Dame also present a kind of corbel in each of the several angles, which appears to have been intended as an abutment for the springing of shafts or ribs, in continuation of another story, or course of masonry 18).
16) Letters of an Architect, vol. i.
17 Essai sur l’Histoire Généale de l’Architecture, par J. G. Legrand, Architecte, &c. pour
servir de texte explicatif au Parallèle des Edifices de tout genre anciens et modernes, publié par J. H. L. Durand, Architecte, Paris, 1809, p. 74.
18) In the southern tower is Le Bourdon, a famous bell hung in 1682, and weighing 36,000lbs.; this bell had been previously baptised by the archbishop of Paris, on a platform in the middle of the church, in the presence of Louis XIV. and his queen, who named it Emanuel Louise Therese. The old bell, which was melted down to form the new one, weighed only 16,000lbs., and had been
given to the church about the year 1400, by John, the brother of Gerard de Montagu, bishop of Paris, who named it Jaqueline.
This front to correspond with other buildings of a similar style would have required the towers to have been elevated nearly one-third more than that to which they have been raised. The base of the front, in three equal divisions, presents three large porches under deeply recessed arches, which contain a great variety of ornament in characteristic sculpture, representing subjects from the New Testament.
The centre porch contains the Last Judgment, disposed in three divisions 19), executed in gradations of relief, in the chief of which is represented Jesus Christ in celestial glory, seated on a throne, attended by angels bearing the emblems of the crucifixion, having on one side the Virgin Mary kneeling, and on the other St. John the Baptist, in the same attitude of homage.
The draperies of these figures are elegantly disposed, and each appearing in the splendour of divinity, bears a nimbus, or luminous disc, that on the head of Christ, ornamented in the Greek manner with a cross, is gilt. The effect of this scriptural composition was greatly injured when the doorway was enlarged in the time of Louis XV.
Jacques Germain Soufflot, the architect of St. Genevieve, disfigured one of the principal beauties of this front by an incongruous erection composed of columns and pilasters, with an opening sufficiently large to afford entrance to the king and his numerous attendants on days of ceremony. To effect this he destroyed the central pier, which gave the character to the original porch. The modern doorway is surmounted by the well-known cypher or initials of the Virgin Mary, in or molu, crowned, and elevated by angels.
On the basement or plinth of the statues with which this portal was formerly enriched are sculptured twenty-four has reliefs, representing virtues placed above the vices which are more immediately in opposition to them; both the virtues and vices are designated by allegorical figures holding shields charged with the emblems which peculiarly refer to the subject 20), showing the extent to which the study of allegory was carried at the commencement of the thirteenth century. In these curious has reliefs courage is contrasted by cowardice, strength by violence, gentleness is opposed to anger, and diligence to idleness.
The statues on the sides of this porch, which are now removed, were those of the twelve Apostles with their attributes, represented trampling on Pagan kings; and in the angles were the symbols of the four Evangelists. On the side faces of the buttresses, towards the central door, were four other has reliefs in continuation of those before described these represented subjects; from the Old Testament, Abraham’s sacrifice, &c.
19) The same subject is sculptured on the central porch of Amiens Cathedral, see p. 10 ante.
20) M. Fauris de St. Vincens has given a particular explanation of every one of these has reliefs See Description Historique de la Basilique Metrop. de Paris, p. 74.
The southern door, usually called the porch of St. Anne, the mother of the Virgin, is divided by a central pier, against which is placed a statue of St. Marcel, bishop of Paris, trampling under his feet a winged dragon. The original figure having been mutilated in 1793, was restored by M. Romagnesi, a celebrated sculptor, in 1818 21). Above the door are sculptured compartments in relief, containing subjects from the New Testament relating to the birth and adoration of Jesus Christ. Above the whole, in figures of a larger size, are represented the Virgin Mary seated, with the infant Jesus in her arms, attended by angels with censers, Solomon and St. Marcel kneeling and holding scrolls inscribed with legends. The soffit of the arch is enriched with a figure of the eternal Father in glory, surrounded with prophets lower down; is the pascal Lamb and below, Jesus Christ, attended by angels with censers; and saints with musical instruments in endless variety.
The large statues, which formerly enriched the two sides of this curious porch, were demolished in 1793 they represented the apostle St.Peter, and; the most remarkable ancestors of the Virgin Mary. According to the opinion of many celebrated French antiquaries, these statues were more ancient than the Cathedral itself, and as specimens of the early age of sculpture in France, their destruction is much to be deplored 22).
The porch of the holy Virgin, the patroness of the church, is on the northern side, towards the site of the cloisters, and in its enrichment is very similar to the porch of St. Anne the doorway is separated by a pier, against; which is placed a statue of the Virgin Mary, holding the infant Jesus, and surmounted by a canopy of rich workmanship. The Virgin is represented trampling on a monster, the body of which terminates in the form of a serpent, entwining the tree of knowledge near which are figures of Adam and Eve, grouped round the pedestal of the principal statue.
21) On Ascension Day, when the shrine of this saint was carried in procession by the chapter of Notre Dame, a pause was always made and an anthem was sung before a house in the Rue de la Calandre, where tradition relates St. Marcel was born.
22) They have been engraved in “Montfaucon’s Monumens de la Monarchie Françoise, ”but the drawing of the figures in that work is not to be depended upon. — See also Histoire du Diocèse de Paris, par Lebeuf, vol. i. p. 11. and Histoire du Duché de Bourgogne, par Dom Plancher, vol. i . dissertation, iv. p. 476.
This figure of the Virgin, placed here in 1818, the original having been destroyed in 1793, was brought from the chapel of St. Aignan, near the Cathedral; it appears to have been sculptured about the middle of the fourteenth century, and consequently in a different style from the other ornaments of the porch, which have been suffered to remain.
In the heading of the doorway are three compartments of sculpture, representing passages of scripture relating to the death and apotheosis of the Virgin Mary, and the soffit of the arch is rather profusely ornamented with figures of angels and saints. On the sides of the door were formerly large statues of saints who were honoured with particular ceremonies in the church
of Notre Dame these were destroyed in 1793. Amongst them were St. John the Baptist, St. Stephen, St. Genevieve, St. Germain, bishop of Auxerre, and St. Denys. Above the niches on each side are remains of enrichment deserving attention, the symbols of the Evangelists, &c.
The most interesting portions of the sculpture of this porch are the compartments which represent the signs of the zodiac and the agricultural labours of the twelve months these bas reliefs have been investigated and described by several very learned members of scientific institutions. The zodiacal signs frequently found in the exterior of ancient churches are curious specimens of the infancy of art, and supposed to be of Indian origin, presenting a sort of rural calendar for the labours of the field each month in the year.
The zodiac of Notre Dame is peculiar in its arrangement, having, besides the signs accompanied by the image of the rural attributes correspondent to them, the sign Virgo, represented under the figure of the Virgin Mary, and instead of being placed in succession, with the others, is fixed in large dimensions against the pillar which separates the two doors of the porch. On the sides of this pillar are six bas reliefs, representing the ages of man and the six different temperatures of the year, giving an admirable idea of the astronomical science of an early period, as Avell as of the manners and customs the whole were originally painted and gilt.
The northern and southern doors are covered with ornaments in iron of very beautiful workmanship, said to have been executed about the year 1540, in the reign of Francis I., when the art of working in iron was certainly in a high degree of perfection but M. Willemin, a very high authority in all matters relating to antiquity, considers this iron work of equal age with the Cathedral, and founds his opinion on the exact correspondence between the ornamental forms on the doors with those employed in decorating manuscripts of the thirteenth century. The iron, covering the northern doors, is disposed in ornamental scrolls with trefoil leaves that on the southern is similarly disposed, but interspersed with birds, lizards, and winged dragons; the whole is admirably executed, and is exceedingly curious from its rarity of occurrence.
In the four great buttresses of this front are niches, which formerly contained statues of Saint Denys and Saint Stephen, accompanied by allegorical figures of Faith and Religion, which were destroyed in 1793.
Immediately above the three large porches of the western front is the gallery of kings; so called from its having been originally decorated with a series of colossal statues in niches, representing the kings of France, benefactors to Notre Dame, from Childebert to Philip Augustus, under whose reign it is supposed the front and towers were completed. The removal of these statues is to be regretted as making a blank in the architecture at the very part where the greatest enrichment was originally intended in the design. In the gallery of the virgin, which is above that of the kings, was anciently placed a large statue of the Virgin Mary, accompanied by figures of two angels, each bearing a chandelier.
The great rose window, which fills the whole front between the towers in the next division of the design, is more than forty feet in diameter 23). The mullions have been restored and are not remarkably complicated. Above this window is another arcade, distinguished as the gallery of columns, environing the towers, and forming a screen to the gable of the roof of the nave. The arches of this gallery are surmounted by a very bold course of mouldings and an open-worked parapet; behind which are cisterns of water, and a communication between the large towers, which are two hundred and four feet high from the ground from the summits a very extensive and beautiful view of the city of Paris and its environs is obtained 24).
The Parvis, or area in front of Notre Dame, has been several times enlarged 25); but particularly in the year 1748, when the church of St. Christopher, together with many subordinate buildings, was pulled down, and the ground considerably lowered before that period the Cathedral of Notre Dame was so much below the level of the Parvis, that it was entered by a descent of thirteen stairs. As early as 1639 there existed a fountain upon the Parvis, which was demolished when the space was enlarged. The present fountain of the Parvis of Notre Dame was erected in 1806, on the front of a building connected with the hospitals of the city; it consists of two stone vases of antique form, on the sides of the entrance, they are placed on pedestals, and water flows through bronze heads into basins.
23 The circular windows of the transepts of Westminster Abbey Church are believed to be about thirty feet in diameter; but there is no rose window on a western front of the Cathedrals of England to place in comparison with this of Notre Dame.
24) On the southern tower the trigonometrical observations were made for the execution of a large map of France, by Cassini de Thury, in 1744,
25) The word Parvis is said to he derived from the Italian Paradise, an open space before a church. The Latin Parudisus means a garden, and the open spaces before some of the Italian churches were laid out as gardens. Warton thinks it to have been an ambulatory, many of the old religious houses in England having had a place called Paradise; but it appears that paradise was also a name given to a study, and in the descriptions of old houses great and little paradise frequently occur.
All persons were formerly married in the Parvis at the door of the church and, in 1559, when Elizabeth of France, daughter of King Henry II., married Philip II., king of Spain, Eustache du Bellay, bishop of Paris, performed the ceremony at the door of Notre Dame, according to the custom of the church.
On the 11th of May, 1625, the marriage of Henrietta of France, daughter of Henry IV., with the duke of Chevreuse, as proxy for King Charles I. of England, was celebrated in the Parvis of Notre Dame, by Cardinal de la Rouchefoucault. Upon this occasion a gallery was erected on that side of the church which is next to the archbishop’s palace, and another leading from the great porch to the entrance of the choir, where mass was celebrated in the evening. Louis XIII. the brother of the bride, the queen, the queen mother, several princes and princesses, and all the companies of Paris, attended the ceremony. Fireworks and cannon were discharged in every part of the city in honour of this marriage 25).
On the southern side of Notre Dame, between the towers on the western front, and the transept, are six flying buttresses, which support the aisle and the walls of the nave; between the buttresses are the windows of the nave, of the triforium, and of the chapels; the roof, entirely covered with lead, rises above the parapet to a considerable height.
The most remarkable feature of the southern side is the porch of Saint Marcel, which was erected in 1257, on the site of the ancient church of St. Stephen. The compartment over the entrance of this porch is enriched with five bas reliefs, representing the principal passages in the life of St. Stephen the martyr; in the upper part above the history of St. Stephen is a figure of
Jesus Christ, holding in one hand a globe and with the other giving his benediction.
26) The duke of Buckingham, and the earl of Montgomery, lord chamberlain, were sent to Paris to conduct the English queen home. Her Majesty embarked at Boulogne, and was convoyed by about thirty ships of the royal navy. King Charles met the queen at Dover, and consummated the marriage on the 12th of June, at St.Augustine’s Abbey, Canterbury, then a royal residence. Hence the king and queen proceeded to Gravesend, and entered their barge, passing up the river to the palace of Whitehall, in a triumphant manner, where they arrived at six, in the evening of the 16th of June.
The doorway is surmounted by an ornamented open-worked gable,and the soffit of the arch is filled with small figures of angels, prophets, patriarchs, and bishops. On the lower part of the buttresses, on each side of the porch, are has reliefs of smaller proportion and within compartments, relating also to the life of St. Stephen, his martyrdom, and apotheosis, the sculpture of which carefully executed, is in good preservation. The only vacancies in the enrichments of this porch are those of the large statues of the sides, and that on the pier between the folding doors. On the eastern side of the door were formerly statues of St. Denys; St. Rusticus, a priest; and St. Eleutherus, a deacon. On the western side were statues of St. Marcel; St. Denys; and St. Germain, bishop of Auxerre. On the pier of the door was the statue of St. Stephen the martyr.
The stone mullions of the great circular window of the southern transept were renewed in 1726, at the expense of Cardinal de Noailles, archbishop of Paris. This restoration was made under the direction of Boffrand, architect to Louis XV., whose design was formed upon that of the original window, but, it is said, not to equal the ancient work in delicacy of execution.
The eastern end of the church is semi-circular, and is richly ornamented externally by buttresses terminating with slender shafts and pinnacles of different heights. The buttresses of the nave being without ornament, appear never to have been completed, as they exhibit abrupt terminations, not usually the case in early examples of pointed architecture. All the flying buttresses are exceedingly slender, and altogether the construction of Notre Dame is to be considered as amongst the boldest and most successful examples existing in early practice, although even in this church are to be found some traces of the too great operation of the thrust of the arches of the aisles 27).
The whole of the northern, side of the church was restored in the year 1813, under the direction of Brongniart *), architect of the public monuments of Paris, and strong iron gratings have been placed before the windows to add to the safety of the building. The large circular window of the northern transept was completely repaired in 1783.
*) Alexandre-Théodore Brongniart (February 15th, 1739 in Paris; – June 6th, 1813 ibid) was a French architect.
The principal porch on this front presents the same architectural disposition as that of St. Marcel on the southern side. A statue of the Virgin Mary, on the pier at the division of the doors, is represented trampling on a winged dragon, and, holding the infant Jesus in her arms. The bas reliefs above the entrance represent the birth of Christ, the adoration of the Magi, the presentation in the Temple, the murder of the Innocents, and the flight into Egypt.
27) See Wood’s Letters of an Architect from France, &c., in which that gentleman has given an historical series elucidating the progress of architecture, taking a general and enlarged view of the subject, both useful and interesting to the student and amateur.
Above this series is another relating to the Virgin’s power of exorcism in purifying the church from the influence of malignant spirits by religious ceremony. The vaulting of this porch is filled with small figures of angels bearing censers, martyrs with palm branches, and numerous saints, all of which were originally painted and gilt, but in the year 1818 were cleaned, and deprived of their colours.
The buttresses on the sides of the porch have niches, each containing an angel holding a trumpet. The large statues on the western side of the doorway were those of the three theological virtues, faith, hope, and charity; those on the eastern side represented the three kings who were said to have worshipped at the birth of Christ, Caspor, Melchior, and Balthasar; these were destroyed in 1793, as well as the statues formerly in niches of the buttresses between this porch and Porte Rouge. The last mentioned statues were those of virtues and vices. Queen Esther and Ahasuerus, David and Goliah, and Job. Their names were written in old characters, and it appears from an inscription formerly near the porch, that the statues were repaired in 1326.
Porte Rouge, one of the porches so called, from its having originally been painted chiefly in a red colour, considerably ornamented with gilding, is eastward from the last mentioned entrance. Above the doorway is represented Jesus Christ, and the Virgin Mary crowned by an angel, having figures of John Sans peur, duke of Burgundy, and Margaret of Bavaria, his wife, on their knees, one it her side of the Virgin; these personages are habited in state dresses of the period, highly enriched with ornaments.
In the vaulting of the porch are different compartments, containing bas reliefs relative to the miracles of Saint Marcel, one of the early bishops of Paris. All the ground work of these subjects appears to have been gilded and the figures painted in their proper colours, a usual practice with the sculpture of early periods. The porch is surmounted by an open-worked gable, having tall crocheted pinnacles on its sides. The wall of the church eastward, towards the archbishop’s palace, contains seven bas reliefs, the subjects of which relate to the death of the Virgin and her reception in heaven.
The general plan of Notre Dame is that of the Latin cross, and the effect on entering the church is very striking, arising from the imposing appearance of the double range of aisles in the nave, besides the open chapels, making an entire width of seven divisions instead of five, as in the Cathedral of Amiens, or three, as in English churches; but the impression of space is certainly much less in Notre Dame than in the narrower and loftier edifice at Amiens.
The whole length of the nave of Notre Dame is about two hundred and thirty-five feet from the western wall to the choir screen. The length of the clioir is one hundred and twenty feet, and the total length of the building from west to east is about four hundred and thirty-two feet. The width of the nave is forty-one feet seven inches, that of the outer aisle is fifteen feet nine inches, and that of the inner aisle fourteen feet eight inches; the diameter of the clustered pillars is about four feet five inches each, and that of the solid columns, about four feet six inches each.
The length of the transept from north to south is one hundred and fiftyfour feet, and its width is forty-six feet. The width of the outer aisles is fifteen feet nine inches, and the width of the inner aisles is fourteen feet eight inches; the pillars in this part of the church being about three feet in diameter.
In the elevation of the aisles are two stories; this double range and the very slender pillars which divide the openings of the upper story, are in some points of view very pleasing. There are three arches over each of the larger openings below, united into one common arch, but the space, included between the three smaller arches and the larger one, is a blank wall, which has a bad effect, especially as it is a part of the building where, in England, it is customary to bestow ornament 28).
The vaulting of the nave and choir is made with oblique groins, and, according to Millin 29), is only six inches thick. Whittington says the interior of Notre Dame is heavy from the mixture of styles; the body of the church is divided into five aisles by four ranges of Lombardic columns, a species of grandeur which never crossed the Channel 30). These columns are of the most clumsy proportions, and the detail of the architecture in general is without ornament and beauty; its size therefore is the principal source of magnificence and effect this Cathedral can boast of 31).
28) The arrangement of this gallery is inferior to that in the Church of Notre Dame, at Chalons, an excellent specimen of the earliest style of pointed architecture in France, where there are two stories in the aisles of the nave as well as of the choir. — Woods.
29) An able antiquary of Paris, who has published some works of considerable value on French antiquities;
his “Antiquités Nationales” consist chiefly of architectural subjects.
30) Mr. Carter, in one of his “ Essays on Architectural Innovation,” spiritedly replies to this observation in favour of French superiority, that the Gallilee, or chapel at the western end of Durham Cathedral, in England, is divided into five aisles by four ranges of columns, and was erected about the year 1154, seventy-six years prior to the display of grandeur at Notre Dame. 31) Historical Survey of the Ecclesiastical Antiquities of France, p. 151.
The massive shafts of the Lombardic columns, which are used to support the building, were not improbably prepared before the foundation was laid in 1161, at which time a taste for the more beautiful pointed style of architecture prevailed. The capitals of these solid pillars are all different from each other in their composition, the general disposition of ornament consisting of oak, or acanthus leaves; the leaves of water plants, and of the thistle, are also employed in their enrichment.
The principal ceremonies retaining a degree of historical interest that have been celebrated in the church of Notre Dame are the following: Margaret of Provence, daughter of Raymond Berenger, and wife of Saint Louis, was crowned queen of France, in Notre Dame, by Galferus, archbishop of Sens, in the year 1234.
Francis I. had a funeral service performed in this church for the repose of the soul of Henry VIII. king of England, although he had before his death separated from the church of Rome.
The marriage of Mary, queen of Scots, to the dauphin, was solemnised in the church of Notre Dame, on Sunday, the 24th of April, 1558. The king and queen of France honoured this ceremony with their presence, together with a great concourse of nobles and a very crowded appearance of ambassadors. Queen Mary, it is said, immediately saluted the dauphin as king of Scots the Scottish commissioners imitated her example, and both were; accompanied in their salutations by the loud acclaims of a numerous audience 32).
After the accession of Francis and Mary to the French throne, in July, 1559, she was crowned in the usual manner at Reims.
One of the most imposing and memorable ceremonies ever witnessed in this Cathedral was the coronation of the emperor Napoleon and his consort Josephine, by Pope Pius VII., on the 3d of December, 1804. The preparations at Notre Dame for this solemnity were on a most extensive scale temporary porch was erected in front of the church, in correspondence with the architecture of the edifice, and floridly decorated with various allegorical figures.
The entrance forming four arches, supported by pillars, was enriched with symbolical statues of the thirty-six principal cities of France; more elevated were statues of Clovis and Charlemagne, founders of the French monarchy. The arms of the emperor Napoleon, together with figures representing the sixteen cohorts of the legion of honour, distinguished by their several attributes and legends, crowned the principal arch. Four pinnacles sustaining the imperial eagles, surmounted the whole; other ornaments were bees, and the initial letter N. in raised gilding.
32) These ceremonies were succeeded by banquets of unbounded expense and unexampled splendour; there was published at Paris, “A Declaration of the triumphant Marriage of the two most noble Prince and Princesse Francis de Valois and Mary Stuart, by the grace of God King and Queen of Scotland, and Dauphin and Dauphines of France.”
At the entrance of the nave, near the third pillar, stood the imperial throne, having a dorsal supported by eight columns, respectively decorated with trophies in has relief, and the arms of the empire. The throne occupied the whole breadth of the nave of the church, and was ascended by twenty-four steps, covered with carpets, the pattern of which was strewn with bees. On the steps were placed benches for the marshals, ministers, and officers of the household, covered with blue velvet, embroidered with golden bees 33).
The emperor’s seat on the throne was elevated under a canopy of crimson velvet, ornamented with gold fringe and embroidered with bees; a chair for the empress, less elevated, was on the right of that of the emperor. In the nave of the church were prepared seats for the legislative body, the councillors of state, and the grand officers of the legion of honour. The imperial band, composed of five hundred musicians of acknowledged skill, was placed at the extremity of the transept, in two orchestras, elevated a few steps above the pavement.
The choir was on this occasion separated from the nave by gilded pillars supporting chandeliers, and the whole of the interior of the choir was hung with crimson silk, ornamented with bees of gold. The bishops and clergy of France occupied raised seats on the right and left of the altar, and the pope’s throne stood elevated in the sanctuary on the side of the evangelium; it was covered with velvet and surmounted by a canopy, over which were emblazoned the keys of St. Peter, the arms of the church.
Cardinals, archbishops, and prelates, had seats below the throne, those of the cardinals being elevated and covered with velvet. The venerable pope was attended by Cardinals Braschi, Leonardo, Antonelli, Da Pietro, and Caselli; the princes Onesti, Braschi, and Altieri; the seneschal Rusposli, the marquis Sacchetti, and the bishops all the officers in the service of his holiness were placed immediately surrounding his throne.
33) Julius Chifflet, an heraldic author of repute in France, published in 1658, an account of the opening of the tomb of King Childebert, which was discovered in the church of St. Germain des Près, at Tournay. The king’s body was identified by an inscription bearing his name, and besides a ring, a sword, and regal ornaments, were a number of gilded bees, supposed to have adorned the robe in which the body was enveloped: some of these bees are still preserved in the Royal Library at Paris. The herald Chifflet drew an inference from this discovery, that bees, instead of fleurs de lis, were in reality the ancient charge in the arms of France, an idea which seems to have been readily adopted by the emperor Napoleon, whose coronation robe was powdered with bees; these were also used as above described on the decorations of his throne. Some of the latter are now in the possession of the writer of this description; the head of the bee being placed in base, with its wings spread, presents a form to the eye not dissimilar to that of the fleur de lis.
The countenance and figure of Pope Pius VII. commanded respect; he was received at the grand door of Notre Dame by the cardinal archbishop of Paris, who conducted the holy father into the sanctuary to the foot of the altar. His holiness, after having ascended the throne, received the homage of the bishops.
The altar of Notre Dame was magnificently decorated, and the choir throughout its whole extent was covered with rich carpeting. The galleries of the church were divided into three rows, and hung with silk fixed to ensigns, bearing the imperial arms; one was reserved for foreign princes.
Marshal Murat, as governor of Paris, attended by his staff, and mamelukes of the imperial guard, headed a concourse of carriages from the palace of the Tuileries. Garlands with devices, were hung across the streets, and animated the scene, while tapestry and other rich stuffs were displayed at all the windows. The state carriage, in which were their majesties, accompanied by Prince Joseph and Prince Louis, was drawn by eight horses, richly caparisoned and covered with cloths of gold. On arriving at the Parvis of Notre Dame, Napoleon was received by the cardinal archbishop of Paris, and the standard of the empire floated on the towers of the church.
The imperial crown jewels were previously exhibited to the public at the jewellers the crown was of a light form,and with its leaves of gold, it less; resembled the crown of France than the antique crown of the Csesars. The regalia were afterwards placed in the public treasury, together with the imperial insignia of Charlemagne, which Napoleon had ordered to be brought from Aix la Chapelle.
Their majesties, preceded by the clergy, were conducted with great ceremony, each under a canopy, to places prepared for them in the choir.
The pope, after having chanted the veni creator, sat down on a faldstool, and demanded of the emperor his profession of faith, which he signified by touching the book of the gospels with both hands. His holiness then consecrated the imperial regalia, when the emperor ascended the steps, and taking the crown from the altar, placed it himself on his head.
He then took the crown of the empress Josephine, and advancing towards her placed it on her head; her majesty receiving it kneeling. During this most imposing part of the ceremony the pope recited the coronation prayer — Coronet vos Deus, &c.
Their imperial majesties wearing their crowns advanced to the foot of the altar, and, after kneeling, returned to the throne, where they were anointed; the celebration of mass continued during this ceremony at the elevation of the host the grand elector removed the emperor’s crown, and Marshal Murat that of the empress Josephine, and their majesties knelt down.
The president of the senate, after having laid before his majesty the form of the oath, took his station with the other presidents on the upper steps of the throne; the emperor laid his hand upon the gospels, and pronounced the oath in the presence of all the congregation; and, after the oath, the heralds proclaimed him as Napoleon, emperor of the French.
Vive l’Empereur was repeated by all the congregation bands of music and a discharge of artillery announced the crowning and enthroning of their majesties Napoleon and Josephine. After descending from the throne, they entered the archbishop’s palace, and returned with the same state and in the same order as at their arrival, through the Parvis of Notre Dame, Rue Marché Neuf, Rue Barrillerie, the Pont au Change, Rue St. Denys, the Boulevards, the Place de la Concorde, and the garden of the Tuileries, to the palace, amidst the acclamations of an immense concourse of people 34).
On Sunday, the 9th of June, 1811, the king of Rome, son of the empress Maria Louisa, consort of Napoleon, was baptised in the Cathedral of Notre Dame the sponsors of the young prince were the emperor of Austria and the; queen of Naples by proxy.
A singular course of events having restored the house of Bourbon to the throne. Monsieur the count d’ Artois, afterwards King Charles X., came to Notre Dame on the 11th of April, 1814, the day he entered Paris and on 3d of May following, Louis XVIII, upon his arrival at his capital, returned thanks here for his restoration.
One of the last grand festivals at the metropolitan church was the baptism of the duke of Bordeaux, son of the duke of Berri, on the 1st of May, 1821, in the presence of the king and royal family; the ceremony was performed by Cardinal de Talleyrand Périgord, archbishop of Paris, grand almoner, &c.
The Cathedral of Notre Dame having been an object of the particular munificence of the French kings, was even in the earliest times loaded with costly presents, and decorated with a magnificence worthy of mighty princes. It was before the Revolution rich in pictures, sculpture, relics, and precious ornaments of every kind. Divine service was celebrated in no other church of France with such solemnity and pomp.
34) The coronation of Napoleon, as king of Italy, in May, 1815, took place in the Cathedral of Milan, the largest in Italy with the exception of St.Peter’s, at Rome. Napoleon, on this occassion, received the crown, the old iron crown of the kings of Lombardy, from the hands of the archbishop of Milan, and placed it on his own head, exclaiming— “Dieu me l’a donnée gare à qui la touche,” — words used afterwards as the motto of the order of the Iron Crown, which Napoleon founded in commemoration of his being crowned king of Italy.
Not only kings and princes, but the corporation of the city of Paris, several companies of artisans, and private individuals, vied with each other in enriching the Cathedral with their offerings.
Before the altar of the Virgin was a remarkable lampadaire of silver, composed of seven lamps, six of which were the gifts of Louis XIV. and his queen Maria Theresa of Austria. The lamp in the centre, in the form of a ship, was a present from the city of Paris, in performance of a singular vow made by the inhabitants at a period of imminent peril.
One of the canons of the church caused the whole interior to be painted in distemper at his own expense another gave the pictures which adorned the choir; and lastly, the numerous collection of pictures which covered the immense extent of the nave, the transept, and the chapels, were the result of an annual offering made during a century by the goldsmiths’ company and the fraternity of St. Anne and St. Marcel.
At the western entrance of the church is a large and fine-toned organ, and against the second pillar of the nave was formerly a colossal statue of Saint Christopher opposite to it was a figure of a knight on his knees, the pedestal; of which bore an inscription. This singular monument was erected in 1413, in accomplishment of a vow of Antoine des Essars, who having been arrested, dreamt that Saint Christopher came to his prison window, broke the bars, and carried him off in his arms.
The knight’s innocence was declared a few days after, when he caused this statue to be erected. It was removed in 1785; about the same time was also removed an equestrian statue of Philip the Fair, which stood in the nave near the choir, on the southern side. It is said to have been placed there in 1304.
The pulpit, under one of the arches of the nave, was erected in 1806; it is ornamented with a bas relief of the presentation of the Virgin in the Temple. During divine service no women are allowed to enter into that part of the choir appropriated to the use of the clergy. The choir is divided into three parts : — the first is the high altar and its circuit from the bottom of the steps leading to it, and this part is in the jurisdiction of the archbishop.
The second part is from the steps to the archiepiscopal chair, which comprehends all the space between the two entrances to the altar, and is in the joint jurisdiction of the archbishop and the chapter. Here men and women enter indiscriminately. The third part is from the great door of the choir, on the side of the nave, to the end of the canons’ seats. This spot is in the jurisdiction of the chapter alone, and was formerly separated by an enclosure. Women are excluded from this part during divine service.
None but princes and bishops were ever allowed to be interred in the choir of Notre Dame; many of the bishops of Paris were here buried before the high altar. At the principal entrance of the choir was a brass tomb, rising about eighteen inches from the ground, on which was represented the full length figure of Eudes de Sully, the bishop, in whose time this part of the church was finished; on the verge of the tomb was his epitaph in Latin verse.
In the middle of the choir before the large lettern, or eagle, was a flat tomb, under which was buried Queen Isabel, wife of Philip Augustus; on her right was interred Geoffrey, duke of Brittany and earl of Richmond, son of Henry II. king of England. For their souls, and also for the soul of, Louis VII. his father. King Philip Augustus founded six sacerdotal chaplaincies in the church of Notre Dame. At the entrance to the high altar, under a tomb of brass, was the heart of Louise de Savoy, wife of the count of Angouleme, and mother of Francis I.
A new disposition was given to the choir in the reign of Louis XIV., when the architecture of the sanctuary was entirely altered under the direction of Mansard, the superintendant-general of the royal buildings, who had been previously employed by that pompous monarch in the erection of Versailles.
The high altar was afterwards rebuilt by Robert De Cotte, the successor of Mansard, and was embellished with a fine bas relief of the Descent from the Cross, executed in Carrara marble by Nicholas Couston, in 1723. The altar was totally destroyed in 1793, but was partly restored under Napoleon when it was ornamented with bas reliefs in bronze by Olivier. A new eagle of copper gilt, given to the church, instead of the old wooden one formerly used as a reader’s desk, was made in 1812.
After the restoration of Louis XVIIL, the bronze figures of angels, which had been removed from the choir, were brought back, as well as the kneeling figures of Louis XIII. and Louis XIV., and were placed near the altar in 1816.
The stalls of the choir erected from designs by Jules du Goulon, sculptor to the king, are enriched with twenty compartments, tastefully arranged and carved in Dutch oak by Goulon, Belleau, Taupin, and Le Goupel. The subjects, all relating to the principal incidents in the fife of the Virgin Mary, were designed by Réné Charpentiere, pupil of Girardon. The episcopal chair is embellished with a carved bas relief of the Martyrdom of St. Denys, the opposite chair with the miraculous cure of King Childebert.
Above the stalls of the choir, on both sides, are pictures by celebrated masters, painted expressly for the purpose, under the direction of the Abbé De la Porte: – On the southern side are — 1. The Annunciation, by Hallé. 2. The Visitation, the Magnificat by Jouvenet. 3. The Birth of the Virgin Mary, by Philippe de Champagne 35). 4. The Adoration of the Magi, by La Fosse. On the northern side of the choir are — 1. The Presentation of Christ in the Temple, by Louis Boulogne. 2. The Flight into Egypt, by the same painter. 3. The Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple, by Philippe de Champagne. 4.The Assumption, by Laurent de la Hyre, a picture formerly over the altar of the church of the Capuchins, in the Rue St. Honoré.
35) This picture occupies the place of the Nativity of Christ, painted by La Fosse, which was sold, as well as many others, at the Revolution.
It is only from description that any idea can be formed of the original glasing of the windows of Notre Dame. It appears that in the windows above the choir, which were entirely of stained glass, admitting a radiant glow of light, were formerly figures about eighteen feet high, executed in a very bold style, representing the ancient bishops of Paris, in their sacerdotal costume, mitred and holding pastoral staves, not crosiers, in their hands : the robes of the bishops of pure white, were relieved by fringe and ornaments of gold colour.
The circular headings of these windows were also diversely diapered with black and white, heightened with gold colour; the circumference being a border of different colours, which variegated border was also carried round the two grand divisions of the window.
In the chevet, the principal window was enriched with a representation of Jesus Christ between the figures of the Virgin Mary and St. John the Baptist; and in the circular compartment above, the word Jehovah, within the usual triangular form of radiation.
The large windows of the nave of Notre Dame were pure white, and bordered with ornamental foliage in stained glass, executed in the fourteenth century.
Mr. Whittington says, it is impossible to convey an adequate idea of the three marigold windows of this Cathedral, which still retain their painted glass, and which are not only its most admirable ornaments, but the most magnificent he had any where seen.
All the subjects in the rose windows are painted on a mosaic ground with very good effect; the glass of that on the western front was restored in the year 1731, but its original arrangement was not strictly attended to; there are still to be distinguished in this window the greater number of the signs of the zodiac, accompanied by the agricultural labours of the twelve months in the year, and several allegorical figures resembling those which ornament the porches on the same front.
The whole of the glass in the southern window was repaired at the expense of Cardinal Noailles, in 1727, and its disposition carefully attended to by William Brice, of Paris, who also restored the windows of La Sainte Chapelle, in Paris. In the centre of the rose are the arms of the cardinal, painted on glass by Benoît Michu. The northern rose was repaired in 1783.
The large windows of the nave and choir were restored at different periods between the years 1741 and 1775, by Pierre and Jean Le Vieil, descended from a family, originally of Normandy, which had acquired reputation in the art of painting on glass, during two centuries, and whose descendants yet carry on the business of glass painters at Rouen and Paris. Pierre Le Vieil, well versed in the theory of his profession, has written a “Traité Historique et Pratique” on this delightful art, proving, in his own family, that the mystical secret of giving colour to glass has never been entirely lost 36).
The windows, of simple tracery, are ornamented with borders of blue glass, profusely diapered with fleurs de lis, of a gold colour is inscribed the cypher of Marie, executed in white glass, on a blue ground.
A stone screen of enclosure which surrounds the whole of the choir is, on the exterior towards the aisles, composed of a series of pointed arches; above which is a second story, consisting of more than twenty compartments in sculpture, representing the principal incidents in the life of Jesus Christ these are divided by slender shafts and buttresses supporting a line of canopy heads of rich workmanship.
These sculptures, monuments of the piety of the early bishops, are amongst the most interesting portions of the enrichment of the ancient church of Notre Dame, having been executed by competent artists in the fourteenth century.
In the year 1561, during the reign of Charles IX., two hundred years after the erection of the screen, all the figures which composed these historical groups were painted in their proper colours, and partially heightened with gilding 37); but have been subsequently painted stone colour. Before the inappropriate alterations of the choir by Mansard, there existed in front of Porte Rouge a remarkable bas relief of a man kneeling with his hands joined, as in prayer, having above the figure this inscription in old characters:-
C’est Maistre Jehan Rabn, qui fut Masson de Nostre Dame de Paris, par l’espace de XXVI. ans et commenca ces nouvelles histoires, et Maistre Jehan le Bouteiller son nepueu les a parfaictes en l’an MCCCLI.
36) In Martin’s “Bibliographical Catalogue of Books privately printed,” is the following notice of a celebrated English glass painter “Thomas Willement, F. S. A., the author of Regal Heraldry, a very curious work, is also distinguished as a glass painter. Specimens of his excellence in this peculiar branch of art are, amongst many others, a window at Bridge castle, the altar window in the church of St. Dunstan, Fleet-street, London, and one in Tyldesley church, Lancashire. A very fine window, painted for the earl of Shrewsbury, at Alton Towers, near Ashbourn, is perhaps his very best performance in glass.” It is not too much to expect that this gentleman, the son of an eminent painter, will give the public the result of his hereditary experience in a History of glass painting.” It would doubtless be highly satisfactory if executed in the spirit of the motto, which is usually applied to his works,— Aussn bien come ze pouron.
37) They are thus described in the second edition of the “Antiquités de Paris,” by Gilles Corrozet, published in 1561.
An opening made in the screen towards the sanctuary caused the destruction of part of the sculpture. The historical series now commences with the Visitation of the Virgin Mary, and terminates with the appearance of Jesus Christ after his resurrection; but the compartments, in which were represented the Crucifixion, the Entombing, the Resurrection, and the Ascension, have been entirely annihilated.
The series of sculpture on the screen is arranged in the following order: – 1. The Visitation. 2. The proceeding of the shepherds to the manger. 3. The Birth of Jesus Christ. 4. The Adoration of the Magi. 5. The Murder of the Innocents by Herod. 6. The Flight into Egypt. 7. The Presentation in the Temple. 8. Christ in the midst of the Doctors. 9. The Baptism of Jesus Christ. 10. The Marriage of Cana. 11. The triumphal Procession of Christ towards Jerusalem. 12. The Lord’s Supper, and the ceremony of washing the feet of his Disciples. 13. The Transfiguration and agony in the garden.
These bas reliefs occupy the whole of one side of the screen. On the opposite side of the choir, beginning at that part adjoining the chapel of the Virgin, the subjects relate to the several appearances of our Saviour after his resurrection, and are disposed in the following manner: — 1. Jesus Christ and the Magdalene. 2. The Holy Women. 3. Divers appearances of Christ to the Apostles. 4. The Two Disciples of the Merchant Emmaus with Jesus. 5. Christ at table with the Disciples of Emmaus. 6. Jesus appearing to the Apostles. 7. The incredulity and conversion of St. Thomas. 8. The miraculous Fishing. 9. The Mission of the Apostles. 10. The Last Supper, Jesus Christ at table with his Apostles, giving them his benediction before his departure.
These sculptures, which are not destitute of taste, are interesting as specimens of the art of design in the fourteenth century, and, under all circumstances, their preservation till now must be considered as remarkable.
On the outer periphery of the choir of Notre Dame, above the bas reliefs of the screen, are the following pictures: — 1. The beheading of John the Baptist, by Claude Audran. 2. St. Paul restoring Eutychus to Life, by Courtin. 3. St. Peter’s Repentance, by Tavernier. 4. St. Paul before Agrippa, by Villequin. 5. St. Paul converting St. Denys in the Areopagus, by Cestin. 6. Agabus predicting to St. Paul what he should suffer for Christ’s sake, by Chéron. 7. St. John preaching in the Wilderness, by Parrocel, the elder. 8. The Adoration of the Kings, by Vivien.
There were anciently forty-five chapels surrounding the nave and choir of the Cathedral; some have been entirely suppressed, and others have been united, reducing the number to twenty-nine, which are all decorated with pictures, statues, flowers, and candelabra.
These suffered greatly at the time of the Revolution, when they were stripped of their valuable ornaments, consisting of a considerable number of ciboires, cups, crucifixes, vases, candlesticks, and expositoria, of silver gilt, enriched with diamonds and other precious stones, costly memorials of the piety of the illustrious personages of France. Many of the pictures which were removed and preserved in the various depots of the government were restored to the church in the year 1802; they consist of a great variety of select and precious works, chiefly of the old masters.
The chapel of St. Anne, the first on the southern side of the nave, was enriched by the benefactions of Anne of Austria, queen of Louis XIII., and by the goldsmiths’ company of Paris, a fraternity which claimed the protection of St. Anne and St. Marcel. Above the altar is a fine picture of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, by Philippe de Champagne, the friend of Nicolo Poussin; opposite to this is a curious picture, representing St. John, of Capistran, marching at the head of the crusaders against the Turks, over whom he obtained a complete victory, after having raised the siege of Belgrade in the year 1456.
The chapel of St. Bartholomew and St. Vincent contains a font of white marble originally belonging to the church of St. Denys du Pas, and removed here in 1791, when Notre Dame was made a parish church: here are also two pictures, one a singularly line composition, representing St. John preaching in the Wilderness, by old Parrocel, a celebrated painter of battle pieces, in which the variety of passions incident to such scenes are sensibly and feelingly expressed. This picture of St. John in the Desert, which is highly esteemed, affords an indubitable proof that his genius was not confined to his favourite subject, which he studied under Borgognone. The other picture in this chapel is St. James led to Martyrdom, by Noel Coypel, the elder, in 1661; he was director of the French academy, at Rome.
The chapel of St. James and St. Philip contains pictures of the Departure of St. Paul from Miletus to Jerusalem, by Galloche, in 1705; and Jesus Christ raising the Daughter of Jairus, by Guy de Vernausal, in 1689.
The chapel of St. Anthony and St. Michael, called the chapel of St. Genevieve, was embellished at the expense of the Abbé Lamartinière, one of the canons of this church. The picture over the altar is the Descent of the Holy Ghost, by James Blanchard, in 1634; and opposite to it is the Martyrdom of St. Andrew, at Patras, a very fine picture, by Charles Le Brun, a native of Paris, painted five years after he returned from Rome.
The next chapel is dedicated to St. Thomas of Canterbury, that seditious prelate being here a favourite saint. It is decorated with two pictures; one over the altar is The Buyers and Sellers driven from the Temple, by Claude Guy Hallé; the other St. Peter and St. Andrew, by Michael Corneille. The two chapels of St. Augustin and St. Mary Magdalene, the last on the southern side of the nave, are now one room, used as a vestry.
On the eastern side of the southern transept is the chapel of the Virgin Mary, containing a statue of the Virgin by Vassé; opposite this chapel is a picture, by Louis Testelin, representing St. Peter restoring the Widow to Life. The chapels of St. Peter and St. Paul have been converted into a
vestry for the musicians.
The chapel of St. Denys and St. George contains a picture of the Martyrdom of St. Simon, in Persia, by Louis de Boulogne, the father, in 1648. Before the alterations made in this chapel, in the year 1761, there were two stone statues upon pillars; one representing Denys du Moulin, bishop of and the other St. Denys, his patron: the arms of Bishop Du Moulin in stained glass yet remain in the window. He was successively archbishop of Toulouse, patriarch of Antioch, and one of the chief councillors of Charles VII. He died in 1447, and was buried in the choir of Notre Dame.
The chapel of St. Géraud Baron d’Aurillac, contains a picture of the Martyrdom of St. Katherine, painted by J. Vien, in 1752; and another by Charles Vanloo, in 1743, painted at the expense of Charles Gaspard Guillaume de Vintimille, archbishop of Paris, representing the amiable saint Charles Borromeo, the patron of Milan, receiving the communion with the persons infected with the plague.
The Chapel of St. Remy, is called the Ursins’ Chapel, from the monument of Juvenal des Ursins and Michelle de Vitry his wife. He was president of the parliament which sat at Poitiers, in the reign of Charles VII., and died in 1431. This is one of the monuments removed as a specimen of sculpture by the antiquary Le Noir, to the convent of the Augustines, granted to him for the purpose of preserving the most valuable works of art at the national expense.
Le Noir, at the same time, restored the heads of the figures on this tomb wich had been broken, from contemporary portraits of the persons represented 38). After the restoration of the Bourbon family, this monument was replaced.
The chapel dedicated to St. Peter and St. Stephen contains a monument of white marble, in memory of Henri Claude, comte d’Harcourt, who died in 1769, sculptured by Jean Baptiste Pigalle, an artist who prided himself upon his anatomical precision. The monument was replaced in this chapel in the year 1820 by M. Deseine, at the expense of the family of Harcourt Beuvron.
The three chapels of St. James, St. Crispin and St. Crispinian, and St. Stephen,have been united. In the headings of the windows are yet remaining in stained glass the figures of the saints to whom they are severally dedicated. The two martyrs, St. Crispin and St. Crispinian, patrons of shoemakers, according to the legend, came from Rome to preach at Soissons, where, in the sixth century, a church was built to their honour, and their shrine was richly ornamented.
The company cf shoemakers at Paris attended divine service in this chapel annually on St. Crispin’s Day, 25th of October, on which occasion were exhibited four pieces of tapestry, executed in 1635, at the expence of the company, and representing passages in the life and martyrdom of their patrons 39). In this chapel are two pictures; one representing Christ’s descent into Purgatory, painted in 1819 by De Lorme; the other, Jesus Christ healing the Man sick of the Palsy, at the pool of Bethesda, by Boulogne, in 1678.
The two chapels of St. Louis and St. Rigobert were united in 1602, as a sepulchral chapel for the house of Gondi, when the walls were decorated with the arms, badges, maces, and trophies, of that noble and ancient Florentine family. The monuments of Albert de Gondi, marshal of France, who died in 1602, and of Peter Cardinal de Gondi, bishop of Paris, who died in 1616, were removed to the Musée des Monumens Français by Le Noir 40).
The chapels were joined to that of St. Nicaise, on the erection of a new altar to the Virgin Mary and a choir for the canons. It now contains a celebrated statue of the Virgin by A. Raggi, called the Lombard, modelled after one by Bernini. The lettern, or reader’s desk, in this chapel, wvas carved by Julience, in the year 1700; the pillar or shaft is ornamented with figures in has relief of St. Peter, St. Paul, and St. John the Evangelist; and on the pedestal are the three theological virtues, very beautifully executed. On the wall are two large pictures, brought from the Musee Royal, the Virgin Mary entombed, by Abel de Pujol; and Jesus Christ restoring to life the Son of the Widow of Naim, by Guillemot.
38) Musée des Monumens Français on Description Historique et Chronologique des Statues en marbre et on bronze, bas reliefs et tombeaux, des hommes et des femmes célèbres, pour servir a I’Histoire de France et celle de l’Art, par Alex. Lo Noir.
39) In Hone’s “Every Day Book,” is a curious description of the Cobler’s festival at Paris, in 1641.
40) The other members of this family buried in the chapel of St. Louis and St. Rigobert, were Cardinal Henry de Gondi, bishop of Paris, who died in 1622, and Archbishop de Gondi, who died in 1654; but the famous Cardinal de Retz, coadjutor of the archbishop, who died in 1679, was buried at St. Denys. There is a plan and view of the chapel in Notre Dame, as well as views of all the monuments in the Histoire et Preuves Genealogique de la Maison de Gondi, p. 347.
The chapels of the decollation of St. John the Baptist, St. Eutrope, and St. Faith, are now united in one, and contain the monument of Cardinal de Belloy, archbishop of Paris, who died in 1808, executed by Deseine in 1818.
The chapels of St. Martin, St. Anne, and St. Michael, now form the chapel De Noailles, and the arms of Louis Antony, Cardinal de Noailles, one of the most considerable benefactors to the church of Notre Dame, and of the marshal his nephew, are painted in the windows; there is also a picture of the decollation of St. Paul, at Rome, by Louis de Boulogne, in 1657.
The chapel of St. Ferréol and St. Ferrutien, founded in 1320 by Hugh de Besançon, one of the canons of Notre Dame, was enriched with many ornaments in 1654 by Michael Le Masle, prior of Roches, and secretary to the celebrated Cardinal Richelieu. The arms of the cardinal are painted in the upper part of the window, and below, in two different compartments, are those of Michael Le Masle, his secretary.
The prior also gave the chapter four pieces of tapestry, representing passages in the life of the Virgin Mary, which were used to decorate the choir on all grand occasions before the alterations made by Louis XIV.
In this chapel was buried Pierre Lescot, a native of Paris, and one of the restorers of architecture in France, who died in 1578 41). The pictures in this chapel are Christ receiving the offering of Perfumes and Sheep, and St. Peter preaching in Jerusalem, painted in 1642 by C. Poerson.
The chapel of St. John the Baptist and the Magdalene has over the altar a fine has relief of the Baptism of Jesus Christ. Opposite to the altar is the monument of Christopher de Beaumont, archbishop of Paris, who died in 1781; whose arms are painted in the heading of the window.
In the chapel of St. Eustace was interred with very great funeral pomp, Marshal de Guesbriant, who was slain in battle in 1643, but it does not appear that any monument was erected to his memory.
41) The Louvre was begun by him in 1541, the design he gave for this palace having been preferred by Francis I. to that of Sebastian Serlio, a learned architect of Bologna. Lescot was united with Gougeon in erecting the Fountain of the Innocents in 1550.
The chapel of St. John the Evangelist and St. Agnes is the last in succession round the choir. The chapel of St. Marcel, bishop of Paris, is in the northern transept; above the altar is a statue of this prelate, modelled in plaster by Mouchy; in front of the chapel is a picture of St. Paul healing the Lame Man, by Michael Corneille, in 1644; and near the altar of St. Marcel is a picture of the Council of Trent, given to the church by Cardinal Maury, in 1813.
The first chapel on the northern side of the Nave is that of St. Nicholas, which contains a very fine picture of the Crucifixion, by Guido; and opposite to it a picture of the Decollation of St. John the Baptist, by Claude Audran. In this chapel was formerly a remarkable cenotaph of Stephen Yver, which has been removed into the northern tower.
The chapel of St. Katherine formerly contained the tombe of the Abbé De la Grange, a great benefactor to Notre Dame, who died in 1733; it was destroyed at the time of the Revolution, together with many others in this church.
The chapel of St. Julian the Poor and St. Mary the Egyptian, was decorated at the expense of the Abbé Girard, one of the canons of Notre Dame, who died in 1811. It contains a series of apostles and saints, with their attributes, in separate compartments or niches; the pilasters which separate these niches are covered with arabesque ornaments, executed in very good taste; the date of these carvings is about the commencement of the sixteenth century; they were brought from the ancient chapter house, which was demolished in 1803.
The picture placed above the altar represents the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, attributed to Salvator Rosa, and opposite to it is the Conversion of St. Paul, painted by Restout. This is the penitentiary’s chapel, and contains, enclosed in three busts, relics of St. Ursula and the virgins her companions, patrons of the ancient college of the Sorbonne.
The chapel of St. Laurent is ornamented with a picture of the Miracle of St. Paul at Ephesus, painted by Louis Boulogne, in 1646. The chapel of St. Geneviève, who, tradition represents as the tutelary patroness of Paris, contains a picture, by Matthew Elias, in 1702, the Exorcism of Demons.
The chapel of St. George and St. Blaise is ornamented with two pictures; one, the Miracles of St. Paul and Sylas in Prison, painted in 1666 by Van Platten, called Il Montagna; the other, Jesus Christ healing the Sick, by Alexander, in 1692.
The former chapel of St. Leonard is now converted to a chamber for one of the priests. The chapel of the Annunciation of the Virgin in the southern tower of the church, contains a picture of that subject by Philippe de Champagne, whose works which are dispersed through France are very numerous. One of his finest pictures is Louis XIII. kneeling before the Virgin and offering his crown and his best portrait is that of cardinal Richelieu.
Source: French cathedrals by Benjamin Winkles, Robert Garland. London, C. Tilt 1837.