Notre-Dame Cathedral Paris: Restoration and History part two

Notre-Dame Cathedral Paris: Restoration and History part two July 3, 2023

Notre-Dame de Paris Gothic cathedral (1163-1345) Various viewpoints, picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The Notre-Dame Cathedral: it’s lasting impact since the devastating 2019 fire

Since the fire of April 2019, the city of Paris has been sent in a state of turmoil trying to restore and rebuild the beauty and splendor of the Notre-Dame Cathedral of Paris. This grand gothic cathedral has been at the center of the city near the Seine, enveloping a rich artistic and religious history within it’s stone walls.

In my first article about this richly artful, historical church, I have gone through many examples of inspirational pieces that famous artists and writers imbued in their work because of the sanctity and sanctuary that Notre-Dame Cathedral of Paris created for the culture and society of France. The restoration and procedural steps to reconstruct and revive this timeless church is not only a costly project, but it also serves as a result of French President Macron’s five-year plan to have it available once again to the public(projected to be December 2024), and is a truly large-scale, tedious and important task.

The infamous Rose Windows(And the 40 stained-glass windows): the religious significance, it’s restoration and the art history of Paris

Some of the more devastating and toilsome work was the salvaging and restoration of the stained-glass windows and Rose Windows. There are 40 windows in the main nave, the choir, the transept, and the sacristy of the medieval Parisian cathedral and the three elegant and religious Rose Windows over its portals.

Eugene Viollet-le-Duc was the architect who not only created the famed stained glass windows, but also designed what was the gothic spire(96-metre or 315-feet). Unfortunately, the fire that started was in the spire (due to an electrical shortage of 6 electronic bells that were installed temporarily), gutted the historic landmark. The heat did not have the intensity to destroy the windows, but unfortunately obscured the beautiful lights and colors of their historic and religious art with heavy smoke and dust.

The 170 year-old glass is delicate and requires a gentle, professional finesse. Eight glass manufacturers(such as The workshop of Cologne Cathedral in Germany) from France started the painstaking operation of cleaning and restoring the 39 high windows, whereas Flavie Serriere Vincent-Petit, head of the eponymous stained-glass company in Troyes, southwest of Paris, was given the task of restoring 22 of windows. According to Reuters,

The glass-cleaning process involves gently rubbing the surface with cotton soaked in water and ethanol, a delicate and repetitive process aimed at collecting deposit without damaging the window. “There is a major cleaning phase, to wash off both the blaze’s dust and the dirt resulting from human breath, as well as candle soot, so we can put the windows back into place and give back full brightness to Notre-Dame,” she said.

The rich religious imagery and art history of the stained glass windows

The 40 high stained glass windows and 3 Rose windows are a wonder to behold. The history of their prominence dates back to the 12th century as luminous, luxuriously large windows filled with light and color were a staple of the Gothic cathedral in the Middle Ages. Chartres Cathedral and Notre-Dame Cathedral and Sainte-Chapelle in Paris were just the start of these shining examples.
Covering 1,100 square feet (a thousand of square meters) of surface area, these intense scenes of striking, deep colors used with gems such as lapis lazul(a blue gemstone mined in Afghanistan), have a wealth of religious and Gothic imagery and art. These scenes would tell the Scriptures and stories of the Saints, expressing and explaining to the church-goers the experience of the stories in the Bible. This was mainly due to the fact that the parishioners were illiterate at the time of the cathedral’s construction.
By the 18th century, normal weathering affected Notre-Dame Cathedral’s stained-glass window and as a result, their coloration and light able to reflect light was lessened. The reign of King Louis XV hearkened to Notre-Dame Cathedral’s priests destroying some of the medieval stained-glass windows and replaced them with white glass for a modern day look, but thankfully, Cardinal Verdier replaced them in the early 20th century.
Master glassmaker Jacques le Chevallier proposed two extensive projects for the windows. One was in 1938 for new stained glass Windows for a figurative project and another commission from Historic Monuments which broke the mold from the gothic style in 1966, for a non-figurative series, which is still seen today.
The genius of Jacques le Chevallier is that he proposed abstract art to represent a strong spiritual realm. I feel that his vision truly enveloped a deep respect for the architecture even as it broke the Gothic structure.

Overall religious impressions of the Rose Windows and conclusion

The 3 Rose Windows located in the north, south, and west facades of the cathedral are the crown jewel of the stained glass history that makes up the Notre-Dame Cathedral. Because of the fire, much work has to be done to repair the smoke and lead damage, and wear-and-tear incurred over decades of weathering.
Learning about the intricate designs and symbols that entail these windows are an intense feeling of wonder and curiosity. I truly felt that these were created in a truly spiritual perspective and a direct reflection to biblical principles, to study and learn from them and reflect on its teachings.
The west rose window is the oldest one dated back to 1225, though none of the original glass survives today. The Madonna and Child is it’s central theme, and it also depicts the Vices and Virtues, as well as stories from the Zodiac and the Labors of the Months.
Depicting Mary enthroned holding the baby Jesus Christ, and Old Testament Kings and Prophets surrounding them, is the north rose window. This masterpiece still contains most of the original glass from the 13th century, and is the only of the three windows to boast such a feat.
Constructed in 1250, the south Rose Window depicts the Last Judgement over 84 panels spread over four circles. This very beautifully poignant and thoughtful piece has stories from the New and Old testaments and represent the whole of but not limiting to Moses and Aaron (above) and the temptation of Adam and Eve (below); on the other side, the resurrection of Christ, with Saint Peter and Saint Paul (below), and Saint Magdalene and Saint John (above).
I feel strongly that the immensity and impact that the Notre-Dame Cathedral of Paris has on history, both in art, war, religion and culture is a decidedly unparalleled story and experience not many other sites or churches can compare to. The beauty of Notre-Dame’s religious art and spiritual expression, both impressive and human in nature, represents our deep understanding of our mortality and our connection to God and something deeper than ourselves.
About Melissa Ingoldsby
Melissa Ingoldsby is a 32 year old author for Resurgence Novels of her debut horror drama I am Bexley. She lives in the STL region and is avid reader of mystery, romance and horror, a cinema fan and part time writer for Vocal and has many self published books on Amazon. You can read more about the author here.

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