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Faras Cathedral Timeline

Faras Cathedral Timeline

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  • c. 707

    The first version of Faras Cathedral is built.

  • c. 900

    The cathedral at Faras is extensively replastered.

  • c. 1000

    The second version of the Faras Cathedral is built.

  • 1169

    The barrel vault of the nave of Faras Cathedral collapses and is not repaired.

The Cathedrals of Britain

The history of Britain and the aspirations of her Christian communities can be traced in the glorious excesses of the cathedrals. From Norman grandeur to the modern interpretations found in Liverpool and Coventry, explore the changing styles of the cathedrals in our midst.


Pre-Norman cathedral Edit

Bede records that in AD 604 Augustine of Canterbury consecrated Mellitus as the first bishop to the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of the East Saxons and their king, Sæberht. Sæberht's uncle and overlord, Æthelberht, king of Kent, built a church dedicated to St Paul in London, as the seat of the new bishop. [6] It is assumed, although not proved, that this first Anglo-Saxon cathedral stood on the same site as the later medieval and the present cathedrals.

On the death of Sæberht in about 616, his pagan sons expelled Mellitus from London, and the East Saxons reverted to paganism. The fate of the first cathedral building is unknown. Christianity was restored among the East Saxons in the late 7th century and it is presumed that either the Anglo-Saxon cathedral was restored or a new building erected as the seat of bishops such as Cedd, Wine and Earconwald, the last of whom was buried in the cathedral in 693. This building, or a successor, was destroyed by fire in 962, but rebuilt in the same year. [7] [ page needed ]

King Æthelred the Unready was buried in the cathedral on his death in 1016 the tomb is now lost. The cathedral was burnt, with much of the city, in a fire in 1087, as recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. [8]

Cathedral or temple before 604 AD? Edit

There is evidence for Christianity in London during the Roman period, but no firm evidence for the location of churches or a cathedral. London is said to have sent 2 delegates to the Council of Arles in 314 AD.

A list of the 16 "archbishops" of London was recorded by Jocelyn of Furness in the 12th century, claiming London's Christian community was founded in the 2nd century under the legendary King Lucius and his missionary saints Fagan, Deruvian, Elvanus and Medwin. None of that is considered credible by modern historians but, although the surviving text is problematic, either Bishop Restitutus or Adelphius at the 314 Council of Arles seems to have come from Londinium. [a]

The location of Londinium's original cathedral is unknown. But legend and medieval tradition claims it was St Peter upon Cornhill. St Paul is an unusual attribution for a cathedral, and suggests there was another one in the Roman period. Legends of St Lucius link St Peter upon Cornhill as the centre of the Roman Londinium Christian community. It stands upon the highest point in the area of old Londinium, and it was given pre-eminence in medieval procession on account of the legends. There is, however, no other reliable evidence and the location of the site on the Forum makes it difficult for it to fit the legendary stories. In 1995, a large 5th-century building on Tower Hill was excavated, and has been claimed as a Roman basilica, possibly a cathedral, although this is speculative. [9] [10]

The Elizabethan antiquarian William Camden argued that a temple to the goddess Diana had stood during Roman times on the site occupied by the medieval St Paul's Cathedral. [11] Wren reported that he had found no trace of any such temple during the works to build the new cathedral after the Great Fire, and Camden's hypothesis is no longer accepted by modern archaeologists. [12]

Old St Paul's Edit

The fourth St Paul's, generally referred to as Old St Paul's, was begun by the Normans after the 1087 fire. A further fire in 1135 disrupted the work, and the new cathedral was not consecrated until 1240. During the period of construction, the style of architecture had changed from Romanesque to Gothic and this was reflected in the pointed arches and larger windows of the upper parts and East End of the building. The Gothic ribbed vault was constructed, like that of York Minster, of wood rather than stone, which affected the ultimate fate of the building. [ citation needed ]

An enlargement programme commenced in 1256. This "New Work" was consecrated in 1300 but not complete until 1314. During the later Medieval period St Paul's was exceeded in length only by the Abbey Church of Cluny and in the height of its spire only by Lincoln Cathedral and St. Mary's Church, Stralsund. Excavations by Francis Penrose in 1878 showed that it was 585 feet (178 m) long and 100 feet (30 m) wide 290 feet (88 m) across the transepts and crossing). The spire was about 489 feet (149 m)) in height. [ citation needed ]

By the 16th century the building was starting to decay. The English Reformation under Henry VIII and Edward VI, and particularly the Chantries Acts led to the destruction of elements of the interior ornamentation and the chapels, shrines, chantries. In October 1538, an image of St Erkenwald, probably from the shrine, was delivered to the master of the king’s jewels. Other images may have survived, at least for a time. More systematic iconoclasm happened in the reign of Edward VI the Grey Friar’s Chronicle reports that the rood and other images were destroyed in November 1547, and "Alle the alteres and chappelles in alle Powlles churche" were taken down in October 1552. [13] Some of the buildings in St Paul's Churchyard were sold as shops and rental properties, especially to printers and booksellers. In 1561 the spire was destroyed by lightning, an event that Roman Catholics writers claimed was a sign of God's judgement on England's Protestant rulers. Bishop James Pilkington preached a sermon in response, claiming that the lightning strike was a judgement for the irreverent use of the cathedral building. [14] Immediate steps were taken to repair the damage, and the citizens of London and the clergy offering money to support the rebuilding. [15] But the cost of repairing the building properly was too great for a country and city recovering from a trade depression. Instead, the roof was repaired and a timber "roo"’ put on the steeple.

In the 1630s a west front was added to the building by England's first classical architect, Inigo Jones. There was much defacing and mistreatment of the building by Parliamentarian forces during the Civil War, and the old documents and charters were dispersed and destroyed. [16] [ page needed ] During the Commonwealth, those churchyard buildings that were razed supplied ready-dressed building material for construction projects, such as the Lord Protector's city palace, Somerset House. Crowds were drawn to the north-east corner of the churchyard, St Paul's Cross, where open-air preaching took place. [ citation needed ]

In the Great Fire of London of 1666, Old St Paul's was gutted. [17] While it might have been possible to reconstruct it, a decision was taken to build a new cathedral in a modern style. This course of action had been proposed even before the fire.

Present St Paul's Edit

The task of designing a replacement structure was officially assigned to Sir Christopher Wren on 30 July 1669. [18] He had previously been put in charge of the rebuilding of churches to replace those lost in the Great Fire. More than 50 City churches are attributable to Wren. Concurrent with designing St Paul's, Wren was engaged in the production of his five Tracts on Architecture. [19] [ page needed ]

Wren had begun advising on the repair of the Old St Paul's in 1661, five years before the fire in 1666. [20] The proposed work included renovations to interior and exterior to complement the classical facade designed by Inigo Jones in 1630. [21] Wren planned to replace the dilapidated tower with a dome, using the existing structure as a scaffold. He produced a drawing of the proposed dome which shows his idea that it should span nave and aisles at the crossing. [22] After the Fire, it was at first thought possible to retain a substantial part of the old cathedral, but ultimately the entire structure was demolished in the early 1670s.

In July 1668 Dean William Sancroft wrote to Wren that he was charged by the Archbishop of Canterbury, in agreement with the Bishops of London and Oxford, to design a new cathedral that was "Handsome and noble to all the ends of it and to the reputation of the City and the nation". [23] The design process took several years, but a design was finally settled and attached to a royal warrant, with the proviso that Wren was permitted to make any further changes that he deemed necessary. The result was the present St Paul's Cathedral, still the second largest church in Britain, with a dome proclaimed as the finest in the world. [24] The building was financed by a tax on coal, and was completed within its architect's lifetime with many of the major contractors engaged for the duration.

The "topping out" of the cathedral (when the final stone was placed on the lantern) took place on 26 October 1708, performed by Wren's son Christopher Jr and the son of one of the masons. [25] The cathedral was declared officially complete by Parliament on 25 December 1711 (Christmas Day). [26] In fact, construction continued for several years after that, with the statues on the roof added in the 1720s. In 1716 the total costs amounted to £1,095,556 [27] (£165 million in 2019). [28]

Consecration Edit

On 2 December 1697, 31 years and 3 months after the Great Fire destroyed Old St Paul's, the new cathedral was consecrated for use. The Right Reverend Henry Compton, Bishop of London, preached the sermon. It was based on the text of Psalm 122, "I was glad when they said unto me: Let us go into the house of the Lord." The first regular service was held on the following Sunday.

Opinions of Wren's cathedral differed, with some loving it: "Without, within, below, above, the eye / Is filled with unrestrained delight", [29] [ page needed ] while others hated it: "There was an air of Popery about the gilded capitals, the heavy arches . They were unfamiliar, un-English . ". [30]

Since 1900 Edit

War damage Edit

The cathedral survived the Blitz although struck by bombs on 10 October 1940 and 17 April 1941. The first strike destroyed the high altar, while the second strike on the north transept left a hole in the floor above the crypt. [31] [32] The latter bomb is believed to have detonated in the upper interior above the north transept and the force was sufficient to shift the entire dome laterally by a small amount. [33] [34]

On 12 September 1940 a time-delayed bomb that had struck the cathedral was successfully defused and removed by a bomb disposal detachment of Royal Engineers under the command of Temporary Lieutenant Robert Davies. Had this bomb detonated, it would have totally destroyed the cathedral it left a 100-foot (30 m) crater when later remotely detonated in a secure location. [35] As a result of this action, Davies and Sapper George Cameron Wylie were each awarded the George Cross. [36] Davies' George Cross and other medals are on display at the Imperial War Museum, London.

One of the best known images of London during the war was a photograph of St Paul's taken on 29 December 1940 during the "Second Great Fire of London" by photographer Herbert Mason, from the roof of a building in Tudor Street showing the cathedral shrouded in smoke. Lisa Jardine of Queen Mary, University of London, has written: [31]

Wreathed in billowing smoke, amidst the chaos and destruction of war, the pale dome stands proud and glorious—indomitable. At the height of that air-raid, Sir Winston Churchill telephoned the Guildhall to insist that all fire-fighting resources be directed at St Paul's. The cathedral must be saved, he said, damage to the fabric would sap the morale of the country.

Post-war Edit

On 29 July 1981, the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer was held at the cathedral. The couple selected St Paul's over Westminster Abbey, the traditional site of royal weddings, because the cathedral offered more seating. [37]

Extensive copper, lead and slate renovation work was carried out on the Dome in 1996 by John B. Chambers. A 15-year restoration project—one of the largest ever undertaken in the UK—was completed on 15 June 2011. [38]

Occupy London Edit

In October 2011 an anti-capitalism Occupy London encampment was established in front of the cathedral, after failing to gain access to the London Stock Exchange at Paternoster Square nearby. The cathedral's finances were affected by the ensuing closure. It was claimed that the cathedral was losing revenue of £20,000 per day. [39] Canon Chancellor Giles Fraser resigned, asserting his view that "evicting the anti-capitalist activists would constitute violence in the name of the Church". [40] The Dean of St Paul's, the Right Revd Graeme Knowles, then resigned too. [41] The encampment was evicted at the end of February 2012, by court order and without violence, as a result of legal action by the City Corporation. [42]

2019 terrorist plot Edit

10 October 2019, Safiyya Amira Shaikh, a Muslim convert, was arrested following an MI5 and Metropolitan Police investigation. In September 2019, she had taken photos of the cathedral's interior. While trying to radicalise others using the Telegram messaging software, she planned to attack the cathedral and other targets such as a hotel and a train station using explosives. Shaikh pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life imprisonment. [43]

St Paul's Cathedral is a busy church with four or five services every day, including Matins, Eucharist and Evening Prayer or Choral Evensong [44] In addition, the cathedral has many special services associated with the City of London, its corporation, guilds and institutions. The cathedral, as the largest church in London, also has a role in many state functions such as the service celebrating the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. The cathedral is generally open daily to tourists and has a regular programme of organ recitals and other performances. [45] The Bishop of London is Sarah Mullally, whose appointment was announced in December 2017 and whose enthronement took place in May 2018.

Dean and chapter Edit

The cathedral chapter is currently composed of seven individuals: the dean, three residentiary canons (one of whom is, exceptionally, lay), one "additional member of chapter and canon non-residentiary" (ordained), and two lay canons. Each has a different responsibility in the running of the cathedral. [46] As of 1 January 2021: [47]

  • Dean — David Ison (since 25 May 2012) [48]
  • Precentor — James Milne (since 9 May 2019) [49]
  • Treasurer — Jonathan Brewster (since July 2017) is responsible for finance and for the cathedral building. [50]
  • Chancellor — Paula Gooder (since 9 May 2019 [49]lay reader since 23 February 2019) [51]
  • Additional member of chapter and canon non-residentiary — Sheila Watson (since January 2017). [52]
  • Lay canon — Pamela (Pim) Jane Baxter [53] (since March 2014). Also Deputy Director at the National Portrait Gallery, with experience in opera, theatre and the visual arts.
  • Lay canon — Sheila Nicoll (October 2018). She is also Head of Public Policy at Schroder Investment Management. [54]

Registrar Edit

The registrar, Emma Davies from September 2015, is the cathedral's principal administrator and lay officer, and assists the cathedral chapter in its work, overseeing more than 150 full-time staff, together with volunteers. [55] She is a solicitor and was a senior civil servant prior to her appointment. [56] [57]

Minor canons and priest vicar Edit

Director of Music Edit

The Director of Music is Andrew Carwood. [58] Carwood was appointed to succeed Malcolm Archer as Director of Music, taking up the post in September 2007. [59] He is the first non-organist to hold the post since the 12th century.

Organs Edit

An organ was commissioned from Bernard Smith in 1694. [60] [61]

In 1862 the organ from the Panopticon of Science and Art (the Panopticon Organ) was installed in a gallery over the south transept door. [62]

The Grand Organ was completed in 1872, and the Panopticon Organ moved to the Victoria Rooms in Clifton in 1873.

The Grand Organ is the fifth-largest in Great Britain, [b] [63] in terms of number of pipes (7,256), [64] with 5 manuals, 136 ranks of pipes and 137 stops, principally enclosed in an impressive case designed in Wren's workshop and decorated by Grinling Gibbons. [65]

Details of the organ can be found online at the National Pipe Organ Register. [66]

Choir Edit

St Paul's Cathedral has a full professional choir, which sings regularly at services. The earliest records of the choir date from 1127. The present choir consist of up to 30 boy choristers, eight probationers and the vicars choral, 12 professional singers. In February 2017 the cathedral announced the appointment of the first female vicar choral, Carris Jones (a mezzo-soprano), to take up the role in September 2017. [67] [68] [69]

During school terms the choir sings Evensong six times per week, the service on Mondays being sung by a visiting choir (or occasionally said) and that on Thursdays being sung by the vicars choral alone. On Sundays the choir also sings at Mattins and the 11:30 am Eucharist. [58]

Many distinguished musicians have been organists, choir masters and choristers at St Paul's Cathedral, including the composers John Redford, Thomas Morley, John Blow, Jeremiah Clarke, Maurice Greene and John Stainer, while well-known performers have included Alfred Deller, John Shirley-Quirk and Anthony Way as well as the conductors Charles Groves and Paul Hillier and the poet Walter de la Mare.

Development of the design Edit

"Sir Christopher Wren
Said, "I am going to dine with some men.
If anyone calls,
Say I'm designing Saint Paul's."

In designing St Paul's, Christopher Wren had to meet many challenges. He had to create a fitting cathedral to replace Old St Paul's, as a place of worship and as a landmark within the City of London. He had to satisfy the requirements of the church and the tastes of a royal patron, as well as respecting the essentially medieval tradition of English church building which developed to accommodate the liturgy. Wren was familiar with contemporary Renaissance and Baroque trends in Italian architecture and had visited France, where he studied the work of François Mansart.

Wren's design developed through five general stages. The first survives only as a single drawing and part of a model. The scheme (usually called the First Model Design) appears to have consisted of a circular domed vestibule (possibly based on the Pantheon in Rome) and a rectangular church of basilica form. The plan may have been influenced by the Temple Church. It was rejected because it was not thought "stately enough". [70] Wren's second design was a Greek cross, [71] which was thought by the clerics not to fulfil the requirements of Anglican liturgy. [72]

Wren's third design is embodied in the "Great Model" of 1673. The model, made of oak and plaster, cost over £500 (approximately £32,000 today) and is over 13 feet (4 m) tall and 21 feet (6 m) long. [73] This design retained the form of the Greek-Cross design but extended it with a nave. His critics, members of a committee commissioned to rebuild the church, and clergy decried the design as too dissimilar to other English churches to suggest any continuity within the Church of England. Another problem was that the entire design would have to be completed all at once because of the eight central piers that supported the dome, instead of being completed in stages and opened for use before construction finished, as was customary. The Great Model was Wren's favourite design he thought it a reflection of Renaissance beauty. [74] After the Great Model, Wren resolved not to make further models and not to expose his drawings publicly, which he found did nothing but "lose time, and subject [his] business many times, to incompetent judges". [72] The Great Model survives and is housed within the cathedral itself.

Wren's fourth design is known as the Warrant design because it received a Royal warrant for the rebuilding. In this design Wren sought to reconcile Gothic, the predominant style of English churches, to a "better manner of architecture". It has the longitudinal Latin Cross plan of a medieval cathedral. It is of 1 + 1 ⁄ 2 storeys and has classical porticos at the west and transept ends, influenced by Inigo Jones’s addition to Old St Paul's. [72] It is roofed at the crossing by a wide shallow dome supporting a drum with a second cupola, from which rises a spire of seven diminishing stages. Vaughan Hart has suggested that influence in the design of the spire may have been drawn from the oriental pagoda. Not used at St Paul's, the concept was applied in the spire of St Bride's, Fleet Street. [19] [ page needed ] This plan was rotated slightly on its site so that it aligned, not with true east, but with sunrise on Easter of the year construction began. This small change in configuration was informed by Wren's knowledge of astronomy. [21]

Final design Edit

The final design as built differs substantially from the official Warrant design. [75] [ page needed ] Wren received permission from the king to make "ornamental changes" to the submitted design, and Wren took great advantage of this. Many of these changes were made over the course of the thirty years as the church was constructed, and the most significant was to the dome: "He raised another structure over the first cupola, a cone of brick, so as to support a stone lantern of an elegant figure . And he covered and hid out of sight the brick cone with another cupola of timber and lead and between this and the cone are easy stairs that ascend to the lantern" (Christopher Wren, son of Sir Christopher Wren). The final design was strongly rooted in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. The saucer domes over the nave were inspired by François Mansart's Church of the Val-de-Grâce, which Wren had seen during a trip to Paris in 1665. [74]

The date of the laying of the first stone of the cathedral is disputed. One contemporary account says it was 21 June 1675, another 25 June and a third on 28 June. There is, however, general agreement that it was laid in June 1675. Edward Strong later claimed it was laid by his elder brother, Thomas Strong, one of the two master stonemasons appointed by Wren at the beginning of the work. [76]

Structural engineering Edit

Wren's challenge was to construct a large cathedral on the relatively weak clay soil of London. St Paul's is unusual among cathedrals in that there is a crypt, the largest in Europe, under the entire building rather than just under the eastern end. [77] The crypt serves a structural purpose. Although it is extensive, half the space of the crypt is taken up by massive piers which spread the weight of the much slimmer piers of the church above. While the towers and domes of most cathedrals are supported on four piers, Wren designed the dome of St Paul's to be supported on eight, achieving a broader distribution of weight at the level of the foundations. [78] The foundations settled as the building progressed, and Wren made structural changes in response. [79]

One of the design problems that confronted Wren was to create a landmark dome, tall enough to visually replace the lost tower of St Paul's, while at the same time appearing visually satisfying when viewed from inside the building. Wren planned a double-shelled dome, as at St Peter's Basilica. [80] His solution to the visual problem was to separate the heights of the inner and outer dome to a much greater extent than had been done by Michelangelo at St Peter's, drafting both as catenary curves, rather than as hemispheres. Between the inner and outer domes, Wren inserted a brick cone which supports both the timbers of the outer, lead-covered dome and the weight of the ornate stone lantern that rises above it. Both the cone and the inner dome are 18 inches thick and are supported by wrought iron chains at intervals in the brick cone and around the cornice of the peristyle of the inner dome to prevent spreading and cracking. [78] [81]

The Warrant Design showed external buttresses on the ground floor level. These were not a classical feature and were one of the first elements Wren changed. Instead he made the walls of the cathedral particularly thick to avoid the need for external buttresses altogether. The clerestory and vault are reinforced with flying buttresses, which were added at a relatively late stage in the design to give extra strength. [82] These are concealed behind the screen wall of the upper story, which was added to keep the building's classical style intact, to add sufficient visual mass to balance the appearance of the dome and which, by its weight, counters the thrust of the buttresses on the lower walls. [78] [80]

Designers, builders and craftsmen Edit

During the extensive period of design and rationalisation, Wren employed from 1684 Nicholas Hawksmoor as his principal assistant. [19] [ page needed ] Between 1696 and 1711 William Dickinson was measuring clerk. [83] Joshua Marshall (until his early death in 1678) and Thomas and his brother Edward Strong were master masons, the latter two working on the construction for its entirety. John Langland was the master carpenter for over thirty years. [65] Grinling Gibbons was the chief sculptor, working in both stone on the building itself, including the pediment of the north portal, and wood on the internal fittings. [65] The sculptor Caius Gabriel Cibber created the pediment of the south transept [84] while Francis Bird was responsible for the relief in the west pediment depicting the Conversion of St Paul, as well as the seven large statues on the west front. [85] The floor was paved by William Dickinson in black and white marble in 1709–10 [86] Jean Tijou was responsible for the decorative wrought ironwork of gates and balustrades. [65] The ball and cross on the dome were provided by an armorer, Andrew Niblett. [87]

St Paul's Cathedral is built in a restrained Baroque style which represents Wren's rationalisation of the traditions of English medieval cathedrals with the inspiration of Palladio, the classical style of Inigo Jones, the baroque style of 17th century Rome, and the buildings by Mansart and others that he had seen in France. [88] [ page needed ] It is particularly in its plan that St Paul's reveals medieval influences. [78] Like the great medieval cathedrals of York and Winchester, St Paul's is comparatively long for its width, and has strongly projecting transepts. It has much emphasis on its facade, which has been designed to define rather than conceal the form of the building behind it. In plan, the towers jut beyond the width of the aisles as they do at Wells Cathedral. Wren's uncle Matthew Wren was the Bishop of Ely, and, having worked for his uncle, Wren was familiar with the unique octagonal lantern tower over the crossing of Ely Cathedral, which spans the aisles as well as the central nave, unlike the central towers and domes of most churches. Wren adapted this characteristic in designing the dome of St Paul's. [78] In section St Paul's also maintains a medieval form, having the aisles much lower than the nave, and a defined clerestory. [ citation needed ]

Exterior Edit

The most notable exterior feature is the dome, which rises 365 feet (111 m) to the cross at its summit, [89] and dominates views of the City. The height of 365 feet is explained by Wren's interest in astronomy. Until the late 20th century St Paul's was the tallest building on the City skyline, designed to be seen surrounded by the delicate spires of Wren's other city churches. The dome is described by Sir Banister Fletcher as "probably the finest in Europe", by Helen Gardner as "majestic", and by Sir Nikolaus Pevsner as "one of the most perfect in the world". Sir John Summerson said that Englishmen and "even some foreigners" consider it to be without equal. [24] [90] [91] [92]

Dome Edit

Wren drew inspiration from Michelangelo's dome of St Peter's Basilica, and that of Mansart's Church of the Val-de-Grâce, which he had visited. [92] Unlike those of St Peter's and Val-de-Grâce, the dome of St Paul's rises in two clearly defined storeys of masonry, which, together with a lower unadorned footing, equal a height of about 95 feet. From the time of the Greek Cross Design it is clear that Wren favoured a continuous colonnade (peristyle) around the drum of the dome, rather than the arrangement of alternating windows and projecting columns that Michelangelo had used and which had also been employed by Mansart. [91] Summerson suggests that he was influenced by Bramante's "Tempietto" in the courtyard of San Pietro in Montorio. [93] In the finished structure, Wren creates a diversity and appearance of strength by placing niches between the columns in every fourth opening. [93] The peristyle serves to buttress both the inner dome and the brick cone which rises internally to support the lantern.

Above the peristyle rises the second stage surrounded by a balustraded balcony called the "Stone Gallery". This attic stage is ornamented with alternating pilasters and rectangular windows which are set just below the cornice, creating a sense of lightness. Above this attic rises the dome, covered with lead, and ribbed in accordance with the spacing of the pilasters. It is pierced by eight light wells just below the lantern, but these are barely visible. They allow light to penetrate through openings in the brick cone, which illuminates the interior apex of this shell, partly visible from within the cathedral through the ocular opening of the lower dome. [78]

The lantern, like the visible masonry of the dome, rises in stages. The most unusual characteristic of this structure is that it is of square plan, rather than circular or octagonal. The tallest stage takes the form of a tempietto with four columned porticos facing the cardinal points. Its lowest level is surrounded by the "Golden Gallery" and its upper level supports a small dome from which rises a cross on a golden ball. The total weight of the lantern is about 850 tons. [24]

West front Edit

For the Renaissance architect designing the west front of a large church or cathedral, the universal problem was how to use a facade to unite the high central nave with the lower aisles in a visually harmonious whole. Since Alberti's additions to Santa Maria Novella in Florence, this was usually achieved by the simple expedient of linking the sides to the centre with large brackets. This is the solution that Wren saw employed by Mansart at Val-de-Grâce. Another feature employed by Mansart was a boldly projecting Classical portico with paired columns. Wren faced the additional challenge of incorporating towers into the design, as had been planned at St Peter's Basilica. At St Peter's, Carlo Maderno had solved this problem by constructing a narthex and stretching a huge screen facade across it, differentiated at the centre by a pediment. The towers at St Peter's were not built above the parapet.

Wren's solution was to employ a Classical portico, as at Val-de-Grâce, but rising through two storeys, and supported on paired columns. The remarkable feature here is that the lower story of this portico extends to the full width of the aisles, while the upper section defines the nave that lies behind it. The gaps between the upper stage of the portico and the towers on either side are bridged by a narrow section of wall with an arch-topped window.

The towers stand outside the width of the aisles, but screen two chapels located immediately behind them. The lower parts of the towers continue the theme of the outer walls, but are differentiated from them in order to create an appearance of strength. The windows of the lower story are smaller than those of the side walls and are deeply recessed, a visual indication of the thickness of the wall. The paired pilasters at each corner project boldly.

Above the main cornice, which unites the towers with the portico and the outer walls, the details are boldly scaled, in order to read well from the street below and from a distance. The towers rise above the cornice from a square block plinth which is plain apart from large oculi, that on the south being filled by the clock, while that on the north is void. The towers are composed of two complementary elements, a central cylinder rising through the tiers in a series of stacked drums, and paired Corinthian columns at the corners, with buttresses above them, which serve to unify the drum shape with the square plinth on which it stands. The entablature above the columns breaks forward over them to express both elements, tying them together in a single horizontal band. The cap, an ogee-shaped dome, supports a gilded pine cone-shaped finial. It is unclear whether the final is pine cone or a pineapple. The website of the trust claims it is a pineapple. [94] The pine cone however is a common motif in religious, especially Christian architecture. This is most prominent at The Courtyard of the Belvedere. It is thus plausible that Christopher Wren based his design on this inspiration. It can also be argued that a pineapple has a crown, while a pine cone doesn't. The ornament final in this work has no crown thus a logical argument can be made for the pine cone over the pineapple inspired design.

The transepts each have a semi-circular entrance portico. Wren was inspired in the design by studying engravings of Pietro da Cortona's Baroque facade of Santa Maria della Pace in Rome. [95] [ page needed ] These projecting arcs echo the shape of the apse at the eastern end of the building.

Walls Edit

The building is of two storeys of ashlar masonry, above a basement, and surrounded by a balustrade above the upper cornice. The balustrade was added, against Wren's wishes, in 1718. [95] [ page needed ] The internal bays are marked externally by paired pilasters with Corinthian capitals at the lower level and Composite at the upper level. Where the building behind is of only one story (at the aisles of both nave and choir) the upper story of the exterior wall is sham. [24] It serves a dual purpose of supporting the buttresses of the vault, and providing a satisfying appearance when viewed rising above buildings of the height of the 17th-century city. This appearance may still be seen from across the River Thames.

Between the pilasters on both levels are windows. Those of the lower storey have semi-circular heads and are surrounded by continuous mouldings of a Roman style, rising to decorative keystones. Beneath each window is a floral swag by Grinling Gibbons, constituting the finest stone carving on the building and some of the greatest architectural sculpture in England. A frieze with similar swags runs in a band below the cornice, tying the arches of the windows and the capitals. The upper windows are of a restrained Classical form, with pediments set on columns, but are blind and contain niches. Beneath these niches, and in the basement level, are small windows with segmental tops, the glazing of which catches the light and visually links them to the large windows of the aisles. The height from ground level to the top of the parapet is approximately 110 feet.

Fencing Edit

The original fencing, designed by Wren, was dismantled in the 1870s. The surveyor for the government of Toronto had it shipped to Toronto, where it has since adorned High Park. [96]


It is believed that before the arrival of Christianity in France, a Gallo-Roman temple dedicated to Jupiter stood on the site of Notre-Dame. Evidence for this includes the Pillar of the Boatmen, discovered beneath the cathedral in 1710. In the 4th or 5th century, a large early Christian church, the Cathedral of Saint Etienne, was built on the site, close to the royal palace. [14] The entrance was situated about 40 metres (130 ft) west of the present west front of Notre-Dame, and the apse was located about where the west facade is today. It was roughly half the size of the later Notre-Dame, 70 metres (230 ft) long—and separated into nave and four aisles by marble columns, then decorated with mosaics. [7] [15]

The last church before the cathedral of Notre-Dame was a Romanesque remodeling of Saint-Etienne that, although enlarged and remodeled, was found to be unfit for the growing population of Paris. [16] [b] A baptistery, the Church of Saint-John-le-Rond, built about 452, was located on the north side of the west front of Notre-Dame until the work of Jacques-Germain Soufflot in the 18th century. [18]

In 1160, the Bishop of Paris, Maurice de Sully, [18] decided to build a new and much larger church. He summarily demolished the earlier cathedral and chose to recycle its materials. [16] Sully decided that the new church should be built in the Gothic style, which had been inaugurated at the royal abbey of Saint Denis in the late 1130s. [15]

Construction Edit

The chronicler Jean de Saint-Victor [fr] recorded in the Memorial Historiarum that the construction of Notre-Dame began between 24 March and 25 April 1163 with the laying of the cornerstone in the presence of King Louis VII and Pope Alexander III. [19] [20] Four phases of construction took place under bishops Maurice de Sully and Eudes de Sully (not related to Maurice), according to masters whose names have been lost. Analysis of vault stones that fell in the 2019 fire shows that they were quarried in Vexin, a county northwest of Paris, and presumably brought up the Seine by ferry. [21]

The first phase began with the construction of the choir and its two ambulatories. According to Robert of Torigni, the choir was completed in 1177 and the high altar consecrated on 19 May 1182 by Cardinal Henri de Château-Marçay, the Papal legate in Paris, and Maurice de Sully. [23] The second phase, from 1182 to 1190, concerned the construction of the four sections of the nave behind the choir and its aisles to the height of the clerestories. It began after the completion of the choir but ended before the final allotted section of the nave was finished. Beginning in 1190, the bases of the façade were put in place, and the first traverses were completed. [7] Heraclius of Caesarea called for the Third Crusade in 1185 from the still-incomplete cathedral.

Louis IX deposited the relics of the passion of Christ, which included the Crown of thorns, a nail from the Cross and a sliver of the Cross, which he had purchased at great expense from the Latin Emperor Baldwin II, in the cathedral during the construction of the Sainte-Chapelle. An under-shirt, believed to have belonged to Louis, was added to the collection of relics at some time after his death.

The decision was made to add a transepts at the choir, where the altar was located, in order to bring more light into the center of the church. The use of simpler four-part rather than six-part rib vaults meant that the roofs were stronger and could be higher. After Bishop Maurice de Sully's death in 1196, his successor, Eudes de Sully oversaw the completion of the transepts, and continued work on the nave, which was nearing completion at the time of his own death in 1208. By this time, the western façade was already largely built, though it was not completed until around the mid-1240s. Between 1225 and 1250 the upper gallery of the nave was constructed, along with the two towers on the west façade. [24]

Another significant change came in the mid-13th century, when the transepts were remodeled in the latest Rayonnant style in the late 1240s Jean de Chelles added a gabled portal to the north transept topped off by a spectacular rose window. Shortly afterward (from 1258) Pierre de Montreuil executed a similar scheme on the southern transept. Both these transept portals were richly embellished with sculpture the south portal features scenes from the lives of Saint Stephen and of various local saints, while the north portal featured the infancy of Christ and the story of Theophilus in the tympanum, with a highly influential statue of the Virgin and Child in the trumeau. [25] [24] Master builders Pierre de Chelles, Jean Ravy [fr] , Jean le Bouteiller, and Raymond du Temple [fr] succeeded de Chelles and de Montreuil and then each other in the construction of the cathedral. Ravy completed de Chelles's rood screen and chevet chapels, then began the 15-metre (49 ft) flying buttresses of the choir. Jean le Bouteiller, Ravy's nephew, succeeded him in 1344 and was himself replaced on his death in 1363 by his deputy, Raymond du Temple.

Philip the Fair opened the first Estates General in the cathedral in 1302.

An important innovation in the 13th century was the introduction of the flying buttress. Before the buttresses, all of the weight of the roof pressed outward and down to the walls, and the abutments supporting them. With the flying buttress, the weight was carried by the ribs of the vault entirely outside the structure to a series of counter-supports, which were topped with stone pinnacles which gave them greater weight. The buttresses meant that the walls could be higher and thinner, and could have much larger windows. The date of the first buttresses is not known with any great precision beyond an installation date in the 13th century. Art historian Andrew Tallon, however, has argued based on detailed laser scans of the entire structure that the buttresses were part of the original design. According to Tallon, the scans indicate that "the upper part of the building has not moved one smidgen in 800 years," [26] whereas if they were added later some movement from prior to their addition would be expected. Tallon thus concluded that "flying buttresses were there from the get-go." [26] The first buttresses were replaced by larger and stronger ones in the 14th century these had a reach of fifteen metres between the walls and counter-supports. [7]

Plan of the cathedral made by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc in the 19th century. Portals and nave to the left, a choir in the center, and apse and ambulatory to the right. The annex to the south is the Sacristy.

Early six-part rib vaults of the nave. The ribs transferred the thrust of the weight of the roof downward and outwards to the pillars and the supporting buttresses.

The massive buttresses which counter the outward thrust from the rib vaults of the nave. The weight of the building-shaped pinnacles helps keep the line of thrust safely within the buttresses.

Later flying buttresses of the apse of Notre-Dame (14th century) reached 15 metres from the wall to the counter-supports.

John of Jandun recognized the cathedral as one of Paris's three most important buildings [prominent structures] in his 1323 Treatise on the Praises of Paris:

That most glorious church of the most glorious Virgin Mary, mother of God, deservedly shines out, like the sun among stars. And although some speakers, by their own free judgment, because [they are] able to see only a few things easily, may say that some other is more beautiful, I believe, however, respectfully, that, if they attend more diligently to the whole and the parts, they will quickly retract this opinion. Where indeed, I ask, would they find two towers of such magnificence and perfection, so high, so large, so strong, clothed round about with such multiple varieties of ornaments? Where, I ask, would they find such a multipartite arrangement of so many lateral vaults, above and below? Where, I ask, would they find such light-filled amenities as the many surrounding chapels? Furthermore, let them tell me in what church I may see such a large cross, of which one arm separates the choir from the nave. Finally, I would willingly learn where [there are] two such circles, situated opposite each other in a straight line, which on account of their appearance are given the name of the fourth vowel [O] among which smaller orbs and circles, with wondrous artifice, so that some arranged circularly, others angularly, surround windows ruddy with precious colors and beautiful with the most subtle figures of the pictures. In fact, I believe that this church offers the carefully discerning such cause for admiration that its inspection can scarcely sate the soul.

On 16 December 1431, the boy-king Henry VI of England was crowned king of France in Notre-Dame, aged ten, the traditional coronation church of Reims Cathedral being under French control. [28]

During the Renaissance, the Gothic style fell out of style, and the internal pillars and walls of Notre-Dame were covered with tapestries. [29]

In 1548, rioting Huguenots damaged some of the statues of Notre-Dame, considering them idolatrous. [30]

The fountain [fr] in Notre-Dame's parvis was added in 1625 to provide nearby Parisians with running water. [31]

King Louis XIV, on the insistence of his father, Louis XIII, decided in 1699 to make extensive modifications to Notre-Dame. He tasked Robert de Cotte with the renovation. Cotte replaced the rood screen with a sumptuous and gilded wrought iron fence, opened up the choir and ambulatory, and removed the tombs in the nave. New furniture was produced as well as the current high altar, depicting Louis XIV and Louis XIII kneeling before a pietà. [ citation needed ]

Since 1449, the Parisian goldsmith guild had made regular donations to the cathedral chapter. In 1630, it was decided that the guild would donate a large altarpiece every year on the first of May. These works came to be known as the grands mays. [32] The subject matter was restricted to episodes from the Acts of the Apostles. The prestigious commission was awarded to the most prominent painters and, after 1648, members of the Academie royale.

Seventy-six paintings had been donated by 1708, when the custom was discontinued for financial reasons. Those works were confiscated in 1793 and the majority were subsequently dispersed among regional museums in France. Those that remained in the cathedral were removed or relocated within the building by the 19th-century restorers.

Thirteen of the grands mays remain in Nôtre Dame:

  • La Descente du Saint Esprit by Jacques Blanchard, 1634
  • Saint Pierre guérissant les malades de son ombre by Laurent de la Hyre, 1635
  • La Conversion de saint Paul by Laurent de la Hyre, 1637
  • Le Centenier Corneille aux pieds de saint Pierre by Aubin Vouet, 1639
  • La Prédication de saint Pierre à Jérusalem by Charles Poerson, 1642
  • Le Crucifiement de saint Pierre by Sébastien Bourdon, 1643
  • Le Crucifiement de saint André by Charles Le Brun, 1647
  • Saint Paul rend aveugle le faux prophète Barjesu et convertit le proconsul Sergius by Nicolas Loir, 1650
  • La Lapidation de saint Étienne by Charles Le Brun, 1651
  • La Flagellation de Saint Paul et Silas by Louis Testelin, 1655
  • Saint André tressaille de joie à la vue de son supplice par by Gabriel Blanchard, 1670
  • Le Prophète Agabus prédisant à saint Paul ses souffrances à Jérusalem by Louis Chéron, 1687
  • Les fils de Sceva battus par le démon by Mathieu Elyas, 1702

These paintings suffered water damage during the fire of 2019 and were removed for conservation.

An altarpiece depicting the Visitation, painted by Jean Jouvenet in 1707, was also located in the cathedral.

The canon Antoine de La Porte commissioned for Louis XIV six paintings depicting the life of the Virgin Mary for the choir. At this same time, Charles de La Fosse painted his Adoration of the Magi, now in the Louvre. [33] Louis Antoine de Noailles, archbishop of Paris, extensively modified the roof of Notre-Dame in 1726, renovating its framing and removing the gargoyles with lead gutters. Noailles also strengthened the buttresses, galleries, terraces, and vaults. [34] In 1756, the cathedral's canons decided that its interior was too dark. The medieval stained glass windows, except the rosettes, were removed and replaced with plain, white glass panes. [29] Finally, Jacques-Germain Soufflot was tasked with the modification of the portals at the front of the cathedral to allow processions to more easily enter it.

French Revolution and Napoleon Edit

After the French Revolution in 1789, Notre-Dame and the rest of the church's property in France was seized and made public property. [35] The cathedral was rededicated in 1793 to the Cult of Reason, and then to the Cult of the Supreme Being in 1794. [36] During this time, many of the treasures of the cathedral were either destroyed or plundered. The twenty-eight statues of biblical kings located at the west façade, mistaken for statues of French kings, were beheaded. [7] [37] Many of the heads were found during a 1977 excavation nearby, and are on display at the Musée de Cluny. For a time the Goddess of Liberty replaced the Virgin Mary on several altars. [38] The cathedral's great bells escaped being melted down. All of the other large statues on the façade, with the exception of the statue of the Virgin Mary on the portal of the cloister, were destroyed. [7] The cathedral came to be used as a warehouse for the storage of food and other non-religious purposes. [30]

With the Concordat of 1801, Napoleon Bonaparte restored Notre-Dame to the Catholic Church, though this was only finalized on 18 April 1802. Napoleon also named Paris's new bishop, Jean-Baptiste de Belloy, who restored the cathedral's interior. Charles Percier and Pierre-François-Léonard Fontaine made quasi-Gothic modifications to Notre-Dame for the coronation of Napoleon as Emperor of the French within the cathedral. The building's exterior was whitewashed and the interior decorated in Neoclassical, then in vogue. [39]

Restoration Edit

After the Napoleonic Wars, Notre-Dame was in such a state of disrepair that Paris officials considered its demolition. Victor Hugo, who admired the cathedral, wrote the novel Notre-Dame de Paris (published in English as The Hunchback of Notre-Dame) in 1831 to save Notre-Dame. The book was an enormous success, raising awareness of the cathedral's decaying state. [7] The same year as Hugo's novel was published, however, anti-Legitimists plundered Notre-Dame's sacristy. [40] In 1844 King Louis Philippe ordered that the church be restored. [7]

The architect who had hitherto been in charge of Notre-Dame's maintenance, Étienne-Hippolyte Godde, was dismissed. In his stead, Jean-Baptiste Lassus and Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, who had distinguished themselves with the restoration of the nearby Sainte-Chapelle, were appointed in 1844. The next year, Viollet-le-Duc submitted a budget of 3,888,500 francs, which was reduced to 2,650,000 francs, for the restoration of Notre-Dame and the construction of a new sacristy building. This budget was exhausted in 1850, and work stopped as Viollet-le-Duc made proposals for more money. In totality, the restoration cost over 12 million francs. When Lassus died in 1857, Viollet-le-Duc was left sole architect of the project until its completion on 31 May 1864. [ citation needed ] Supervising a large team of sculptors, glass makers and other craftsmen, and working from drawings or engravings, Viollet-le-Duc remade or added decorations if he felt they were in the spirit of the original style. One of the latter items was a taller and more ornate spire, to replace the original 13th century spire, which had been removed in 1786. [41] The decoration of the restoration included a statue of Saint Thomas that resembles Viollet-le-Duc, as well as the sculpture of mythical creatures on the Galerie des Chimères. [30]

The construction of the sacristy was especially financially costly. To secure a firm foundation, it was necessary for Viollet-le-Duc's labourers to dig 9 metres (30 ft). Master glassworkers meticulously copied styles of the 13th century, as written about by art historians Antoine Lusson and Adolphe Napoléon Didron. [42]

During the liberation of Paris in August 1944, the cathedral suffered some minor damage from stray bullets. Some of the medieval glass was damaged, and was replaced by glass with modern abstract designs. On 26 August, a special mass was held in the cathedral to celebrate the liberation of Paris from the Germans it was attended by General Charles De Gaulle and General Philippe Leclerc.

In 1963, on the initiative of culture minister André Malraux and to mark the 800th anniversary of the cathedral, the façade was cleaned of the centuries of soot and grime, restoring it to its original off-white colour. [43]

The Requiem Mass of Charles de Gaulle was held in Notre-Dame on 12 November 1970. [44] The next year, on 26 June 1971, Philippe Petit walked across a tight-rope strung up between Notre-Dame's two bell towers and entertained spectators. [45]

After the Magnificat of 30 May 1980, Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass on the parvis of the cathedral. [46]

The Requiem Mass of François Mitterrand was held at the cathedral, as with past French heads of state, on 11 January 1996. [47]

The stone masonry of the cathedral's exterior had deteriorated in the 19th and 20th century due to increased air pollution in Paris, which accelerated erosion of decorations and discoloured the stone. By the late 1980s, several gargoyles and turrets had also fallen off or become too loose to remain in place. [48] A decade-long renovation programme began in 1991 and replaced much of the exterior, with care given to retain the authentic architectural elements of the cathedral, including rigorous inspection of new limestone blocks. [48] [49] A discreet system of electrical wires, not visible from below, was also installed on the roof to deter pigeons. [50] The cathedral's pipe organ was upgraded with a computerized system to control the mechanical connections to the pipes. [51] The west face was cleaned and restored in time for millennium celebrations in December 1999. [52]

21st century Edit

The Requiem Mass of Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, former archbishop of Paris and Jewish convert to Catholicism, was held in Notre-Dame on 10 August 2007. [53]

The set of four 19th-century bells atop the northern towers at Notre-Dame were melted down and recast into new bronze bells in 2013, to celebrate the building's 850th anniversary. They were designed to recreate the sound of the cathedral's original bells from the 17th century. [54] [55] Despite the 1990s renovation, the cathedral had continued to show signs of deterioration that prompted the national government to propose a new renovation program in the late 2010s. [56] [57] The entire renovation was estimated to cost €100 million, which the archbishop of Paris planned to raise through funds from the national government and private donations. [58] A €6 million renovation of the cathedral's spire began in late 2018 and continued into the following year, requiring the temporary removal of copper statues on the roof and other decorative elements days before the April 2019 fire. [59] [60]

Notre-Dame began a year-long celebration of the 850th anniversary of the laying of the first building block for the cathedral on 12 December 2012. [61] During that anniversary year, on 21 May 2013, Dominique Venner, a historian and white nationalist, placed a letter on the church altar and shot himself, dying instantly. Around 1,500 visitors were evacuated from the cathedral. [62]

On 10 February 2017, French police arrested four persons in Montpellier already known by authorities to have ties to radical Islamist organizations on charges of plotting to travel to Paris and attack the cathedral. [64] Later that year, on 6 June, visitors were shut inside Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris after a man with a hammer attacked a police officer outside. [65] [66]

2019 fire Edit

On 15 April 2019 the cathedral caught fire, destroying the spire and the "forest" of oak roof beams supporting the lead roof. [2] [67] [68] It was speculated that the fire was linked to ongoing renovation work.

According to later studies, the fire broke out in the attic of the cathedral at 18:18. The smoke detectors immediately signaled the fire to a cathedral employee, who did not summon the fire brigade but instead sent a cathedral guard to investigate. Instead of going to the correct attic, the guard was sent to the wrong location, to the attic of the adjoining sacristy, and reported there was no fire. The guard telephoned his supervisor, who did not immediately answer. About fifteen minutes later the error was discovered, whereupon the guard's supervisor told him to go to the correct location. The fire brigade was still not notified. By the time the guard had climbed the three hundred steps to the cathedral attic the fire was well advanced. [69] The alarm system was not designed to automatically notify the fire brigade, which was finally summoned at 18:51 after the guard had returned from the attic and reported a now-raging fire, and more than half an hour after the fire alarm had begun sounding. [70] Firefighters arrived in less than ten minutes. [71]

The spire of the cathedral collapsed at 19:50, bringing down some 750 tonnes of stone and lead. The firefighters inside were ordered back down. By this time the fire had spread to the north tower, where the eight bells were located. The firefighters concentrated their efforts in the tower. They feared that, if the bells fell, they could wreck the tower, and endanger the structure of the other tower and the whole cathedral. They had to ascend a stairway threatened by fire, and to contend with low water pressure for their hoses. As other firefighters watered the stairway and the roof, a team of twenty climbed up the narrow stairway of the south tower, crossed to the north tower, lowered hoses to be connected to fire engines outside the cathedral, and sprayed water on the fire beneath the bells. By 21:45, they were finally able to bring the fire under control. [69] The main structure was intact firefighters saved the façade, towers, walls, buttresses, and stained glass windows. The Great Organ, which has over 8,000 pipes and was built by François Thierry in the 18th century was also saved but sustained water damage. [72] Because of the ongoing renovation, the copper statues on the spire had been removed before the fire. [73] The stone vaulting that forms the ceiling of the cathedral had several holes but was otherwise intact. [74]

Since 1905, France's cathedrals (including Notre-Dame) have been owned by the state, which is self-insured. Some costs might be recovered through insurance coverage if the fire is found to have been caused by contractors working on the site. [75] The French insurer AXA provided insurance coverage for two of the contracting firms working on Notre-Dame's restoration before the blaze. AXA also provided insurance coverage for some of the relics and artworks in the cathedral. [76]

President Emmanuel Macron said approximately 500 firefighters helped to battle the fire. One firefighter was seriously injured and two police officers were hurt during the blaze. [77]

An ornate tapestry woven in the early 1800s is going on public display for only the third time in recent decades. The decoration was rescued from Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral after the fire. [78]

For the first time in more than 200 years, the Christmas mass was not hosted at the cathedral on 25 December 2019, due to the ongoing restoration work after the fire. [79]

Eight members of the cathedral choir, a number limited by COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, performed inside the building for the first time since the fire in December 2020. A video of the event aired later, just before midnight on 24 December 2020. [80]

Stabilization of building and reconstruction Edit

Immediately after the fire, President Macron promised that Notre-Dame would be restored, and called for the work to be completed within five years. [81] [82] [83] [84] An international architectural competition was also announced to redesign the spire and roof. [85] The hasty spire competition announcement drew immediate criticism in the international press from heritage academics and professionals who faulted the French government for being too narrowly focused on quickly building a new spire, and neglecting to frame its response more holistically as an inclusive social process encompassing the whole building and its long-term users. [86] [87] A new law was immediately drafted to make Notre Dame exempt from existing heritage laws and procedures, which prompted an open letter to President Macron signed by over 1,170 heritage experts urging respect for existing regulations. [88] The law, which passed on 11 May 2019, was hotly debated in the French National Assembly, with opponents accusing Macron's administration of using Notre-Dame self-servingly for political grandstanding, and defenders arguing the need for expediency and tax breaks to encourage philanthropic giving. [89]

President Macron suggested he was open to a "contemporary architectural gesture". Even before the competition rules were announced, architects around the world offered suggestions: the proposals included a 100-meter spire made of carbon fibre, covered with gold leaf a roof built of stained glass a greenhouse a garden with trees, open to the sky and a column of light pointed upwards. A poll published in the French newspaper Le Figaro on 8 May 2019 showed that 55% of French respondents wanted a spire identical to the original. French culture minister Franck Riester promised that the restoration "will not be hasty." [90] On 29 July 2019, the French National Assembly enacted a law requiring that the restoration must "preserve the historic, artistic and architectural interest of the monument". [10]

In October 2019, the French government announced that the first stage of reconstruction, the stabilising of the structure against collapse, would take until the end of 2020. Reconstruction could not begin before early 2021. President Macron announced that he hoped the reconstructed Cathedral could be finished by Spring 2024, in time for the opening of the 2024 Summer Olympics. [11] In December 2019, Monseigneur Patrick Chauvet, the rector of the cathedral, said there was still a 50% chance that Notre-Dame cannot be saved due to the risk of the remaining scaffolding falling onto the three damaged vaults. [91] [92]

The first task of the restoration was the removal of 250–300 tonnes of melted metal tubes, the remains of the scaffolding, which remained on the top after the fire and could have fallen onto the vaults and caused further structural damage. This stage began in February 2020 and continued through April 2020. [93] A large crane, eighty-four metres high, was put in place next to the cathedral to help remove the scaffolding. [94] Later, wooden support beams were added to stabilise the flying buttresses and other structures. [95]

On 10 April 2020, the archbishop of Paris, Michel Aupetit, and a handful of participants, all in protective clothing, performed a Good Friday service inside the cathedral. [96] Music was provided by the violinist Renaud Capuçon the lectors were the actors Philippe Torreton and Judith Chemla. [97] Chemla gave an a cappella rendition of Ave Maria. [98]

A new phase of the restoration commenced on 8 June 2020. Two teams of workers began descending into the roof to remove the tangle of tubes of the old scaffolding melted by the fire. The workers used saws to cut up the forty thousand pieces of scaffolding, weighing altogether two hundred tons, which was carefully lifted out of the roof by an eighty-meter tall crane. The phase was completed in November 2020. [99]

In February 2021, the selection of oak trees to replace the spire and roof timbers destroyed by the fire began. As many as a thousand mature trees will be chosen from the forests of France, each of a diameter of 50 to 90 centimetres and a height of eight to fourteen meters, and an age of several hundred years. Once cut, the trees must dry for twelve to eighteen months. The trees will be replaced by new plantings. [100]

Two years after the fire, a great deal of work had been completed but a news report stated that: "there is still a hole on top of the church. They’re also building a replica of the church’s spire". More oak trees needed to be shipped to Paris where they would need to be dried before use they will be essential in completing the restoration. [101]


According to historian Peter Kidson, the fire was more likely to have taken place in 1124 rather than 1141.

An earthquake causes damage

The Cathedral was partially destroyed by an earthquake, leaving only the West Front which can still be seen today. There were also smaller earthquakes in 1990 and 2008, but these only shook the Cathedral slightly.

Hugh of Avalon accepts post

Hugh becomes the Bishop of Lincoln and begins to organise the rebuild of the Cathedral after the shock earthquake.

The Morning Chapel build begins

Bishop Hugh passes away

On the 17 November, Bishop Hugh of Lincoln passes away in his mid seventies due to an unknown illness.

The Chapter House build begins

Bishop Hugh is canonised as a saint

The Dean’s Eye window is installed

Between 1220 and 1235, the Dean’s Eye window is installed and faces the north where it was believed that evil came from. It is said to tell of the last judgement.

The Central Tower collapses

This is thought to be due to most of the work on the building of the Cathedral being experimental.

The Galilee Porch is built

This was built for a more regal entrance for the Bishop’s ceremonial procession. The name ‘Galilee’ comes from the phrase ‘go before you into Galilee’ which was used in the Holy Week ceremonial procession.

The petition to extend Lincoln Cathedral is agreed

Henry III approves a petition by the Dean and Chapter to take down part of the Roman city wall in order to extend the Cathedral.

The building of the Angel Choir begins

After the license was granted, the build began. It was eventually finished in 1280, ready for its dedication.

The dedication of the Angel Choir

Cathedral Cloisters are built

The Cloisters were never necessary but nevertheless were built in 1295.

The parapets around the roof are added

During the 14th century, the parapets were added but there are no records to indicate a definitive date for this.

The Central Tower is replaced

Replaced with a tower and a spire, it made Lincoln Cathedral the tallest building in the world for 238 years, at 160m! It was completed in 1311.

The ‘Apprentice Wall’ is created

The screen wall of the Choristers’ Vestry is also known as the ‘Apprentice Wall’ by some. It is believed that the apprentice stonemasons carved the panels on this wall but there is no concrete evidence for this.

The Slype is built

The Slype is the enclosed passageway that joins the main body of the Cathedral to the Cloisters and the Chapter House. The doorway to the north east transept did not fit within the passageway originally, so another arch was built.

The Misericords are installed

Also known as ‘Mercy Seats’, the Misericords were designed to aid the old and frail by making it appear as though they were standing when in fact they were sat down rested during a service. They are dated between 1365 and 1370.

The western towers are raised by 200 feet

This was due to the addition of two belfries.

The Medieval Library is built

The Central Tower spire is blown down

A raging storm caused the Central Tower spire to collapse and destroy a large section of the north east transept roof in the process.

Cromwell’s forces cause damage to Lincoln Cathedral

During the English Civil War, Cromwell and his men caused damage to the Cathedral during their siege on Lincoln.

Honywood is installed as Dean of Lincoln Cathedral

The Wren Library build begins

The building of the Wren Library, designed by Sir Christopher Wren, began in 1674 and finished around 1676.

Part of the Cloisters is demolished to make room

The Cloisters were described as ‘ruinous’, and so were partially demolished in order to make space for the Wren library instead.

The roof of the Chapter House is redesigned

As the roof was described as ‘greatly decayed’, it was reduced by James Essex to a design which resembled a helmet. However, the original design was reintroduced in 1800, this time with new timber frames.

Part of the Medieval Library is removed

Part of the Medieval Library extending over the Cloister was removed, perhaps due to the extra weight causing structural problems.

The West Tower spires are removed

It was believed that the towers were endangered by their own weight, which is why the spires were removed. In 1724, James Gibbs advised that the spires be removed due to these structural problems. This advice was not taken up until 1807, after the people of Lincoln rioted.

Medieval Nubian Kingdoms, an introduction

This sandstone block is from the cathedral at Faras. It is one of several which formed a decorative frieze around the apse. Between the pillars stands a dove or eagle, wings outstretched, beneath a Coptic-type cross. Both birds were important symbols in Egyptian and Nubian Christianity – representing paradise. Around the neck of the bird on the left is a bulla, a small receptacle worn as an amulet. Sandstone frieze, early 7th century, from Faras (Nubia), Sudan, 25.4 x 43 cm (© The Trustees of the British Museum)

Between 500 and 600 C.E., the rulers of three Nubian medieval kingdoms, Nobatia, Makuria and Alwa, governed the Nile valley from the first cataract to just south of modern Khartoum in Sudan. Missionaries from the Byzantine Empire, sent by Justinian I and his empress Theodora, converted these kingdoms to Christianity. This introduced a marked cultural change into the region.

Churches replaced temples and simple burials replaced the grand tombs of the earlier pagan rulers. This transformation is visible in numerous objects found in the British Museum collection including the iron cross of Bishop Timotheos and a carved wooden pectoral depicting an archangel.

After a brief period of conflict with their Arab neighbors in Egypt, the borders were secured, and the medieval kingdoms flourished for almost a thousand years. The introduction of the water wheel (saqia) allowed agriculture to expand. Villages, towns, monasteries and fortresses lined the banks of the river Nile. Artists attained new heights of achievement, particularly in the fields of mural art and pottery production, and there appears to be a dramatic increase in literacy in Greek, Coptic, Old Nubian, and later Arabic.

Red sandstone capital, 7th century, from Faras (Nubia), Sudan, 56 x 90.3 cm

Fine churches were built, decorated with wall paintings and carved stone elements, including the sandstone frieze and column capital from the Faras cathedral found in the Museum collection. Wide-ranging trade and diplomatic contacts were established with the Muslim world and Byzantine Empire.

Bowl, 9th–10th century, Faras (Nubia), Sudan, 10.8 cm (© Trustees of the British Museum)

Faras was an important Christian site from the seventh century and some of the most important bishops were based there. As well as the cathedral, with its brightly colored murals and intricate friezes, there were at least six churches, a monastery, and pottery workshops. In the later Medieval period, the importance of Faras declined as it was eclipsed by Qasr Ibrim, just north of the Egyptian border. (Faras was excavated by Polish archaeologists before being flooded by Lake Nubia/Nasser in 1964.)

This fragment of a ceramic bowl was made at Faras, in the northern part of Nubia. It has a typical radial pattern on a white background—other popular motifs included Christian iconographic symbols such as fish, doves, crosses and palm fronds. Stamped impressions were also sometimes used for decoration.

The long period of relative peace from the mid-seventh century onwards enabled Nubian artistic expression to flower. This took various forms, the most notable other than ceramic production being wall painting. Traces of brightly colored wall paintings have been found in over fifty churches in Nubia, as well as in some private houses. Black paint was usually derived from charcoal, and yellow and brown from ochre. Textile production became more advanced during this period and basket-making, leatherworking, and metalworking were practiced to a high standard.

From around 1200 onwards, dynastic strife, poor relations with the rulers of Egypt, and the rise of the Funj kingdom in the south, brought about the collapse of the Nubian medieval kingdoms.

An iron benedictional cross from the grave of Bishop Timotheos

Cross of Timotheos, late 14th century, iron, from the grave of Bishop Timotheos, cathedral at Qasr Ibrim, Egypt

Nubia was converted to Christianity by a missionary expedition sent by the Byzantine emperor Justinian. An incentive to the Nubian rulers was that they would receive the support of Byzantium against their enemies. But Christianity brought a major change: the Nubian rulers were no longer considered divine, and their control over religious matters was transferred to bishops of the Christian Church.

Arab attempts to invade Nubia were unsuccessful and the country remained Christian long after Egypt was conquered in 641. Christianity in Nubia was strengthened by its affiliation with the Coptic Church in Egypt. Many Nubian bishops were appointed at Alexandria, where the Coptic patriarch had his seat. They controlled religious activity in Nubia from the major centers of Dongola, Faras and Qasr Ibrim. The cathedrals at these sites were decorated with paintings of saints, bishops, and Biblical scenes and intricately carved columns and friezes.

The majority of burials at this time were not elaborate and were without grave goods. Clerics were buried in their robes of office, sometimes with pottery vessels perhaps containing holy water. Bishop Timotheos appears to have been unusual in wearing his traveling clothes, without the usual finery. This iron benedictional cross accompanied him to the grave. He may have died on the journey to take office at Qasr Ibrim. In addition to his cross, Bishop Timotheos was buried with two scrolls, one in Coptic and the other in Arabic (both now in Cairo). These scrolls take the form of Timotheos’ ‘letter of appointment’ by the Coptic patriarch to his new See, and can be dated to 1372.

Historical Timeline

1785 - In New York City there were only two hundred Catholics and one priest. The predecessor church of St. Patrick’s Cathedral was dedicated to the Prince of the Apostles - Saint Peter - and was built and dedicated on Barclay Street in lower Manhattan. It is the oldest Roman Catholic parish in New York City Today.

1805 - Mrs. Elizabeth Bayley Seton, founder of the Sisters of Charity in this country, was converted to Catholicism and made her profession of faith, received first communion and was confirmed in the old Saint Peter’s Church.

1808 - The Diocese of New York was created and comprised the entire State of New York and the eastern part of New Jersey. It was one of four suffrage sees within the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

1809 - The recent elevation of New York as an episcopal see with its own bishop inspired the increasing Catholic population to build the original Cathedral of New York under the name of Ireland’s patron saint, Saint Patrick. The site chosen belonged to the corporation of Saint Peter’s Church and was located on Mulberry Street in lower Manhattan. The cornerstone was laid in June 1809.

1815 - A news article in the New York Gazette declared: “The new Catholic church in this city was last Thursday, Ascension Day, solemnly dedicated to God under the name of Saint Patrick. This grand and beautiful church, which may justly be considered one of the greatest ornaments of our city, and inferior in point of elegance to none in the United States, is built in the Gothic style and executed agreeable to the design of Mr. Joseph Mangin, the celebrated architect of New York. The superior elegance of the architecture, as well as the beauty of the interior, had for some months past excited a considerable degree of public curiosity. Upwards of four thousand persons consisting of the best families of New York attended the dedication,” which was begun in 1809 and lately so far completed as to be fit for divine service,

1842 - Bishop John Hughes became Bishop of New York. His cathedral was the largest church structure in New York City, where he safely guided the growth of the city’s Catholic population during a time of much religious bigotry and turmoil.

1850 - New York became an archdiocese and Bishop Hughes became the first archbishop.

1853 - Archbishop Hughes announced plans “to erect a Cathedral in the City of New York that may be worthy of our increasing numbers, intelligence and wealth as a religious community, and at all events, worthy, as a public architectural monument, of the present and prospective crowns of this metropolis of the American continent.”

1853 - Renowned architect James Renwick was engaged to design the current Cathedral at a cost of approximately $850,000, not including the altars, furnishings for chapels, organs and other furniture. The stone chosen was white marble.

1858 - The cornerstone of the new St. Patrick’s Cathedral, whose boundaries would be between Fifth and Madison Avenues and Fiftieth and Fifty-First Streets, was laid on the site of the old Saint John’s Church on August 15, 1858. Construction of the new Cathedral progressed rapidly until interrupted by the Civil War and the need for additional funding.

1864 - After the death of the beloved Archbishop Hughes, Bishop John McCloskey was installed Archbishop of New York. Construction of the Cathedral resumed shortly after the close of the war.

1866 - On the night of October 6, 1866, old historic St. Patrick’s on Mulberry Street was destroyed by fire the Cathedral was rebuilt within the four original walls that remained and dedicated on Saint Patrick’s Day 1868.

1875 - The first American Cardinal, Cardinal John McCloskey, was invested in the old Cathedral.

1878 - A fund- raising fair was held in the new St. Patrick’s Cathedral, with forty-five parishes sponsoring tables. Receipts of $172,625 were raised to assist in purchasing furnishings for the Cathedral.

1879 - St. Patrick’s Cathedral was opened formally on May 25, 1879. The newspapers hailed the new Cathedral as “the noblest temple ever raised in any land to the memory of Saint Patrick, and as the glory of Catholic America.”

1884 - On the occasion of his fiftieth anniversary as a priest, Cardinal McCloskey was presented with the beautiful marble pulpit as a gift from the clergy.

1888 - The spires of the Cathedral were completed during the stewardship of Archbishop Michael Corrigan.

1900 - Construction of the Lady Chapel was begun and the first Mass was offered in the Chapel on Christmas 1906. Construction with all furnishings was completed in 1908.

1909 - The first of the Lady Chapel stained glass windows was installed with the remainder to follow over the next twenty-five years. They were designed and constructed in England, France and Germany.

1910 - On October 5, 1910, the Cathedral became free from debt and was solemnly consecrated by Archbishop Farley who later was made Cardinal. It was estimated that over $4 million had been spent from start to the day of consecration.

1927 - In honor of the 50th Anniversary of the dedication of the Cathedral, Cardinal Hayes inaugurated the largest renovation project in the history of the Cathedral up to that time. The sanctuary was enlarged, the choir gallery was rebuilt, new chancel and gallery organs were built, a new baptistery was added and new nave flooring and pews were put in place. The sanctuary was enclosed by an oak screen and a handsomely designed altar railing was added.

1936 - On October 11, 1936, Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, who later became Pope Pius XII, presided at the 26th anniversary of the consecration of the Cathedral.

1941-1947 - Cardinal Spellman found benefactors to underwrite many improvements including many new upper windows, the bronze doors, a new high altar and Lady Chapel altar and extensive repairs of the marble exterior facade.

1942 - The new Lady Chapel altar and new high altar and baldachin, more appropriate for a Gothic cathedral design, were consecrated by Archbishop Spellman. The famous stained glass artisan Charles Connick designed a number of upper windows and the rose window. The architect of the renovations was Charles Maginnis of Maginnis and Walsh.

1950’s - Installation of the upper windows was completed. The crowning stained glass work was the installation of the grand rose window over the west portal.

1972 - During Cardinal Cooke’s administration the entire interior of the Cathedral was restored.

1979 - Restoration of the exterior was completed for the Cathedral’s 100th anniversary.

1984-2000 - During Cardinal O’Connor’s episcopate, extensive renovations were made to maintain the structural integrity of the building, including replacement of much of the roof, resetting the exterior steps, repainting the transept walls and refinishing the transept doors. The Cathedral’s organs were rebuilt and television monitors were added so that all congregants at services might be able to participate fully in the liturgy. The bells were restored and a new lighting system was installed.

2000-2009 - During Cardinal Egan’s episcopate, the Lady Chapel, including windows, was cleaned and restored. The restoration of the altar of Saint Anthony was completed and a fine bas-relief of Saint Frances Cabrini was mounted. The sanctuary with its two altars, the sacristy, the baldachin and the great carved wood screen around the sanctuary were restored to their original splendor. A new shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Czestochowa and various saints of Poland was dedicated as was the restored Saint Andrew’s Chapel.

2000 - At a June 19, 2000 Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral attended by many dignitaries and graced by the beautiful voice of soprano Renée Fleming, Edward Egan was appointed Archbishop of New York, proclaiming "We are a people of faith. We are a people of prayer. We are a people of justice. We are a people of charity. That is our formula." Archbishop Egan would be elevated to the cardinalate in 2001.

2001 - On September 16, 2001 Cardinal Egan presided over a memorial mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral for the victims of the September 11 attacks. He praised the public servants of New York who selflessly and heroically rushed to the scene. See 9/11 Mass of Supplication and Remembering the Heroes of 9/11.

2007-2008 - The Archdiocese of New York celebrated its Bicentennial with many celebratory Masses and events. Edward Cardinal Egan hosted a much-heralded concert featuring various choirs and stars from the Metropolitan Opera.

2008 - On April 19, 2008, Pope Benedict XVI became the first Pope to celebrate Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral. His Holiness called upon all who were present to be heralds of hope— and to look to the spires of St. Patrick’s as a symbol of the spiritual yearning of the human heart. See video excerpt.

2009 - On April 15, 2009 in a joyful Mass of Installation at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, His Excellency Timothy Dolan was installed as the 10th Archbishop of New York saying: "I pledge to you my love, my life, my heart, and I can tell you already that I love you. I need so much your prayers and support. I am so honored, humbled, and happy to serve as your pastor."

2011 and the Future - Plans are put in place to launch a major effort to preserve St. Patrick’s for generations to come.

Thomas Becket

Canterbury’s role as one of the world’s most important pilgrimage centres in Europe is inextricably linked to the murder of its most famous Archbishop, Thomas Becket, in 1170. When, after a long lasting dispute, King Henry II is said to have exclaimed “Who will rid me of this turbulent priest?”, four knights set off for Canterbury and murdered Thomas in his own cathedral. A sword stroke was so violent that it sliced the crown off his skull and shattered the blade’s tip on the pavement. The murder took place in what is now known as The Martyrdom. When shortly afterwards, miracles were said to take place, Canterbury became one of Europe’s most important pilgrimage centres.

2020 marks an important dual anniversary for the extraordinary figure of Thomas Becket. It will be 850 years since his dramatic murder on 29 December 1170 in Canterbury Cathedral, and 800 years since his body was moved on 7 July 1220 from a tomb in the Cathedral’s Crypt into a glittering shrine. The events of 1220 were orchestrated to relaunch the cult of Becket, and ensured that Canterbury became the principal pilgrimage destination in England and one of the major pilgrimage sites within Europe. More about Becket and the events planned for 2020 here

Africa Timeline

Significant moments in African art history. Here you can read brief summaries of important events in the visual arts, and find links to articles for further reading.

C. 24,000 BC

Paintings in charcoal, ochre and white pigments of such animals as zebras and rhinoceroses, found on portable stones in domestic debris in the Apollo 11 cave in Namibia, are the oldest datable rock paintings in Africa. Read more.

C. 8000 BC

Rock-carvings of large animals are created by hunter gatherers during the Bubalus antiquus period and are the oldest known example of rock art in Africa. Read more.

C. 7000 BC

The earliest pottery made in Africa, in the form of utensils and figurines, is produced in the Sahara region. Read more.

Rock paintings made in North Africa during the Pastoral period, as represented by scenes of cattle herding and vignettes of daily life at Tassili N'Ajjer in Algeria, reveal an increased sense of naturalism and mastery of colour over rock art of earlier times. Read more.

C. 3200 BC

The paintings of boats, animals, hunting and combat scenes, as well as the scene of a hero holding back two lions, that decorate the walls of Tomb 100 at Hierakonpolis are among the most important monuments of Egypt's Predynastic and Early Dynastic periods. Read more.

C. 3000 BC

Considered ancient Egypt's first great work of art, the large schist Narmer Palette celebrates the glory of King Narmer, shown smiting his enemy. Read more.

C. 2610 BC

The first monumental structure built entirely of stone is a six-stage stepped pyramid designed by the architect Imhotep for King Djoser at Saqqara, Egypt. Read more.

C. 2551 BC

King Cheops orders the construction of the Great Pyramid at Giza, the largest pyramid ever constructed and originally 146 metres tall. Read more.

C. 2500 BC

The Great Sphinx at Giza depicts in stone the head of the Egyptian King Khafre atop the body of a reclining lion. This monumental statue guards the roadway to Khafre's pyramid tomb. Read more.

C. 1991 BC

Multi-chambered tombs at the Egyptian necropolis of Beni Hasan are carved from living rock, requiring great skill and effort. Painted scenes from daily life on the walls of the tombs provide an invaluable glimpse into the common concerns and activities of the upper classes at the time. Read more.

C. 1650 BC

Kerma, the site of a Kushite town in Sudan, produces finely made pottery vessels. While most are black-topped red wares, some containers are elaborately painted and others are decorated with appliquéd or incised markings. Read more.

C. 1426

Queen Hatshepsut, one of ancient Egypt's three female rulers, constructs a massive and imposing funerary temple at Deir el-Bahri as part of an extensive campaign using art and architecture to glorify her reign. Read more.

C. 1390

Ancient Egyptian glassmakers make lively-looking small bottles for scented oils and cosmetics in a variety of shapes and with multiple colours. These core-formed vessels are made by applying and working molten glass on a rigid interior base. Read more.

C. 1340 BC

This famous painted limestone bust of Queen Nefertiti celebrates the unique status and privileges granted to her by her husband Akhenaten, as she is depicted in the same royal style as he is in his official portraits. Read more.

C. 1332 BC

King Tutankhamun is buried in a lavish tomb, furnished with magnificent jewellery, textiles, throne, gold chariots and a coffin made of gold inlaid with glass and semi-precious stones. The sumptuousness of the grave goods attests to the pharaoh's wealth and power in life, and the rich symbolism of the ornamentation reveal his beliefs about the afterlife. Read more.

C. 1275 BC

Ancient Egyptians bury finely illustrated manuscripts, known as Books of the Dead, in their tombs to provide guidance to the deceased in the trials that take place in the afterlife. Read more.

C. 700 BC

A wide variety of burial urns and tomb furnishings maintained at the Sanctuary, or Tophet, of Tanit, Carthage's primary goddess, illustrate the city's religious concerns and practices, including for a time the sacrifice of young children. Read more.

C. 500

Sculptors in Nok, Nigeria produce terracotta heads, probably for religious purposes, that seem highly animated, although their features are exaggerated so that they appear slightly caricatured. Read more.

C. 221 BC

A one-roomed temple is developed in Nubia, presumably to accommodate local rituals. One of the earliest examples is the shrine built by King Arnekhamani and dedicated to the lion-headed god Apedemak. Read more.

C. 221 BC

Nubian sculptors ornament temples, palaces and tombs with relief scenes of the king and his family paying tribute to the deities. Read more.

AD 1–100 BC

Nubian potters of the Meroitic period create ceramic containers that have eggshell-thin bodies, refined finishes and lively painted or stamped decoration. Read more.

C. AD 100–c. AD 120

During the period of Roman rule, mummies in Faiyum, Egypt are capped with highly lifelike painted portraits of the deceased, introducing a new level of realism into Egyptian art. Read more.

C. AD 150–AD 200

The Severan theatre in the Roman town of Sabratha on the Libyan coast is built as the most sophisticated example of its type and remains the best-preserved Roman theatre in North Africa. Read more.

C. AD 200–c. AD 400

Monumental stone obelisks are hewn at the Ethiopian city of Aksum to serve as funerary markers for the uppermost members of society. These stelae, the largest of which is a towering 33.5 metres tall, are carved to resemble the surfaces of buildings. Read more.

AD 500–AD 600

The earliest known clay figures in South Africa, found at Lydenburg, are a series of fired ceramic heads that are thought to have been used as part of initiation rituals. Read more.

C. AD 550

Among the earliest surviving Christian icons is the depiction of the Virgin and Child Enthroned with SS George and Theodore, painted using the encaustic technique. Read more.

C. AD 707

The sensitive painting of St Anne is one of the earliest images painted on the walls of the cathedral of Faras, which is the source of the best-known examples of Byzantine painting in Nubia. Her enormous eyes and simplified features continue Egyptian traditions and are characteristic of the early Faras images. Read more.

AD 836

Expansion begins on the Great Mosque of Kairouan in Tunisia. This religious centre in the western part of the Islamic world stands as a model for other mosques in the region. Read more.

C. AD 900

Highly accomplished smiths at Igbo-Ukwu in Nigeria fashion elaborately decorated bronze containers and ritual implements that are among the earliest items made of copper alloy in western Africa. Read more.

C. 989–1013

The mosque of al-Hakim is constructed by the Fatimid caliphate to accommodate the entire population of Cairo for worship and grand ceremonies. Read more.

C. 1000–c. 1400

Massive stone walls are built in Great Zimbabwe, forming the largest ancient structure in sub-Saharan Africa. The biggest walls, some of which tower 11 metres tall, form the Great Enclosure. Read more.

C. 1000–c. 1500

Life-size portrait heads made of terracotta or bronze at Ife in Nigeria are strikingly naturalistic and are pierced with holes that may have allowed the attachment of crowns and facial hair.. Read more.

C. 1106–c. 1142

Artistic interchanges between different parts of the Almoravid domain can be seen in the Qubbat al-Ba'diyyin, the surviving ablution centre of the primary mosque in Marrakesh. Ribbed domes and intersecting horseshoe arches from Andalusia are combined with local Moroccan architecture.. Read more.

C. 1200–c. 1325

Twelve churches are cut from the living rock at Lalibela in Ethiopia. Their architecture is derived from wooden buildings, no longer extant, in the region. Read more.

C. 1200–c. 1500

Artisans in the inland Niger River delta fashion equestrian figures from ceramic, metal and wood to depict mythological figures and important political individuals. Read more.

C. 1275–c. 1325

Ife smiths cast in copper the half-life-size statue of a seated man known as the Tada figure. The figure's posture and proportions, as well as his animated facial expression, are exceptionally realistic. Read more.


Mamluk sultan Qala'un builds a grand complex in Cairo that includes a madrasa (school), hospital, mausoleum and minaret, and is part of a larger programme of public and private construction. Read more.

C. 1300–c. 1350

Illustrated copies of the Gospels are produced in Tigray province in Ethiopia that reveal the region's ties with the Byzantine Empire and close relationship with the Eastern Mediterranean. Read more.

C. 1300–c. 1400

The Dogon people of Mali carve some of the most accomplished and oldest surviving figural wooden statues in Africa. While most figures are stylized to some degree and emphasize geometric forms, sculptures of women often include children and thereby underscore their maternal role in society.. Read more.

C. 1325

The Great Mosque is Timbuktu is built, probably at the order of King Mansa Musa, who had just returned after making a pilgrimage to Mecca. The building is reportedly designed by an Andalusian poet-architect al-Saheli. Read more.

C. 1375–c. 1600

During their 'Golden Age', the Swahili of East Africa build stone tombs for the wealthy that are highly unusual and distinctive. Read more.

C. 1376

Sultan Sha`ban II of Egypt commissions several large and sumptuously illuminated copies of the Koran that include double-page frontispieces, chapter headings and page margins richly decorated in gold, lapis lazuli and red. Read more.

C. 1500–c. 1600

Ivory-carvers of Sierra Leone are commissioned by Portuguese traders to fashion intricate salt-cellars that incorporate European and African forms and motifs. Read more.

C. 1500–c. 1600

Benin kings of the Edo people wear finely carved ivory pendants of revered deceased ancestors. While somewhat stylized, these carvings are portraits of specific individuals. Read more.

C. 1500–c. 1850

Upon his coronation, each king (oba) of Benin must commission within his first year of rule the production of a brass commemorative head of his father, the former king, to be placed on an altar. While not realistic portraits, these images are individualized and are meant to represent the actual person. Read more.

C. 1700–c. 1725

The painting of Michael the Archangel in the Church of Debre Sina is indicative of the new painting style developed in Gondar, the capital of Christian Ethiopia, and reveals the characteristic bright palette and long-faced figures. Read more.

C. 1750

A king of the Kuba dynasty in Zaïre commissions a representation in wood of the founder of the royal family Shyaam aMbul aNgoong and another of himself. Henceforth, each king has a commemorative statue of himself made. Read more.

C. 1800

Europeans become aware of Asante kente cloth, which involves a complex weaving process and is linked in mythology to the spider god Ananse. Read more.

C. 1800–c. 1850

The Yoruba develop the tradition of making wooden Gelede masks for large festivals that celebrate the power of the tribe's elderly women. Read more.


King Gozo has the walls of his palace in Abomey decorated with figural scenes depicting events important to his people as part of a programme to use art for political purposes. Read more.

C. 1875–c.1900

Several sculptors, identified as the 'Buli Master', carve wooden bowl-bearers, stools and statues in the Congolese town of Buli, which are naturalistic and have highly expressive faces. Read more.

C. 1875–c. 1925

Kongo carvers, working closely with spiritual advisers, make power figures, called minkisi, for use in divination rituals to consult the spirits. Read more.

A Historical Timeline of Notre Dame Cathedral

In light of the recent tragic fire, here’s a look at the incredible history surrounding the beautiful Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France.

1160: The Basilica of Saint Étienne (which was built on the site of a Roman temple dedicated to Jupiter) torn down to make way for the Cathedral of Notre Dame

1163: Cornerstone laid by Pope Alexander III

1182: High Altar consecrated

1225: Western facade completed

1240: North Tower completed

1245–1260s: Transepts remodelled in the rayonnant style by Jean de Chelles then Pierre de Montreuil

1250: Western towers, north rose window, and south tower completed

14th Century: New flying buttresses added to apse and choir

1345: Construction completed

1413: A large statue of St. Christopher is erected

1431: Henry VI, the King of England crowned King of France as well

1548: Huguenots damaged some of the statues

17th Century: Restoration is done under the wishes of King Louis XIII first organ is installed

1643–1774: Numerous alterations made to the Cathedral the sanctuary was re-arranged the choir was largely rebuilt in marble, and many of the stained glass windows from the 12th and 13th century were removed and replaced with white glass windows, to bring more light into the church.

1786: Statue of St. Christopher destroyed

1804: Napoleon crowns himself emperor inside the Cathedral

18th Century: Wind-damaged spire removed

1793: The Cathedral is rededicated to the Cult of Reason during the French Revolution.

The French Revolution: The Cathedral is again rededicated to the Cult of the Supreme Being many treasures of the Cathedral were destroyed or plundered the heads of the 28 statues of Biblical kings were beheaded because they were mistaken for French kings the Goddess of Liberty replaced the Virgin Mary on some altars With the exception of the statue of Mary on the portal of the cloister, all of the large statues on the facade were destroyed the Cathedral was also used for food storage and other non-religious purposes during this time

July 1801: Napoleon Bonaparte signs an agreement to return the Cathedral to the Church

April 18, 1802: Formal transfer of the Cathedral back to the Church

December 2, 1804: Napoleon crowns himself emperor inside the Cathedral

May 3, 1814: King Louis XVIII returns to France at the start of the Bourbon Restoration and heads directly to the Cathedral to hear a Te Deum composed by Lesueur

1831: Publication of Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre-Dame its success leads to renewed interest in Notre-Dame

1844: King Louis Phillippe orders the restoration of the Cathedral the restoration lasts 25 years

19th Century: Organ rebuilt 6,900 new pipes added to the 900 pipes from the previous design

20th Century: Electric motors installed to ring the bells

1909: Pope Saint Pius X beatifies Joan of Arc in the Cathedral

1935: Three relics are placed in the spire: Part of the Crown of Thorns and relics of Paris’ two patrons Sts. Denis and Genivieve

World War II: 13th-century rose windows removed out of fear of Nazi vandalism or looting

August 1944: During the liberation of Paris, several stray bullets cause minor damage to the exterior of the Cathedral some of the medieval glass windows were damaged and replaced with windows featuring modern, abstract designs

August 26, 1944: Special Mass to celebrate the liberation of Paris from the Germans Generals Charles De Gaulle and Philippe Leclerc attend

April 16, 1945: US soldiers fill the Cathedral for a memorial service for President Franklin D. Roosevelt

1963: To commemorate the 800th anniversary of the Cathedral, the exterior of the Cathedral is cleaned of centuries of soot and grime, restoring it to its original off-white color

January 19, 1969: A North Vietnamese flag flies from the spire following negotiations of a possible cease-fire in the Vietnam War

1977: A nearby excavation finds the heads from the statues that were beheaded in the French Revolution

1991: Major cleaning and restoration begins stones damaged by air pollution replaced discreet system of wires placed on the roof to deter pigeons

August 22, 1997: Founder of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul Frédéric Ozanam is beatified by Pope Saint John Paul II in the Cathedral

2013: Year-long celebrations to mark the 850th anniversary of the Cathedral of Notre-Dame

2014: The lighting in the Cathedral is updated

November 15, 2015: The national prayer service for the victims of the Paris terror attack is held in the Cathedral

The dream of a National Cathedral is as old as the nation itself, a "great church for national purposes."

Where History Comes Alive

George Washington and Maj. Pierre L’Enfant cast the original vision for a unifying “great church for national purposes” in the early days of the republic, though it was another century before the first stones were set. As a house of prayer for all people, the Cathedral’s walls are strong enough to contain the emotions of the country at times of great joy and great sorrow.

Watch the video: The Secrets Of Paris Notre Dame Cathedral History Documentary. Perspective (May 2022).