by Jason Ceresa

        With many cathedrals being built in France around the eleven hundreds, the new Bishop of Paris, Maurice de Sully, decided that Paris needs a cathedral worthy of being in the capital. However, work was not started on the grand cathedral until the year 1163, three years after the decision to build.
        In the year 1182, the choir and apse were completed and the high alter was consecrated. This allowed services to start in the new cathedral. Henri de Château-Marçay consecrated the high altar.

The main alter being consecrated

        The most recognizable view of the cathedral was not started until the year 1200. The western façade is sometimes considered one of the greatest structures ever designed. Most people will recognize the three portals, the Gallery of Kings, the great western rose and the dual towers. The original designs for the towers included steeples, but they were never added to the structure. The western façade was completed in the year 1250.

The Original plan for the Western Façade

        The three portals all have names. The central portal is known as the "Portal of the Last Judgment." At the top of the tympanum Christ sits judging those that will go to either the left or the right. The left sides, under Christ's upraised right hand, the righteous go to heaven. On the right the sinners are dragged down into hell. A demon drags them downward, while a beautiful angel leads the others to paradise. In the coves to the left of the portal, all of heaven's angels, saints, and virgins decorates the church. On the alcoves to the right, chaos, horror and demons are shown.
        The right Portal is known as the "Portal of Saint Anne." This portal contains the oldest sculptures in the cathedral. The lintels of this portal are adorned with sculptures of stories from the New Testament.
        The left portal is known as the "Portal of the Virgin." It is dedicated to the Virgin Mother of Christ, Mary. The entire church is also consecrated in her honor.
        Above the portals and below, the great rose window dominates the Gallery of Kings. The gallery holds statues of twenty-eight Kings of Israel. Today , all of the statues are restorations. People of the French Revolution saw the statues as Kings of France and took them down. They were later restored in the year 1864.

The Western Façade

        The northern and southern façades were started after the completion of the Western. Both were completed in the year 1270. The very next year King Louis IX died and his funeral was held in the cathedral. In 1297, Louis IX was canonized as Saint Louis and the central chapel apse was consecrated in his honor.

The Western Rose Window

        The entire cathedral was first completed in the year 1351. Unfortunately, the cathedral suffered a lot of damages during the next 300 years. In 1699, they started to rebuild the main altar, and restoration work has continued almost unceasingly since that time.
        Today, Notre-Dame is still one of the world's greatest cathedrals and still stands in all her grand beauty as a magnificent monument for people of all ages to enjoy.


Temko, Allen. Notre Dame of Paris. New York: Time Incorporated, 1952.

Winston, Richard and Clara. "Notre-Dame de Paris" Newsweek. New York: 1971

Picture Credit:

Picture #1 - "Main Alter" From: Notre-Dame de Paris

Picture #2 - "Original plan... " From: Notre-Dame de Paris

Picture #3 - "Western Façade" From: Notre-Dame de Paris

Picture #4 - "Rose Window" From: Notre-Dame de Paris