Reconstruction of Notre-Dame de Paris reveals secrets of the French Cathedral

At the reconstruction site of the pinnacle, numerous sarcophagi and other objects covered by a layer of stone dating back to the 18th century were found.

Newsroom – France – Paris (April 20, 2022, 4:35 PM, Gaudium Press) Three years after the tragic fire that destroyed part of the cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris, archaeological excavations have revealed secrets hidden under the French cathedral. At the reconstruction site of the pinnacle, numerous sarcophagi and other objects were found covered by a layer of stone dating back to the 18th century.

Below that, many graves of different layers were discovered, indicating that the site was used as a cemetery for a long period of time. The graves date back to the 14th century and rest on soil that may date back to the early 13th century. This impressive excavation work, carried out by the National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research (INRAP), was completed on April 8.

Archaeological work

In this, which is the last stage of the restoration, it will be necessary to erect scaffolding to reach the burned tower of the cathedral. However, before this, archaeologists had to examine the site for artifacts that could be damaged.

Teams of archaeologists have worked hard to preserve the collapsed architecture and map every piece of the historic temple and the material found during this preventive work. INRAP has already been working on the recovery of the temple since April 15, 2019, exactly the day after the fire.

Polychrome lapidary elements

Priceless remains were also revealed inside the building, including the lost ancient screen and its polychrome lapidary elements. Built around 1230, the monumental enclosure that separated the choir from the nave had been destroyed in the early 18th century to meet new liturgical uses.

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These lapidary elements are fragmented, carved and polychromed, forming religious figures and architectural elements. “A first stylistic analysis of the vegetal decorations, the way of representing the faces, the hair, the draperies allows us to consider a dating to the 13th century”, assures INRAP.

13th-century sarcophagus

The French Ministry of Culture confirmed the discovery of a lead sarcophagus in human form dating from the fourteenth century and fully preserved. It is not yet known who was buried there, but it is believed to be a high dignitary or someone from the social elite at the time, because of the characteristics and the location of the sarcophagus (in the transept of the cathedral).

The sarcophagus will soon be sent for examination at the Forensic Institute of Toulouse and INRAP has already shown interest in opening this grave. According to Christophe Besnier, scientific manager of the excavations, “forensic pathologists and scientists will open the sarcophagus there to study the bones of the deceased and other objects. They will identify his sex and state of health, and will have to ‘refine’ by carbon-14 dating an as yet uncertain chronology.”

Reopening of Notre Dame Cathedral

Following the discoveries, the ground of Notre Dame Cathedral was filled in to make way for workers, who will do the work of concreting the ground and then erect the huge scaffolding that will be used to rebuild the tower. President Emmanuel Macron has promised that the French Cathedral will be reopened in 2024 when Paris will host the Summer Olympics. (EPC)

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Compiled by Zephania Gangl

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