• France edition
 
Grand old lady of Paris marks big birthday
The cathedral of Nôtre Dame, which is 850 years old. Photo: Pline

Grand old lady of Paris marks big birthday

Published: 12 Dec 2012 09:34 GMT+01:00
Updated: 12 Dec 2012 09:34 GMT+01:00

Quasimodo only had eyes for Esmerelda but the famous hunchback's fellow Parisians have always had another special lady in their lives.

Nôtre Dame (Our Lady), the iconic cathedral at the heart of the French capital, will on Wednesday launch a year of celebrations to mark the 850th anniversary of its founding.

Like a true Parisienne, age has not withered her. Eight and a half tumultuous centuries have left one of the jewels of Gothic architecture with barely a wrinkle, but plenty of stories to tell.

A 12th century crusade was launched from here. An English monarch, Henry VI, was crowned King of France in 1431. Nearly 500 years later, it was in this building that Joan of Arc was declared a saint.

In 1548, rioting Huguenots extensively damaged some of the edifice's finest features.

Two and a half centuries later, at the height of the French Revolution's anti-clerical frenzy, the church suffered further vandalism and narrowly escaped complete destruction, its utility as a warehouse for food effectively saving it for generations to come.

Yet only a few years later, in 1804, Pope Pius VII was officiating as Napoleon and Josephine were installed as Emperor and Empress.

It was not until the second half of the 19th century that Notre Dame was fully restored to its pre-Revolution state, thanks to a 25-year programme of renovation overseen by the architect Eugene Viollet-le-Duc.

Without it, the venerated cathedral might have sunk into the Seine, the river it overlooks from its position on the eastern half of an island, the Ile de la Cité, in the middle of the river that runs through the city.

Viollet-le-Duc did the engineering, but the real saviour of the cathedral was Victor Hugo, the writer whose epic novel, "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" was responsible for highlighting the cathedral's architectural value and its "countless defacements and mutilations".

"The bells, the bells," was a catchphrase made famous by Charles Laughton in the role of the hunchback Quasimodo in the 1937 film version of Hugo's masterpiece, and the bells of Nôtre Dame will be at the centre of the jubilee celebrations.

Nine new bells are to be delivered during 2013, replacing four that were taken out of service at the start of last year.

The new arrivals will team up with Emmanuel, the great bell that only just managed to avoid being melted down during the revolution and rang out to announce the liberation of Paris from German occupation in 1944.

"Finally, the full line-up of bells will be restored for the first time since before the revolution," Mgr Patrick Jacquin, the rector of the cathedral, told AFP.

New, improved lighting, a viewing platform and a renovated organ have also been ordered to mark the jubilee year, during which the church expects to receive an extra five million visitors.

A series of musical events are also planned to celebrate the cathedral's unrivalled acoustics.

From this month until November 2013, there will be be a programme of 25 concerts reflecting the array of musical styles that have resonated around the cathedral's buttresses over the years, from Gregorian chants to contemporary symphonies via landmark works of religious inspiration like German composer Joseph Haydn's "Creation".

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
IN PICTURES
French property face-off: The Vendée vs Limousin
The old barn or the old mill? What would you spend your money on? Photo: Leggett

French property face-off: The Vendée vs Limousin

Would you prefer a converted mill in the Vendée or a renovated barn in the Limousin region of France? Take a look at these two very different revamped properties in France that are on the market and decide what would you rather spend your money on. READ  

'Sixty French lawmakers file suspect tax returns'
French lawmakers could be in big trouble with the taxman. Photo: AFP

'Sixty French lawmakers file suspect tax returns'

In what could end up a major tax scandal in France some 60 French lawmakers are in trouble with the taxman after their financial disclosures to the public didn’t quite match up with what they’d declared to authorities, according to media reports. READ  

Tour de France 2015: Five crucial stages
The 2015 Tour de France route. Image: Le Tour.fr

Tour de France 2015: Five crucial stages

Here's a look at the key stages in the 2015 Tour de France after the route was unveiled in Paris on Wednesday. Look out for the Alpe d'Huez on the penultimate day. READ  

Discover the route of the 2015 Tour de France
The famous Alpe de Huez climb, which will be climbed on the penultimate stage of the 2015 race. Photo: AFP

Discover the route of the 2015 Tour de France

The route of the 2015 Tour de France was unveiled on Wednesday with one of the major surprises being the penultimate day of racing, which will see the peloton climb the mythical Alpe d'Huez in the French Alps. READ  

French Socialist party rift breaks into war of words
President François Hollande's first government feel a long time ago, with ousted ministers now in an open war of words with Socialist Party chiefs. Photo: AFP

French Socialist party rift breaks into war of words

Splits plaguing France's ruling party came to the fore on Wednesday as ousted ministers and allies of embattled President Francois Hollande engaged in a very public war of words. READ  

Paris Opera lays down rules over Muslim veils
Paris Opera has reminded staff not to allow anyone enter the building if their face is covered. Photo: Panoramas/Flickr - Miguel Medina/AFP

Paris Opera lays down rules over Muslim veils

The management at Paris Opera have issued a memo to staff not to allow entry to anyone whose face is covered. It comes after a Muslim woman was asked to leave a performance of La Traviata earlier this month after she was spotted wearing a niqab face veil. READ  

Calais: Mass migrant fight leaves dozens hurt
The migrant crisis in Calais is becoming increasingly violent and disruptive. Photo: AFP

Calais: Mass migrant fight leaves dozens hurt

Tensions were high in Calais on Tuesday night after police were forced to seal off a district in the port town after a mass brawl between migrants from Ethiopia and Eritrea, left dozens injured. READ  

Paris: Luxury hotel staff strike for better pay
A protester joins members of the CGT union gathering on October 7, 2014 in front of the Royal Monceau hotel. Photo: Joel SAget

Paris: Luxury hotel staff strike for better pay

A rebellion among hotel workers at some of Paris's luxury hotels continued this week with staff at the deluxe Royal Monceau-Raffles - where the presidential suite costs €25,000 a night - staging a walk-out to protest over their low wages. READ  

Champions League
Cavani rescues PSG with later winner in Cyprus
Edinson Cavani rescues PSG with a late winner in Cyprus on Tuesday. Photo: Jack Guez/AFP

Cavani rescues PSG with later winner in Cyprus

Uruguay striker Edinson Cavani rescued Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday as his solo strike with three minutes remaining was enough to defeat Apoel Nicosia 1-0 after the Cypriots dominated for large periods of the match. READ  

Profile
French suicide: 'Racist' author taps into malaise
A French right-wing author's new book is selling lots and lots of copies, but why? Photo: Pierre Verdy/AFP

French suicide: 'Racist' author taps into malaise

A controversial new book by French polemicist Eric Zemmour is flying off the shelves and shows no sign of stopping. The notorious right-wing writer and polemicist appears to have struck a chord with a French public feeling disillusioned and "lost". READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Sport
Discover the route of the 2015 Tour de France. There are a few surprises
Gallery
Ten changes that would make learning French so much easier
Culture
IN PICTURES: 'Glass ship' Vuitton ready to set sail in Paris
International
How a giant 'sex toy' earned an American artist a slap in Paris
National
'Unlike in the US the French don't put the blame on the poor'
Gallery
Cover up and don't be too Latin: French travel warnings for the US
Society
Macholand: The online uprising against sexism in France
Gallery
In pictures: The daily life of the 2,000 migrants in Calais
Culture
Erotic promo video earns the Musée d'Orsay our "Only in France" award
International
'I love the UK, but I could die getting there': Struggles of Calais migrants
National
Seven reasons why everyone should work in a bar in France
National
The cost of expat home comforts: How France compares to Europe
International
Why don't Calais migrants stay in France? The Local went to find out
National
What are the pros and cons of working as an au pair in France?
Society
Is France's generous welfare state about to get a little stingier?
Gallery
Extraordinary images of ordinary life in the poor Paris suburbs
Gallery
10 things expats love and loathe about life in France
National
So why don't many women in France breastfeed?
National
'Stop bashing La Belle France' - French PM tells UK press
International
UK warns Brits of 'high threat' from terrorism' in France
National
VIDEO: 'The Kama Sutra is not a dirty little text'
National
What Rome could teach Paris and vice versa
Gallery
What do foreign countries warn their citizens about when visiting France?
Gallery
IN IMAGES: Eiffel Tower opens new glass floor above Paris
Society
Is it really better to grow old in the UK and the US rather than France?
Gallery
It's that time if the year again: French sportsmen reveal (almost) all
Gallery
So what do the French find really weird about Anglos?
Travel
Paris museums to open seven days a week but unions are not happy
Culture
Caption contest: What happened when Jay Z met Sark O?
International
This explains why the French never seem to get a sense of déjà vu?
National
VIDEO: Here's a view from the Eiffel Tower you haven't seen before
Travel
Do Paris's iconic rooftops deserve Unesco World Heritage status?
Opinion
'France cannot reform, the pilots' strike showed us this'
National
'We just don’t work hard enough in France.' Is that true?
International
France has moved to beef up security in various public places
National
Hiking naked in France does not come risk-free
Culture
10 French customs that confuse Anglos
National
IN PICTURES: A look inside France's 'most notorious' prison
International
Isis urges killing of 'spiteful, dirty' French
National
Paris installs new device to stop 'love lock' craze
National
Paris cabby dies in vicious high-heel attack
National
'Paris is a sexy city, its beauty is inspiring'
Culture
Depardieu: ‘I drink 14 bottles of booze a day’
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

651
jobs available