- Building Information
(Paris, France)
Cathedral of Notre-Dame
Surveyed: 1969, 1972-74, 1977, 1980-83, 1992-98, 2004, 2005, 2009, 2012, 2017
- Locator Map
Paris (Paris, France) - Cathedral of Notre-Dame
- Disclaimer
The dating found here is based on the work of John James, and is meant on this site to serve as a starting point. James' dating is derived from a system that uses his interpretation of the development of capitals over time as the basis for chronology, among other factors. His goal is to refine the dating to within years rather than decades. I have not fully embraced James' methodology, and will be developing this page from its current state to one which is admittedly more conservative. The relative expenditure values found in the Timeline are also based on James' work, and I believe these to be reasonably reliable. They are intended only to give a sense of the amount of work involved in each decade.

I have added the idea of the "project" as a way of separating work in buildings. In my mind, a "project" is a discrete section of work in a building that resulted from the one-time acquisition of funding. "Projects" are generally separated by at least a decade where no work was being done. It is my view that it would have been unwise to start a "project" that could not be finished and protected from the elements, and as such a "project" usually involved a wing or multiple wings of a building, from floor to roof. Rural churches, which could only secure small amounts of funding at irregular intervals, often were the result of many small projects, while the great churches, which benefitted from relatively consistent funding, may have involved only a few large projects.
- Timeline with Relative Expenditure (if available, in building units)

- Project A - 1140s - Phase 1 - west tympanum
West tympanum, part of a western extension to an earlier building; remains have been excavated.
- Project A - 1140s - Phase 2 - choir (b)
Set out and lay footings and bases for the choir.
- Project A - 1140s - Phase 3 - choir (a) walls
- Project B - 1160s - Phase 4 - choir walls II
Resumption of work on the choir walls with remaining capitals.
- Project B - 1160s - Phase 5 - choir piers (a)
Choir aisle piers in at least two large campaigns with aisle vaults
- Project B - 1160s - Phase 6 - choir (g) I
Gallery bases 1; choir gallery constructed slowly in four or more campaigns in a complex process that explains the many changes in profiles and details that remain in spite of extensive renovations
- Project B - 1160s - Phase 7 - choir (g) II
Gallery bases 2; capitals phase I starting in the north
- Project B - 1160s - Phase 8 - choir (g) III
Gallery bases 3; capitals phase II north gallery vault
- Project B - 1160s - Phase 9 - choir (g) IV
Gallery bases 4; capitals phase III, middle vaults and walls raised to clerestory level at the crossing with two capitals, either in this campaign or the one before
- Project B - 1170s - Phase 10 - choir (t,c)
Gallery capitals IV, remaining vaults
- Project B - 1170s - Phase 11 - choir (t,c)
Choir roses and clerestory
- Project B - 1170s - Phase 12 - choir (cw)
Choir clerestory windows designed for a lower junction against the wall, possibly the stage described in the Torigny letter of 1177.
- Project B - 1170s - Phase 13 - choir (rc)
Choir cornice a single row of 'teeth' with a timber roof, but the vaults were not erected ex the bosses and extra rows of teeth in the cornice.
- Project B - 1180s - Phase 14 - nave 1-6 (b)
Foundations for crossing and nave 1-6 in a number of campaigns
- Project B - 1190s - Phase 15 - nave 1-6 (a)
Nave aisle capitals 1-6, arcade arches and aisle vaults
- Project B - 1200s - Phase 16 - nave 7- (a)
Foundations extended gradually to the west during the 90s, and pilier cantonne to bay 8, capitals all in the 1200s.
- Project B - 1200s - Phase 17 - west portals
Coursing around the western portals wall shows that capitals over W.s installed when jambs of W-w half up and W.n plinths just started in a complex history; allowing for replacements all capitals appear from the same epoch
- Project B - 1200s - Phase 18 - nave 1-6 (g)
Nave gallery 1-6, in stages as shown by joint WN3-4 in wall
- Project B - 1200s - Phase 19 - nave 1-5 (c)
West crossing capitals, next three or four bays of nave and extension into first bay of transepts
- Project B - 1210s - Phase 20 - nave 8-11 (g)
Nave gallery 8-11, clerestory 1-7 in a number of campaigns
- Project B - 1220s - Phase 21 - choir (c)
Replace choir triforium oculi and lower the clerestory window sills, then install high vault, while the roof was raised and the cornice height increased by two courses to bring the choir to the same height as the nave
- Project B - 1220s - Phase 22 - choir (v)
Choir vauts and flyers to choir only, none to transepts.
- Project B - 1220s - Phase 23 - nave 1-4 (c)
Nave clerestory first two 6-part vaults with heads in the boss, cornice somewhat higher than choir.
- Project B - 1220s - Phase 24 - west (g,c)
West clerestory and vaults; west front to top of tower I, clerestory nave western three 6-part vaults with big bosses
- Project B - 1230s - Phase 25 - west (c+)
Completion of west front, western vaults and towers
- Project B - 1240s - Phase 26 - nave chapels
Nave chapels dated in the documents to 1236-41
- Project C - Later - Phase 27 -
Complete western towers, rebuild transpet terminal walls
- Primary Sources for Dating
The church of Notre-Dame, in which the bishop resides, at a cost previously unknown, the works have been decently and sumptuously renewed, the parvis before this church widened up to the bridge, at great cost to the city; many lodgings were re-occupied; the palace of the bishop rebuilt; two abbeys, a collegiate church and other sacred places were constructed.

Sigberti Gemblacensis chronica cum continuationibus: Continuatio Aquicintina, in G.H. Pertz, Monumenta Germanica Historica, Scriptores, vi, 421.
1163 - PARIS
Work said to have begun
At about this time the foundation of the new cathedral was started, whose first stones were placed by Pope Alexander III, according to Jean, a Victorine canon.

Gallia Christiana, Paris, 1751, vii, col. 71.
1163/4 - PARIS
Houses bought by Maurice de Sully for a new street in front of the cathedral
…to bring to completion the road which was made in front of the parvis of our church.

Archives Nationales, Paris, L892, no. 6.
1164/5 - PARIS
House bought
…to bring to completion the road in front of the church…which runs in front of the parvis, at a cost of 40 livres…

Archives Nationales, Paris, L892, no.7 as above.
1173 - PARIS
Houses bought to clear space for construction
…three houses, two just on the edge of the site, the third next to the parvis in front of the new construction, on the street…conceded in exchange for a house for us to destroy to bring to completion the road, which runs in front of the parvis of the church of Notre Dame.

Archives Nationales, Paris, L892, no. 22.
1175, 15 November - PARIS
Henry, archbishop of Reims, donates candles
November 15: Henri, Arshbishop of Reims, who gave up to us nine arpents of vineyard,…to light twelve lamps each night in perpetuity.

Guérard, Cartulaire de l'église Notre-Dame de Paris, iv, 187.
1177 - PARIS
Report that the apse was almost finished
Maurice, Bishop of Paris, for a long time labors greatly and progresses in the building of the church of the aforementioned city, whose choir is now complete, except for the main roof. When the work is finished, it will be only fitting that it be compared with nothing short of a mountain.

Roberti Abbatis de Monte, Appendice ad Sigbertum, in Recueil des historiens des Gaules et de la France, xiii, pg. 320.
1180 ca. - PARIS
Nephew of Alexander III left 2 marks for the cathedral construction
October 18 - Gentile, nephew of Pope Alexander III, who left 2 silver marks, and, for the work of repairing the church, two marks,…

Guérard, Cartulaire de l'église Notre-Dame de Paris, iv, 170
1185, January 15 - PARIS
Héraclius, patriarch of Jerusalem, preached in the church
The next day in the church of Notre-Dame mass was celebrated and sermons were made to the populace.

Rigordus de Gestis: Gesta Philippi Augusti, in Recueil des historiens des Gaules et de la France, xvii, 14.
1186 - PARIS
Relics found under west-north tower on site of old church of Saint-Etienne
The year 1186…at the city of Paris, in the monastery of Saint-Etienne, the protomartyr, relics were found of 32 hairs of Saint Mary, the forearm of Saint Andrew the Apostle, and the head of the martyr Saint Denis, the bishop of that city.

Recueil des Historiens des Gaules et de la France, M.J.J. Brial, ed., Paris, 1806-1822, vol. 18, pg. 338.
1196 September 11 - PARIS
Maurice de Sully's will
Obit. Maurice, Bishop of Paris; who made a new road through his property, laid bare before the portals of the church, established four new abbeys under the church of Paris, constructed bridges in his episcopacy, built new houses for the bishops…and gave to us houses next to the portal of the cloister,…

Guérard, Cartulaire de l'église Notre-Dame de Paris, 1850, iv, no. cclii, 145-6.
1196 September 11 - PARIS
Maurice de Sully's will
…100 pounds for a new lead roof to be made to cover the church.

Guérard, Cartulaire de l'église Notre-Dame de Paris, 1850, iv, no. cclii, 146.
1198 - PARIS
Bells in use
On the eve of a feast day, at Vespers, the bells were rung properly, that is simply in pairs,…also sound one signal before matins, and all in the highest solemnity.

Guérard, Cartulaire de l'église Notre-Dame de Paris, 1850, i, 74.
1218 - PARIS
A thief was caught in the roof of the choir
…that he might lie hidden above the vault of the church of the Paris, and given the opportunity, would insert a hook downwards and seize up the silver basins and silver candelabras,…

Guillermie Armorici liber, ed. Delaborde "Œuvre de Rigord et Guillaume-le-Breton", i, 316