Few Cathedrals have the same iconic status in relation to their city that Notre Dame de Paris has in Paris. Six hundred and seventy two years have passed since it was completed in 1345 after one hundred and eighty two years of work since the ground -breaking in 1163.  The period of the great church's existence has been one of great turmoil, and she has not escaped unscathed. Yet, through it all Notre Dame de Paris, built close to the site of the original village that became Paris, has remained the true heart of the "city of light". 

The painting of Saint Thomas Aquinas the Angelic Doctor who was teaching at the University of Paris
when the Cathedral had already been a-building for 89 years and was still 93 years from completion.

I don't know if, during Saint Thomas Aquinas' time in Paris,he actually visited  Notre Dame . But he could not have failed to be aware of this great construction project  then eighty nine years along , but still with ninety three years to go until it was completed. Certainly, it was sufficiently advanced in construction for such a visit to be possible, even likely. He began teaching at the University of Paris in 1252, at that time the choir, nave vaults and west facade were complete as were the transepts - but some re-working of the latter was underway.The High Altar had been consecrated for seventy years.So it is probably a safe bet to say that he had at least visited the partly-completed Cathedral.

In 1548, rampaging Huguenots damaged some of the features of Notre Dame. But the worst desecration was to come in the course of the French Revolution. In 1793 the building was blasphemously re-dedicated to the "Cult of Reason" but that did not last long and it was again re-dedicated to the "Cult of the Supreme Being". Many of the treasures of the great Cathedral were either destroyed or stolen during this period of madness. The Cathedral came to be used as a storehouse for food. The building was in a sorry state.

On 2nd December, 1804 restoration was partly completed when Napoleon Buonaparte and his wife Josephine were crowned - he , by himself, and she, by him, in the presence of Pope Pius VII whom Napoleon was to imprison from 5th July, 1809 to 10th March, 1814.


A happier occasion was the Beatification of Joan of Arc by Pope Saint Pius X on 18th April, 1909 attended by eight Cardinals and numerous dignitaries even from the United Kingdom and the United States.

The Cathedral has a very active liturgical life, here we see the procession 
forming for the principal Mass on a Sunday in 2009 

The glories of the Cathedral's stained glass are shown in this image from the liturgical south transept.

It is  important to recall other personalities who have breathed the Spirit of God into this holy place - expelling the smoke of the satanic forces of the Revolution.Prominent among these by any measure is Pere Henri-Dominique   Lacordaire.
Pere Henri-Dominique Lacordaire
Brilliant , devout and brave, Pere Lacordaire re-founded the Dominican Order in France after the Revolution.  He was a superb preacher and teacher and when in 1846, he gave a series of Lenten addresses in Notre Dame de Paris, crowds began to line up from 7.00 am when the doors opened and it was standing room only when he spoke in the evening.Outrageously, and ilegally, he went about in his Religious Habit but was not molested or arrested. One might expect that such a Priest might achieve considerable advancement but that was not to be. In his early years he had been associated in morally justified political writing with another priest who,in his later activities became a heretic. Pere Lacordaire was tainted by this early association at least in the minds of Church authorities of the time. You may read more about him here :

                                  The Square outside Notre Dame de Paris

 This is a highly personal account of the way Notre Dame de Paris occurs to me. I have visited Our Lord there on several occasions over 23 years,and have never ceased to marvel at it. In 2009 my wife and I had the privilege of assisting at the principal Sunday Mass there.Perhaps no impression is stronger in my mind than being beneath the mighty organ with my family in 1986 at Vespers when it shook the building as it played the melody of "The Old 1ooth" to a Hymn beginning " Nous chansons......"



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