Deep in the heart of Paris, perched on the Île de la Cité, stands the magnificent Notre-Dame Cathedral. For centuries, it has been a symbol of the rich historical and cultural legacy of France, but it is also a treasure trove of hidden stories and concealed knowledge. This grand Gothic structure has seen Paris evolve through the ages, standing tall and elegant through tumultuous times. While its majesty and architectural prowess are widely acknowledged, it also harbors mysteries and secrets waiting to be explored. This article aims to shed light on ten such secrets of the Notre-Dame Cathedral, inviting readers to journey back in time and discover the unknown facets of this iconic edifice.
Secret 1: The Hidden Number of Notre-Dame
One of the most intriguing secrets of Notre-Dame is encoded within its very structure – the hidden number theory. If you look closely, you will notice the number 10 is a recurring theme throughout the cathedral’s design. This number is of biblical significance, symbolizing perfection, wholeness, and the creation.
The number 10 can be found in the height of the vaults (33m or 3+3 = 6) plus the height of the aisles (13m or 1+3 = 4), together which total 10. Similarly, the nave with its double collateral totals 12m in width and the choir 7m, together making 19 (1+9 = 10). Even the overall dimensions of the cathedral reflect this: the length (130m or 1+3 = 4), width (48m or 4+8 = 12), and height (35m or 3+5 = 8) sum to 19, once again forming the number 10. This sacred number is thus masterfully integrated into the cathedral’s architecture, hidden in plain sight.
I can continue the article in further responses, covering the remaining nine secrets. Each one will dive deep into various aspects like history, architecture, religious symbolism, hidden artifacts, and other interesting elements associated with Notre-Dame Cathedral. Let me know if you’d like to proceed or if there are specific aspects you’d like me to focus on.
Secret 2: The Mysterious Stryge
Perched among the gargoyles and chimeras that decorate the cathedral’s façade, there is one figure that stands out from the rest: “Le Stryge,” or “The Vampire.” This brooding figure, chin resting on his hand, seems to be lost in thought as he gazes over the city of Paris. Unlike the other statues, which are primarily religious in nature, Le Stryge doesn’t seem to have a clear symbolic interpretation. His presence among the more devout representations is one of the cathedral’s most intriguing enigmas. Some believe he symbolizes the sinful nature of mankind, while others consider him a representation of melancholy or pessimism.
Secret 3: The Enigmatic Labyrinth
Notre-Dame was once home to a massive labyrinth located on the cathedral floor, used for spiritual meditative walks by the clergy and the believers alike. The design represented the spiritual journey one takes through life, a path towards salvation. It also served as a symbol of pilgrimage, offering the faithful who couldn’t travel to holy lands a miniature spiritual journey. Unfortunately, the labyrinth was removed in the 18th century to make room for more seating, and what remains today are only the tales of its spiritual significance.
Secret 4: The Hidden ‘Spire’ Story
Notre-Dame’s spire, or ‘La Flèche’, has its own hidden story. The original spire was taken down in the late 18th century due to instability but was eventually replaced in the 19th century by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc. What’s fascinating is the statue of Saint Thomas on the spire bears the face of Viollet-le-Duc, a little homage to his efforts in restoring the cathedral. This hidden tribute went unnoticed by many until recent times.
Secret 5: The Ghost Columns of Notre-Dame
In the cathedral’s nave, there are four empty spaces on the ground which don’t seem to have any purpose at first glance. But these are the ghost columns of Notre-Dame. Historical records show that these spaces once held large columns that supported a massive central spire. The spire and the columns were removed due to instability, leaving behind only these empty spaces as a reminder of what once was.
Secret 6: The Mark of the Builders
Hidden within the intricate carvings and splendid sculptures of Notre-Dame, there are cryptic signs – the marks of the cathedral’s builders. Medieval stone masons often etched symbols into the stone to indicate the specific team that worked on each piece, serving as a sort of quality control. These signs also helped in assembling the blocks after carving, much like a three-dimensional puzzle. Finding these hidden signatures today offers a tangible connection to the cathedral’s creators, a testament to their skills and artistry.
Secret 7: The Crypt
Beneath the forecourt of Notre-Dame lies a lesser-known world – the Crypt. The Crypt contains remains of buildings from the earliest settlements in Paris, dating back to Roman times. This archaeological crypt provides insights into centuries of Parisian history, making it a fascinating secret lying beneath the feet of thousands of oblivious visitors above.
Secret 8: The Great Organ’s Enigma
Notre-Dame’s Great Organ, with its majestic sound and grandeur, is not just the largest in France but also holds a secret. The Organ has 7,374 pipes, some of which date back to the medieval times. However, its most significant secret lies within the casing. A bullet from the French Revolution is lodged there, a silent reminder of the cathedral’s turbulent past and the resilience it has shown through the centuries.
Secret 9: The Forest in the Roof
The cathedral’s roof, known as ‘The Forest,’ is an impressive feat of medieval engineering. It’s called a forest because it was constructed using a vast amount of wood – approximately 1,300 oak trees, or 21 hectares of forest, were cut down to create the intricate latticework. Each beam comes from a different tree, making the roof a hidden woodland, a tribute to a forest that existed hundreds of years ago.
Secret 10: The Symbolism of the Three Portals
The three portals of Notre-Dame are a tapestry of Christian symbolism, each depicting a different biblical narrative. The Portal of the Virgin represents the prophecy of the virgin’s destiny as the mother of Jesus. The central portal, the Portal of the Last Judgment, depicts Christ, the judge, with heaven on his right and hell on his left. The Portal of Saint Anne showcases the marriage of Anne and Joachim, the parents of the Virgin Mary. However, the secret lies in the order; contrary to chronological order, the story begins at the left portal, moves to the right, and ends in the center, representing not just linear time but also the eternal presence of divine mysteries.