Archaeological Discovery in the Notre Dame Cathedral Published on: 07 May, 2022


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"The Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris is doubtless still a sublime and majestic building. But, much beauty as it may retain in its old age, it is not easy to repress a sigh, to restrain our anger, when we mark the countless defacements and mutilations to which men and Time have subjected that venerable monument, without respect for Charlemagne, who laid its first stone, or Philip Augustus, who laid its last. Upon the face of this aged queen of French cathedrals, beside every wrinkle we find a scar.” Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre Dame

The Cathedral immortalised by Victor Hugo, still continues to dazzle us, not only by its beauty, but by its enigma. This “ queen of French Cathedrals”has unveiled some of its hidden secrets to the world.

Three years ago, when a devastating fire broke out and the Notre Dame, went up in flames, it was unpalatable to all and sundry. Nevertheless, it is said that every cloud has a silver lining, and this horrible devastation has enabled the world to see the hidden jewels of this Cathedral.

As a consequence of the fire, the vaults of the church crashed to the ground opening up a hole in the 19th century floor. This catastrophe led to the astounding discovery of a human shaped lead sarcophagus.

This finding is among the  many phenomenal ones  in the fabled Cathedral, one  being the pieces of a rood screen that dates back to 1230. This intricately carved fence was a common feature in late medieval churches, the purpose of which was to separate the coir from the congregation. Sadly, in Notre Dame’s case a huge chunk of the rood screen was dismantled at the dawn of the 18th century, during the reign of Louis XIV.

However, the most striking discovery remains that of human shaped lead sarcophagus. Burial in the Notre Dame was the prerogative of the elite, area close of the choir being the most sought after one. Lead coffins have been discovered earlier as well from the Cathedral, which belonged to Queen Isabella—the wife of King Phillip I and important archbishops.

Researchers assume that the coffin is that of a prominent personality and dates back to the 14th century. The excavations have been concluded and now the researchers will examine the finds along with  a DNA Analysis, to comprehend the sarcophagus thoroughly.

This discovery is indeed a silver lining to the fire that wrecked the Cathedral in 2019.

Surely, the past has its own ways of revealing itself, sometimes it does so by cracking open through ancient vaults.


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