Publication: ‘Notre Dame Cathedral: Nine Centuries of History’, Dany Sandron and Andrew Tallon, Translated by Andrew Tallon and Lindsay Cook

Since its construction, Notre Dame Cathedral has played a central role in French cultural identity. In the wake of the tragic fire of 2019, questions of how to restore the fabric of this quintessential French monument are once more at the forefront. This all-too-prescient book, first published in French in 2013, takes a central place in the conversation. 

The Gothic cathedral par excellence, Notre Dame set the architectural bar in the competitive years of the third quarter of the twelfth century and dazzled the architects and aesthetes of the Enlightenment with its structural ingenuity. In the nineteenth century, the cathedral became the touchstone of a movement to restore medieval patrimony to its rightful place at the cultural heart of France: it was transformed into a colossal laboratory in which architects Jean-Baptiste Lassus and Eugène-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc anatomized structures, dismembered them, put them back, or built them anew—all the while documenting their work with scientific precision.

Taking as their point of departure a three-dimensional laser scan of the cathedral created in 2010, architectural historians Dany Sandron and the late Andrew Tallon tell the story of the construction and reconstruction of Notre Dame in visual terms. With over a billion points of data, the scan supplies a highly accurate spatial map of the building, which is anatomized and rebuilt virtually. Fourteen double-page images represent the cathedral at specific points in time, while the accompanying text sets out the history of the building, addressing key topics such as the fundraising campaign, the construction of the vaults, and the liturgical function of the choir. 

Featuring 170 full-color illustrations and elegantly translated by Andrew Tallon and Lindsay Cook, Notre Dame Cathedral is an enlightening history of one of the world’s most treasured architectural achievements.

“Smaller, more concise, and more streamlined than a traditional monograph, it emphasizes a series of graphics developed from Tallon’s 3D-scan data, which together purport to show the development of Notre-Dame over the nine centuries of its history. In this way it helps to make the fruits of recent research on the cathedral’s history readily accessible to nonspecialist readers. The new translation undertaken by Lindsay Cook, who studied with both Murray and Tallon and whose own research considers parish churches constructed in the orbit of Notre-Dame, now effectively expands that mission to anglophone audiences.”—Robert Bork, caa.reviews

Dany Sandron is Professor of Art and Archaeology at Sorbonne Université.

Andrew Tallon (1969–2018) was Associate Professor of Art at Vassar College.

Lindsay Cook is Visiting Assistant Professor of Art at Vassar College.

This volume is currently available on sale here.

Contents:

1163: Planning the Cathedral

The Bishop

The Cathedral Chapter

The Fabric

Resources

Episcopal Donations

Capitular Donations

Lay Donations

1170: Building the Cathedral

The Materials

The Master Mason

The Design

The Construction

1177: Constructing the Vaults

The Vaults

Technical Aspects of Vault Construction

The Space of the Choir

1182: Liturgical Choir and Sanctuary

The Liturgical Choir

Staging the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy

The Medieval Sanctuary

1208: Form and Meaning

The Choir

The Nave

1220: Portals and the Gallery of Kings

1225: Changing Tastes

A Radical Transformation

The Changes

Instability of the West Front

1245: Towers and Bells, Marking Time at the Cathedral

The Casting of a Bell

1265: Relics and Processions

Relics and Reliquaries

Stational Liturgy and Processions

1300: Pious Foundations and Tombs

The Choir: Preserve of Prelates and Princes

The Chapels

Confraternities at Notre Dame

1350: A Point of Reference

The Architects

Directing the Works

1780: Baroque Transformations

1860: The Major Restoration of Lassus and Viollet-le-Duc

Notre Dame in Peril

The Invention of French Cultural Heritage

The Competition

The Project

The Restoration

The Rational Cathedral

The Cathedral Today

Conclusion

Plan of Notre Dame

Glossary

Selected Bibliography

Credits

Published by Ellie Wilson

Ellie Wilson holds a First Class Honours in the History of Art from the University of Bristol, with a particular focus on Medieval Florence. In 2020 she achieved a Distinction in her MA at The Courtauld Institute of Art, where she specialised in the art and architecture of Medieval England under the supervision of Dr Tom Nickson. Her dissertation focussed on an alabaster altarpiece, and its relationship with the cult of St Thomas Becket in France and the Chartreuse de Vauvert. Her current research focusses on the artistic patronage of London’s Livery Companies immediately pre and post-Reformation. Ellie will begin a PhD at the University of York in Autumn 2021 with a WRoCAH studentship, under the supervision of Professor Tim Ayers and Dr Jeanne Nuechterlein.

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