The service of religion once assured and provided for, architecture does what she pleases. Statues, stained glass, rose windows, arabesques, denticulations, capitals, bas-reliefs,—she combines all these imaginings according to the arrangement which best suits her. Hence, the prodigious exterior variety of these edifices, at whose foundation dwells so much order and unity. The trunk of a tree is immovable; the foliage is capricious.
This quote is from Victor’s Hugo The Hunchback of Notre Dame, describing the marvel of French Gothic architecture: Notre Dame cathedral. Victor Hugo’s masterpiece left a huge mark on Notre Dame’s history, and today we mourn together.
Construction on Notre Dame first started in 1163. It would take a 170 years before the famous cathedral was finally constructed.
As stated on Arch Daily, Victory Hugo once commented:
“Indeed, from the beginning of things down to the fifteenth century of the Christian era inclusive, architecture was the great book of humanity, the chief expression of man in his various stages of development, whether as force or as intellect.”
However the heart of France quickly became a symbol of the French monarchy. It was “a place where kings were coronated and state holidays celebrated“. Come 1789, the infamous French Revolution happened and Notre Dame was on the people’s list.
As blood poured on the streets, the heart of France suffered. Notre Dame was plundered and torn apart. In a frenzy of hate, much of its religious imagery was severely damaged if not destroyed.
The French Revolution officially ended in 1799 and in 1801 Notre Dame was given back to the Catholic Church in a horrendous state of disarray. See, the cathedral had been used a gunpowder factory and its largest stones were earmarked for bridge foundations.
In all honesty, it looked like the end of Notre Dame. They were going to strip it for all its worth and get rid of it. It was going to be demolished, and this landmark that saw through the Crusades was going to be a footnote in the history books.
But Victor Hugo saw the grand Cathedral and fell in love with it. He wrote in a paper entitled Guerre aux Démolisseurs (War to the Demolishers) that:
“A universal cry must finally go up to call the new France to the aid of the old”
He believed Notre Dame had a soul. It was alive, and it should live on. In a quest to save it, he began writing his masterpiece in 1829.
As Culture Trip writes, “The bell-ringing, half-blind hunchback of Quasimodo has become iconic of ‘a courageous heart beneath a grotesque exterior.’ This character urges readers to look beyond the surface and find the beauty beneath, with the hope that they’ll do the same for the Notre Dame.”
Quasimodo, Esmeralda, Claude Frollo, they are all characters in the books, but the main character is Notre Dame herself. She is alive, she is the home of all these characters, she is what brings them, binds them, see them from their beginnings to their ends. She lives before them, she lives after them.
He won the war against the demolishers, proving the pen is truly mightier than the sword. Notre-Dame de Paris, latter renamed The Hunchback of Notre Dame, was published in January 1831 to critical acclaim.
This quote is from Victor’s Hugo The Hunchback of Notre Dame, describing Notre Dame:
On the crest of the highest gallery, higher than the central rose window, there was a great flame rising between the two towers with whirlwinds of sparks, a vast, disordered, and furious flame.